From Castlebar - County Mayo -
Castle at Lough Lannagh
By Brian Hoban
28, Jun 2011 - 21:59
The following article by Eamonn Bourke , of De Burca Rare Books, author of "Burke People and Places " entitled "An Old and Formerly Fortified Building" was published in Castlebar parish Magazine some years ago.
In a recent email from Eamonn this is the most accurate information on this castle available at the time of publication and cannot be improved on since. Eamonn would be seen internationally as an authority on the history of the De Burcas.
"An Old and Formerly Fortified Building"
Such was the description given by Thomas Lacy during his tour of the west in the summer of 1854 when he visited the Castlebar area to the old castle on the shores of Lough Lannagh.
The building in question was Bourke Castle, and the latter part of his description is incorrect as this castle was never completed or lived in. The ivy covered ruins of the keep can still be seen adjacent to the North West shore of Lough Lannagh, on the outskirts of Castlebar.
The castle was built about 1580 by a son of Edmond Bourke of Castlebar. This Edmond, as Tarist, should have succeeded to the Chieftaincy of the Mayo Bourkes with the title of the "Mac William Iochtar", on the death in September 1585 of Richard MacOliver Bourke.
However the Governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham had different ideas and he set up Sir Shane Bourke's nephew William as Chief. One reason for Bingham's choice was that William Bourke was thought to be more dependable from the crowns point of view.
The result was the Bourkes of Castlebar, Carra and Kilmaine, the Owles with their blood relations: the Gibbons', Jennings', MacWalters and MacNicholas' with their allies the Joyces, MacDonalds' and O Malleys went into rebellion.
The outcome was disastrous for the Mayo Bourke's and their allies. Edmond of Castlebar, the Senior was captured and hanged- even though he was an old man, over eighty years of age, had only one leg and had to be carried to the scaffold. Most other leaders met with a similar fate, Edmonds Estate was confiscated and passed to the crown. His sons continued their resistance- they were David na gCapall, Oliver, Walter, William, Edmund, and Richard who was known as demon of the reaping hook or Devils Hook. They demanded their father's Estate back, but to no avail. So they joined a band of Scot Mercenaries who came to Ulster, and were nearing Lough Erne.
Bingham, with Sir Thomas L'Estrange, Mr Barkley and Ulick Bourke 3rd Earl of Clanrickard (a cousin of the Mayo Bourkes) met the Bourkes and the Scots in a field near Ardnaree, where the latter were completely and utterly defeated. Oliver and Edmund Bourke along with 1500 Scots men, women and children were slain or drowned in the River Moy.
The surviving sons of Edmund fled into the Low Countries fighting against the English under a Captain Stanley who had deserted the British Army. This would account for the castle never being completed.
Three years later in 1589, Sir Richard Bingham's brother, Captain John, direct ancestor of the present day missing Lord Lucan, bought Edmond's Estate for 100 cows and the rent of£5 per annum, unpaid since 1586, from the Government.
Local legend has it that the beautiful Bourke ladies lived in this castle and that there is an underground passage going from the castle to the other side of the lake. Both can be discounted although there is a certain amount of truth in the former.
There were in fact three beautiful ladies but almost 150 years later. They were granddaughters of Theobald Bourke, 6th Viscount of mayo, by his daughter Bridget who was married to Barnaby Gunning Esq. of Castle Coote, Co. Roscommon in 1731; they were Maria, Elizabeth and Catherine.
It can be safely concluded that these eminent ladies never lived in an unfinished castle, taking into consideration the fact that they were born and reared in Co. Roscommon, 50 miles away.
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