Ireland 2019: The Siege of Dunguaire Castle

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.

Nine members of my family invade the castle while I cover with my Canon.

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 lies at the southern edge of Galway Bay near the village of Kinvara and is not far from the County Clare border.

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.

Dunguaire Castle is about a half hour drive from Galway’s new coach station.

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.

The gate at the bottom of the hill.

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.

My younger daughter and her family in front of the castle.

Dunguaire Casle reminds me of the Castle of Eilean Donan in Scotland which we visited during our three-day tour of the Isle of Skye in 2016 (see here and here).

My older daughter and her family inspected the latest castle restoration.

My granddaughter Mia at the tower’s main entrance.

My younger daughter and her family like visiting old castles.

My older daughter and her family enjoyed the excursion.

Inside the courtyard past the tower.

Tower wall from the courtyard.

Oliver St John Gogarty turned the castle into a meeting house for his literary friends.

Other tourists stormed the castle after us and soon retreated.

Dunguaire Castle at the end of the Siege.

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!

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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11 Responses to Ireland 2019: The Siege of Dunguaire Castle

  1. Peter Klopp says:

    The invasion of the Dunguaire Castle must have been a true pleasure for your entire family. I like the way you explained the most peaceful invasion ever executed in the history of mankind. The Irish song was equally enjoyable. Thank you!

  2. I’m glad you liked it, Peter!

  3. disperser says:

    Interesting. It looks like an awfully small size for it to be a defensive position or fortification. I assume it was more of a status symbol than anything else.

    • Yes, apparently King Guaire’s 7th century building was a fortified construction but the 16th century building was more of family home for the wealthiest family in the area. And Oliver St John Gogarty didn’t really live there. He just used the castle as a retreat for himself and his literary friends. Gogarty and his family lived in the Connemara region north of Galway. He also served as a senator in the Irish Free State government based in Dublin from 1922 to 1936 and in 1939 he moved to the US where he died in 1957.

  4. mvschulze says:

    I laughed upon reaching the last line in you first paragraph. …and again at the end! Nice descriptions and pictures as always, and how fortunate for you and your family for this typically inspiring and educational vacation. M 🙂

    • Thanks, MV. When I started to process that first photo the other day I began to imagine my family involved in a castle siege. It then took about a half a dozen google searches to come up with all of those dates. Yes, our vacation was a tremendous success! Every member of my family enjoyed these day-long tours. Stay tuned for accounts of our excursions to the Aran Islands, Connemara and Knock during our Galway stay and to Glendalough the following week during our week in Dublin.

  5. I love that we’re still in Ireland here!! wonderful histories and stories. I miss it and Scotland.

  6. Thanks, Cybele! We are only half-way through our week in Galway and I have another week of Dublin to write about. So there will be many more photos and stories on Ireland.

  7. Pingback: Ireland 2019: Galway’s Magdalen Laundry | Crow Canyon Journal

  8. Pingback: Ireland 2019: Our Galway Girl | Crow Canyon Journal

  9. Pingback: Ireland 2019: Dublin’s Temple Bar | Crow Canyon Journal

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