Croom is located north of a junction in the river system, where the Camoge River joins the Maigue, after forming a loop to the South, West of Monasteranenagh Abby. Croom was a place of considerable importance from an early date, but it did not develop as a town until the castle was built . the town was walled in 1310, and over the intervening years both town and castle often shared the same fate.
Croom’s History date’s back to pre-Christian OR EARLY Christian times. In 1972-1973 two single-banked ring forts were demolished in the townland of Croom in order to build new houses on the site. Elizabeth Shee-Twohig excavated these sites in March 1974. She discovered human and animal remains, an iron knife, a bronze penannular ring and a bone comb side-plate.
A preservation order was placed on a third ring fort nearby. These forts were located north of the Croom-Rathkeale road, one mile from Croom, and over 65 ring forts are shown on a survey sheet No. 30 of the 6-inch Ordnance survey maps, Mainly two to three miles South-West of these excavated sites.
The history of Croom begins with the coming of the Normans, when a powerful branch of the Geraldine’s, or Fitzgerald’s, settle there. There were two great branches of the Geraldine’s, the Munster or Desmond Geraldine’s, and the Kildare Geraldine’s. It was the latter who, for a time, had their headquarters in Croom. They owned extensive tracts of land in the Maigue valley, including lands at Croom and Adare, while their Kinsmen, the Munster Geraldine’s, owned the greater part of the rest of Co. Limerick.
Later, the Geraldine’s who had settle at Croom were to remove from their Maigueside base and make Maynooth in Co. Kildare their chief residence. But they never forgot their early association with Croom, regarding at as their ancestral headquarters. Indeed, their motto and war-cry continued to Be ‘Crom Abu’(“victory to Croom’’). Although Maynooth was now their principal seat, the Kildare Geraldine’s still retained their Maigueside lands and castles, and members of the family resided in Croom for periods, from time to time. For example, the countess of Kildare happened to be there in the winter of 1601 when the northern chief , Red Hugh O’ Donnell, arrived in Croom with his men after their incredible night march across the frozen Slieve Felim marches.
They were on their way to link up with the Spaniards who had landed at Kinsale to aid the Irish then in revolt against the English.
O’ Donnell was received at Croom castle by the Countess. Today, the well preserved ruins of Croom castle lie hidden from view behind the high wall the bounds the left hand side of the road as you enter Croom from the Bruree direction.
Croom was an important crossing on the river Maigue, giving access into Connello, the huge West Limerick barony, with its many fastnesses and retreats, which figured so prominently in the Elizabethan wars. But in the civil survey, carried out in 1654, after the Cromwellian war, we find it stated, in the description of Croom that: ‘’ there is a broken bridge on the river of Maigue near the castle”. Croom had fallen on evil days. Ten years or so after the civil survey had noted Croom’s broken bridge, Daibhi O’ Bruadair, the great poet from near Broadford, Co. Limerick, wrote: ‘’Et Cromadh Fein spreachbhailtin sprionlaithe ata ar bhruach na Maighe eisean, et ni briomhar beoir an bhailtin sin..’’ ‘’ now Croom itself is a misery, scattered little town, which is situated on the banks of the Maigue, and the beer of that village has no strength in it, except, indeed, that I hear that good minister of the place has a fine old brew which is delightful to drink’’.
But much as he’d like to sample the minister’s brew, Daibhi had a bit of a problem in that regard, for as he tells us: ‘’Gidh ni hionuin liomsa an bhiotataille sin, ata d’ olas fheadaim mo theanga do chuibhriu dochun an gallbhearla do labhairt go liofa’’-‘’ however, I do fancy that beer, such is the difficulty I experience in endeavoring to fetter my tongue for fluent speech in the English language’’. The protestant minister, it would seem, spoke only English , a language with which Daibhi was not too familiar.
While Daibhi O’ Bruadair did not speak very favorably of Croom, some Gaelic poets who lived there in the following century warmly sang its praises. Indeed, Croom owes much of its later fame to the school or court of Gaelic poetry (Scoil Eigse, Cuirt Eigse) that flourished there in the 18th century. The poets who frequented the school, which was really a convivial gathering in a pub owned by one of the poets, were know as Fili na Maighe, the poets of Maigue. Chief among them was Sean O’ Tuama (the surname is anglicized O Tuomy), owner of the pub in question; next in importance was Aindrias Mac Craith, a hedgeschool master, who had settled in Croom, and who was better know by his soubriquet, An Mangaire Sugach ( The merry pedlar). The Maigue poets wrote love songs, elegies , drinking songs, songs of a patriotic nature, and songs of farewell a lovely song for the latter genre, ‘’ Slan le Maigh”(farewell to the Maigue), by Aindrias Mac Craith, is, in fact, the most famous of their songs.
A workhouse was built in Croom in the early 1840’s to house the destitute was adapted in 1924 as a general hospital serving all of Co. Limerick, and as such enjoyed a great reputation all over the county. With the building of the Limerick Regional Hospital in 1956 the Croom Hospital became a Regional Orthopaedic Hospital.
It has been remarked that the people of Croom and the surrounding district have three great loves:-horse-racing, Hurling and fishing- not necessarily in that order. The rich limestone country of the Maigue valley, with its many estates and rolling parklands, is great-horse breeding country. And the love of the horse has spread out from the house of the horse owner to the humblest dwelling, so that in few, if any parts of the country will you find men and woman- as knowledgeable about the horses, their pedigrees and form, as you will find in that part of Limerick, especially in Croom. And they love to attend race meetings and enjoy the odd little flutter.