Buiríos – Uí – Chéin Origin and naming of the time.
The history of the ancient parish of Borris has not been investigated to any great extent. The little we know comes from the Civil Survey of 1640, the Calendar of Ormond Deeds, The History of Ely O’Carroll, Ordnance Survey Letters of Tipperary by John O’Donovan, “A Short Parish History” by Dermot Gleeson.A parish history of Borriskane” by Eamon Slevin (1994)
The name “Borris” comes from the Norman French “Burgage” or “Borough” and connotes something in the nature of a centre of population.
When the Normans came to Tipperary in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century under the leadership of Theobald Walter “Boitellier” or Butler, a nephew of Thomas A. Beckett, an extensive settlement was made in Lower Ormond, particularly in the area lying between present day Terryglass, Cloughjordan and Borrisokane.
This settlement endured up to the middle of the fourteenth century when the native chiefs of the O’kennedy’s, O’Brien’s and O’Carroll’s succeeded in recovering both Upper and Lower Ormond, including Nenagh Castle and Manor, thereby ending the Butler overlordship of two hundred years.
In this uprising, the Norman settlers in Lower Ormond were driven out with the exception of a family called De Marisco and a few minor groups. It is not unlikely that Borrisokane owes the first part of its name to these De Marisco’s who had settled under Theobald Butler on large holdings at Latteragh and Ballinaclough in Upper Clough Ormond and around modern Cloughjordan and Borrisokane in Lower Ormond. In any event, they remained in the area and integrated into the Society of the time.
By sixteenth century the De Marisco family are found closely allied in marriage and fosterage with O’Clerys and calling themselves “Machoraghese” and “Morishy”. From this family spring all the Morrissey and Morris stock in Ormond.
At this time, it would appear all of Lower Ormond, including “Borris” had reverted to the ownership of the O’Kennedy’s, O’Clerys, McEgans, O’Carrolls and Mcan Gowans (later anglicised to Guinane). This “Borris”had no existence as a town before the second half of the seventeenth century; the land, from 1350 until that time, was simply a rural parish. In two deeds, dated June 1578 and August 1585, and relating to lands in Borris parish, temporary grants by Marcus Mccan Gowan refer to “Buris Clanican” in one document and “Burris Clwony Cein” in the other.
So the “Borris” or Burris part of the name Borrisokane seems to emerge from Norman sources. Let us now consider the latter part of the name.
Historians agree that the O’Carrolls of Ely are of the Clan Cianacht, descended from Tadgh, son of Cian or Cein. Up to the time of the Cromwellian Confiscation these O’Carrolls held lands east of “Borris” and claimed them by ancestral right. The O’Kennedy’s, O’Hogans and McEgans with the Mcan Gowans also held extensive tracts of land.
It appears probable that either these were of Cianacht stock or that the lands they held up to 1653 were Cianacht Tuath land. It would seem to be a fairly certain conclusion, then, that the name Borrisokane is a version of “Borris Clanna Cein”, the “Burage of the Cianacht” or of the O’Carrolls of Ely. In the seventeenth century, when the modern town came into existence it became “Borris Achaid Cein”.
It is worth referring, at this point, to the conclusions of two modern writers, John O’Donovan in 1841 in his survey letters for Borrisokane parish translates the name as the “Burgage of O’Kane” the “Town of Pleasant Field”, mentioned by the Four Masters as the halting place of O’Sullivan Beare on his journey between Latteragh and Redwood during his famous retreat. He gives as a reason for his version the fact that the name of the town is pronounced locally “Borrisokane”.”Loughkeen” in Ballingarry Parish was the halting place of O’Sullivan Beare, which translates to “Ballaghkeen” not very unlike Baile Achaid Caoin”.
However, the word “Baile” has never appeared in any document referring to Borrisokane and this would appear to weaken Father Gleesons case. Again, O’Donovan places O’Sullivan’s stopover at Loughkeen and not in the middle of enemy Butler territory. His translation of “Borrisokane” however, does not appear to have any more validity than Father Gleeson’s.