Tag Archives: County Limerick

Postcards from..

Some of the most popular and viewed posts I put on this site are in the series ”POSTCARDS FROM…”where I post snaps from places I happen to visit or pass through. These are mostly places in Ireland where I live. Many of them are a little off the beaten track, almost in a hidden Ireland but all are ‘Real’ Ireland.

I have created a new page on my site where I will place links to the posts in the series. The list will be added to from time to time. I hope you will enjoy!

The link to the page is HERE , but below is a list of all the places so far!

Places in Ireland 

Newcastle West, Co Limerick August 2013
Moneygall, Co. Offaly, ancestral home of Barack Obama. August 2013
Dublin September 2013.
Kells Co Meath January 2014
Bunratty, Co Clare, May 2014
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin August 2014
Rathkeale, Co. Limerick September 2014
Dingle, Co Kerry on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way July 2015
Shanagolden, Co Limerick August 2015
Bere Island, Co Cork September 2015.

Places outside Ireland

Serpentine National Park, Western Australia January 2015

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Glin Castle,the end of an era.

 There is great sadness in West Limerick that Glin Castle is to be sold. Glin Castle is situated beside the lovely little town of Glin, overlooking the River Shannon. Glin has been the seat of the Fitzgerald family for over 700 years, and the village is proud of its association with the Knights of Glin down the centuries.The oldest part of the structure is a lower, two-storey “wing” of the castle, supposedly with  interior turf walls. The more imposing section was built in 1780 and the castellations added in the 1820s.

In the summer of 2014 I was fortunate to visit the Castle, courtesy of West Limerick Resources and Limerick City of Culture 2014. What a wonderful experience to visit such an historic and beautiful place! Just months later the castle has been put up for sale and I am delighted to share some of my photos from that day.

The Building:

The rather unusual title ‘The Knight of Glin’ became extinct with the death of Desmond Fitzgerald,the 29th Knight of Glin in September 2011, as he did not have a male heir. His three daughters do not ‘count’ when it comes to the title! ‘Knight of Glin’ was an ancient Irish noble title,handed down by chieftains since the arrival of  the family from Wales in the 12th Century. This title is not conferred by a monarch, but is rather a family tradition in the Fitzgerald family. The late lamented Desmond Fitzgerald was  President of the Irish Georgian Society and a former curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He was an accomplished author the Irish representative of the renowned Christies Art Auction house in London. He was an avid collector of beautiful items some of which adorn the main reception rooms of this lovely house.

The Interior:

In the drawing-room table rests a copy of  ‘The Knights of Glin, Seven Centuries of Change’ a collaborative series of essays by Irish Scholars, ably edited by my former colleague,Tom Donovan and published by Glin Historical Society

imageIt is to be hoped that the new owners of Glin Castle will cherish the very special relationship with the locals in the village, a special relationship  that has been nurtered and has endured for generations.

image

A rainbow ends at the Gatehouse of Glin Castle, on the south bank of the River Shannon, with the fields of County Clare visible on the north shore. (Image copyright thesilvervoice)

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Discovering Castle Oliver, Limerick, Ireland

Castle Oliver – where’s that?  A couple of Facebook posts made me wonder – thank you, Bridget Elliott and Seamus Quaide! And so on a balmy day last summer I headed off to discover this beautiful building, nestled under the Ballyhoura Mountains near Ardpatrick, County Limerick.

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Entrance to Castle Oliver

The entrance is guarded by a pair of fearsome looking griffons. This a relatively recent entrance, lacking the grandeur of the original gate lodges, but is nevertheless pleasant and certainly not your average gate!

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One of the original entrances to the Castle Oliver Estate

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Another of the older entrances to Castle Oliver, no longer in use

Crossing in front of the very spectacular house, veritable herds of rampant griffons protect the magnificent structure!  The setting is stunning  with an uninterrupted view of the Ballyhoura Hills in the ‘front yard’ so to speak, with the immediate area around the house  laid out in manicured terraced lawns, fringed by woodland near the house. A carp lake, sunken garden and fountains complete the picture.

Imposing  house, made from local sandstone

Imposing house, made from local sandstone, beautifully located

This house bears testament to two women – sisters Isabella and Elizabeth Oliver Gascoigne, talented artists who designed stained glass windows and  glass panels. Isabella was also an accomplished woodturner. They built this house in 1843 mainly for lavish country entertaining. Many locals were engaged in the building of the house during the Famine, and so avoided the ravages of hunger. Ownership of  the estate  changed several times over the decades, and it was eventually divided up into lots and sold off to pay bank debts. The house  fell into decay and  at one stage had a large tree growing out through the roof. All but 15 acres or so surrounding the house were sold off . It was almost a total ruin when it was purchased by the current owners, the Cormacks, in 2006.  Roofless  and windowless, they set about turning the shell into a beautiful home for themselves and their three young children. 

I love the elegance of the house with all its architectural detail – I have a passion for interesting chimneys  and had lots of them to look at here !

In the large entrance hall there is a beautiful stained glass window. Some  of the original panes had survived and thanks to old surviving photographs it was possible to recreate the window in its entirety.  Isabella and Elizabeth had designed this feature.

Working from old photographs it has been possible to create an interior that reflects many of the  features of the original house. Some small portions of original decoration  survive as on the dining room ceiling below.

The most beautiful room in the house, in my opinion, is the ballroom, with stunning views of the countryside and a magnificent ceiling. Here too can be seen some of the original artisan work at the fireplace.

Lavishly furnished bedrooms fitted out with carefully sourced period pieces, many with a history all of their own, add to the ‘sense of place’ of this lovely house.

All great houses had a wine cellar. Castle Oliver is no exception and it boasts one of the largest ever built in these parts, with room for tens of thousands of bottles!

Castle Oliver is a gem in the Limerick countryside. How wonderful to see beautiful houses such as this being loving restored and  open to the public, so we can share the splendour and grandeur that was such an integral part of our society in days gone by.

Further reading:

For opening times see http://www.castleoliver.ie/

http://www.abandonedireland.com/Castle_Oliver.html

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Countryside, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Social History Ireland

Heritage week: Behind the scenes in Newcastle West

The magnificent restored structure of the Desmond Banqueting Hall  dominates The Square in my local town, Newcastle West, Co Limerick. I went behind the façade this week and discovered some hidden treasure! There seems to have been a castle in this location since the 11th or 12th century. The restored buildings are 15th century and are the only surviving components of what was  an extensive castle complex.

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The familiar view from The Square

DSCF1733The astonishing area that is out of sight

DSCF1732The Halla Mór (The Big Hall).When we first came to this area over 30 years ago, there was a timber merchants yard in front of this beautiful building. At one time, according to the very knowledgeable guide, the local cinema was located in this building.  It is never too late to rediscover our heritage!

DSCF1737 - CopyThe restored  banqueting Hall is now on two levels and is used for local functions. This is the rear view.

DSCF1741The top floor is used for recitals, lectures and for cultural events .

If passing near Newcastle West, do drop in – admission is free and the guide is a mine of information!

 

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A bit of Craic in Croagh, County Limerick!

Every working day I travel the N21 passing by the village of Croagh, County Limerick. In recent months I have been intrigued by a very handsome solitary capped figure sitting on a bench on a side road just off the main road. Very realistic, it took a few days for me to realize that Croagh Man is not real!

Imagine my astonishment last week to find that he was kitted out in black tie, dress shirt and  had a bride by his side! No ordinary woman this – this is a genuine authentic dumb blonde with straw hair!

Croagh Man and Croagh Bride

Today I was equally astonished to find that Bride of Croagh Man had vanished!

The creator/artist happened along on his ride-on mower – this was Tom who had created Croagh Man and who mows the grass and verges in Croagh for ‘something to do ‘ in his retirement. The bride was placed in celebration of a local wedding that took place between neighbours in recent days. Now alone again, Croagh Man, comfortably back in his working clothes, was undergoing repairs to cover a gash in his thigh (it is to be hoped that the new bride did not inflict this injury in an attempt to defend herself from unwanted advances!)

Croagh Man- Alone again

Tom is doing great community work in is spare time and has provided visual enjoyment for the likes of me who whizz by a couple of times a day on otherwise mundane days!  Thanks Tom! Thanks for the smiles!  (he did not give his surname!)

For non-Irish –  a bit  of ‘craic’ – pronounced ‘crack’ =  a bit of fun – totally drug-free!

Croagh is pronounced CROKE

If anyone knows who Tom is – perhaps they might draw his attention to this blog post 🙂

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Remembering the Great Famine – a dying nation’s groan

Sunday August 26th was the last day of Heritage Week in Ireland and on this day I chose to visit a Famine Settlement high above the  Limerick landscape on Knockfierna, County Limerick.

This hill was once home to hundreds of people.

Knockfierna, the highest point in County Limerick at approximately 950 feet, was common land so anyone could live there. It was  to this place  that many of the dispossessed went to live during the Famine years . Some had been evicted because they could not pay their rent; most  had no place else to go because there was no work.

A Famine Dwelling

Foundations  of scores of primitive  shacks have remained in place on Knockfierna since it was deserted in 1847.  Spread over some 200 acres, there  are remnants of many houses – tiny, at about 8 feet by 8 feet, – with nothing more than walls and clay floors with sod roofs . It is estimated that about 130 families lived here at one time. These houses are now being preserved in memory of those who died in that terrible time.

Another Famine Dwelling

I found it quite difficult to think about many human beings, old people, younger people, children,  huddled , sick and starving to death within these walls.

Outside the remains of their huts, although it is now rather overgrown with scrub,  it is still possible to see their horticultural efforts –  raised beds  where they tried in vain to grow a potato crop to feed their families ; a crop that rotted in the ground for several years as it succumbed to a blight. As potatoes were the mainstay of their diet, there was no alternative , and so they had nothing to eat.

From the desolate hillside they looked down on the village of Ballingarry

The great green lush pastures of the Golden Vale are below where these wretched people ‘lived’. It was to Ballingarry graveyard that their coffinless bodies were transported. From this hill their emaciated bodies were taken to Ballingarry to be deposited into anonymous  pits .

The Famine Memorial on Knockfierna with lush green fields below

The poem on the memorial is by Michael Hogan from Limerick. Although not a great work of literature, it encapsulates the time:

‘The Living Skeleton, A Vision of the Famine Year, 1847’:
‘Twas in ruthless Fortyseven,-
When the plague-fraught air was riven
With the sound which harrowed heaven,
Of a famished people’s cry –
When the famine fiend was formed,
All with tenfold horrors armed,
And our godless rulers, charmed,
Saw their Irish victims die;
While Europe, all alarmed, heard
the wail that tore the sky
A dying Nation’s death-groan, ringing
up to God on high.

Detail Famine Memorial on left

The right side of the memorial  is rather difficult to read and I will post a transcription here when I can find one!

Right side of memorial

It is interesting to note the very lush green fields that can be seen over the top of this image –  the great so called Golden Vale below is one of the lushest agricultural areas in Ireland , yet these unfortunate people starved to death in sight of it .

Famine Memorial overlooking a green and pleasant land

Over a million people  died as  a result of the Great Famine between 1845 and 1849. It is not known how many people who lived on  Knockfierna died.

This hill however preserves their hovels and the relics of their garden plots. On this hill they starved, on this hill they sickened and on this hill they died.  Men, women, children. They are buried in anonymous pits in the lush fields of Ballingarry.

Today I remember them.

Ar dheis De go raibh siad uilig

References

Credit to Knockfierna Heritage & Folklore Group for recognizing the importance of this heritage site and to Pat O’Donovan whose passion for this project has become legendary.

 

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Genealogy, Irish Heritage, Irish History