The Guardian of the Shannon stands weary yet proud, where the County Kerry banks of Carrig Island meet the flowing waters of the tidal Shannon estuary.
The whole area surrounding the village of Ballylongford in the Kingdom County was under the control of the O’Connor clan. The village itself is known for being the birthplace of world renowned Exorcist, Father Malachi Martin, but the darkness of evil tyranny found its way to the area long before the Jesuit priest was born.
Carrigfoyle is Carraig an Phoill in Irish, translating as ‘Rock of the Hole.’
It was built by Conor Liath O’Connor at the end of the fifteenth century, a stronghold overseeing the shipping lanes into the main port of Limerick city some 40 miles along the river. This meant the O’Connor Kerry clan could board and loot many of the merchant ships due into the Viking capital of Munster.
It was constructed some 86 feet high over 5 levels from limestone. A Bawn was created with a pontoon for landing boats and the surrounding woodland gave added protection. High vaulted ceilings on two levels gave added grandeur and it was finished off with a wide spiral staircase, with 104 steps leading you out onto the battlements and sweeping views of the Shannon estuary and surrounding farmlands.
As well as the main halls, there are several smaller chambers on each floor, more than I have seen in similar guardian towers in the region.
In 1579, as the war on Catholicism was taking hold, Spanish reinforcements arrived at Smerwick Harbour further along the Kerry coastline. This men were papal forces sent to assist the Irish defence during the Desmond Rebellion.
Desmond Rebellion and Bloodshed
Some of these soldiers were ordered down to Carrigfoyle Castle as this was the seat of the Earl of Desmond. An Italian engineer, Captain Julian also arrived to assist in the reinforcement of the critical stronghold.
Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Sir William Pelham was leading the assault against the Irish Rebellion and had headquartered in Limerick city.
Under the orders of Queen Elizabeth, Easter 1580 saw the English Commander lay Siege to Carrigfoyle Castle. His fleet were positioned within the estuary and in the woodland of Carrig Island and at first were subjected to missiles in the form of boulders and weaponry being fired from the battlements by the men of Desmond.
As time wore on however, the English managed to scale the castle walls with assault ladders and the battle began in earnest. Sir William reported that the waters and castle walls “became slippery with blood”, as naval canons began their bombardment of the fortress.
After two days of siege, the structure began to collapse inwards, crushing many of the soldiers fighting for Irish freedom to death. The remainder try to flee into the shallow waters of the banks of the Shannon and woodland. They did not get far and were slaughtered by the blades of English troops. Captain Julian was hanged just a few days later.
Today Carrigfoyle Castle is eerily quiet, my climb to the top of the battlements solitary and silent. Drips of water gentle cascade down the limestone, caressed by the emerald green moss clinging to the walls of the past.
Carrigfoyle Castle Today
Shadows creep out from the stone, crushing the glimmers of sunlight as the terrified men within the vast structure were crushed by canon fire. On the gentle estuary breeze, historic cries of fear and despair are but a whisper, tossed away, carried over the majestic Shannon and lost to time.
Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. The bloody conflict took place on 1st July 1690 (converting to the 11th in the Gregorian calendar, which was not adopted by Ireland until 1752) and although taking place on Irish soil, it was a fight for the Crown between James II of England and Ireland and the infamous William of Orange.
Prelude to Battle
The deposed King James II was the last Catholic monarch who had converted to Catholicism and he had borne a Catholic male heir. Staunch Protestant, William of Orange and his noble peers overthrew the Catholic King to prevent a Catholic hierarchy. The Battle of the Boyne was an attempt by the deposed King James to regain his crown and this battle was just a part of the Williamite War in Ireland.
The Jacobites fought for Irish sovereignty and Catholic tolerance in the name of James, whereas the Williamites sought to enforce and maintain a Protestant hold under the sovereignty of William of Orange and his wife Mary, who was ironically, the Protestant daughter of James II.
William marched south from County Antrim with his forces, gathering additional troops en route, many led by his second in command, Duke Fredrick Schomberg. In total, William commanded a multi-national army of some 36000 soldiers, including highly trained infantry.
James lay in wait with his troops forming a line of defence along the banks of the River Boyne, close to Drogheda in County Louth. His own troops were considerably less, forming an army of 23500, made up primarily of Irish, with the addition of French troops and some English and Scottish Jacobites.
Bloodshed On the Banks of the Boyne
The battle took place at the favoured River Boyne crossing at Oldbridge, a strategic point now marked by the Mary McAleese Boyne Valley Bridge and at Roughgrange. The latter location proved to be formidable as a deep and swamp like portion of the river, preventing the two sides from engaging in close quarter fighting. Instead, many watched as aerial artillery took the stage.
At Oldbridge, the Duke of Schomberg chose to enter the waters with his cavalry and drive back the Jacobite foot soldiers. James II sent his son with a Jacobite cavalry to counter attack and the Williamites began to suffer heavy losses, including Duke Frederick, who was fatally wounded while riding his horse through the murky waters, attemptng to rally his troops. He is buried in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, his Latin inscription written by renowned Irish writer, Jonathan Swift.
While the Jacobites fought well, they were inevitably forced to retreat, possibly due to a lack of military leadership experience and of course, numbers. They incurred most fatalities, albeit it a small mortality rate of just over 2000 from both sides. Unheard of for a battle of this magnitude, it was partly due to incredible skill of the Jacobite cavalry, maintaining a tight defensive retreat, helped by the reluctance of William of Orange to be responsible for the death of his father-in-law.
While it was believed that some Irish troops eventually abandoned posts and chose life to fight another day over dying for a foreign crown, many Jacobites retreated to Limerick to continue their fight for James II.
Aftermath and the Declaration of Finglas
Williamite forces set up camp in the area of Finglas, as they arrived successful into Dublin. Here William of Orange created the Declaration of Finglas, announcing that any Jacobite foot soldier renouncing their allegiance would be pardoned providing they did so by 1st August, a deadline that was extended for three further weeks. It may seem like a generous offer, however it was a divide and conquer tactic to separate Jacobite leaders and the officers of James II from their troops.
Instead of ensuring submission, it riled the Catholic commanders, who continued their battle for Catholicism, albeit a futile endeavour.
While political advancement and battles continued for the next year or so and the Protestant hold over Ireland gripped tighter, an air of despondency and death loomed over the River Boyne and the ancient location still holds the souls of the departed for its own. Who are the ghosts of the Battle of the Boyne and what links are there to landmarks nearby?
Spirits of War
The Boyne Valley itself is one of the most mystical and ancient locations in Ireland and is home to the likes of Newgrange, the Hill of Tara, Slane Castle and of course the site of the Battle of the Boyne, which centred around Oldbridge and Roughgrange. It spans the counties of Meath and Louth, while sitting on Dublin’s doorstep and has been the enigmatic landscape for paranormal activity over centuries.
It is little wonder therefore, that the supernatural imprint of such an historic battle remains on the bloodied fields and banks of the River Boyne, as well as radiating out to other nearby landmarks.
James II and the Hanged at Athcarne Castle
Athcarne Castle in County Meath is a late sixteenth century Elizabethan mansion house with castle style turret, that has served as home to the noble Bathe family for generations. It is believed that James II chose this stately home as his residence for the night before battle, with his defeated spirit continuing to wander through the crumbling stone walls. It’s location is only a few miles from the site of the legendary battlefield and the cries of fallen soldiers can be heard screaming in the night. A hanging tree, solitary and weighted with death, stands in the grounds, the twisting, writhing shade of a condemned soldier seen dangling ethereally in the moonlight. A bloodsoaked young spirit, stalks the castle boundary, her demented gaze both terrifying and desperate in equal measure, It now lies as a forlorn ruin, holding helpless souls captive in its shadow.
Saints and Heroes of Duleek
Saint Mary’s Abbey in Duleek, has been a religious location since Saint Patrick founded a monastic settlement in the fifth century. It was also the place where the slain body of Brian Boru was taken before his final journey to Armagh following his death at the Battle of Clontarf.
Sir John Bellew was granted the title of Baron of Duleek in 1688 for his loyalty to James II and continued to fight in his name after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne. The Baron lost his life during the Battle of Aughrim on 12th July 1691, one of the bloodiest battles on Irish soil. His broken corpse was returned to Duleek in County Meath and lies eternally in the shadow of the tower.
Talbot Tragedy at Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle Estate in North County Dublin dates back over 800 years and was the home of the Talbot dynasty which continued almost unbroken until the death of Milo Talbot in 1973. His sister Rose, unable to maintain the imposing castle and grounds, sold the historic landmark to the State.
On the morning of the Battle of the Boyne, fourteen Talbot men sat to breakfast in the Great Hall of the Castle, before leaving to fight for the Jacobites. They never returned, well not corporeally at least, bar one. There ghostly forms remain within their family home, kept company by a myriad of supernatural forces, from the shade of a heartbroken court jester to king slayer Myles Corbett, his armoured spectral form disintegrating before your eyes.
Sadly, much of the battlefield itself has been built over, with houses and businesses, all in the name of ‘progress’, despite the pleas of historians. Many of the homes on the site in Oldbridge however, have had individual reports of everything from poltergeist activity to the apparitions of children within their walls.
As Metallica and thousands of dedicated fans descend on the Boyne Valley today, what is the history of Slane Castle and what are the supernatural links between this historic location on the River Boyne and a world famous Heavy Metal band?
Wherever I May Roam -The Burton and Conyngham Families
A coincidence perhaps, but the founder of Slane Castle was the son of an Anglo-Irish politician, Francis Burton, who’s family hailed from Shropshire in England. Cliff Burton’s father Ray is also of British heritage.
William Burton Conyngham, was the son of Francis and his mother Mary Conyngham was also from a prolific Anglo-Irish political family with strongholds in both County Meath and County Donegal.
In the late 18th century, William legally changed his name to include his mother’s maiden name in order to inherit the vast estate of his uncle Henry.
Disposable Heroes – Battle of The Boyne
The Battle of The Boyne took place in 1690 close by to what was the Fleming Castle. It was between King James VII of England (James II of Scotland) and William of Orange who had usurped James’ position as King. This battle for control of Britain and Ireland took place in one of Ireland’s most deep rooted historical locations, an insult to the legacy of the Irish High Kings so it was little wonder that Simon Fleming continued to fight for Irish power.
The Four Horsemen – Beyond The Pale
The land at Slane Demesne was the holding of the Barons of Slane and the Fleming family dating back to medieval times and they were not going to let it go lightly! The Fleming and De Lacy families had originally invaded Ireland from Normandy in the 11th century and taken the Hill of Slane by force. Generations later, Baron Slane had joined the Irish Catholic rebellion with the other Four Lords of ‘The Pale’, a strip of land including Slane under direct English rule.
The rest of Ireland outside of The Pale boundaries became known as a place of wild, unacceptable behaviour to the Crown, hence the phrase ‘Beyond the Pale.’ It was following this rebellion and the death of the Baron that lands were seized and eventually passed to the Conyngham family.
Eye of the Beholder – Slane Castle
The picturesque facade of Slane Castle and it’s famous natural amphitheatre that plays hosts to world class musicians including Metallica, came into being under the watchful eye of William Burton Conyngham and his nephew in conjunction with esteemed Irish architect, Francis Johnston, the man responsible for the gothic glory of haunted Charleville Castle in County Offaly.
Fight Fire with Fire – U2 and an Inferno
In 1984, a relatively unknown Irish band called U2 took up residence and recorded their iconic album, The Unforgettable Fire.’ In another strange coincidence, just a few years later, a third of Slane Castle was destroyed by you guessed it- an unforgettable fire. Years of restoration saw it return to its former glory.
Holier Than Thou – Saint Patrick and The Hill of Slane
Long before Burton Conyngham and the Fleming’s, long before castles and The Pale, the Hill of Slane was a huge part of the Pagan culture and Druidic rituals of the time. It faced directly onto the nearby Hill of Tara, the one true coronation place of the High Kings of Ireland.
When Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland, he went to the Hill of Slane at Easter and lit the Paschal Fire. At this time of year, it was the pagan way to distinguish all fires until a new one was lit on the Hill of Tara. When the Druid priests saw the lit shining across the Boyne Valley they fearfully warned King Laoghaire if the flame was not extinguished it would burn eternally at a cost of their Druid ways.
Saint Patrick was met not by a crazed heathen, but a learned king who listened to the Christian man and granted him leave to continue his work in Ireland. A Christian Abbey was founded on the Hill of Slane, in direct defiance of the existing pagan shrine. The standing stones of this Neolithic monument still remain within the grounds of the Abbey ruins.
All Nightmare Long – Shapeshifting Fairy of Slane
Slane Castle itself has protections pre-dating any of its prominent families. The Púca is a shape-shifting fairy of the Unseelie (Dark) persuasion. It transforms usually into a dark, terrifying steed with eyes of burning embers. If you are unfortunate enough to cross its path as a weary traveller and mount the mischievous beast, you will be taken the length and breadth of Ireland on the most frightening ride of your life, to arrive back at dawn, aged and weary.
Purify – Ancient Well of the Tuatha Dé Danann
In the grounds of Slane Castle, close to the river, lies an ancient well of mystical significance. It was blessed by the Alchemist Dian Cecht, physician to the Demi-god race, the Tuatha Dé Danann. He cast a spell of healing upon it, so injured warriors of the supernatural race could heal from any mortal wound other than beheading. In subsequent years it has become known as a Christian Holy Well and its waters are believed to continue to have restorative properties.
So if you are heading to Slane to see Metallica, take a moment to take in the history and supernatural occurrences where you stand, then enjoy the music and embrace it all – nothing else matters.
Although only ruins now, the outline of the towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove stand resplendent against the horizon and surrounding countryside of the estate to which they have belonged for nearly two centuries.
Duckett’s Grove was originally a modest two story house built in the style of its day in the mid eighteenth century by a descendant of the Duckett family, who arrived to the townland of Kneestown in County Carlow some 100 years previously.
As the family grew in wealth and social standing in both Carlow and Dublin city, it became clear that the somewhat ordinary family home was insufficient to meet the Duckett needs. Owner William Duckett, married an heiress by the name of Harriet in order to further his aspirations of grandeur.
In 1830 therefore, the services of Thomas A Cobden, renowned architect were secured and work began on making Duckett’s Grove a Gothic revival masterpiece of epic proportion, with regal arches, neo-gothic oriel windows and grotesques added to the majestic towers and imposing structure.
Now believing his home was suitable for his social needs, William Duckett began to throw lavish parties inviting the socialites of Dublin to mingle with local gentry and the Duckett family. William was somewhat of a philanderer and married his second wife, Maria Thompson in 1895 when he was 73 years old, bringing her and her daughter Olive to reside at Ducketts Grove.
William passed away in 1908 and was buried in the family plot at nearby Knocknacree. Maria continued to live in solitude at the mock Gothic castle as she and her daughter had become estranged. Finally Maria abandoned the property in 1916 to live in Dublin.
In a twist, when Maria died she was still so furious with Olive, that in her will she left nothing but what was known as the ‘Angry Shilling’ to her absentee offspring.
Not wishing to be done out of her inheritance, Olive went to court and in a week and a half long hearing, it was revealed that mother and daughter had a tempestuous and physically violent relationship, much to the shock of the Dublin city social scene. Maria was given a cash settlement and the Ducketts of Duckett’s Grove were no more.
Originally purchased by a farmer’s collective, bickering and greed over shares led to default on payment and the Land Commission stepped in and took over. During this time in the early 1920’s the IRA made use of Duckett’s Grove for training purposes and it was the base of its flying column, a mobile armed unit of soldiers.
Despite the nature of its use post-Duckett, the great house was well maintained until it was brought to a smoking shell by way of a catastrophic fire on 20 April 1933 – the cause of which was never discovered.
Although nothing but a husk, it would seem that the events within Duckett’s Grove have left their mark, with several agitated spirits being witnessed over the decades, making the building ruins a hotspot for numerous paranormal investigations, including America’s Destination Truth in 2011.
The most notorious entity identified is the Duckett’s Grove Banshee. Banshees have forever been known as portents of death, with most connected to families and more than a few of these wailing spirits seeking death for revenge and torment.
In this instance, the Banshee is the result of a Piseóg, a curse placed on the house and family to bring about death, despair and financial ruin. This particular curse was cast by the angry grieving mother of a young girl who had been having an affair with William Duckett and was riding on the estate when she fell from her horse.
The bringer of death can be heard shrieking on the wind through the ruins of Duckett’s Grove from the towers for two days and nights, with stories of those that heard her suffering fatality and family tragedy. Noted accounts include a woman who dropped dead in the grounds and a worker in the gardens who heard the feared cry and whose mother died the follow morning.
Servants have distinctly been heard working in what was formerly the kitchens and pantry and a phantom horse and carriage has rolled up to the former entrance.
Disembodied voices, bangs, floating balls of light and spectral shadows are just a few more of the paranormal phenomena to occur in the Carlow castle. Apparitions of various figures, believed to be members of the Duckett family have been seen, including what is believed to be the ghost of William Duckett himself, riding a horse on his estate.
The Ducketts had extremely strong ties to the Protestant church and a vocalised hatred of Catholicism, so some investigators have provoked heightened paranormal responses from the entities of Duckett’s Grove, by bringing Catholic relics such as rosary beads to investigations.
Now Duckett’s Grove is a hollow shell, with tourists and paranormal enthusiasts exploring the former lavish estate over the years. For those who look at the Gothic skeleton that remains, it is a statuesque reminder of the opulent and lavish lifestyle that used to be lived within.
For those who are braver, the ruins provide a hive of paranormal occurrences to be witnessed from the brightest and busiest of tourist days to the dead of night.
With a family history of materialism, violence and infidelity, and with a Duckett family motto of ‘Let us be judged by our acts’, it is little wonder therefore that this noble family and those whose lives they touched remain the eternally restless residents of Duckett’s Grove.
If you regard Offaly as a quiet and unassuming place you would be wrong! Four of the most haunted places in Ireland lie within the boundaries of this Midlands county. Read why some of the world’s most famous Paranormal Investigators have been terrified within these castle walls!
Blarney Castle is in the heart of Blarney Village in County Cork, beside the River Martin where the ghosts of salmon can be seen trying to catch flies. A castle has stood on the site since the tenth century and the third incarnation is the prominent stone structure you see today, built by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster in 1446. It is home to the world famous Blarney Stone, known as the Stone of Eloquence, believed to be a half of the Stone of Scone itself following the McCarthy family alliance with Robert the Bruce in 1314. If you are prepared to climb the steps to the top, a kiss of this rock will mean you will never be lost for words. Kissed by everyone from tourists, to Mick Jagger and Laurel and Hardy, it is set high on top of the castle, over 130 feet from the ground.
The Badger Caves run beneath the castle and are known for enabling the Castle Garrison to evade Lord Broghill, who was attacking on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. Now with little of them accessible to the public they were said to contain three secret passages that lead to the Lake, to Cork and to Kerry. The Garrison are believed to have taken with them the treasure of the castle and thrown it into the lake. Later owners all but drained the lake to try and find it, but the treasure remains undiscovered.
Hidden behind the Battlements is the Poison Garden in which grow lethal and debilitating plants, from Deadly Nightshade and Hellebore, to plants made famous by Harry Potter such as Mandrake and Wolfsbane.
The castle is just the beginning as there is so much more to explore. In the shadow of the Keep stands Blarney House. Originally built at the start of the eighteenth century, it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1874. This imposing gothic house would not be out of place in a Hammer Horror film and remains a family home today.
Rock Close is the place for all things magical and mysterious. It is thought that a Witch dwelling in Blarney since the dawn of time told the McCarthy clan the power of the Blarney Stone. She is imprisoned in the Witch Stone until nightfall, where she goes to her Kitchen, a cave beside the Witch Stone. If you get there very early you may still see the embers dying, long after she is once again imprisoned. For years the Witch has taken firewood from the estate for her kitchen and in return she must grant wishes for castle visitors who use the Wishing Steps. It is said that if you close your eyes and climb down and back up the steps and if you focus on just one wish, it will come true within the year. No peeking!
Druids were believed to have been on the land many centuries ago and you can see evidence of this today. A Druid cave, a circle of stones for gatherings and a Sacrificial Altar for sacrifices to the Pagan gods all remain.
A Fairy Glade also stands within Rock Close and you are welcome to enter, but remember they are cunning folk and should you see a Fairy, don’t let yourself get fooled.
At Blarney Castle there are tourist traps, there is history, there is folklore, and there is mystery. It is down to you to figure it out. Time stands still in Blarney so don’t be in a hurry. And do kiss the Blarney Stone and climb the Wishing Steps, because you never know…….