My name is William Martin and I'm of Irish ancestry. My grandfather and grandmother came over from Ireland during the early 20th century, but not with each other. My grandmother, Elizabeth Rafferty, was only 14 years old when she arrived on Ellis Island with her older sister. My grandfather Joseph Martin had landed a few years earlier in 1890. I was raised in a home very proud of its Irish culture, regaled with all the tales and filled with the Celtic music of Ireland. Like many children of immigrants, I have longed to visit my ancestral soil.
Very little has interested me more about Ireland than its history of conflict and clan rivalries, its religious wars and the mark they have left on the people and its landscape. One of the principal marks left on the ground is fortifications. Ireland is full of castles, old castles, destroyed castles, castles deserted, and castles renovated and transformed into grand hotels. It's no blarney, there are hundreds of castles in Ireland therefore we will confine ourselves to only a few of the more captivating. Incidentally that is blarney with a small B, Blarney with a big B is, of course, a castle in County Cork.
So, why don't we begin with the afore mentioned Blarney Castle. Blarney is possibly the most famous castle in all of Ireland. Thousands of tourists come every year to visit the gardens, castle, and of course, to kiss the famed Blarney Stone. The original castle dates back to the 13th century however it was demolished and rebuilt in the 15th century. Blarney was the citadel home of the McCarthy clan and it is from here that Cormac McCarthy sent his evasive answers to Queen Elizabeth's demands for submission. Elizabeth is said to have coined the word blarney to describe all evasive answers and obfuscation.
The ruin of Leep Castle, in County Offally, is the ancestral home of the warlike O'Carroll sept. The castle guards a strategic mountain pass and from this point the O'Carroll's were the final holdouts in opposition to English control in the 17th century. Leep Castle is alleged to be haunted. Teige O'Carroll murdered his brother, a Catholic priest, at the altar of the castle church. Local folks say, that after the castle was damaged by fire in 1922, cartloads of bones were taken from the castle's dungeons. Leap castle is off of the beaten path, even so, you can schedule a tour through the owner. A visit to this haunted castle is said to be a once in a life time experience.
Kilkenny Castle, also known as Butler Castle, is the ancestral home of the Butler Earls of Ormond. The castle was first erected by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, in the late 12th century at the fording spot on the River Nore. It was purchased by the Butler's 1n 1391. Kilkenny Castle is among the most beautiful in all of Ireland. Presently the castle and grounds are owned bythe government of Ireland and is accessible to the public. Every three years there is a Butler Gathering held at Kilkenny Castle where there is also a Butler genealogy library. No trip to Ireland could possibly be complete without a day at Kilkenny Castle.
I have only touched on some of the many castles scattered throughout southern Ireland. Other popular castles of County Cork are Ballea Castle, Ballynamona Castle and Desmond Castle to mention a just few more. Plan your Irish vacation to include some or all of these excellent historic landmarks and you won't get it wrong. Erin go braugh.
This post was created by Wm M. Martin, genealogist at Name Game Shop. We're your resource for coat of arms t-shirts, mugs, tote bags and more.