Very little is known about the history of Tallow, probably because of its situation, and the poverty of its early inhabitants attracted none of the warriors of the past, from whose exploits and daring deeds, history is made. In the year 1468, Edward the Fourth, King of England, gave to Gerald Oge, youngest brother of the ninth Earl of Desmond, the Blackwater and Bride Districts, including the parish of Tallow. Gerald Oge divided these lands among his sons. Thomas got Kilmacow Castle, a short distance to the West of the town, which was demolished early in the last century. Thomas became the twelfth Earl of Desmond and often resided at Mogeely Castle. His last wife, the Countess of Desmond, lived to be 140 years. She died in 1604.
The surrounding Castles of Lisfinney, Aghern, Mocollop, Dromana and Mogeely were all built from 1460 - 1464 by the Earls of Desmond. 1581 saw the eclipse of the Desmond family. They were active in the Tyrone Rebellion but their power was broken by the death of the Great Earl. Munster at this time was quiet, until the Desmond's tried to recapture their estates. Tallow was one of the first places attacked. There were 120 in its garrison - they fled and Tallow was burned in 1568.
The Desmond's had long been in rebellion against the Crown, so their lands were confiscated and parceled out. The conditions imposed upon the new proprietors were that they should foster horse breeding and keep Englishmen on the soil. Among these was Sir Walter Raleigh. He acquired 42,000 acres. His estates contained Conna, Mogeely, Kilmacow, Shean and Tallow. For this he paid 100 Marks a year. Raleigh became Mayor of Youghal. It was during this time that he introduced tobacco and potatoes to the western world. He has Close connections with a family Coppinger who lived in Lisnabrin, and was godfather to Coppinger's son. During his stay here he was visited by the poet Spencer who is reputed to have composed part of his famous poem "The Fairy Queen" while walking along the banks of the Bride.
In 1602, Sir Richard Boyle bought all of Raleigh's Irish property. Boyle was an English adventurer with the usual acquisitiveness of his class, but with wonderful ability. From poverty he rose to be one of the richest men in Ireland and eventually became first Earl of Cork. He mentions in his diary, dated 1st February 1620: "Began ironworks near Lisfinney Castle. God bless all those who work them.'
The first Tallow Bridge was built when the iron works were established to facilitate transport across the river. It was from this time that Tallow, which formerly occupied the slopes of the hill to the north of the present town, crept down to the lower valley where it now stands, and was known as Tulach an Iarainn - The Hill of the Iron. Tallow was part of his success. He worked the iron mines, manufacturing bar iron for export - and sent Lady Carew a Christmas gift of Tallow Knives. In seven years he made 21,000 tons of bar iron, which at £18.00 per ton, brought him the immense sum of £378,000. The pursuit of wealth for its own sake became the chief motive of his existence. That is why we describe Boyle as a Capitalist. He was the first of his kind in Ireland.
Tallow was given a Charter in 1614 by James 1st, and a corporation was set up, to consist of Sovereign, Free Burgesses and the Commonality of the Borough of Tallow with a recorder and other offices. The town was not walled, but during the war of 1641 a walled defence was thrown up around it, with four gates and towers. Under the terms of the Charter, the town (or rather the landlord) returned two members to the Irish Parliament in College Green, Dublin. When the town lost this privilege in 1800, with the Act of Union, the then Landlord, the Duke of Devonshire, was paid £15,000 compensation. When the woods were gone and the iron smelting at an end, another industry, wool combing continued to give employment. By 1835, the principal trade was the export of grain on boats down the Bride to Youghal and then England from Fermoy, Rathcormac and a large area. There was a large ale brewery of Anthony and Terry, and a flourmill owned by the Hannon family. Several hundred women were employed in the lace industry.
In 1839 Lewis recorded: The parish of Tallow comprises 4,745 statute acres, about 400 are pasture, 100 mountainous, and in cultivation and the remainder under tillage: the soil is fertile and the system of agriculture improved. There is neither wasteland nor bog.
During 1900 (quite a substantial amount of land, and housing was sold by the Duke of Devonshire to the local tenants. Dr. Waters, Aghern purchased a number of the private town houses which his son eventually sold around the 1940's to the tenants and emigrated to Australia.
The E.S.B. was connected to the houses in 1926, and was a great boon to the town.
Author: E.M.P. Beecher Cantillon