Rattin Castle was built in the late 15th or early 16th century to defend the Anglo-Norman territories once owned by Hugh de Lacy but given into the possession of Sir John D’Arcy and his family upon his appointment to Chamberlain and Steward of the household of King Edward III and Chief Justice. Though the history of the castle is nebulous it is known that during the 1640s a descendant of John D’Arcys, a Nicholas D’Arcy, had to forfeit the castle and his estate during the Confederate Wars. It was believed for many years that the castle was a lot bigger than it is now, folklore tells us of its 500 rooms and several towers however there is probably no truth to that. Recent study in the early part of the 21st century has shown that the tower-house was at one stage surrounded by a substantial bawn wall and a possible gatehouse leading to the castle.
Rattin castle has been ruinous since the 18th century however this has not stopped a large number of folk tales building up around it. As always I preface these folktales with the caveat that they are not historically proven, but why I do feel they are important is to illustrate the awe and mystery these wonderful places still held to our forebears many centuries after the lifetime of the castle itself. Many of these tales are archetypal in nature and are repeated again and again in Irish History. I have transcribed some of the Duchas School’s Collection of 1938’s records and below is some of the more interesting stories ascribed to the castle.
“Rattin Castle was built by the Danes and when it was in full repair there were five hundred bedrooms in it and twenty horse stables outside and there was a lake running from the castle to Monganstown but the lake is not there now but it can easily be seen that it was because the place is covered with rushes…….There was a crock of gold hid in the castle. Two men arranged to go in search of it and they had guns with them. When they were entering the castle they noticed a raven flying out and one of them shot it. They went in then and raised the stone that hid the gold and they found nothing but a crock of snail boxes. It is said that if they did not shoot the raven they would have got the gold.”
Informant: M.Hughes of Rattin, Westmeath. Collector: Kathleen Mc Closkey,
“Rattin – about three miles from Coralstown school was once the residence of the Darcy family. In the days of Cromwell all their property was confiscated and the family scattered far and wide. Many weird stories are connected with Rattin Castle. The ghost of Rattin Castle, in the form of a black dog, always makes his appearance before the death of any member of the family. The story runs thus about four centuries ago when the Darcy held sway in that part of West Meath. A quarrel arose between two brothers over dividing the property for they were large land owners and a Catholic family. Rattin, Clonfad, Hightown or Ballyoughter, its old name, Coralstown, Lisnabin and Grangebeg and the Castle near Raharney all belonged to this noted family. Old Darcy died suddenly without settling the affairs of his estate and the eldest son made claim to all the property. A bitter feud arose between the second son and himself. Noted neighbouring clans tried their utmost to settle the dispute. However the two brothers agreed to settle the issue with a duel. Seconds were appointed and one fine morning in May the two brothers faced each other with swords both being great swords-men. The contest lasted a good while until the younger brother fell down exhausted from wounds and loss of blood. He was taken back to Rattin Castle and died in the course of a few days. The eldest survived and got all the estate but he was never a popular man with the neighbouring clans who considered him responsible for his brother’s death through greed for property. The result was that some years after he committed suicide in the castle of Hightown or Ballyoughter. The Castle has long since disappeared and his ghost is known to haunt that locality even to the present day and the valley of the black dog between the Castle of Rattin and Hightown was often spoken of by the old people in that locality. Both castles are said to be connected by an underground passage.”
Informant: Thomas Cleary of Ballinla, Westmeath. Collector: Brendan Cleary,
And lastly the obligatory Ghost Tale!
“The last resident of Rattin Castle was Gerald Darcy and Lady Margret his daughter, he had no son and he did not want to let the name die out so he arranged a marriage between his nephew of the same name and his daughter. It was customary for the gentry at that time to go to the holy land so he went and was to return in a year to get married. he went Christmas Eve and was to return in a year Christmas Eve. When Christmas Eve came round again a lot of friends were fathered at the castle waiting for him coming home. Lady Margret went up the old road to meet him, she met him as she thought coming on horse-back. He did not recognise her and went past her, she hurried back and asked the servants if he came in but no one saw him. News was slow to travel at that time so after a few months news came that he was killed in the Holy Land on the day that he was to come home. She was very much annoyed and she entered a convent. When her father died he was buried in Killucan and there is a tombstone erected to his memory, according to history there were seven castles and only one now remains in ruins. It is about 300 years since it was inhabited.”
Informant: Mrs Glynn of Baltiger, Meath . Collector: Unnamed
GPS: 53.44402, -7.17141