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.
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