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Resting on History: The Story of Limerick's Treaty Stone. |

Resting on History: The Story of Limerick’s Treaty Stone.

The nickname “Treaty City” for Limerick, Ireland, originates from a significant historical event—the Treaty of Limerick, signed on October 3, 1691. This treaty marked the end of the Williamite War in Ireland, a conflict that was part of the wider struggles between Catholics and Protestants in Europe, often linked to the dynastic and religious disputes of the period. The treaty was signed after the forces of William III of England, also known as William of Orange, defeated King James II, who was both his father-in-law and predecessor. The treaty, famously signed on the Treaty Stone in Limerick, aimed to conclude the hostilities and stabilize the region under William’s rule, with terms that promised tolerance towards the Irish Catholics. However, subsequent governments did not fully honour these terms, leading to further struggles and significant emigration. The term “Treaty City” thus captures a pivotal moment in Limerick’s and Ireland’s complex historical tapestry.

Limerick’s role in the historical context surrounding the accession of William of Orange and his wife, Mary Stuart, to the throne of England is indeed significant. This period, known as the Glorious Revolution, involved a complex interplay of political and religious tensions. In 1688, William and Mary were invited to take the English throne as Protestant monarchs, which led to the ousting of the Catholic King James II, Mary’s father.

Following their accession, James attempted to reclaim the throne, and his efforts included an expedition to Ireland, where he garnered support among the predominantly Catholic population. This set the stage for the Williamite War in Ireland, culminating in several key battles, including the Siege of Limerick.

The city’s staunch defence under James’ forces during the sieges in 1690 and again in 1691, and its ultimate capitulation under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, marked the end of significant military resistance in Ireland to William and Mary’s rule. This capitulation was crucial because it not only ended the military conflict in Ireland but also ensured William and Mary’s secure rule over England, Scotland, and Ireland. The Treaty of Limerick, therefore, indirectly facilitated the stable governance and Protestant succession in Britain, highlighting Limerick’s critical role in the broader political and religious transformations of the time.

Indeed, the Treaty of Limerick is steeped in tradition and symbolism, notably with the signing of the treaty on a stone. According to tradition, this momentous event took place on the 3rd of October 1691, at the Clare end of Thomond Bridge, which spans the River Shannon in Limerick, Ireland. This location was significant as it was visible to both the Jacobite and Williamite armies, symbolizing the transparency and finality of the peace being brokered.

The stone on which the treaty was purportedly signed came to be known as the Treaty Stone. Today, it is a celebrated monument, elevated on a pedestal in Limerick as a symbol of the city’s crucial role in Irish history. The stone itself is an ordinary limestone block, but its historical significance has transformed it into a powerful symbol of peace and reconciliation, marking the end of hostilities and the hope for a more harmonious future under the new reign of William and Mary. The Treaty Stone remains a popular historical site, drawing visitors interested in the rich and tumultuous history of Ireland.

The Treaty Stone has an interesting history regarding its placement before arriving at its current prominent and symbolic location. Initially, the stone was indeed resting on the ground opposite where it stands today. This original location was at a significant transportation hub at the Clare end of Thomond Bridge. Here, the old Ennis mail coach would begin its journey, passing through Cratloe Woods on its way to Ennis.

The positioning of the Treaty Stone at such a busy and practical spot in the city underscores its historical and cultural significance to the people of Limerick. It was a familiar landmark, associated not just with the 1691 treaty but also woven into the daily life and movements of the city’s inhabitants. Later, to honour its historical importance and perhaps to provide better preservation and visibility, the stone was moved and elevated on a pedestal. This relocation helped transform the Treaty Stone into a more formal monument, where it could be commemorated and appreciated as a key symbol of Limerick’s heritage and its pivotal role in Irish history.

The Treaty Stone of Limerick was given a more prominent and fitting commemoration in 1865 when it was placed on a pedestal. This event marked a significant enhancement in how the city memorialized its historic role in the Treaty of Limerick. The pedestal was erected under the initiative of John Richard Tinsley, who was the mayor of Limerick at the time. His actions were part of a broader 19th-century trend in which communities across Europe and beyond began to more formally recognize and celebrate their local history.

The decision to elevate the Treaty Stone on a plinth at the Clare end of Thomond Bridge was both symbolic and practical. Symbolically, it gave the stone—and the historical event it commemorates—a place of honour and visibility in the cityscape. Practically, it helped protect the stone and made it a focal point for visitors and locals alike, ensuring that the story of the Treaty of Limerick would continue to be remembered and taught to future generations.

Today, the Treaty Stone on its pedestal is not just a tourist attraction but a cherished local landmark, embodying Limerick’s resilience and its significant role in Irish and British history.

LIMERICK ARCHIVES

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