Dromaneen Castle

 

 

 

The townland of Dromaneen lies south of the River Blackwater between Lombardstown and Mallow. On the opposite (north) bank stands Longueville House, now a highly prestigious Hotel and Restaurant.

Dromaneen Castle was one of the three main castles of the ancient O'Callaghan clan; Dromore and Clonmeen being the others. The ruin is that of an early 17th century Jacobean fortified mansion, rather than a true castle, and it is said to have been built by Caher O’Callaghan circa 1610. It was built to replace an older-type fortification, which had probably been in the style of a tower house. The family resided both in the less comfortable but more formidable Clonmeen, and when it was completed, the more elegant Dromaneen. It has been described as representing "the last phase of castellation in the descent from a lofty moated keep to a simple manor house” which reaches 'more nearly to the modern domestic building, while Mallow Castle, also transitional, relates more nearly to the older style’.

The ruin at Dromaneen is a shell with high gables, massive chimneys and a couple of projecting machicolated parapets. Since most of the interior was timbered, floors and staircases are entirely gone. It is now in the care of the Board of Works and the remaining walls are in a reasonable condition. The walls seem, in places, to have utilised parts of the former keep. What may also have been part of the old castle of the O'Callaghans is very slightly to the east in the form of a gateway; beyond that are what appear to be the remains (very scanty) of a round tower. It is possible that the latter was for a more decorative purpose, such as a columbarium, but, since the thic bawn walls run south of the hill from here, that seems unlike] and the very scanty remnant of what appears to be a guard room makes it more unlikely still. The river is dramatically below the high escarpment on which Dromaneen was built. The present ruin was part of a larger complex, including an extensive bawn, of which there is now very little trace. The broad Tudor windows, and their nearness to the lower level are witness to its late period. The decoration in stone of carved doorways, traces of mullions, and remaining mantlepieces, is of high quality.

In 1605 Caher O'Callaghan took action against John Barry, former Sheriff of Cork; Brian MacOwen MacSwiney of Castlemore (Mourne) and Conogher (Conor) O'Callaghan, alleging that Conogher had taken forcible possession of Dromaneen, and that the others had aided him in a false claim. This, one presumes, would have been at a time when preparation for the new building was in progress. Caher was the illegitimate son of Conogher O'Callaghan who had drowned in 1578 without legal issue. At that time the chieftainship had been given to 'Conogher of Rock'. Caher was apparently a tricky young man - at the time of the rebellion of the Earls he had received guns and ammunition from the Earl of Essex in order to fight for Queen Elizabeth, but promptly used them on the other side. Caher was at first ejected from Dromaneen, but later obtained legal rights to it and Dromore. Later Conogher's son was drowned, and his daughter married Caher's son Donagh, thus reuniting the families. During the Confederate War no effort was made to defend it and it was apparently occupied by Sir Richard Herrill, and Tynte of Youghal after which period it was passed, with other O'Callaghan land to Sir Richard Kyrle. Kyrle sold to Richard Newman. The castle, or mansion, was apparently damaged in that time. The Newmans built Newberry House close by. In 1805 William Barry, who was the son of Edmund Barry of Leamlara, and a first cousin of Pierce Nagle of Annakissa, bought the tenants interest, and made extensive improvements to the castle and grounds including the making of hanging gardens. At that time the castle was a ruin, the walls alone being intact. William Barry restored the castle, he put in large windows, a modern stairway, built up the damaged pointed doorway, and put up the necessary farm buildings. On his death his son, Richard Nugent Barry, gave up a promising career in the law to continue his father's work. When he died, in 1877, he left a wife and a young family. His wife was unable to cope with the financial problems involved and by 1889 she had died and the family was evicted. In a letter of 1930 to Hannah Neward, Miss Annie Barry described how her brother, Willie, who also died young, defended the castle, which he had turned into a barricaded fortress, to protect against the unjust treatment that he and his mother and sisters were receiving. But after many privations, living day and night in the attic storey, the Sheriff and his men, with about nine hundred assistants, came down and compelled Willie Barry to give up his much loved ancestral home. Miss Annie Barry, a nurse, was reinstated in 1908, under the Evicted Tenants Act by the Estates Commissioners, and restored to the castle and 131 statute acres. Miss Barry also bought back the old furniture and plate. The castle was again renovated in 1909, by John O'Brien, a contractor in Killavullen and remained a dwelling until, 1940, when it was badly damaged by fire. Miss Barry died in the forties and the property, complete with ruined castle passed to a relative Jack Barry. When he died, in the fifties, the place was sold to the Forestry Department.

To approach the ruins travel on the Mallow-Killarney road for about two miles, passing the racecourse on your left and taking the turn to the left after that (signed for Sugar Factory/Dromahane) will take you over the river at Longfield's Bridge. Keep on this road to a four-way junction, and turn sharp right at the sign marked Glantane. In a short time you will come to a division to the right which takes you on to a rather delightful side road and up to a five-barred gate which is often locked. When you have permission to do so, walk the path uphill to the farmyard, when the castle will come into view to your right with Longueville framed over it on the hills beyond. The castle is at the very end of the field so you may be accompanied on your journey by some friendly bullocks. The view embraces the valley of the Blackwater on either side, and there is a tremendous prospect of the valley below.