The O'Connells of Ballycarbery Castle

Last Update 2012-06-01 05:01:47 | Posted On 2012-06-01 04:59:31 | Read 950 times | 0 Comments

The O’Connells of Ballycarbery Castle

History of the Castle

Ballycarbery was the centre of the powerful Corca Dhuibhne Clan who controlled the lands of Iveragh from the 6th Century until approximately 1200 AD. Some form of residence appears to have stood at Ballycarbery in 1398 when Taghd Mac Carthaigh's death there was recorded but the existing ruins are later in date.  But it was from the original occupant, the O’Shea clan chieftain, Cairbre O'Shea, that Ballycarbery got its name meaning 'Village of Carbery'. During these times there was considerable trade between Ireland and Spain which took place in the cove next to the castle.

When the McCarthy Clan was driven out of Killarney early in the 14th century and moved their lands to Iveragh, they over-threw the O’Sheas. Donal MacCarthy Mor rebuilt the location into the current fine castle for his son Tadhg, who married the daughter of the powerful 4th Earl of Desmond.

In 1565 Daniel MacCarthy Mor pledged his loyalty to the Queen of England, who in return gave him the title Earl of Clancarre. This pledge of loyalty meant that if a MacCarthy Mor did not have an heir to his estate, his lands would be confiscated by the Queen. This happened at the end of the 17th Century and the land was handed over to Trinity College, Dublin, which divided the land and leased it to local landlords. These landlords then leased the land to tenants and constables were appointed to collect rent. In the Iveragh area it was collected by the O'Connell Clan, ancestors of the great Daniel, and some 16th Century sources indicate that it was occupied by the O'Connell's in their capacity as MacCarthy wardens; one Morgan O'Connell of Ballycarbery, for instance, became High Sheriff of Kerry during Elizabethan times.

The majority of the perimeter walls were destroyed by General Ludlow of Cromwell’s Army in 1651-2, when Valentia Harbour was being fortified.  The owner, Maurice O'Connell, was transplanted to Clare.  In the 18th century a house was built on the site which was inhabited by the Lauder family.  Much of the South and East walls of both the keep and bawn are destroyed, presumably due to the mid 17th Century slighting, though a portion of the southern bawn was dismantled and removed in the early 20th Century.  Today, Ballycarbery Castle stands as a fine example of the glory days of the powerful ancient Irish clans, the O’Sheas, the MacCarthy Mors & the O’Connells.

Ballycarbery Castle -  The Structure

The castle was surrounded by a high wall but now less than half still remains. There are arrow slits dotted along the bottom of the remaining wall. A partially accessible staircase remains inside one part of the wall.  The ground floor of the castle was made up of several chambers but only one is still roofed and walled. It's a large chamber with a quite high roof and in one corner a staircase leads upstairs.  There are two different staircases leading to the first floor and there is also a path up the back of the castle since the whole back wall is missing. One of the staircases is up on a height inside the ground floor chamber and is in very good condition. The other is entered from outside the chamber and is slightly damaged. The first floor is covered in grass and has some windows and a few small rooms but is mostly in the open. The first floor is the highest accessible part of the castle as the steps to the second floor must have been attached to the now missing back wall.

The Legends of Ballycarbery Castle

 Like any good Irish castle, Ballycarbery too, has its own legends.  Here are a few….

Don’t lose your head!!

The property was originally the seat of the MacCarthy Mor Clan, but passed to the O'Connell’s as wardens for the MacCarthy Mors. There is a story that the powerful MacCarthy Mors sent a messenger with a cradle to the O'Connells as a sign that they should offer to foster a MacCarthy Mor child. The O'Connells' response was to send the cradle back with the head of the messenger inside!!

 Eventually the property did come into the O'Connell's hands and they prospered here for many years until the destruction of the castle in the Cromwellian War of 1652.

Light at the end of the tunnel!!

Some Cahirciveen people say there is a secret tunnel beginning at the south east corner of the castle (where there is an entrance going down underground) linking Ballycarbery Castle to the safety of Cahergeal Fort.  Years ago, one local person claimed that he got his little dog to follow him underground all the way from the castle to the nearby fort.

No Bull!!

On dark nights or foggy days, the local farmer would have to move his bull away from the fields immediately around the castle.  The bull’s roar would echo off the walls of the empty castle, and unable to see, the bull imagined that there was another bull in the area.  The enraged bull would then become highly agitated.  Consequently Ballycarbery Castle became a “no bull area”.



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