Ireland is a besieged nation. Its castles and walled cities have been besieged for centuries. The Norman conquest of Ireland began with the Siege of Wexford in 1169. The Cromwellian conquest was completed with the Siege of Galway in 1652. The Protestants loyal to William III repulsed the Catholics loyal to James II at the Siege of Derry in 1689. The city of Limerick was besieged twice in the same war: the Catholics won in 1690 but lost in 1691. And then an American family besieged Dunguaire Castle in the summer of 2019.
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
Lucky for us, it was rather late in the day and the place was virtually empty and the only shots that day came not from a cannon but from my Canon DSLR.
Dunguaire Castle sits on a rocky outcropping on the southern shores of Galway Bay where an ancient fort or dun once stood that belonged to King Guiare of Connacht in the 7th century. The tower house was built in the 16th century by the O’Hynes clan who ruled the Kinvara area for several hundred years. The castle was taken over by the Martyn family, one of the 14 tribes of Galway, in the 17th century and Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway, lived here until 1642.
Oliver St John Gogarty, the famous poet, playwright, athlete, surgeon and politician, bought Dunguaire Castle in 1924 and used it as a literary retreat and meeting house for some of his friends in the Irish literary revival movement. The literary giants who visited the castle during this time included W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge.
Christabel, Lady Ampthill bought the property in 1954 and completed the restoration that Gogarty started.
Shannon Development now owns the castle which is open from April to October every year for tours, musical entertainment events and medieval banquets. Trip Advisor rates the castle as # 5 of 21 shows and concerts in Galway.
We went on another all day tour the next day, this time to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. That will be the subject of my next post.
Irish Music Bonus — The Fields of Athenry by Paddy Reilly
During our seven-day stay in western Ireland we got the chance to explore not only our central Galway base but also areas north (Connemara), south (Dunguaire Castle and the Cliffs of Moher), and west (the Aran Islands). But we just didn’t find the time to explore any place east of Galway. And so we missed the village of Athenry which lies 25 kilometers east of the city.
Irish songwriter Pete St John wrote The Fields of Athenry in 1979 and Paddy Reilly recorded it in 1982 and it became a huge hit, lasting for 70 weeks on the Irish charts. It has been 40 years since St John penned his masterpiece and during those years the song has become a national favorite and the unofficial anthem for both the all-Ireland professional rugby team and Ireland’s national football (soccer) team. The tale St John spins about Mary and her husband Michael who “steals Trevelyan’s corn so the young can see the morn” is fictional but the British oppression of the starving Irish during the Famine years is a fact. Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan was a British civil servant who served as Assistant Secretary of HM Treasury during the Famine years. He is often given the blame for the quasi-genocidal government policy of hindering the distribution of food, a policy that resulted in the deaths of over a million people.
Let’s listen to Paddy singing the song in 1985 when he was a guest of The Dubliners at their Festival Folk held at Dublin National Stadium. Halfway through the song John Sheehan puts down his fiddle and picks up his tin whistle. Wow!