Carrick Castle, Kildare, Ireland

Carrick Castle, also known as Carrick-oris Castle is a 13th century Tower House near Kinnegad in Co. Kildare. In 1306 it was the scene of one of the most infamous murders in Irish Medieval History, the story is truly a chilling one.

For many centuries this area covering eastern Offaly (now part of Kildare) had been under the Kingship of the O’Conor Faly Clan, who were descendants of the Uí Failge. The Uí Failge were the Kings of eastern Offaly and at times had been the Kings of Leinster, however during the Norman invasion of the 1170s they had been pushed further west, past modern day Tullamore. Their lands were granted by Strongbow to Robert de Bermingham, the leader of the expedition. In 1289 Piers Mac Feorais (Bermingham), Baron of Tothemoy (north-east Offaly) and a descendant of Robert de Bermingham, had been appointed by the King to guard the frontier of Leinster from Rathangan to Tothemoy.

During the intervening  these years the O’Conor Faly clan had regrouped, strengthened and by the late 13th century had started to make incursions into Anglo-Norman owned territory, one such spectacular raid in 1294 saw them capture Kildare Castle. Due to the nature of their relationship the O’Conor Faly Clan and Piers Mac Feorais were intermittently at battle over land, however in 1306 a truce was called. It appears as if Piers Mac Feorais had agreed, in a gesture which could have been seen as a peace-offering, to act as godfather to the nephew of Murtough who was related to the O’Conor Faly clan. On the feast of the Holy Trinity (usually at the end of May) Murtough, his brother and all the O’Conor Faly chiefs attended a baptismal mass. After the mass the whole party were to have a reception in the castle, however things took a gruesome turn when de Bermingham’s men turned on their guests. The Annals of the Four Masters record the event,
“O’Conor Faly (Murtough), Maelmora, his kinsman, and Calvagh O’Conor, with twenty-nine of the chiefs of his people, were slain by Sir Pierce Mac Feorais Bermingham in Mac Feorais’s own castle, by means of treachery and deceit.”
All 32 men were said to have been decapitated and the Annals of Innisfallen record the fate of the young boy,
‘Masir, the little child who was a son of the latter, and whom Piers himself had sponsored at confirmation, was thrown over [the battlements of] the castle, and it was thus it died.’

In a telling account of the times the ‘Calender of Justiciary Rolls of Ireland’ records that Bermingham and his accomplices appeared before the Royal Justiciar’s Court in Naas. They requested payment from the Royal treasury for beheading of ‘felons’, and were granted a £23 reward!

The remains of Carrick Castle are scant with only two outer walls remaining, there is speculation that the majority of what remains dates from a later 16th century tower house , however this is unconfirmed.
When standing in the shadow of this crumbling fortification I couldn’t help but stare at the outlines of the fireplaces and wonder were they the ones that illuminated the backdrop to one of the most gruesome betrayals in Irish History.

GPS: 53.3781, -7.0384

13 thoughts on “Carrick Castle, Kildare, Ireland

  1. That’s quite a chilling piece of history – I’m like you, I try to imagine the scene playing out where it actually happened when I go to old ruins like this – sometimes your imagination can be extremely vivid.

  2. You’re right, that is a gruesome tale! Especially sad about the poor baby. That’s an intriguing thought about the fireplaces – I would imagine that this castle has quite an atmosphere about it.

  3. Wow. So interesting. I lived just down the hill from Carrick Castle, we played and climbed in the ruins as kids…. I never knew the history. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the comment Jenny and sorry for the slow reply, was away in Belgium 🙂 Its a beautiful structure, its sad that the repair work/renovation seems to have stalled due to lack of funding :/ Such a beautiful castle and the lodge attached to it is just superb. A very magical place to spend yer childhood 🙂

  4. Hi Ed, I think in you reply to Jenny, you may be confusing Carrick Castle, which does not have a lodge attached, with Grange Castle 2kms down the hill from Carrick Castle. The lodge at Grange is indeed superb.

  5. I was there about this time last year. Nothing is happening at all, and one of the leaded windows to the tower had been kicked in (difficult enough for anyone to climb to, never mind kick in) The lodge is in a rapid state of decay, but still easy enough to rescue before it gets too advanced, and the tower despite the window, is in great condition.

  6. I’d love to do the same myself. I was in contact with the owners several years ago, inquiring if they would be interested in selling. It is still owned by the Tyrrell family and is held in trust, The tower house itself is owned by the Office of public works, and therein lies a complication, It would have to be open to the public for certain periods each year, The Office of public works may consider it reverting back to private hands. The lodge and some 6 acres are in the Tyrrell trust.

  7. When i made the inquiry, I was told that it wouldn’t be sold as members of the family were against the idea. I did know an aunt of the person I was talking to about it, she told me it was a shame and was surprised at the response, as it was falling to ruins. She herself, and other family members it seems would prefer it to be sold, and restored/lived in. Sadly she has since passed.

    A later phone call resulted in a price being suggested a 7 figure sum at the time during the celtic tiger madness, which of course was widely over estimated and not possible for me, or very many others to even consider. It just wouldn’t have sold at that price, no matter how historic etc. The separate ownership of the tower will put many people off, as the only access to the tower is from the lodge, so anyone wanting to see it, would be required to ask permission to pass through private property i.e. the lands firstly, and secondly permission enter the lodge to do so.

    • it does seem it would be an enduring issue in regards to access, such a pity as I can’t see any future for it otherwise. Probably still be standing idle 50 years from now just getting more dilapidated and vandalised. There just seems to be little to encourage people to restore these places, miles of red tape and insane costs just lead to inertia. I’ve been to well over one hundred gatelodges and labourer cottages (of the old manor houses) and to see so many just decay is a sin, I just want one to renovate!

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