Tracking the Prince: Rathbarry and the Red Strand

Part 8 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. 

Sometimes, though sand and water wash away the past, research and imagination still can resurrect it.

castlefreke

Castlefreke

From Timoleague, Clonakilty is nearly a straight shot west along the R600. Heading south from there are rolling hills, green bluffs and marshy expanses leading toward Dunnycove Bay. On most driving and tour maps you’ll see a notation for Castlefreke.

Built by Randall Oge Barry in the 15th century, the fort was lost to the English after the Battle of Kinsale, was besieged and later burned during the Rebellion of 1641. A tower house was built on the site in 1780, which was remodeled in 1820, burned down in 1910, and at the time of my visit it was being remodeled as an event venue. However we did not visit Castlefreke itself, because it was not my destination. Instead, I wished to see Rathbarry Castle, the Red Strand, and just a little farther west, Coppinger’s Court.

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Wall of old Rathbarry

Featuring characters from the Barry family in The Prince of Glencurragh, I sought locations where they might have met or slept. I was to find little remaining of the castle, but enough to stir my imagination, and even more so, the illuminate larger forces that had been in play in the region.

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Thanks to my friends Eddie and Teresa, who introduced me to their friend Pat Hogan, I was able to visit and learn much about Rathbarry, and it became a landmark in the book, near the cottage of the mysterious healer Pol-Liam.

img_1519The castle Rathbarry existed on the site of what is now Castlefreke, bearing the family name of Freke for the current owners. Far out on the roadway, the gateposts marking the entrance to the castle grounds with their large spherical tops were said to be true remnants of the 17th century. Just one wall of the ancient stables and carriage house remained, and a new stable house had been built within it remodeled as a private residence. We were treated to a peek inside this structure to get a feel for what home life was like there.

img_1503From the upper wall of the ruin, crumbling stone stairs led down to an ancient watergate, a stone passage leading directly from the castle to the water, where boats would have come to deliver food and supplies. But, except for a small, enclosed pond, there was no water. From the top of the steps I could see the bay, maybe half a mile distant. How, I wondered, could the castle have been served from such a distance?

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Estimated distance and travel times for Lisbon tsunami (NOAA, public domain)

As Mr. Hogan reminded me, the landscape had changed dramatically since the 17th century, and events at the global level could have affected Ireland’s coastlines. In fact, in 1755 the Great Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami are believed to have done so. Considered one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, it is estimated to have hit the 8.5 to 9.0 range on today’s scale of magnitude, killed thousands of people and nearly devastated Lisbon. The tsunami’s impact was far-reaching.

“Tsunamis as tall as 20 metres (66 ft) swept the coast of North Africa, and struck Martinique and Barbados across the Atlantic. A three-metre (ten-foot) tsunami hit Cornwall on the southern English coast. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the “Spanish Arch” section of the city wall. At Kinsale, several vessels were whirled round in the harbor, and water poured into the marketplace.”
~ Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, 1830
 

img_1485Gigantic waves were reported as well in the West Indies and Brazil. Could these environmental events have shifted sands and reshaped Ireland’s coastline? Undoubtedly.

Almost within view of Rathbarry was another site I wished to visit: the Red Strand. Also likely to have been altered by the tsunami, this sandy beach was called “red” because the sand contained fossilized sea creatures or “calcareous matter,” which was believed to have a healing effect and also promote fertility. As late as the 19th century the sand was being collected for use in fertilizing crops some 16 miles away.

The only red I saw during my visit was in the clumps of seaweed washed ashore; still, the strand fascinates, bounded on one side by stones, and on the other by bluffs and stream. The strand and the story behind it served my imagination for a deadly scene in the book.

Next time: Coppinger’s Court.

Thanks to: Library Ireland, Exploring West Cork by Jack Roberts, Castles.nl, Pat Hogan, Eddie McEoin, Wikipedia and other sources.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

Part 6 – Bandon/Kilcolman

Part 7 – Timoleague

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/

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Tracking the Prince: Timoleague

Part 7 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous post links below.

img_1559Driving south from Bandon on R602, you will arrive at the town of Timoleague in about 20 minutes, and see immediately the great landmark of Timoleague Friary. For the Prince of Glencurragh, traveling on horseback, at night and over rugged terrain, it would have taken at least three hours to reach this first stop on Faolán Burke’s path to destiny.

In the 17th century, local parishes were required to maintain their roads, especially in market towns. In 1634, a new act of Parliament allowed for a tax levy to cover the costs. But it would be decades before Ireland’s road systems were noted for improvements. A Scotsman traveling through Ireland in winter around 1619-1620 described his horse as “sinking to his girth” on boggy roads, his saddles and saddlebags destroyed.

img_1564Timoleague Franciscan friary would have provided a most welcome shelter to travelers, even it its ruined state. It remains a massive and impressive structure, the walls of the various rooms still intact so that you can recognize the floor plan and how each room was used. The roof is long gone, and some sources say that parts of the structure were carted away for use in other buildings.

img_1579From the mullioned window in the chorus, one would be hard-pressed to find a view more peaceful and contemplative. This is the spot where my heroine, Vivienne, considers her circumstances, having been abducted by three strange men, however benevolent they might have seemed. It’s the place where narrator Aengus recalls a treasured time with his father. And it is where he and Vivienne first realize a common bond.

Scenes in the book came alive for me as I entered each room and walked the same paths of monks and soldiers, and imagined conversations echoed in my mind.img_1578

Timoleague is an Anglicization of the Irish Tigh Molaige, meaning House of Malaga for St. Malaga who is believed to have first brought beekeeping to Ireland. Foundation of the friary is attributed to the McCarthys in the 13th century, and also to William de Barry and his wife Margery de Courcy in the 14th century. Unfortunately, its position along the beautiful River Argideen and overlooking Courtmacsherry Bay made it vulnerable to Algerian pirates who sometimes cruised Ireland’s coastline in search of hostages and plunder.

img_1570However, pirates may have seemed a minor threat compared the friary’s fate in the hands of the English. In King Henry VIII’s time, the structure was seized and as part of the Reformation the monks were dispersed. The monks returned in 1604, and then the English soldiers returned in 1612 to sack the buildings and smash all the stained glass windows. Then in 1642, English soldiers fighting the great Irish rebellion burned both the friary and town.

Many headstones dot the friary’s hillside, and large stone tombs in the nave are so ancient the chiseled inscriptions are no longer legible. Yet, the ruin is still an active cemetery for the local community.

Thanks to Timoleague Friary, Roaringwater Journal, Monastic Ireland. Photos belong to the author.

Series posts:

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle           Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt                 Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle           Part 6 – Bandon, Kilcolmen

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

Tracking the Prince: Bandon and Kilcolmen

Part 6 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous posts listed at the end. 

oliver_plunkett_street_bandon_west_cork_-_geograph-org-uk_-_212040

Oliver Plunkett Street, photo by Brian Abbott, CC BY-SA 2.0 wikimedia commons

My research for The Prince of Glencurragh truly gained momentum when I visited Bandon in County Cork. Here I saw the place where my story began, and realized my reconnection with an old friend was the key that would allow the story to unfold.

Known as the gateway to West Cork, the city of Bandon lies 27 km (not quite 17 miles) west of Cork City. Established in 1604 as part of King James I’s Munster Plantation, it was a planned settlement English Protestants in Ireland. The famous stone bridge dates back at least to 1594, connecting people on either side of the Bandon River to facilitate trade. A timber bridge had existed even earlier, built by the O’Mahony (Oh-MAY-hon-ee) clan in 14th century.

When Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork, acquired the lease for all the properties of the town, he began a five-year project to enclose 27 acres within a wall nine feet thick and from 30 to 50 feet high in some places. On the heels of the Desmond Rebellions, this was intended to protect the peaceful settlers within against the wild Irish without.

Protection was needed against the unrest the settlement itself had created. Bandon lands had belonged to the O’Mahony and McCarthy clans, and the displacement left Irish families homeless and their sons without inheritance, sowing seeds for an even greater rebellion than the Desmonds could muster.

For the story in The Prince of Glencurragh, Bandon’s wall is critical, because certain local laws were enforced by a sheriff within the town’s walls, but did not extend beyond them. When the would-be “prince” Faolán Burke abducts his heiress from a rectory situated outside the town walls, technically he has broken no laws.

In preparation for my travels, my research uncovered a near-perfect model for this rectory, the Kilcolmen Rectory just east of where the walls of Bandon would have reached. To my surprise and delight, my dear friends and guides Eddie and Teresa actually live in Bandon (I had thought they still lived in Templemore).

I met Eddie when I was 19 or 20, visiting Ireland for a summer study program, and had the privilege of staying with his family in Skibbereen for a few days. We had not seen each other in decades, and so the reconnecting was gratifying and emotional.

img_1449Eddie knew of the rectory and was able to take me straight there. Though it is now a private home, Eddie chatted with the resident—she was leaning out of the upstairs bathroom window where she’d been bathing her children—while I looked about the house and grounds. We did not go inside, but Eddie sent me some interior photos he happened upon when the house went on the real estate market months later.

screen-shot-2015-10-26-at-6-56-41-amThis rectory is much larger and finer than the one I had imagined, but served quite well to give me an authentic feel for the place. The front door is opposite the stairs, and on either side are doorways to the parlor and the dining room. I loved the enormous windows of the place, and the high ceilings. The bedroom is where the character Vivienne would have pushed her bed beneath a window to wait for St. Agnes to reveal the image of the man she would marry. The road outside would have been a dirt carriage path instead of a nice, clean paved drive.

screen-shot-2015-10-26-at-6-57-10-amEddie later showed me that Bandon’s town walls are mostly invisible now but for some crumbling remnants. Still, the wall sets the town apart and Bandon is a member of the Irish Walled Towns Network.

Upon seeing these things, the story became real to me and I could tell it with sincerity. But the truth is I would never have found or seen the places I was looking for without Eddie and Teresa. It is one thing to look at a map and draw circles and lines, and yet another to actually find your way around a mostly unmarked and unfamiliar region. They took me everywhere I wanted to go, for they knew each place already, and even more than that, they had personal history with some of them, a love of exploration, and an often unspoken but clear reverence for the land and its history.

They showed me a ruin not on my list, but beautiful and fascinating: Castle Bernard. Where once there had been a medieval castle belonging to the O’Mahonys, in 1788 the first earl of Bandon, Francis Bernard, built a beautiful mansion with tall windows and soaring castellated towers.

By the time it was inhabited by the 4th earl, James Francis Bernard, a new and modern rising came from the IRA. In June 1921, while the earl hid in the cellar, IRA soldiers set fire to the castle and captured the earl as he tried to escape. Now mostly swallowed up by the woods and vines, the magnificence and inaccessibility of the ruin spur the imagination.

From Bandon we would travel for three spectacular days to uncover the rest of Faolán Burke’s trail.

As a side note, my friends in the Pacific Northwest might like to know that Bandon has a twin city agreement with Bandon, Oregon. In 1873, Lord George Bennet founded the city and named it after his hometown in Ireland. Bennet is known for introducing the lovely-flowering but highly troublesome gorse to the American landscape.

Thanks to: Irish Walled Town Network, Heritage Bridges of County Cork (Cork County Council), Castles.nl, Wikipedia and other sources.

Part 1 – Kanturk Castle 

Part 2 – Rock of Cashel 

Part 3 – Barryscourt 

Part 4 – Ormonde Castle

Part 5 – Lismore Castle

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/

 

The Prince Of Glencurragh: The Backstory          

tpogawardsOn October 22, the Florida Writers Association bestowed the coveted Royal Palm Literary Award on my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. This is an enormous honor and a great thrill. I worked harder on this book than anything before, loved the story and characters, and I’m gratified that the judges loved it, too: first place for historical fiction, and first runner up for book of the year across all genres in its category.

So here’s the backstory: why I wrote it, what it’s about, and some themes that I hope will come through for readers.

This book is actually the prequel to my first novel, Sharavogue (also a Royal Palm award winner in 2014). It is about that protagonist’s father, Faolán Burke. I had originally intended to write the sequel, but at the time several readers urged me to tell what had happened before, and how Elvy Burke came to be in her troubled situation. So I focused instead on 1634, the year Elvy was born, and found the time rich with change, struggle, and growing discontent that would lead to the great Irish rebellion of 1641.

About the title

The Prince refers to the protagonist in the story, Faolán Burke, who aspires to be a leader among his people, and to build the castle that was his father’s dream. The gentleman on the cover is not a prince; he was James Butler, the 12th Earl of Ormonde, and later the first Duke of Ormonde, who embodied all the princely attributes of his day – he is the ideal, what Faolán would hope to become.

DukeofOrmonde_sizeedit_npglicensedimage

National Portrait Gallery

Ormonde was one of the largest landholders in Ireland at the time, and land was power. He ascended to the earldom at just 24 years of age, when his grandfather died, because the first heir, James’s father, had been lost at sea. This ceremonial portrait was a great inspiration to me: I was fascinated by the pride and strength in his face, the long golden curls, and the magnificent robes. He was admired by almost everyone in his day; he was a statesman of his time.

Biographer C.V. Wedgwood describes James Butler as a “high-hearted” nobleman: “Handsome, intelligent and valiant, he was also to the very core of his being a man of honor: loyal, chivalrous and just.”

ormonde_handcrop_edited-1One little quirk you might notice on the cover, if you look at Ormonde’s right hand holding the lance. He appears to be missing a finger! In later portraits the finger exists, so this must be a mistake (or perhaps intentional) by the artist.

Glencurragh
 comes from a residential section of Skibbereen, a town in southwest County Cork (in the book I use the old spelling, Skebreen). When I visited there last year, my friend of many years helped me find the most likely place where my fictitious castle might have been located. Glencurragh means “a place for boats,” and the castle would’ve protected the commerce up and down the River Ilen. At one point in time there were three castles along the river at Skibbereen, but all have crumbled away.

mapIt’s because of my affection for this friend and his family that both novels are set, at least in part, in their beautiful hometown, Skibbereen.

So what’s the story about?

It’s about a young man chasing down a dream in the worst of times. Faolán Burke, son of a famous Irish warrior, is not a great catch. He should have inherited vast lands and the beautiful Castle Glencurragh. But the English lands confiscated the land, the castle of his father’s dreams was never built, and Faolán will try almost anything to make his lost heritage a reality.

In the opening scene, Faolán falls a bit short of his ideal. He’s abducting an heiress for his bride. There was no law against abduction at this time, and while I won’t say it was common, it did occur. Once abducted, women were considered soiled goods, the family could no longer negotiate a lucrative marriage settlement with a wealthy suitor, and usually would try to make the best of it with the family of the abductor.

In this case the heiress was under protection of an earl, and earls could generally exert their own law. So Faolán with his lady must run for cover until they have the protection and support of someone equal in power that can help negotiate the settlement.

But in 1634, the real world has changed. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, Irish families lose their homes to new English settlers. Lands that have been in their families for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service. Even castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now are vulnerable to the siege and cannon.

Moreover, knowledge and beliefs are changing. In the 17th century, Galileo and Newton founded modern science; Descartes began modern philosophy; Hobbes and John Locke started modern political theory. Science for the first time has greater influence than religion in decision-making. And people can own books. They become a symbol of wealth, and the bookshelf is invented to display them

Climatically, this was the middle of The Little Ice Age. The 1630s recorded great floods, widespread harvest failure, intense cold winters, wet and cold springs, and drought in summer.

Some scientists say even one degree of climate change can cause changes in human behavior. Faolán finds himself in the crossfire between the four most powerful—and irritable—men in Ireland, each with his own agenda.

THEMES:

Dreams: A young man trying to realize the dream of his father. Everyone has awakened from a dream so beautiful they want to hold onto it, but the longer they are awake the faster it recedes. From another perspective, many of us have seen the sacrifices our parents made and then tried to live their dream for them, only to realize later in life that it does not satisfy. We have to follow our own dreams.

Friendship: The relationship between best friends from childhood. Faolán interacts with his best friend Aengus O’Daly, who narrates the story. I am blessed to have known deep and lasting friendships of this kind that informed this story in ways I didn’t even realize until the end. I am truly grateful to my dear friends for that.

Hope. In great difficulty, when you have no power to change a circumstance that gives you pain, hope is what we rely on to get through, and it is the most human part of us.

Next: A Thorough Undoing

WentworthMy next book picks up where this one ends, with events that occur between 1635 and 1641. Among English and Irish nobleman alike, hatred grows for the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, and they set out to destroy him. In service of the Earl of Clanricarde, Faolán is charged to find the evidence that will strip Wentworth of his power.

And now, a gentle request:

If you like what you read in The Prince of Glencurragh or any of my books, please take a moment to go online to Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, or even Facebook, and write a quick review.

People buy books based on their friends’ recommendations, and book sales help authors pay for the editors, proofreaders and artists who help make the books the high quality you expect. Your words help authors with our words.

Thank you!

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

Tracking the Prince: Lismore Castle

Part 5 in a series featuring sites I visited in Ireland while researching my second novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. See previous post links below.

francis_wheatley_-_lismore_castle_ireland_-_google_art_project

Lismore Castle by Francis Wheatley (1747 – 1801) – British artist, Wikimedia creative commons

In The Prince of Glencurragh, the spectacular Lismore Castle in County Waterford is the setting for three emotionally-charged scenes. The grand drawing room and the ancient towers provide dramatic backdrops that help fortify the story.

Taking its name from “lis” meaning fort and “mor” meaning great, the castle is situated on the right bank of the River Blackwater in County Waterford. One story has it that when King James II visited the castle, he backed away from the grand window overlooking the river, startled by the sheer drop to the riverbank when the entrance to the castle is on drawingroomatlismoreground level. The window was ever-after called King James’s window.

Sources differ as to the date of construction, but sometime between 1179 and 1185, Lismore was built on the site of the ancient abbey of Mochuda.

“This fine castle was originally founded by the Earl of Moreton, afterwards King John, in the year 1185, and is said to have been the last of three fortresses of the kind which he erected during his visit to Ireland. In four years afterwards it was taken by surprise and broken down by the Irish, who regarded with jealousy and fear the strong holds erected by the English to secure and enlarge their conquests.”
— LibraryIreland.com, the Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 43, April 20, 1833

The castle was later rebuilt as an Episcopal residence (one source says it belonged to the earls of Desmond), until in 1589 when the manor and lands were granted to Sir Walter Raleigh. Sir Walter fell from grace after the death of Queen Elizabeth, and sold the estate to Sir Richard Boyle, the first Earl of Cork. Raleigh was later executed by King James to appease the Spanish, who saw Raleigh as a plundering pirate.

1stearlofcork

Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork

Lord Cork made extensive improvements to the castle for use as his primary residence. Outbuildings were added, and interiors embellished with fretwork plaster ceilings, tapestry hangings, embroidered silks and velvet.

“The first door-way is called the riding-house, from its being originally built to accommodate two horsemen, who mounted guard, and for whose reception there were two spaces which are still visible under the archway. The riding-house is the entrance into a long avenue shaded by magnificent trees, and flanked with high stone walls; this leads to another doorway, the keep or grand entrance into the square of the castle. Over the gate are the arms of the first Earl of Cork, with the motto, “God’s providence is our inheritance.”
— LibraryIreland.com, the Dublin Penny Journal

lismore-castle-entranceSome of the outbuildings were destroyed in the rebellion of 1641 when the castle was closely besieged by 5,000 Irish, and defended by Lord Broghill, the earl’s third son.

The Cavendish family acquired the castle in 1753 when the daughter and heiress of the 4th Earl of Cork, Lady Charlotte Boyle, married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, who became Prime Minister of Great Britain & Ireland. The 9th Duke, Lord Charles Cavendish, married Adele Astaire, the sister and former dancing partner of Fred Astaire.

Lismore is now an exclusive accommodation and event venue, and even offers culinary packages. The famous gardens are open to the pubic. The upper garden is a 17th-century walled garden, also briefly featured in my book.

Thanks to C.L. Adams’s Castles of Ireland, LibraryIreland.com, celticcastles.com, lismorecastle.com.

Read other posts in the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

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

The Prince of Glencurragh has won the Royal Palm Literary Award for historical fiction. It is a story of 17th century Ireland, in a time of sweeping change prior to the great rebellion of 1641. 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 sign up for my newsletter (published only 3 or 4 times a year) at nancyblanton.com