What an extraordinary coincidence that the Cycling History Tour of Medieval Tralee will take place just days before 26 September 1612, the 400th anniversary of the Charter granted to the “village” of Tralee by King James I, said to be at the request of its inhabitants.
We meet with our bicycles at 6.00 pm at the CountyLibrary.
The Charter really brings an end to the Middle Ages and is the foundation document for local government in the town. It gave more than local government: the Charter provided for two MPs to represent the town in the 1613 Irish Parliament. Tralee continued to have its own MPs right down to the 1880s when the constituency was abolished – and we know the names of all of them!
The Corporation set up under the Charter consisted of a Provost (Mayor) and twelve Burgesses. All were members of the settler elite which arrived as part of the Munster Plantation following the defeat and death of the last Earl of Desmond. And they were elected for life! No Catholics (Irish) could become members of the Corporation, or even become Freemen. The new Provost was elected on 24 June (Feast of St John the Evangelist); he was installed on 29 September (Feast of St Michael the Archangel).
The Charter and its Corporation became identified with the Denny family. There was no civic mansion, just TraleeCastle, which the Dennys occupied as successors to the Earl of Desmond; and it was at the Castle (demolished when Denny Street was constructed in 1826) that the Provost was elected and installed.
It was a shock to the system when the democrats took the parliamentary seat from the Dennys in 1832. The Great Reform Law of that year expanded the town electorate and Maurice O’Connell, son of the Liberator, defeated Denny in the election by 90 votes to 70. Westminster was the Parliament he attended: until 1800 Tralee’s MPs attended the old Irish Parliament, which was abolished that year by the Act of Union.