The Reverend Patrick Woulfe wrote: de Bree, de Bre, de Bray, Bree, Bray; i.e.,' of Bree,' in England, or ' of Brie,' in Normandy, or possibly ' of Bray ' in Co. Wicklow (Irish Bri).
The Brays appear to have a played in prominent role in the history of Clonmel, County Tipperary. The name appears in many documents in the 16th century. Clonmel was a Norman town and it is likely that the name Bray in Clonmel had Norman origins.
14 Jul. 1588
"Pleas held at Clonmel before John Bray, esquire, soveriegn
of Clonmel and seneshcal of the Liberty, and his fellows, on
Tuesday next after the feast of SS. Peter and Paul in the 30th
year of Elizabeth in the assizes there."
In 1632 they were still using the Norman form of address in Clonmel.
John Bray FitzThomas FitzEdmond, Clonmel Esq. Burgess, bequeath my soul to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost three persons in one Trinity and the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Marie and to all the Holy Company of Heaven and my body to be buried with my ancestors in the Holy Conf of St. Francis his Monastery in Clonmel. I have enfeoffed my nephew John Lee of City of Waterford and Peter Con… of Clonmell merchant of all the … barns, yards, gardens, meadows, pasture lands, tenants etc in Co. Tipperary … to have … and deed of feoffment bearing date thirteenth day of March in the present year of the prosperous reign of King Charles over England, Scotland, Fraunce and Ireland the year from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ 1631 … at large may and doth appear.
To my two daughters Christian Bray and Kate Bray one hundred Pounds of … in England…
To Michael Bray FitzPiers FitzThomas of Clonmel (1st to John, then his son Michael, then to Michael his son and then to his own brother James, then to his cozen Piers Bray FitzMichael…
I do will devise bequeath to my said son John Bray my silver salts, my silver tester (or taster) six silver spoons, two high bed stools with their … and furniture all my tables, carpets, cushions, stools, forms, chayres, cupboards, chests, my harpe, tables, the great Crucifix or picture I lent Mr Richd Wadding of Waterford deceased and my … etc
To my well beloved wife Beale Bray alias Lee for and during her natural life and the … brought unto me by her out of Waterford on our intermarriage and also the rest … of the said saults, tester and spoons which my said son is without household his keeping them. I also will and appoint that my said son John Bray shall have and receive the gould Jewell bequeathed by my father unto me which now my sister Anne Bray has after the decease of my said Sister.
…(?) Executor his son and heir apparent John Bray and appoint my cousins Mr Piers Bray and brother Mr Thomas Bray.
John Bray of this my last will and testament to …. Executors the fifth day of April in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ 1632.
John Bray. Signed and sealed in presence of James Bray, John Brahynoke (?), Christian Bray, John Bray.
Members of the Bray family in Clonmel were later dispossessed of their property.
John Bray: Burgess of Clonmel, Conf. Kilkenny and M.P. Clonmel in St.(?) James II parliament, lived at Garondillon in 1677: he had forfeited under Cromwell and by deed of 26 Mar 1669 was demised 478 acres in Knockballymallow/Knockballynemollogh for term of 31 years, by Thomas Juxon.
Dates vary for the dispossession. The year 1691 is also mentioned in accounts. According to William P. Burke in his History of Clonmel ‘after the Restoration the Brays made a vain attempt to recover their property in Kilsheelan Street and elsewhere in the town. They subsequently obtained a farm from Captain Mathew at Galberstown, near Thurles. Captain Mathew was George Mathew, half brother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, a local landlord who held many thousands of acres of land in Tipperary. He resided at Thomastown Castle, County Tipperary. The Mathews were originally from Llandaff in Wales.
The Bray name is also found in Fethard, County Tipperary. The history of Fethard is inextricably linked with the Normans, and in particular with William de Braose, nephew of Philip de Braose. Fethard remained in his possession until 1208.
Archbishop Thomas Bray of Cashel [1749-1820] was born in Fethard, the son of John Bray a wine merchant. John Bray was born in Fethard in about 1710 and was the son of Francis Bray who served as Constable to the Fethard Corporation in the early 1700s. There do not appear to be any earlier records of the Bray name in Fethard. Did they come from Clonmel like the Brays of Thurles, or could Francis have come from Cornwall where the name is common? His grandson James later became a doctor of medicine in Falmouth, Cornwall. Was this simply a coincidence? Or could the Brays of Fethard have a different origin as descendants of the founder of Fethard, the Norman William de Braose?