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Note Added In The Press.
Since I put together the above notes on the Pass of the Plumes, our President has brought to my notice that just thirty years ago Canon O'Hanlon, P.p., had read a Paper on the same subject to the Royal Irish Academy, which was published in the 1st volume, 2nd series, of its "Proceedings" (1879).
I have lately had the opportunity of reading Canon O'Hanlon's Paper; and as I find we both come to the same conclusion, though from information gathered from different sources, I have thought it best not to alter my notes, though extracts from his valuable Paper would certainly have improved mine.
SOME PLACES OF INTEKEST NEAR GORT VISITED BY THE SOCIETY, AUGUST 11th, 1904.
BY THE VERY REV. DR. FAHEY, P.P., V.G.
'he Summer Excursion to Gort and its vicinity, as arranged for our
Antiquaries this year, will enable them to visit a district rich in historical and archaeological interest. Ancient churches, mediaeval castles, cromleacs, and cahers are familiar features of the district, as well as interesting memorials of the past.
The selection of Gort as a centre is judicious, though the town is modern, and the name seems to sound more Saxon than Celtic. But "Gort" is only the Anglicized form of a portion of the original name, which, as we have it from the "Four Masters," is " Gort-insi-Guaire," i.e. the " garden of Guaire's island." Dr. Joyce, with his usual accuracy and scholarly research, tells us that "Gort is cognate with the French jardin, the English 'garden,' and the Latin hortus." Guaire was one of the most celebrated of our provincial kings. He was the friend and patron of priests and poets alike ; and his name is handed down to us by bards and historians, as " Guaire the Hospitable." The garden of the hospitable king may have extended by the river's curve at the entrance to the town. And the island on which his palace was situated is close by, and is still enclosed by the rushing waters of the river. It was here that he dispensed, for an entire year, his lavish hospitality to the Irish bin ds, and their distinguished and gifted chief Seanchan, Torpest.
"Thus in hall of Gort spoke Guary,
For the king, let truth be told,
Giving goblets, giving gold—
But when for the Tain he called,
Shame and anger tired the scald."
The king's descendants in the district were known by the tribe-name of Kineal Aedh na Echte, and, as was natural, they cherished the memories of this historic spot. So we find that the chieftains of Kineal Aedh selected "Insi Guaire" as the site of their principal castle and their chief family residence. We have no certain authority for fixing the
[Submitted Auoust 9, 1904.]
exact date of the erection of the castle of Gort. But we can have no doubt that it was the residence of Sir Roger O'Shaughnessy, Lord of Kineal Aedh, when he was created baronet by Henry VIII., A.d. 1545; and it was here that the O'Shaughnessy, a few years later, entertained the Lord Deputy and his escort at a banquet almost regal in its ostentatious display. ''On the 12th July he encamped near Gort, and dined at O'Shaughnessy's house so worshipfully that divers wondered at it, for such a dinner or the like of it was not seen in any Irishman's house before."
The castle stood within the island. The mansion stood close to the castle, separated from it by the river. In Ludlow's Memoirs the place is referred to as well fortified, and is described as a place of considerable strength. Cromwell's commander-in-chief may be allowed to give us his impressions of the place:—
"I marched with my horse towards Limerick, and came to Gortinsigori, a castle belonging to Sir Dermot O'Shortness, who was then gone to Galway, but had left his tenants with some soldiers in the castle.
"On one side of the wall there was an earth-bank about 11 feet high, with a trench of equal breadth without. The wall of the court was about 12 feet high, well flanked. On the other side the place was secured by a river."
Dr. Lynch makes flattering reference to the owner at that time. He tells us that he was most lavish of hospitality and gifts, so much Bo that the well-known epigram might be aptly inscribed over his gate—
"Porta patens esto
Nulli claudatur hone9to."
Though the castle had capitulated to Ludlow, it fortunately escaped destruction, and was given back, on the Restoration, to Sir Roger, successor and heir to Sir Dermot. Loyal like his father to the Stuart cause, Sir Roger fought for his king at the fioyne, and returned from that disastrous battlefield to die at Gort. His son "William, by Helena, sister of Lord Clare, was heir to a ruined fortune. He was declared attainted and obliged to fly to France with his uncle Lord Clare, where he died A.d. 1744. His property was declared confiscated during his lifetime, and was conferred on Thomas Prendergast by letters patent, in consideration of his good and acceptable services' in discovering the assassination plot.
But as the transfer of the property confiscated affected only ColoDel William O'Shaughnessy, we find that the next heir-at-law, Coleman O'Shaughnessy, Catholic Bishop of Ossory, instituted law proceedings to recover the family estates. A protracted and expensive lawsuit was the result.
Dr. De Burgo, in his "Hibernia Dominicana," makes the following .pointed reference to the defence advanced by Sir T. Prendergast:—
"Acreter se defendit non quidam justitia caussae suae, sed pecunia et potentia."
In 1760 the case was finally decided by Lord Mansfield against Sir' Joseph O'Shaughnessy.
The decision was ruinous to O'Shaughnessy; and one of the historic families of our country—of whom it was said, "qui non novit O'Shaughnessy, Hibernia non novit"—was reduced to obscurity and poverty. And very soon after, the historic castle and mansion were levelled to the earth to supply space and building material for the present unoccupied military barrack.
The Castle of Ardameelavane is situated about three miles south of Gort, close to the beautiful demesne of Lough Cutra. It was an O'Shaughnessy castle, erected probably in the opening of the sixteenth century. We hear of it for the first time in 1567, after the death of Sir Roger O'Shaughnessy. It stands on the precipitous brow of a deep and secluded valley, and shows well-marked features of late Tudor work. The fortifications have practically disappeared. But the castle itself, owing to its restoration through the enlightened care of Lord Gough, the proprietor, is now one of the most perfect in the province.
This castle seems to have been claimed by Dermot O'Shaughnessy, surnamed the "Swarthy," after the death of his brother, Sir Roger. He was the Queen's O'Shaughnessy, and received an autograph letter from Her Majesty, dated 27th June, 1570, strongly recommending him to the special attention of her Deputy, Sir Henry Sydney. In the Earl of Leicester, O'Shaughnessy had another friend and supporter. Dermot Reagh's special claim on the patronage of the Queen arose from his having had a share in the betrayal of Dr. Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, who had retired to the O'Shaughnessy forests in Beagh for protection. So Her Majesty did not forget "to allow right well of the service in bringing to our said deputy an unloyal subject to that land, being a feigned bishop, who not long before broke out of our Tower of London."
Writing to Sydney in 1570, Her Majesty recommends O'Shaughnessy's petition for some order to be taken with him on the death of his brother, to place and settle him in the said country. But the acts which secured for Dermot Reagh the support of Her Majesty and her Deputy, alienated the goodwill of his tribe and of the entire district, and excited against him the active hostility of his own family. Such was the abhorrence with which his act was regarded, that we find it generally stated that all vegetation perished on the spot in which he had Dr. Creagh arrested. His nephew, John O'Shaughnessy, was the popular heir to the title and family estates. An accidental meeting of the rival chiefs near the southern gate of Ardameelavane Castle, led to a conflict in which