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Castles of Ireland
Castle Salem, Co. Cork

Castle Salem Co. Cork Stones speak a language of their own, and they must be preserved so as to never fall into silence. These poignant words were uttered by a German on a recent visit to the remarkable 15th century Castle Salem in Rosscarbery, West Cork, capturing most eloquently the sentiments of the castle's present proprietor, Margaret Daly.

The beautiful Castle Salem, originally known as Benduff Castle, was built by the Earl of Demond's daughter Catherine in 1470. It passed on to Carbery's ruling family on Catherine's marriage to the McCarthy Reagh. After the rebellion of 1641, the McCarthys were dispossessed and the castle fell into the hands of a Quaker by the name of Apollo Morris.

Morris' son William changed the castle's name from Benduff to Salem. The Quakers were a peace-loving group of people and the word Salem originates from the Hebrew word Shalom, which means peace.

In 1682, Fortunatus Morris, William's eldest son, built an L-shaped farmhouse, at right angles to and connected with the castle. The castle itself must be entered through the house and this is a unique design.

The castle came into Daly hands over a century ago. Patrick Daly, the Grandfather of Margaret's husband Michael, originally bought the castle, house, and adjoining fields, which he farmed with his wife and 14 children. Patrick's son Cornelius looked after the farm and castle with his wife from 1922 up until 1960 when Michael and Margaret finally took over.

The castle is one of the best preserved in Ireland. It is 70 feet high and its walls are 11 feet in width. There is a spiral stone staircase and privy, with a channel connecting to the river which surrounds the castle, on each floor in the castle. Moss holes, used before the modern convenience of toilet paper, are also to be seen in each privy.

Castle Salem is a rich piece of our Irish heritage and an unique tourist attraction. However, despite avoiding destruction by Cromwellian forces almost 400 years ago, its classic vaulted roof is now fighting a losing battle with the destructive forces of nature. Trees and their roots have grown on and weakened the roof which is now leaking and damaging the castle's interior.

As Castle Salem is privately owned, the Dalys do not receive state funding to preserve this historic monument. Therefore, to maintain this beautiful castle for future generations help from the public is required. The roof needs to be cleaned and re-slated. As part of the Millennium Project plans have been made to install new floors and repair the castle walls.

To aid the Dalys in their efforts to keep alive a significant part of our Irish heritage, a private, non-profit organisation called "The Castle Salem Restoration Fund" has been set up. The organisation is fully endorsed by the Cork Civic Trust and all those interested in saving the castle roof and interior for posterity are encouraged to support the Fund. Donations can be made to above fund which is open in AIB bank, Clonakilty, County Cork, or addressed to Margaret Daly, Fund Raising Director, Castle Salem, Rosscarbery, West Cork.

Shane's Castle, Co. Antrim

Castle Freke Co. Cork Shane's Castle, near Randalstown, on Lough Neagh, County Antrim, was named after the grandfather of Brian O'Neill, whose name was Shane McBrien O'Neill.

A passage about 100 yeards in length ran underground from the Castle to the adjacent graveyard, and was the servants entrance. Also great vaults are built underground and raised the addition to the level of Lough Neagh and gave the building better frontage. There is an old safe and a curious figure-head, said to be much older than the ruins which contain it. The tradition states that when it falls so too shall be the end of the family of O'Neill.

In 1598 Sir Hugh O'Neill had resided at Shanes Castle, and in 1607 James I, settled the estate upon the descendants of Shane McBrian O'Neill.

In 1730 and being third in line to inherit, Hugh took his leave from Ireland forever, and raised his seven sons and one daughter in America, where many thousands of descendants live today.

His brother who came into possesion of the Castle and its holdings in 1716 had earlier made his way in life by being a wool trader, rather than a Lord. He in fact displayed his wool cards predominatly in the Castle Hall after inheriting to show he was not ashamed to be a tradesman. In 1722 he built the tomb for O'Neill dead.

The Burial Chamber is described as being built in 1722 by "French" John O'Neill, brother of Hugh O'Neill/O'Neall and adjoins the graveyard. It bears this inscription, "This vault was built by Shane McBrien McPhelim McShane McBrian McPhelim O'Neill, Esq. in the year 1722 for a burial place to himself and family of Clanaboy." The coffins were removed to the family vault at Drummaul Parish Church in the 1850's.

It goes in legendery olden times an O'Neill assisted McQuillan in a raid, and found a white heifer whose horns were tangled in a tree with thorns. O'Neill disregarded the fairies tale of a single thorn tree being sacred and let the cow go, being the only one to help the doomed cow. When O'Neill returned home he found his daughter Kathleen had been carried away by the wee folk all the way to the bottom of the Lough. The wee folk allowed her to return and tell him that she was safe, but made her promise that whenever misfortune visited the family she must appear and be heard to wail. Her bedroom window was pointed out to visitors and her chamber maid said she could see her impression on her bed.

Swords Castle Co. Dublin

Swords Castle Co. Dublin Swords Castle is standing in the centre of the north county Dublin town since 1200 A.D. It was built by the first Norman Archbishop of Dublin, John Comyn who suceeded St Laurence O Toole as Archbishop in 1180 A.D. It was built as a summer palace for Archbishop Comyn.The Archbishop was also a Norman Baron who had his own constable resident in the castle. The constable was empowered to hold court and even to pass the death sentence. For this purpose he had a gallows outside the town on the Brackenstown Road. The castle has been a ruin since 1324 A.D. and is currently being restored for the purposes of a heritage centre.