HISTORY OF GLIN
Located on the banks of the Shannon River in County Limerick, the townland of Glin has a rich and often confusing past.
The following is excerpted from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis, published in 1837:
A market and post-town, in the Shanid Division of the barony of Lower Connello, 12 miles (W.) from Askeaton, and 117 (S.W. by W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road from Askeaton to Tarbert; containing 4790 inhabitants, of which number, 1030 are in the town.
This place, with the adjacent territory, was granted by Henry 2nd. to John Fitz-Thomas Fitz-Gerald, Lord of Decies and Desmond, whose descendants, the Earls of Desmond, were by succeeding kings of England created princes palatine in Ireland, with the power of making tenures in capite and creating barons (by which authority they created the Knight of Glin and others) and were entitled to royal services and escheats. The manor, with all its honours and privileges, though forfeited for a short time in the 18th. of Henry 8th., and also in the 11th. of Elizabeth, was restored in 1603, and has since descended through an uninterrupted succession in the male line, for more than 600 years, to John Fraunceis Fitzgerald, the 19th. Knight of Glin, its present proprietor. During the rebellion of the Earl of Desmond in the reign of Elizabeth, the castle was besieged by Sir George Carew, the Lord-President of Munster, assisted by the Earl of Thomond, and after two-days' resolute defence by the Knight of Glin, was taken by the English. The besiegers having obtained possession of the lower part, ascended to the battlements, where the remnant of the garrison, about 80 in number, made their last desperate stand. A sanguinary conflict took place on the staircase, every step of which was fiercely contested; but the English were successful, and the Knight and his gallant band were either put to the sword, or leaped into the river and were drowned.
The town, which owes much of its improvement to its present proprietor, is beautifully situated on the southern bank of the River Shannon, which is here nearly three miles in breadth; and contains about 280 houses, several of which are well built and of handsome appearance. Among the more recent improvements is a handsome terrace, built by John Hamilton, Esq., and commanding some fine views over the Shannon, which abounds with beautiful and interesting scenery; a new line of road from Askeaton to Tarbert, completed at a very great expense; and a road through the mountains to Abbeyfeale, a distance of 12 miles, which was opened in 1836. In the summer the town is much resorted to for the benefit of pure air and the advantages of sea-bathing, and is admirably situated for carrying on a very extensive trade, the river affording great facilities for intercourse, and secure anchorage for vessels of any burden. The surrounding scenery is richly diversified, embracing a fine view of the opposite coast of Clare, the island of Scattery, and the fertile promontory of Tarbert, with its lofty and handsome lighthouse. This place is the great depot of the salmon fishery of the Shannon and its tributary rivers, of which large quantities are annually shipped for England; oysters of very superior flavour and other fish are also taken in abundance. The manufacture of linen and cotton checks is carried on to some extent, and there is a considerable trade in corn and butter, which are shipped to Cork and Limerick. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held on 8 June, the first Wednesday in September (O.S.) and 3 December, for cattle and pigs. A constabulary police force is stationed here; a manorial court is held every third week, for the recovery of debts to any amount, with extensive jurisdiction; and petty sessions are held every alternate Saturday. There is a substantial bridewell, containing six cells, two day-rooms, and two spacious airing-yards.
The parish, also called Kilfergus, comprises 14, 637 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, of which about one-third is under tillage, one-third mountain or bog, and the remainder pasture and demesne land. The land around the town is very fertile, and in several parts of the mountains, which everywhere afford good pasturage for young cattle, very good crops of wheat are raised. There are several large dairy farms; a large butter market is held in the town, and great quantities of butter are made here and sent to Limerick and Cork for exportation. The system of agriculture is rapidly improving; an abundance of shell manure of excellent quality is either raised in the Shannon or brought from the opposite coast; and limestone is sometimes brought from Foynes Island and burnt for manure. There are some quarries of hard compact clay-slate, used for building; and flag-stones of superior quality and of very large size are found in several parts of the parish. The mountains are of silicious grit and indurated black clay, in which are several strata of coal: of these, only the upper stratum has been worked, and in a very inefficient manner; the only workings now in progress are at Cloghgough. Ironstone of very good quality is also plentiful, but has hitherto been applied solely to the making of roads. The principal seats are Glin Castle, the spacious and elegant mansion of the Knight of Glin, finely situated in a richly planted and highly embellished demesne; Westwood, of Lieutenant Hyde, R.N.; Shannon View, of the Rev. R. Fitzgerald; Shannon Lawn, of D. Harnett, Esq.; Fort Shannon, of J. Evans, Esq.; Ballydonohoe, of T. Fitzgerald, Esq.; Eastwood, of the Rev. E. Ashe; Cahara Lodge, of Mrs. Johnston; Villa, of J. Hamilton, Esq.; Glin Lodge, of Mrs. Standish; Clare View, of the Rev. R. Fitzgerald, Gardenville, of Miss Sargent; and Cahara House, of R. Q. Sleeman, Esq.
The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Limerick, and in the patronage of the vicars choral of the cathedral of Limerick, to whom the rectory is appropriate; the tithes amount to £337.10., of which 225 is payable to the appropriators, and the remainder to the vicar. There is neither glebe-house nor glebe. The church*, a very neat edifice in the early English style, with a square tower, was erected on an eminence close to the town, in 1815, by a gift of £600 from the late Board of First Fruits. In the R.C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Loughill, the chapel, near the church, is a large plain building, and there is a chapel at Loughill. About 70 children are taught in a school to which the R.C. clergyman annually contributes; and there are six private schools, in which are about 250 children; a Sunday school, and a dispensary. About half a mile to the east of the town are the ruins of the ancient church of Kilfergus, or Glin, situated within the parish of Loughill, to which that and the adjoining townland continue to pay tithes; within the ruined walls is the family vault of the Knights of Glin.
The old castle, with the exception of the roof, is still nearly entire; it consists of a massive square tower on a rock, in the bed of a small river, close to its junction with the Shannon. Near it is an ancient bridge, where was the only pass over the river, which the castle was most probably built to protect. There are numerous ancient forts in the various parts of the parish, five of which are within the demesne of the Castle Glin; and at Flean, in the mountains, are the remains of a very ancient church, of which the history is unknown.
*refers to the Church of Ireland edifice, which still stands (2003), and was recently used as the headquarters of the Glin Historical Society.
The history of Glin is really the tale of two castles – one very old, and one more a manor house than a fortress.
The ancient castle of Glin still stands – or, at least the shattered remnants of it’s tower remain. Built in the medieval ages, it was badly damaged in an assault in 1600, and again in 1641.
As the map from the Pacta Hibernica (1633)2 shows, the castle is located on the banks of the little Glencorbry River, less than a mile from it’s entry into the Shannon. The early town of Glin lies right center of the map, largely hidden by the Legend. The walls and moat pictured here are no longer visible on the site, but the main section of the keep is intact. The internal stairway to the tower is visible through the cannon-struck walls.
Following is an excerpt from the Pacta Hibernica, by Sir Thomas Stafford:
The siege of Glynne July 1600
‘The next day, when wee looked that the cannon should begin to play, the Cannonniere found the Peece to be cloyed, all the art and skill which either the Smith, or himselfe could or did use, prevailed nothing. The President (who is a man that knowes well to manage great Artillery) commanded that the peece upon her carriage (as she was) should be abased at the tayle, and elevated at the musle, as high as it might bee: then he willed the Gunner to giue her a full charge of powder, roule a shott after it, and to giue fire at the mouth, whereby the touch-hole was presently cleared, to the great rejoicing of the Armie, which of necessitie in attempting the Castle (without the favour of the Cannon) must haue endured great losse. This particular I thought good not to omitt, because it may be an instruction to others, whensoever the like accident should happen. The Peece being thus cleared, the President having the Knight of the Valleyes eldest sonne, ( a child of six years olde) in his hands, to terrifie the Warders, hee caused the child to be set upon the top of one of the Gabions, sending them word, That they should haue a faire marke to bestow their small shott upon: The Constable returned answere, That the feare of his life should not make them to forbeare to direct their Volleys of shot to the batterie: for said he ( in undecent termes not fit for me to write ) the place is open where he was borne, and the Knight may haue more sonnes. The President not intending (as hee seemed) caused the Infant to be taken downe from the Gabion, knowing that the discharging of the Cannon would haue shaken the poore childes bones in sunder, and then presently hee commanded the battery to begin, and the small shott did so incessantly burne powder, as the Warders durst not stand to their fight, until a breach was made assaultable into the Seller under the great Hall of the Castle: all this was done with the losse of one onely man, a Cannoniere’.
Contrasting the above, which was written by the conquerors, is the traditional view, as expressed by Thomas F. Culhane:
The garrison of the castle, according to tradition, was divided into two sections, one of which was commanded by Donall na Searrach Culhane and the other by Tadhg Dore. Before the siege began, Carew, who had the knight’s child as hostage, sent an order to the knight to surrender the castle at once or else he would blow the child out of the mouth of the cannon. The knight’s answer was remembered but can only be rendered here by algebraic symbols: ‘Gread leat. Ta X go meidhreach fos agus Y go briomhar. Is fuiriste leanbh eile do gheiniuint’.
The assault on the castle then began under the command of Capt. Flower but was beaten back with slaughter by the defenders. Three brothers named Giltenan played a heroic part in repulsing the attack and slew some of the best of Flower’s men. Carew called up fresh reinforcements, which he placed under the leadership of Turlough Roe MacMahon, who lived at Colmanstown castle, Co. Clare, almost opposite Glin. Turlough was a man of evil reputation who had already committed many dreadful crimes against his own kith and kin and against the Irish people at large. He was the father of the celebrated Maire Ruadh MacMahon. He is referred to in a poem of the time as
‘Traolach Ruadh an fhill agus an eithigh]
do mhairbh a bhean agus a leanbh in eineacht.’
The second assault also failed, but Turlough was determined to carry it through , for he hated with a hatred which evil men are known to feel towards those they have mortally injured. In the meantime the cannonading had played havoc with the defences of the castle. In the third attempt MacMahon was able to move in a large body of men who, after a gallant defence by the garrison, succeeded in capturing the castle. The Giltenans, Tadhg Dore and his brother, and Donall Culhane and two of his sons were slain in the final defence. Some of the garrison tried to escape by jumping into the water surrounding the castle, but only three men succeeded in getting away. These were Mahon Dillane, Lewy O’Connor and Donall Beag Culhane (whose father was slain in the last defence of the castle).
Such was the traditional account of the siege as handed down through eight or nine generations. The old people had some vague traditions about Captain Flower, who was one of the ablest and most ruthless of the Elizabethan soldiers who served in Ireland. He tried everything in his power to lay hands on Honora MacCarthy, the wife of the knight, Eamann na gCath. Some time previously he had invaded Carbery, the territory of her brother, Florence MacCarthy Reagh, and few things in the annals of warfare can equal the atrocities he committed there. He slew men, women and children and laid the whole district waste. Returning from this expedition he was severely wounded in an encounter with the followers of MacCarthy. This may account for the terrible scourge of treacherous hatred with which he pursued this helpless woman.
©James M. Mulvihill 7/23/2003 BACK