Tracking the Prince: Carrick on Suir, Ormonde Castle

Part 4 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

img_1407It is always thrilling to be in Ireland, although during my research trip there were some disappointments. The greatest of these was finding Carrick on Suir, (now known as Ormonde Castle to distinguish it from the town), closed for renovations for the entire year. My advance research somehow did not disclose this, so upon arrival, all I could do was walk around all sides, take pictures, and use my imagination.

[As of this writing, the castle remains closed to visitors due to renovations, but is scheduled to reopen in June, 2017.]

Situated along the River Suir on the east side of the village in County Tipperary, this castle exudes history. It is remarkable for being Ireland’s only unfortified manor house from the Tudor period, and for the quality of plasterworks within. On the river side you see a classic 14th century castle with two towers, east and west, but then it is knitted together on the upland side with a majestic Tudor mansion. (See a tour video here.)

img_1402

Map of Carrick on Suir shows bend in the river, and castle on far right (black outline)

Carrick means bend or knot, and may have originally referred to the location along a bend in the river, but there is also a famous “carrick knot,” a rope knot having open-ended loops, symbolizing the nautical knot used by boatmen who worked along the river.

The most charming feature of this castle is the mullioned Tudor windows with their many small panes known as “quarries.” There are so many of these beautiful windows, and at one point I could see light all the way through to the opposite side of the house. It’s a rare thing to see a castle that so embraces the daylight. (For more about the history of windows in Ireland, see this wonderful site.)

5-ormond-castle-window

Closeup of mullioned windows, from Lambstongue.ie

DukeofOrmonde_sizeedit_npglicensedimage

James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormonde and first Duke of Ormonde

Built by Thomas Butler, the 10th Earl of Ormonde (and Queen Elizabeth’s cousin), in the 1560s, the manor house became the preferred residence of James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormonde, later the first Duke of Ormonde, during the 17th century. This is truly saying something, for the Butlers were the second-largest landholders in Ireland and their properties included more than 30 manors and houses. Among their holdings was the famous Kilkenny castle, the seat of power for the Butler family.

The story goes that, shortly before Thomas died, four-year-old James was playing behind the earl’s chair. The old man held the child between his knees and prophesied, “My family shall be much oppressed and brought very low; but by this boy it shall be restored again, and in his time be in greater splendor than ever it has been.” Later events proved the earl’s prophesy to be true, for when James ascended to the earldom he became known as a valiant and honest man, was highly respected by all sides and, among other things he  founded the woolen industry. James led the Irish confederates against Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces in the mid-17th century, and subsequently lost much of the family’s property and wealth, but it was restored during the restoration of King Charles II, and James was created Duke of Ormonde for his loyalty and service to the crown.

Ormond Castle interiors were known for their magnificent plasterwork, and for grand tapestries adorning the walls of the great hall. In my book, The Prince of Glencurragh, a scene takes place in Ormonde Castle, where the Earl, James Butler, receives young messenger Aengus O’Daly who is awestruck by the beauty of the hall and these tapestries, and humbled by the many representations of royalty and power. (I saved a couple of interior images to my Pinterest page on Ireland, but can’t post them here. Follow me there for these and other images.)

Thanks to C.L. Adams’s Castles of Ireland, CarrickonSuir.info, lambstongue.ie, Heritage Ireland, and Wikipedia.

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

https://books2read.com/u/4N1Rj6

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Glencurragh-Novel-Ireland-ebook/dp/B01GQPYQDY/

See all of my books and other information at
nancyblanton.com

Advertisements
Tracking the Prince: Barryscourt

Tracking the Prince: Barryscourt

Part 3 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See Part 1 and Part 2.

img_1420Excitement was to be replaced by disappointment when I first reached the gates of Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill, County Cork. Driving solo from Cashel, I got a bit lost in the vicinity—often there are not good signs, if any, to indicate castle locations—but a petrol station attendant smiled and told me I was just a few blocks away. When I parked, two workmen told me the castle was closed for renovations, but the owner was in the adjacent house and I could tour the gardens briefly if I liked.

As of this writing, the Heritage Ireland website says the castle is closed “until further notice,” so if you want to see the interiors, you may have to rely on other visitor photos, such as the ones in this TripAdvisor site.

img_1431Consequently, there is no scene in The Prince of Glencurragh that is set in Barryscourt Castle. I circled the great Norman tower twice as if hoping to find a secret passage, and then focused on the magnificent garden. Plaques were placed about so that I could identify the plants within the castle walls, a feature that is extremely helpful to an author who lives in another country and manages best with the silk plant variety.

img_1423The original castle was built in the 12th century, and the structure I saw was dated for about 1550. The architecture is described as a typical tower house with courtyard and outer bawn or curtain wall, and a “drop-the-prisoner-in-from-the-top” type of dungeon. From the grounds, the castle has the look and feel of the ancient and romantic. I could almost feel the long courtly gown about me, sense the workers bustling in the yard, and imagine stepping through the great wooden door and then ascending a stone stairway to a room in the tower warmed by fire.

img_1439Here had been the seat of the noble de Barry family, to whom King John in the 12th century awarded baronies in South Munster province in return for service in the Norman invasion of Ireland. In this time, English landholders often intermarried with the Irish and relished their autonomy, so far removed from the king’s influence. In later years, when Henry VIII wanted to exert his authority, the Barrys supported the Desmond Rebellions. In 1680 they set fire to Barryscourt themselves rather than see it captured by Sir Walter Raleigh and his English troops. But the Barrys later submitted, and Queen Elizabeth pardoned them after the rebellions were suppressed. Barryscourt was repaired, but external walls still bear the scars of cannon fire.

davidbarry_1stearlofbarrymore

David Barry, 1st Earl of Barrymore, 1636

In The Prince of Glencurragh, my focus is on David, the first earl of Barrymore, who fell to obscurity after the Desmond wars, and was rescued from it by the Earl of Cork who saw a noble-blooded match for his young daughter, Lady Alice. David would later build Castle Lyons, a reputedly beautiful castle that became the Barry seat in 1617, but burned down in 1771. In the novel, this earl has promised to support the protagonist, narrator, and two Barry relatives in their abduction of an heiress for the protagonist to wed.

The Barrymore titles in Ireland became extinct after the death of the last earl in 1823. But the name is not extinct at all to Americans, who are familiar with the names if not the theatrical careers of Maurice, his children Lionel, Ethel, and John, grandson John, and great-granddaughter Drew. While they might have owned castles, these Barrymores are not descended from the Irish clan. Born in British India, Maurice Blyth took his stage name Barrymore as his surname when he immigrated to the United States from England in 1874.

brianborustory_pageproxy-aspxPerhaps as consolation for not getting to tour Barryscourt, in my research I stumbled across this site, http://www.duchas.ie/en, which is digitizing the national folklore collection of Ireland. It’s not an easy browse for gems, i.e. no photo gallery, but you can find handwritten accounts of people, events and places from Ireland’s own. I downloaded part of a story about Brian Boru, the famous Irish king of the 10th century, written by a schoolgirl, and realized even her cursive handwriting is a treasure, soon perhaps to go the way of tower house castles, and my mother’s shorthand.

Thanks to C.L. Adams’s Castles of Ireland, Castlelyons Parish website, Heritage Ireland, and Wikipedia. 

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

https://books2read.com/u/4N1Rj6

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Glencurragh-Novel-Ireland-ebook/dp/B01GQPYQDY/

 

Tracking the Prince: Rock of Cashel

Tracking the Prince: Rock of Cashel

Part 2 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See Part 1.

img_1378After a cup of tea and a lemon bar in Kanturk, I proceeded east on the N72/N8 to the town of Cashel (from the Gaelic caiseal meaning stone fort), in County Tipperary. I’d been to Cashel with my family when I was 14 years old, to see the great Rock of Cashel: “a maze of architectural ruins spanning many centuries” according to the Irish Cultural Society.

I remembered little about this historical site except that the great cathedral was enormous, the structures intimidating, and all built on a rock promontory rising more than 300 feet high to overlook miles of lands that surrounded it. Impressive story, yes, and unforgettable architecture, to be sure, but now I needed specifics about its history, its layout and many more details.

img_1381

The view from The Rock of Cashel (author’s photo)

Centrally located in the southern half of Ireland, legend has it that the promontory was created when the Devil took a bite out of a nearby mountain and the great chunk of rock fell from his mouth. Structures at this location date back to the fourth century, and later the Rock of Cashel became the seat of the Munster kings, including Brian Boru who in the 10th century unified all of Ireland under his rule—until 1014 when Vikings killed his son and him at Clontarf.

img_1383

Cashel is also called St. Patrick’s Rock, where the saint converted a pagan king to Christianity around 450 AD

The round tower, built in 1101, was designed for protection from Vikings, with its door 12 feet off the ground and a ladder that could be pulled inside in case of attack. Cormac’s tiny chapel was started in 1127.

In the late 13th century, the site was deeded to the Catholic Church, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was built on the foundation of an older one. After King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and established the Church of England, he appointed his own bishops, as did his daughter Queen Elizabeth in later years.

In the wind swept silence one can feel the spirit of the ancient chieftains, kings and bishops of Ireland who once lived and worked here.”
–James Conroy

After the English civil war when Parliament emerged victorious and King Charles I was beheaded, Oliver Cromwell brought his army to Ireland to crush the Irish rebellion once and for all. Starting in Drogheda in 1649, his march was brutal and bloody, and the cruelty of it remains controversial even today. Cashel was one of several villages sacked by Cromwell’s troops. When Catholic soldiers and town’s people sought refuge in the cathedral, Cromwell recognized no sanctuary, ordered his troops to pile turf around the cathedral and set it afire, killing all within.

img_1390img_1388Across the courtyard from the cathedral is the vicar’s choral, including kitchen and dining hall for the men who assisted with cathedral services. This has been restored to serve as a museum. The dining hall is quite beautiful with dark ceiling beams, leaded windows and window seats, trestle table and tapestry. This choral became the setting for the mid-point scene in The Prince of Glencurragh, when the earls of Clanricarde, Ormonde and Cork come together to meet with the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, who quickly takes control. Where the roof joins the walls, the decorative under-purlins are carved angels who look down on all below, and whose facial expressions add their own silent commentary. img_1395

In the mid 18th century the Archbishop had the cathedral’s roof removed. Its lead content was considered valuable in that it could be used for ammunition, and alchemists of the time believed it possibly could be transformed into gold if the right process or catalyst was applied, because both gold and lead have similar properties. That controversial move left the site useful only as a tourist attraction. As this, however, the site is quite successful. Cashel is one of the top three centers of Irish culture.

For beautiful architecture, you may also want to visit the Dominican Friary tucked on the backstreets of the town of Cashel.

img_1373And a side note: While in Cashel I tried to visit Bothán Scór, a peasant cottage known locally as “Hanley’s,” that traces its history back to 1623. I hoped to see an accurate example of cottage life from that time. The tiny thatch-roofed cottage had a single window but it was blocked, preventing my view inside. You can see the cottage from the street, but according to the tourist office only one man has a key to the door, and they were unable to find him before I had to leave the town. This was the first of a few unfortunate missed opportunities during my travels. If you go and are able to see it, please tell me about it!

Thanks to The Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area; the Heritage and Tourist Office; Wikipedia; no thanks to the car park for Bailey’s Hotel!

jack6.140x9.210.inddAn heiress, a castle, a fortune: what could go wrong?

The Prince of Glencurragh is available in ebook, soft cover and hard cover from online booksellers.

https://books2read.com/u/4N1Rj6

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Glencurragh-Novel-Ireland-ebook/dp/B01GQPYQDY/

See all my books and sign up for the newsletter here.