By a charter granted by James I in 1608, Clonmel became a free borough which means it was given an element of self-governance. Power was also granted to the Corporation in Clonmel to appoint a sword bearer and three sergeants-at-mace- the individuals who would bare the sword and mace at ceremonial occasions. This power was indeed exercised as there is documentary evidence from ‘Burkes history of Clonmel’ that in 1608 “Clonmell had first a mayor and Bayliffe with a Sword”.
By 1655 Clonmel and its new settlers had made such progress that reestablishment of the cooperation was sought. This was a time when Clonmel was getting back on its feet after the Siege of 1650. Evidence of the municipal property and other such information had to be documented, and as such charters and other documents had disappeared since the surrender of the town, old inhabitants were gathered to aid this discovery. In 1656 the inhabitants of the town formed a Cromwellian Corporation and continued to implement all their rights, including municipal and parliamentary.
The sword pictured below is part of the Civic Regalia of Clonmel which was used after the formation of the Cromwellian Corporation. The sword is of Toledo (Spanish) manufacture, and was donated by Sir Thomas Stanley in 1656, the year he was Mayor of Clonmel. During the years 1650-56, there was no Mayor as the town was under a military Governor. The sword signifies that the power of life and death was vested in the Mayor, this is from a time when the Mayor had very particular roles to fulfil. Every Wednesday, the Mayor was required to hold ‘Mayor’s Court’ where he would recover debts owed, not exceeding 10s.The two silver maces are of different sizes but very much similar in design.
The larger one dates to 1663 a little later than the sword. The smaller does not have an exact date but they both have the makers mark, which indicates that they date from between 1656 -1672. During medieval times, the mace was used in battle to club enemies to death but as a ceremonial staff of office, it symbolises the functions of the sergeants-at-mace as keepers of the peace and attendants of the Mayor. The Sword and Mace bearers would lead processions on ceremonial occasions, followed by the Mayor, Town Clerk, Aldermen, Councillors and officials.
They usually marched in pairs.With the closure of the Borough Council in 2014, the Civic Regalia became obsolete and were subsequently donated to Tipperary Museum along with the Mayoral chains which are all on display in the Museum.
Why not call in to see them for yourself!