Daniel O’Connell – The Liberator (1775-1845)

The war of American independence profoundly and dramatically influenced Irish politics. Its independence had a lasting effect on Irish liberal Protestants. Grattan, Ponsoby, Theobold Wolf Tone and Curran became a force in the Irish Parliament and demanded more social justice for the native Irish.  The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast in 1791 by Wolf Tone a young Dublin Protestant Lawyer. Northern Presbyterians who also suffered from religious discrimination, became involved. Apart from skirmishes around the country, the final resulting 1798 rising was confined to Antrim and Down in Northern Ireland and to Co. Wexford (the most south-easterly county in Ireland). The density of the eighteenth-century Protestant presence in North Wexford, dating back to the tenant plantation of the 1620s’ and subsequent migration within the county was central to the rebellion. The Protestants were the leaseholders in the better lands, while most Catholics were in marginal lands, town slums and as labourers on the land of The Marquis of Ely (Loftus family) – who had developed a strong political base. The battle that ensued consisted of burning one other’s houses and churches.  The Catholics found a remarkable leader in Father John Murphy of Boolavogue, who quickly assembled an army of Catholic peasants equipped with muskets and pikes.  The government was slow to react, but the rebels’ attempts to spread the rising to neighbouring counties were halted by defeats at Arklow and New Ross. On 21 June, General Lake stormed the rebel headquarters at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy, and resistance soon ended. Fr. Murphy was later captured and executed.

In January 1801 the Irish Parliament was abolished. Even though the Dublin Parliament was solely a Protestant one, the fact that Sr. William Pitt had reneged in his promise of Catholic Emancipation at the time of its abolishment it then became an important issue. Along came Daniel O’Connell from a Catholic Landowning family in Co. Kerry. He was born in 1775, experienced the violence and bloodshed in the French Revolution while being educated in France. With the easing of the Penal Laws O’Connell was allowed study to be a Barrister. He soon became a brilliant and popular Lawyer through-out Ireland. In the days before O’Connell, Catholic leaders were cautious about the way in which they agitated for their rights. They acted as though the Penal Laws were still in force. They protested their loyalty to the King, they petitioned parliament, passed resolutions at meetings and meekly requested the Ascendancy to support their cause.  Through the Catholic Association, which he founded with Richard Lawlor Sheil, the association became the first broadly based, well-organised mass movement in Europe to seek social change by peaceful means. Before this, the violent secret societies were the only recourse the peasants had against injustice. At first the Government was bewildered and did not know how to react to this new force. Soon, they became determined to stamp out what they regarded as a threat to law and order. The Catholic Association was declared illegal, but O’Connell was equal to the crisis. He simply renamed the movement “The New Catholic Association”, and carried on. The Clare election in 1828 was a turning point. O’Connell, with the support of the forty-shilling freeholders(£2), managed a huge victory against the government candidate. He was well supported by the clergy whose influence on the poor uneducated peasant class was enormous. The polling took place in Ennisat the old courthouse where the O’Connell monument now stands. At the final count,

O’Connell was elected by a majority of about eleven hundred votes. The ascendancy party had suffered its first big knock since 1798.

The whole country was aflame. The British Government feared a rising and granted Catholic emancipation in April 1829. The franchise was, however, raised to £10, which excluded the forty-shilling freeholders( The Forty-shilling freeholders were men whose nett income after rent and taxes was at least £2 a year). O’Connell was now the undisputed leader in Ireland and he gave up his practice at the bar to devote his time entirely to politics. At the King’s insistence, O’Connell was not allowed to take his seat until he had been re-elected for Clare. In February 1830, O’Connell became the first Catholic in modern history to sit in the House of Commons. In 1841, O’Connell was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin and in 1843 the subscriptions to his Repeal Association, the Repeal “Rent” came to £48,400. He now began to organise monster meetings throughout the country. It is thought that three-quarters of a million people gathered on the hill of Tara to hear the man they called the “Liberator”. The government became alarmed at the strength of the Repeal Movement and a meeting which O’Connell had planned for 8 October 1843 in Clontarf, Dublin was banned. Huge crowds were already on their way when O’Connell called off the meeting to avoid the risk of violence and bloodshed.

He was charged with conspiracy, arrested and sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of £2,000. The sentence was set aside after O’Connell had been three months in prison. When he was released he continued with his campaign for repeal. However, a turning point had been reached. The tactics that had won emancipation had failed. O’Connell was now almost seventy, his health failing and he had no clear plan for future action. The discontent within the Repeal Association and the Young Irelanders and the Great Famine broke his will power.  O’Connell died in Genoa in 1847 on a pilgrimage to Rome. He was buried in Glasnevin. O’Connell’s Peaceful Means Policy was followed by many world leaders thereafter.

Sir Arthur Young

Country Life that Sir Arthur Young – England’s famous Agricultural Journalist witnessed on his – Tour of Ireland (1776-1779)

When stock was taken of the restoration settlement, Catholic land owners were better off than they had been under Cromwell, but they had recovered only a fraction of their original estates. In 1641, before the war began, they owned about three fifths of the land. At the end of the restoration period they owned a little more than one-fifth. They resented the settlement as a breach of faith with Charles 11, and were ready to take the first chance of upsetting it. In later years Dean Swift was to sum up their attitude: ‘The Catholics of Ireland …. lost their estates for fighting in defense of their king. Those who cut off the fathers’ head, forced the son to fly for his life , and overturned the whole ancient frame of government … obtained grants of those very estates the Catholics lost in defense of the ancient constitution, and thus gained by their rebellion what Catholics lost by loyalty’. However, worse was to come, after the Williamite wars and the treaty of Limerick (1691), an age of austerity was put in place for native Irish Catholics through the Penal Laws.

1691 Treaty Stone -Limerick

Ostensibly the aim of the anti-Catholic laws was to eradicate the catholic religion in Ireland, but in fact, apart from the sporadic outbursts of prosecution, the penal laws were allowed fall into desuetude from about 1716. The penal laws which were enforced, however, or which were automatic in their operation, were those which debarred Catholics from parliament, from holding a government office-high or low – from entering the legal profession, and from holding commissions in the army and navy. This resulted in a great number of professionals changing over to the established church. As Catholics still owned about 14% of Irish land, a system was devised, by act of parliament in 1704 and 1709, which forbade Catholics to buy land at all, or to take leases for longer than 31 years and which at the same time brought many pressures, inducements, and prohibitions to bear, that by 1778 scarcely 5% (1m acres) of Irish land was left in Catholics hands. In the

meantime for one reason or other most of the Catholic landlord had gone over to the Established church (Church of Ireland). By 1778 catholic proprietors owned but £50,000 a year of the total rentals collected in Ireland, then calculated at £1,000,000.

Sir Arthur Young – the famous English Agricultural Journalist, in his book ‘A Tour of Ireland 1776-1779’ had this to say after his tour on the subject of land rents: “There are very few countries that do not experience the disadvantage of remitting a part of their rents to landlords who reside elsewhere; and it must ever so while there is any liberty left to mankind of living where they please. In Ireland the amount proportioned to the territory is greater probably than in most other instances; and not having free trade with the kingdom in which such absentees spend their fortunes, it is cut off from that return which Scotland experiences for the loss of her rents”. The total according those figures came about £1,000,000 per year, at a time when Ireland’s GNP was ~£3,000,000. “This total (of £1million) is certainly an amazing drain upon a kingdom cut off from the re-action of free trade; and such as one as must have a very considerable effect in preventing the natural course of its prosperity. ————The landlord at such a great distance is out of the way of complaints, or, which is the same thing, of examining into, or remedying evils, miseries of which he can see nothing, and probably hear as little of, can make no impression”.


The potato – the demise

‘The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the path of man’s history and culture seems influenced by the vagaries of chance. The far-reaching ramifications of any act are seldom apparent, even to the wisest man and most prescient people. Hairpin twists and turns in the evolution of a nation or a people may hinge on the most untoward or seemingly innocuous of words, actions or objects. Only time gives us any perspective. Witness the potato. What Spanish soldier-storyteller of the 1500s’ (Raleigh?) could have begun to concoct a tale of how some insignificant small, knobby roots grown by the Incas in the Andean high sierra that he brought back in a boat to the ‘Old world’ would someday become the most popular vegetable in the world’?  – Ref: The Potato Garden by Maggie Oster. The potato became the main stay of a large proportion of Irish people. It was used to slice, and dice the farms, leading to a life a misery, starvation, death, mass emigration of its people and made millions of pounds for English, Scottish and Welsh Landlords and their agents.

Man had tools for more than a million years, but his crop plants have evolved under the influence of observation selection and imagination starting with the Neolithic people. While some crops such as maize would have not survived without man’s intervention, however man’s survival is equally dependent on his crops. Both Crops and man have evolved in a kind of symbiosis. As Darlington (1969) put it in ‘The Silent Millennia’ “during the expansion of Agriculture the men themselves were transformed by new relations with the plant and animal which they themselves were in the process of establishing”. Of the 200,000 wild plants species, only a few thousand are eaten by humans, and just a few hundred of these have been domesticated. Even of these crops, most provide just minor supplements to our diet and would not by themselves have sufficed to support the rise of civilization.  To-day only nine crops contribute more than two thirds of the human food dry-matter, half the protein and fibre, and one quarter of the oil and fat of the world’s population diet. Wheat and barley provide 25% and potatoes 4% of the total human food. Rice, maize, sorghum/millet supply a further 38%, while milk and meat supply just 6% of the food dry matter and 14% of the protein.

The potato plant (Solanum tuberosum) is a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family, a family of flowering plants that also includes the eggplant, mandrake, deadly nightshade or belladonna, tobacco, tomato, and petunia. Its starchy tubers (stem thickened for use as a storage organ).  The potato originated in the Andes, likely somewhere in present-day Peru or Bolivia, and spread to the rest of the world after European contact with the Americas in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Being easy to grow and having excellent nutritional value, it became the major staple crop for the world’s population. It was brought to Ireland, in 1565, according to one story. Another has it that Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back from South America and first grew it in Youghal in 1585. Either way, it eventually became a national mainstay in the Native Irish diet. At last Ireland had a human food crop that was very suitable to its climate and soil type. It could be stored without drying – just an acre would provide sufficient carbohydrates for a family for the autumn, winter and spring seasons. Sir William Petty asserts in a report of 1685 on Ireland “that for ten months of the year from August till May, potatoes and milk were the staple food everywhere, oatmeal being only used to fill up the interval when the tuber was not available”. Raised beds, which were initiated by Irish peasant farmers, insured a good crop even on wet land. The landlord and his agent took advantage of this new crop. No doubt the Boyle, Fitzgerald, Butler and the Burke landlords were soon growing potatoes on their estates and were the main promoters of the crop through-out Ireland.  The landlord’s Agent was now able to rent out land in smaller lots for exorbitant rent to their estate workers and to the native Irish tenant farmers for potato growing. If a tenant complained about rent, he was evicted and a new tenant put in his place. Little were the natives to realise as the Irish population rose from 500,000 in the year 1600 to more than 8 million 250 years later that it would all end in tears, when  ‘The 1840s’ Potato Famine’ hit, costing millions of lives misery, death or exile.

First Agricultural Revolution

The First Agricultural Revolution is said to have began in the 1500s’ may have in some ways explain the treatment it gave to Ireland during the 16th and 17th century. In England of that period social justice was not a priority. In England before the growth of towns as we know them to day, life in England centred mainly around the local village. Each village had its own allocation of land – the precursor of the modern parish – and each village had the right to own or hire certain areas of this land for grazing, hay and tillage. Most of the land was unfenced and farmed on a system of strips and patches. Thus within any given area, a farmer might have one or more patches depending on the system of allocation. The system of cropping was winter corn, spring corn and fallow. Some areas of land were enclosed or fenced so as to provide hay, but the bulk of the grazing land was held in common. When autumn came all farmers had an equal right to stubble grazing and so all cattle were turned loose on the cultivated ground at a specified date. Once the stubble grazing was finished all unwanted animals were killed off and salted down for winter food. Naturally the only cattle and sheep that were kept were those that were intended as a nucleus for breeding and in many cases the reserves of animal fodder were barely sufficient to see through the winter. By the middle of the eighteenth century English agriculture was well on its way to becoming fully commercialized economic activity, organized and administered to the needs of the market.  This constituted a decisive change from the mediaeval economy which had been based largely on subsistence farming, and governed by tradition and custom rather than by calculation of profit. The development of capitalist agriculture was pivotal for the economy as a whole, since agriculture accounted for between 40 and 45% national income and, of course, it dominated the rural economy, despite the continued presence of much smaller-scale manufacture and handicraft. The growth of the system was unique in the world: rural England contained the first capitalist economy. While the ‘English model’ was never to be repeated elsewhere in its exact form, it did represent in a general sense a prototype – the economic system that had developed in rural England by the latter half of the eighteenth century was destined to become global in its extent.

England’s rural sociologists of the day varied on the benefits of the the capitalist model of agriculture that evolved. In part, the difference stems from divergence of purpose and method. The more pessimistic interpretations of the period stress the unequal distribution of the benefits gained from commercialization, and emphasize the social and cultural dislocation which the rise in capitalism entailed. The more optimistic perspective stresses the gross gains in productivity which the new innovations provoked. The emphasis is placed upon necessary economic advance in order to achieve the modernization of medieval agriculture. The latter employs state records and agrarian change through the eyes of the ‘improvers’, the former elaborates the view from the village rather than the estate, pays considerable attention to forms of social protest and develop a ‘history from below’.


The Irish Countryside after The First Agricultural Revolution

This new generation of people in England became very dissatisfied about the productivity of Ireland and the Reformation became a further excuse to invade. Between 1580 and 1690 Ireland was three times devastated: first by the Elizabethan conquest; then by the rising of 1641, followed by the Cromwellian conquest and settlement; and finally by the Williamite Wars. This new departure began with Henry V111. Before his reign, the English crown was powerless in most parts Ireland. However, following Henry’s successor Tudor Monarchs Edward V1, Mary and Elizabeth the entire island was completely under English rule. Not only did they bring the whole country for the first time under the control of a central government, but they ensured that that government would be an English one. Each upheaval represented the violent rejection by the old Irish order of the new order which its English exponents sought to impose. Apart from the immediate destruction of men and materials, which in each case was in frightful scale, each wave of havoc exacerbated the enmity between the two sides and together they made impossible any relationship of the conqueror and conquered.

The history of the seventeenth century precluded compromise between planters and the Irish. To the former it made it clear that their position in Ireland was only secure only as long as they commanded, or could obtain from England, the force necessary to maintain it. For the latter it removed hope of alleviation other than by complete overthrow of the newly imposed political, economic and social system. It gave rise not alone to two classes but two nations, between them there could only exist friction and enmity. Political or economic co-operation was made almost impossible. The repercussions saw the re-distribution of 250,000 acres of land in Munster the Flight of the Earls and their lands taken over by the Crown. Six counties Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and Cavan – more than three million acres in all were taken over. About 600,000 acres of the best land was set aside for new settlers. The remainder made up of moor, woodland, bog and marsh was left to the peasant Irish. The new settlers were given estates of 1000, 1,500 and 2,000 acres. All were compelled to take the Oath of Supremacy, that is an oath recognizing the King as head of the Church.  Niall O’Donnell was given land in Co. Mayo, the O’Reillys were left a small estate in Cavan. Conor Maguire retained a portion of his land in Fermanagh, and Magennis did in Co. Down. The new settlers or colonists were English Protestants and Scottish Presbyterians.

Following on the clash between the new order, as represented by the Elizabethan and Cromwellian conquerors, and the old order was unusually bitter. Exasperating as well as complementing and reflecting the fundamental economic differences were the religious and cultural differences. The old order was Catholic and Gaelic, some Anglo Irish Land owners refused to convert to Protestantism, the vast majority complied to protect their estates, while the new planters were Protestant and very English. In the words of Tawney: “the elements were so alien that assimilation was out the question (and) the result was a wound that festered for three centuries”.

Clan Castles

The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of European life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent. The renaissance in Italy was peaking and spreading north, even arriving in backwaters like England (Hale – The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance). Life was largely prosperous for the average person, the economy was growing. The mechanisms of commerce, systems of international finance, ocean-going trading fleets, an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie, were all building a recognizably capitalist, money-based economy. Geniuses were stepping all over each other on the street corners producing scientific innovation after innovation. Technological innovations like gunpowder were changing the nature of warfare and the military caste nature of society — the cannon probably had a great deal to do with the rise of the centralized nation state as we know it. The printing press created a media revolution. It brought ideas, partisan rhetoric, and how-to manuals to the people. Most of all, it brought the Bible, in its original tongues and in the vernacular, to the masses. A spirit of inquiry, a desire to return to first principles, was blowing through the Church, which had been the unifying cultural foundation of Europe for a millenium.

The Demise of the castle as a defense mechanism disappeared with the introduction of cannons and gun powder in Ireland as in the rest of Europe by the 15th century.  Cannons by the 15th century were widespread in Europe. These cannons could do serious damage to smaller castles. In the 15th century ammunition for cannons took the form of round stone balls, however methods changed and soon cast iron shot became the ammunition of choice. Cast iron has a density almost three times that of stone and is very hard. When fired against masonry it did not shatter on impact as stone balls often did and it could cause much greater damage. Gunpowder, made a much more effective form of attack. The military aspect of the castle had utterly changed by the end of the Cromwellian and Williamite Wars in Ireland.  Now the emphasis was on the castle as a domestic home rather than a defensive fortress.

Semi-fortified manor houses with crenellations and gatehouses were the nobility’s new answer to castles and the symbol of aristocracy that they had once been. The “castles” of the later medieval era were designed to say more about the wealth and social status of the owner than the need for defense. By then Anglo Irish landlords regarded London the appropriate place live along with fellow English landlords, Bankers, Artists, and Politicians. The Renaissance was changing the way the wealthy lived. In London they were at the centre of power.  It was safe, while an agent and the police kept their Irish land protected and tenants under control.

In England out of the Renaissance grew the First Agricultural Revolution. England’s rural sociologists of the day varied in opinion on the benefits of the capitalist model of agriculture that evolved. In part, the difference stems from divergence of purpose and method. The more pessimistic interpretations of the period stress the unequal distribution of the benefits gained from commercialization, and emphasize the social and cultural dislocation which the rise in capitalism entailed. The more optimistic perspective stresses the gross gains in productivity which the new innovations provoked. The emphasis is placed upon necessary economic advance in order to achieve the modernization of medieval agriculture. The latter employs state records and agrarian change through the eyes of the ‘improvers’, the former elaborates the view from the village rather than the estate, pays considerable attention to forms of social protest and develop a ‘history from below’. John Hale in his book “The civilization of Europe in the Renaissance” sums up the situation as follows ‘We have such evidence for a desire to rationalize both the use and appearance of the land because large number of cultivated men actually took to cultivating it. The flow of aristocratic landlords to cities and courts was balanced for a good part of the year by wealthy citizens who bought country estates for prestige and profit, as refuges from the contagious diseases of towns during summer, and for a pleasure heightened by a conscious following of the example of villa-loving Romans. There was thus a new market for vernacular versions of the texts of classical authors on husbandry, like Varro and Collumella, and for contemporary works praising country life and giving advice on agricultural practice: on drainage and irrigation, on the use of animal and mineral(potash, lime) manures, mulches and compost’.

For the native Irish, the Renaissance period, was a disaster for the well to-do and landowners.  After confiscation of lands they were forced to transplant to Connacht or to Continental Europe. By 1665 Catholics held only one fifth of the land, most of this in Connacht. The new landlord was Protestant and English and invariably lived in London. With prohibitions on Catholic ownership of land during the 1700s’ only 5 percent of the land was in Catholic hands by 1778.


Macroom Castle – South West Co Cork


It appears to owe its origin to the erection of a castle, which, according to Sir Richard Cox, was built in the reign of John by the family of the Carews. This castle subsequently became the property of the McCartys, and was repaired and beautified by Teigue McCarty, who died here in 1565. The MacCarthys established the town as a centre for markets and fairs, and in 1620 a market house was built to the east of and facing the castle. 1650, a major battle was fought at Macroom between Cromwell’s forces led by Lord Borghill and those, under the command of Bishop Mac Egan, loyal to King Charles. The Cromwellian forces were victorious, the Bishop was captured and hanged in nearby Carrigadrohid. Six years later Macroom Castle was handed over to Admiral Sir William Penn.  He retired to his Irish estates – the castle and manor 1660, the year of the restoration of the English monarchy. Later under the direction of Charles II Lord Muskerry McCarthy got back Macroom Castle and Admiral Penn received Shanagarry Castle in County Cork in compensation. (In the Williamite Wars of the 1690’s Macroom & Blarney Castles were once again confiscated from the McCarthy’s and this time sold by auction to the Hollow Sword Blade Company of London.  Similar to the East India Trading Company or the Hudson Bay Trading Company, they were a merchant company who made financial investments in colonial expansion. They eventually sold their interest in the castle to the Bernards of Castle Mahon in Bandon (future Earls of Bandon) who, in turn sold on to the Hedges family. In 1766 Jane Hedges Eyre married Simon White from Bantry House, and the strength of this alliance led to their son, Richard, becoming Earl of Bantry in 1816. By the turn of the century the castle was in the ownership of the glamorous Lady Ardilaun, sister of the last Earl of Bantry, and wife of Arthur Edward Guinness MP, heir of the brewing family. They moved in exciting circles, being friendly with Yeats, AE and the Laverys, the people that were responsible for developing the Anglo-Irish literary movement.  When Macroom Castle was burnt (for the fourth time) during the War of Independence Lady Ardilaun sold the remains to the Irish people.


The Ruins of Dunboy Castle and Beara Landscape – former stronghold of the O’Sullivans

Two miles outside Castletownbere, on the Bera Peninsula in South West County Cork are some very impressive ruins. These are the ruins of Dunboy Castle. Dunboy Castle (Caisleáin Dún Baoi) was built in the early 1500s. It was the home of the great Irish Chieftain – O’ Sullivan Bere. It is from this family that Castletownbere gets its name. O’ Sullivan Bere and his family were said to be very popular rulers of the local Irish peasants as they were meant to be very fair and kind. At this time, however, Ireland was in turmoil. The British were slowly taking over the country by getting rid of the original Irish chieftains and then taking their land. The Irish chieftains tried to stop the British at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, but they failed. O’ Sullivan Bere was one of the chieftains who oraganised the Battle of Kinsale. As a result, the British decided to eliminate him. Queen Elizabeth sent one of her best generals, Sir George Carew, to Castletownbere to get rid of O’ Sullivan Bere and his troops in 1602. O’ Sullivan Bere had 143 men defending his castle. Carew attacked the Castle with 5000 men. Amazingly, the 143 men managed to defend their castle for almost 11 days. However, the castle was soon over-run when Carew started to use cannons. Most of the O’Sullivan Bere clan, including O’ Sullivan Bere himself, were killed. The British were in control of the Beara Peninsula, including the Caha Mountains from that point on, and they maintained a heavy naval presence until 1943.


Dromagh Castle


It is situated off the Road between Mallow and Killarney Road, close to the river Blackwater, and Kanturk.  The O’Keeffes’ had to move from Glanworth – north East Co. Cork up the valley of the River Bride and Blackwater to Dunbulloge, Dromagh and  Cullain ui Caoimh (Ballydesmond) in North  West Cork-East Kerry border. According to James N. Healy on the Castles of Co. Cork Book “It does emerge that Art O’Caoimh (O’Keeffe) built it”. The Dromagh O’Keeffes did take part in the Confederate War and so did have an involvement in the battle of Knocknaclassy where the last spark of hope for the confederates was quenched in 1651. The Castle and lands were taken over by the family of Leader.  The Leader dynasty owned it along with 5632 acres right up to the 1900s’. Presently the O’Leary family own the Castle and the surrounding lands.


O’Callaghan Castle – Dromaneen Mallow, Co. Cork.

It was one of the three main castles of the ancient O’Callaghan clan; Dromore and Clonmeen being the others. The ruin is that of an early 17th century Jacobean fortified mansion, rather than a true castle, and it is said to have been built by Caher O’Callaghan circa 1610. It was built to replace an older-type fortification, which had probably been in the style of a tower house. It was here that the Papal Nuncio, Rinunicci was entertained in 1642. The castle was destroyed in 1652 during the Confederate wars following the battle of Knocknaclashy which took place nearby. During the Confederate War no effort was made to defend it and it was apparently occupied by Sir Richard Herrill, and Tynte of Youghal after which period it was passed, with other O’Callaghan land to Sir Richard Kyrle. Kyrle sold to Richard Newman. The castle, or mansion, was apparently damaged in that time.


Castle Bernard:

In 1788 Francis Bernard, who became the 1st Earl of Bandon demolished much of the old O’Mahony castle on the site, and built an 18th century castellated mansion in front of it and slightly to the east. The old O’Mahony castle had been renamed Castle Bernard in 1715 by “Judge” Bernard. The new building was not strictly a castle, but rather an elegant castellated residence even though it continued to bear the name of a castle in the fashion of the time. James Francis Bernard (nicknamed Bucksot Bandon), the 4th Earl of Bandon (1850-1924) was a British Deputy Lieutenant in Ireland and Representative Peer. Lord Bandon was a cousin of the Earl of Middleton – the head of the Southern Irish Unionists at the time of the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921). Castle Bernard became known as one of the most hospitable houses in Ireland and the house parties held by the fourth earl and his wife were legendary. In an early morning raid on 21 June 1921 during the days of the Black & Tans, a party of IRA under Sean Hales called. They intended to kidnap Lord Bandon, but Buckshot Bandon and his staff had taken refuge in the cellars. Apparently disappointed in the first object of their call the IRA decided to burn the house. Lord Bandon owned 40,941 acres in 1906, most of which was bought out by the Government of the day.


Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle situated in the centre of Donegal town, County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries. The elder Sir Hugh O’Donnell, wealthy chief of the O’Donnell clan, built the castle in 1474. At the same time, he and his wife Nuala, built a Franciscan monastery further down the river. The castle was regarded as one of the finest Gaelic castles in Ireland. This was indicated by a report by the visiting English Viceroy, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, in 1566, in a letter to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, the Lord High Treasurer, describing it as “the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland“, adding: “it is the greatest I ever saw in an Irishman’s hands: and would appear to be in good keeping; one of the fairest situated in good soil and so nigh a portable water a boat of ten tonnes could come within ten yards of it”. In 1607, after the Nine Years war the leaders of the O’Donnell clan left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls. In 1611 the castle and its lands were granted to an English Captain, Basil Brooke. The keep had been severely damaged by the departing O’Donnells to prevent the castle being used against the Gaelic clans but was quickly restored by its new owners.


Rathfarnham Castle 1794

Rathfarnham Castle was not built primarily to defend the Pale, but as a comfortable country residence for an ambitious Yorkshire clergyman, Adam Loftus. Loftus quickly rose to become Archbishop of Dublin in 1567, Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1581, and was closely involved in the establishment of Trinity College Dublin in 1582. He died in 1605 and the Castle remained in the family until 172 when William Conolly bought it. Conolly was born in Ballyshannon Co Donegal in 1662, the son of a local innkeeper. From such humble origins, he rose to become the wealthiest most powerful politician in Ireland. The Conolly family were presumably of Catholic Irish background although it is likely they had converted sometime before William’s birth. He trained as an attorney in Dublin, where he practiced law in the 1680s. His career, however only took off following the Williamite war of 1688-91. In 1689 Catholic James II of England fled to Ireland following the ‘glorious revolution’ which swept his son in-law William of Orange to power in Britain and Ireland. King William pursued his rival to Ireland, where decisive battles were fought at Derry, the Boyne, Aughrim and Limerick in 1690-1. Conolly proceeded to make the most of the opportunities created by the Williamite victory in Ireland. William of Orange confiscated the lands of James’ Catholic supporters and it was through dealing in these forfeited estates that Conolly established his fortune. By 1703 he had spent over £10,000 acquiring over 15,000 acres spread across 7 counties. By any standards he had generated an immense fortune in a remarkably short period of time. In 1723 he acquired Rathfarnham Castle in Co. Dublin although neither he nor any of his descendants ever lived there. By his death he owned over 100,000 acres and enjoyed an annual income of almost £17,000 a year making him the wealthiest and the most powerful politician in Ireland.


O’Driscoll Castle 


O’Driscoll clan comes from County Cork in the south of Ireland, particularly the area around Baltimore and Skibbereen. They were part of the Corca Laoighde tribal grouping which was descended from the Érainn or Fir Bolg, Celts who settled the area before the arrival of the Gaels. During the early Middle Ages the O’Driscolls were Admirals who comanded the fleets of the Kings of Munster. They also controlled a huge territory encompassing all of Bantry, Carbery and Beara baronies; an area co-extensive with the diocese of Ross, Around the close of the 12th century, pressure from the O’Sullivans drove them eastward, and they settled in the vicinity of Baltimore. Further encroachment by the O’Donavans and the O’Mahonys reduced the septs holdings to a narrow strip of seacoast. around the Bay of Baltimore.  After the Battle of Kinsale in 1602, the O’Driscolls were dispossessed of their lands and Baltimore was settled by immigrants from England.  In 1631, the village was attacked by Algerian pirates – reputed to have been organised by the O’Driscolls. One hundred of the village’s townspeople were kidnapped and dispatched to Algeria as slaves, never to return.  Oliver Cromwell army in 1649 took the castle as a garrison for his troops after his departure it ran into a state of disrepair over many years. The McCarthy family restored the building in 1997.

Sir William Penn and Macroom Castle

Sir William Penn & Macroom Castle

A major battle was fought at Macroom between Cromwell’s forces led by Lord Borghill and those, under the command of Bishop Mac Egan, loyal to King Charles. The Cromwellian forces were victorious, the Bishop was captured and hanged in nearby Carrigadrohid. Six years later Macroom Castle was handed over to Admiral Sir William Penn.  He retired to his Irish estates – the castle and manor 1660, the year of the restoration of the English monarchy. Later under the direction of Charles II Lord Muskerry McCarthy got back Macroom Castle and Admiral Penn received Shanagarry Castle in County Cork in compensation.  Sir William Penn at the restoration of the monarchy he lost these lands and received an estate at Shangarry in 1667 in compensation. This estate amounted to 7,282 acres in the barony of Imokily and 4,859 acres in the barony of Ibane (formely Barry Rue). His son William Penn, a Quaker, founded the state of Pennsylvania in America after spending some time in county Cork in the late 1660s. The Penn estate in County Cork passed into the possession of the Gaskell and Durdin families.

Admiral William Penn

Sir William son is known, of course, as the founder of Pennsylvania. He is also known as a famous Quaker. We must remember that Penn was also a member of the landed gentry, and that despite his true interest in (relative) democracy and religious toleration, he was ‘proprietor’ of his Pennsylvania manor. He was one of the best known early Quakers here who came back in 1666 to manage his father’s estates in east Cork. When Admiral Penn went back to America he was instrumental on that state being a haven for Quakers. Over the next century, some 2,000 Irish Quakers emigrated to America, many of them settling in Philadelphia.

Springett Penn & The Freemasons

Springett Penn was a grand son of Admiral William Penn. The “Munster Records,” are the first authentic records of any Grand Lodge in Ireland, informing us that a Grand Lodge met at Cork on the 27th of December, 1726, The Honourable James O’Brien, third son of William 3rd Earl of Inchquin, being elected (3rand Master, and Springett Penn was elected Deputy Grand Master. On August 9th, 1731, Lord Kingston, who had been elected Grand Master of England 1728 was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in Dublin. He had also been elected in 1729 Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Munster; his acceptance of both important Irish offices served to fuse together the two bodies in 1731, into the Grand Lodge of Ireland as it stands to this day, proving the connection and good feeling then existing between the Premier Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodges of Ireland.



Sir William Petty – Surrender and Regrant of the Irish Countryside


Sir William Petty – Surrender and Regrant of the Irish Countryside

William Petty’s arrived on Irish shores as physician-general to Cromwell’s army in Ireland. His job was to reorganize and improve the efficiency of its medical service but his later and larger task became his major life’s work. This was the surveying, mapping, describing, evaluating and redistribution of the Irish lands. After the victory in 1650 of the Cromwellian army in Ireland over the large Royalist forces formed by the alliance of the Irish and Anglo-Irish, it was decided that the defeated Catholic and Anglo-Irish landowners would forfeit their estates in proportion to the help they had given against Cromwell. These lands were to be distributed partly in wages to Parliamentarian soldiers, partly to the government’s creditors who supplied the army, and partly to new settlers from England and America. The Royalists, especially the Catholic Irish, were also punished in various civil and political ways. All this required a detailed survey and evaluation of the property to be distributed and of the recipients and the extent of their rewards. Benjamin Worsley, Surveyor-General at the time, had put forward plans for this. Petty, apparently having no lesser opinion of his own abilities than his various eulogists, put forward plans of his own and undertook to execute them better, more quickly and more cheaply. He was entrusted with the work, which became known as the ‘Down Survey’. It employed about a thousand men and took thirteen months. Petty also undertook the first complete mapping of Ireland in 1673 and the first census of Ireland, for the year 1659. He was never fully paid for this work but according to John Aubrey he received a substantial cash award and was able to acquire some 50,000 acres of land in Co. Kerry including the parishes of Kenmare, Tuosist and Bonane, formerly the property of the O’Sullivans. He was also granted large tracts of land in counties Limerick, Cork, Kilkenny, King’s County (county Offaly) and Westmeath and amounting to 270,000 acres. He then became Sir William Petty. In 1662, Petty was a founding fellow of the Royal Society and moved to Dublin. Sir William Petty, “one of the most original social engineers who ever lived”, actually prepared proposals for turning Ireland into a vast sheep and cattle ranch. Petty believed that Ireland was capable of keeping six million head of cattle, which he suggested, could be most economically tended by a population of 300,000 persons. The surplus population was to be removed to England, where they would become labourers. …………………..resulting in maximum rents and raising the living standards of the Irish resettled in England to an approximation to the standard enjoyed by the English (labourer).




After Cromwell the main issue in Munster and Leinster was the “Surrender and Regrant” of the land; which to tie the Irish chieftains and nobles to the English throne by making rank and title a grant of the Crown and not of the tribe. That is, Irish chieftains and nobles who were willing to surrender their titles and lands they possessed to the Queen and had them re-granted in fee simple, making them vassals of the English throne.  The Anglo-Norman land-owners like the Fitzgeralds of Kildare, and the Butlers of Ormond were the first to be either beaten into submission or play both sides (the Irish and English).





Maps in the 1600s

Munster: From a proof copy of John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, which was first published 1611/12. Cambridge University Library classmark: Atlas.2.61.1. Munster and the other provinces maps can be got at www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/maps/speed.html. The 400th anniversary of the production of the world’s great maps, which includes the four provinces of Ireland is being marked in a special way by Cambridge University Library.

The maps were printed from copper plates which had been engraved, in reverse, by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam. Maps printed from the plates – proofs – would have been sent back to England for checking. The maps in Cambridge University Library’s set of proofs are in a late state of preparation, but many were altered before being published. The map of Cheshire, which had been produced as early as 1603 by English engraver William Rogers, was completely replaced following the death of Rogers in 1604. These maps show the ownership of land at that particular time.

The native Irish Clan Chiefs having been pushed from their original strongholds by the Norman Invaders began building castles also in their new location. The O’Sullivan Clan were forced to uproot themselves from Cashel and go to marginal lands of West Cork and South Kerry in the former and North Cork in the later case. The O’Keeffes’ had to move from Glanworth – north of Fermoy up the valley of the River Bride and Blackwater to Glenville, Dunbulloge, Dromagh and  Cullain ui Caoimh (Ballydesmond) in Co Cork. The McCarthy Mor had to retreat to Blarney and Macroom – the lands of South West Co. Cork. The O’Mahonys went westwards where they wrestled some land off the O’Driscoll, O’Cowhigs and others. The McCarthys were associated some 50 castles, the O’Driscolls and the O’Mahonys’ both with fifteen, the O’Keeffes with ten, O’Cowhigs, Coffeys with seven, the O’Sullivans with six, and the McAuliffes with  four. Several other native Irish built castles throughout the county.

The castles and land ownership by the Irish Clans was ephemeral with the exception of a few. The theory of a solid Irish party fighting against a solid English party was never true at any time in Ireland. It was least of all true during the Munster and Ulster rebellions, even what was professedly a war of religion during the 16th century. The country was divided by its people as well as by difference in status. By the end of the Renaissance period England had become the dominant ruling country in the world.

For the native Irish, the Renaissance period, was a disaster for the landowners.  After confiscation of lands they were forced to transplant to Connacht or to Continental Europe. By 1665 Catholics held only one fifth of the land, most of this in Connacht. The new landlord was Protestant and English and invariably lived in London. With prohibitions on Catholic ownership of land during the 1700s’ only 5 percent of the land was in Catholic hands by 1778.

Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser Poet awarded 3,028 Acres along with Castle in 1586

Little is known of Spenser’s Cambridge career, except that he was a sizar of Pembroke Hall, took his bachelor’s degree in 1572, his master’s in 1576, and left Cambridge without having obtained a fellowship.

The shattered remains of the castle and land lie approximately 20 kilometres to the north of Glanworth Castle in North Co. Cork.  The district appeared to have been held originally by the O’Keeffes then by the MacCarthys until 1347, at which stage the Lord Roche – Lord Fermoy took it over. It was then the Castle was built. It was held by them until the end of the Geraldine Wars in 1583.

In the meantime Master Spenser was serving his apprenticeship as a ‘Planter’s Assistant in Dublin. As a clerk dealing with licences of dispensation he was able to use his position to obtain lands at nominal prices. In the Desmond Rebellion he wrote ‘I saw such wretchedness as a stoyne hart would rue the same’ When the Roche lands became available he took his part in the Protestant plantation of Munster being awarded 3,028 acres in 1586 which included the castles of Kilcolman and Reeny. He was in constant conflict with Roche – Lord Fermoy, who wanted this part of his estate restored.


Bagwell’s Ireland under the Tudors wrote:—“Spenser had Kilcolman and 4,000 acres(3,028 acres) allotted to him, but he complained the area was much less.  Less or more, he was not allowed to dwell in peace, and his chief enemy, Lord Roche, who accused him of intruding on his lands, and using violence to his tenants, servants and cattle. The poet retorted that the peer entertained traitors, imprisoned subjects, brought the law into contempt, and forbade all his people to have any dealings with Lord Roche and his tenants. An English settler named Keate asked Morris MacShane, one of Lord Roche’s men, why he had no fear of God; and it is sworn that he answered, * he fears not God, for he had no cause: but he feared his Lord, who had punished him before and would have his goods.’ Lord Roche was charged with many outrages, such as killing a bullock belonging to a smith who mended a settler’s plough, seizing the cows of another for renting land from the owner of this plough, and killing a fat beast belonging to a third, because Mr. Spenser lay in his house one night, as he came from the Sessions in Limerick. Ultimately the poet’s estate-was surveyed as 3,028 acres at a rent of £8 13s. 9d”.


In 1587 Spenser went to live in Kilcoleman and it was his home for eleven years. It was a fruitful time for him and much of his best work stems from this time. In 1589 Sir Walter Raleigh came to visit him and was so impressed that he arranged for the poet to visit London and the Queen. He was appointed Sheriff of Cork in 1598, but that same year disaster struck. O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone, had stirred up resistance in the North of Ireland, and very soon the blaze of rebellion reached the south. On October 16 a party of rebellious Irish, attached Kilcoleman and set it on fire. Spenser was away from home but his wife escaped to the protection of Norris’ at Mallow. Spenser died of fever a year later in London.  Troubles with Lord Roche continued to the end, and it may be doubted whether even the happy marriage which inspired his finest verses ever reconciled him, to what he has himself described as

” My luckless lot

That banished had myself, like wight forelore,

Into that waste, where I was quite forgot.”

Philip Harold Barry (an offshoot of Barrymore Estate Barrys’ and Harolds’ of Limerick) took over the lands, strengthened and repaired the crumbling ruin in 1850.