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Clare Places: Towns & Villages
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Tulla is generally translated as TULACH, meaning a hill, but the name of this East Clare village is merely a shortened version of its full name, TULACH NA NASPAL, the hill of the apostles, or quite possibly TULACH NA NEASPAG, the hill of the bishops.
Tulla church was founded about 620 by Mochuille, or Mochulla, son of Dicuil, and was fortified by his converts. He was consecrated a Bishop and died at a great age at some unknown date during the seventh century. In 1086 the monastery was blockaded and nearly taken by Tadhg, son of the titular king of Ireland. In 1141 a detailed account of the life of St. Mochulla was written by a monk in the neighbourhood of Limerick.
The village of Tulla grew up around St. Mochulla's monastery and he became its patron saint. The place was known as Tulach na n-easpoc. It appears as Tulach in 1278. It is named among the parish churches of the diocese of Killaloe in 1302 as Tulach. In 1314, Murchad O'Brien and the Clan Thoirdhealbhaigh ravaged east Clare. The church of Tulach was broken into and despoiled of much goods.
The church and its lands were seized in 1611 as the Reformation spread through Ireland. The Protestant church, whose ruins can today be seen in the Tulla cemetery, was built in 1702 and abandoned in 1812.
Around 1680 Fr. William Connellan was parish priest in Tulla. The "Penal Laws" were in operation at this time. In 1704 all Catholic priests were required to register and Fr. Connellan was one of those to do so, at Ennis, in July of that year.
In 1712 there was an outbreak of agrarian violence and as a result the Penal Laws were more rigidly enforced, resulting in the arrest of Fr. Connellan for saying mass illegally. A government report of 1731 stated the following about Tulla "In this parish there are two Mass Houses, one a very old one, and another a new one. There are two Popish priests, William and Andrew Connellan, there are, likewise, two Popish schoolmasters."
The 1808 "Statistical Survey of Clare" noted that the Tulla market house was quite useless "except for the horses of those who attended divine worship at either church or chapel." A separate courthouse was built in the 1830's and a second market house followed in 1843. It was quite unlike the original, being a single storey building with just three arches. This market house has recently been transformed into a modern public library.
In 1829 a new Catholic Church was opened. In 1837 Tulla was described by Samuel Lewis "This place appears to have some claims to antiquity; there are numerous remains of ancient castles, formerly the residences of its landed proprietors. The town is pleasantly situated on a hill, and is surrounded with highly interesting scenery, enlivened with numerous elegant seats and pleasing villas. The principal trade is derived from its situation on a public thoroughfare, and is chiefly confined to the supply of the surrounding neighbourhood."
The years between 1845 and 1850 were terrible as the potato famine struck the district. In 1845 the population of Tulla Parish was estimated at 9,000. By 1851 it had dropped to 6,700. The 1860's and 70's were generally better times. The 1880's saw the formation of the Land League and in 1881 Anna Parnell, sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, addressed a meeting at Tulla.
With the coming of modern transportation, markets and saleyards began to be centred on the larger towns and rail centres. Tulla's role as a trading centre diminished. Today it is a small, busy town which is still the commercial centre for the surrounding district. A lot of innovative projects are underway and there is a strong community spirit. It has a great tradition of music and is home to the famous pipe band and the award winning ceili band.