Saturday, 29 October 2016

Where the Gentry Played

I am going to take you on a short tour to a special cottage. A cottage that is one of kind and the only one to be found on the island of Ireland. The name of this place is SWISS COTTAGE for it was meant to represent an abode in the Alps.

The River Suir 2km east of Cahir in Co. Tipperary.
After parking our car we walked along a path through the woods
and down to the river bank and across an iron bridge.

Up the stone steps to the arched entrance and under a stone carving.

The Cat with two tails a symbol of the Gobán Sáor.

The legend is that one day Gobán Saor was wandering and looking for a job so he saw a church being built and asked the site master if they needed a worker. The master asked Gobán what he was able to do, and to test him he asked him to carve a cat with two tails out of a block of stone while the other men stopped for lunch, because nobody could carve something like that in such a short time. Which he did. When they finished their lunch the stone was finely carved with a cat with two tails.

We entered a long white tunnel to enter Swiss Cottage. 

 A delightful "cottage ornée" built in 1810 by Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall to a design by regency architect John Nash. The interior contains a spiral staircase in the hall linking two downstair rooms to the two bedrooms all of which are elegantly decorated. The wallpaper in the Salon and bedrooms is a cotton linen paper by the Dufour factory and was one of the first commercially produced Parisian wall covering. 

I was told by the guide that the four roomed cottage cost £10,000 to build an enormous sum of money. No expense was spared every window pane is a different size, no two walls or doors are of the same shape or thickness, every step of the spiral staircase is of a different height and width. Even the exterior designs on the outside change.

In this cottage the Lords and Ladies played at being peasants, for them it was an entertainment, not so for their servants who still had to prepare the food in an underground room and deliver it to a doorway at which they were not allowed to go beyond. For here they were met by her ladyship dressed in similar garb as themselves only of better quality.

The Dining Room

The Salon - a place of entertainment and horseplay.

The two likenesses of her Ladyship: herself in formal wear
wearing a hat and in peasant costume.

You my readers need to visit Swiss Cottage for yourselves to truly appreciate the place. 
I have visited twice and found that to be sufficient for me, I can best describe it as a unique experience and building is definitely 
an oddity.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


Lackeen Castle, built possibly in the early 15th century is a fine example of an Irish tower house.
Situated a few miles north west of Lorrha in North Tipperary.

Lackeen belonged to Brian Ua Cinneide Fionn, chieftain of Ormond, who died in 1588. The castle passed to his son Donnchadh, the last Ua Cinneide chief of lower Ormond who further fortified by building a bawn - a defensive wall (of which little remains other than a low wall) against the Cromwellians and ended up surrendering in 1650’s .  
The name ‘Ua Cinneide’ meaning Cinneide is the Irish word for ‘Helmeted Head, was anglicised to 0‘Kennedy’.

An aerial view of Lackeen

In post Cromwell times, the Kennedy family regained possession of Lackeen Castle in the 18th century. Whilst renovating Lackeen John O'Kennedy discovered a 9th Century manuscript hidden in the castle walls. Written in Latin, this manuscript, the Stowe Missal, was a mass book of the early Irish Church. The missal was in use at the monastery of St. Ruadhan in Lorrha, Co. Tipperary around the year 1050 and at some point was hidden at Lackeen for safe keeping.

The Stowe Missal was eventually sold to Duke of Buckingham and in 1883 purchased by the British Government which in turn returned it to the Royal Irish Academy and can be viewed online here :-

Folklore tradition states that O'Kennedy from Lackeen Castle is one of the few men to have caught a Púca, a fairy shape shifter, capable of assuming a variety of terrifying forms.
The story goes that O'Kennedy was chasing some hags whom he had caught stealing from a body left for burial, when the hags called on the Puca to protect them.

With red eyes and nostrils flaming with fire, the creature came at O'Kennedy.
Luckily he was as strong as an ox and as fast as lightning and he slashed at the creature with his sword, sending him flying. O'Kennedy had the Púca tied up and slung over his back in no time with the diabolic creature cursing the whole way back to Lackeen Castle, for not one of his kind had ever been caught.

Arriving back at Lackeen, O'Kennedy called on his servants to help him with his prize.

The Púca shouted to all “If you dare to bring me in your castle I'll burn you all with my breath and you'll be truly gone to the blazes!”

A servant Tim O'Meara, being loyal to O'Kennedy opened up the castle but pleaded with his master, “For goodness' sake let the creature loose or neither yourself, nor your family nor none of us will have any peace or ease, or be able to get a decent night's sleep again!”

Eventually O'Kennedy listened to the advice of his servant and let the Púca go, but first took a promise that the Púca would harm no breed, seed or generation of the O'Kennedy family. 

Over the years many people have seen the shapes of an otherworldly creatures lurking about Lackeen Castle but so far the Púca has kept his promise.

Lackeen Castle is owned by the Irish State and is freely open to the public. 
Do be very careful if you visit!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


A few metres along the road from the Priory we come to a new project a pair of small harbours nestled together on the western bank of the River Shannon and an easy walk from the town of Portumna.

A pair of harbours. 

I calculate that about twenty motor cruisers or narrow boats 
could be finally moored here. 

The small boat harbour and dinghy park is nicely
situated away from the larger craft.

A Mallard taking a duck!

Note the curved transom and slight tumblehome at the stern.

Looks like these lads are off out for the day ?

The swan must have found herself a tasty

In almost every harbour I always find one craft that takes my eye and the AH Kathleen has done
that. For she reminds me of similar craft that I was used  to seeing in the harbours of Devon, places like Brixham, Torquay and Teignmouth. She looks to be a very seaworthy and practical boat to manage with her neat side decks and safety rails. 
The boaters amongst you will notice that she has a slight tumble-home at the aft end and a curved transom can be seen on the photo three up.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Aerial view showing close proximity
of Castle and Priory.

Within the demesne of Portumna Castle exist, the ruins of Portumna Priory built around 1254. 
It was originally a Cistercian chapel, a sister house of the monastery at Dunbrody, Co Wexford. 
In 1426 the priory was taken over by the Dominicans when a papal indulgence was granted for its completion.
The Priory came under the patronage of the Earl of Clanricarde, de Burgo, in 1577 and contains the tomb of the Earl and his wife, although the location is unknown. 
During the Reformation the Priory was suppressed and then revived again in 1640.  
Eventually it was abandoned by the Friars when their numbers reduced to three in 1712 .  

After lying unused for fifty years Portumna Priory was taken over by the Anglican Church of Ireland until 1832 when they built their own church.

The Cloisters
 were partially restored in 1954 by the Office of Public Works.

The long shadows where monks once strolled

They stand as sentinels of a bygone age.

Under the splendid arches to the chancery window.

I felt nothing but a contemplative peacefulness as I strolled

As with Portumna Castle, the ruins of the Priory are now a national monument. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Galway Pheonix

The de Burgo (Burke) family moved their seat of power to Portumna when Richard, the 4th Earl of Clanrickarde, built the magnificent semi-fortified manor on the shores of Lough Derg sometime before 1618. At the time it cost £10,000 and included a 1,400-acre demesne.

Architecturally, the building marks the transition from the medieval Tower House to the Renaissance style manor house with complimentary influences from both periods. 

The Castle was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1826 but in 1948 the Irish State purchased the castle and remedial work started in 1968. The Office of Public Works re-roofed the building following extensive archaeological and historical research and their programme of conservation and partial restoration works still continues.

The ground floor of the castle is open to the public and houses an exhibition on the history of the de Burgo family, the restoration of the building and a DVD presentation bringing the story to life. 

The first of the three gated entrances.

Detail of the pedestrian gate.

An inside view of the first entrance.

The second gated entrance.

He never said a word.

The third gated entrance beyond them
the formal gardens.

The formal garden to the north, geometrically laid-out, contains a Willow Maze incorporating several different willow varieties and a central path lined with espalier fruit trees under planted with lavender.

A 17th-century pottage kitchen garden has also been restored to its original splendour and organically planted with flowers, herbs, hollies, and vegetables. The garden offers the visitor an ideal opportunity to  experience the gardening layout and techniques of the past.

An aerial view.

I have been driving through Portumna for many years and only ever stopping occasionally in the town for ice creams and at other times to give our Toby a run in the Forest Park.
So I was really pleased to find this old relic from a former age sitting quietly on the banks of the
River Shannon and hope that it continues to do so.

Saturday, 1 October 2016


Caisleán Coillearnach Ruadh

Coat of Arms of the 
Mac Egans

Inscription above the entrance showing dates of occupancy

A modest entrance

A druid admires !

The other day we took a detour off our normal route to visit Redwood Castle [Caisleán Coillearnach Ruadh] on northwestern edge of County Tipperary, near Lorrha and situated about 1.5 miles/ 2.4 km from the banks of the River Shannon.

The reason for the visit was because of my interest in the Irish Celts. The family/clan who lived in Redwood Castle were the Mac Egans, the hereditary Brehons of Connaught. 

One of my great grandmothers was a member of the O’Doran family who were also Brehons. 
The O’Dorans were one of the seven septs of County Laois, the others being O' Devoy, O'Dowling, McEvoy, O'Kelly, O'Lalor and O'Moore, and together they were known as "The great Brehon families of Leinster". 

The word "brehon" refers to the Gaelic legal system in force before the Norman Invasion of 1170. 

For more information on Redwood Castle and the Brehons please visit the link -

Do you have ancient family connections with Ireland ?