Killorglin's Castle Conway

Around the year 1215, a Norman named Maurice FitzThomas built a castle in Killorglin. This was the first castle constructed in the area and was situated where Kingston's Bar/The Castle now stands. Locally it became known as 'Killorglin Castle' and from its construction to its destruction (caused by various attacks and fires), its rebuilding and demolition, the castle stood as a symbol of power for over 600 years. The first title of the Earl of Desmond was created in 1329 and Killorglin Castle although not a primary seat of power for the Earls, was used as a main defence, especially to any enemy who would dare travel upriver. Eventually the Earls became as Irish as the Irish themselves and when the Desmond Rebellion ended in failure, Killorglin Castle and all its lands were confiscated and became the property of the throne. For those loyal to Elizabeth I, lands and estates were granted and Captain Jenkin Conway along with Sir William Herbert, Sir Edward Denny and Robert Denny were to benefit. In 1587 Elizabeth I granted Jenkin Conway over 5000 acres of land along with the seigniory of Killorglin (a title which stayed synonymous with the castle up until the nineteenth century). Conway built his castle on the ruins of the earlier Norman castle and his title was confirmed in 1592. The castle itself is said to have been 44 feet long and 30 feet high with a bawn or enclosure of 320 feet in circumference. However by 1682, a visitor noted that the castle was in ruins. The Blennerhassett Family became the custodians of the land and title and built a residence with massive walls and chimmeys on the foundations of those ruins. This fine house with its beautiful terraced gardens which went all the way down to the Laune, was a feature of eighteenth century Killorglin. Thomas Mullins bought Castle Conway in 1795, though he resided in Dingle. As a result of this, Castle Conway deteriorated further as Mullins had no use for it and the last known occupant was Fr Luony Parish Priest who died in 1844. Though the castle is represented in the O.S Map of 1842, by the time the next O.S Map survey was produced in 1894, the castle is gone. There is a little known fact about Puck Fair; up until 1871, the goat was elevated to the top of Castle Conway each year. This took place before the castles demolition. After demolition, the stone from the castle walls was used over time to build other houses in Killorglin.


 Photograph of Lower Bridge St. c1885-1890. Note the rubble and stone to the left of the picture where Castle Conway once stood.  (Photograph courtesy of the Lawrence Collection) THE SECRET VAULT; Castle Conway had its own private chapel. Under this chapel lay a family vault. The first to be buried within this vault was Jenkin Conway in 1614 along with his wife and family. Later the vault was used by the Blennerhassett family in which John 'Blackjack' Blennerhassett (1665-1738) erected a marble monument in memory of this wife Elizabeth Cross (1669-1732) and others of their family. The Monument is said to have read; HERE LIES ELIZABETH DEAREST WIFE OF JOHN BLENNERHASSETT GENTLEMAN; PIOUS, SOBER, CHASTE, KIND, MISSED BY MANY; DIED 22ND OF MARCH 1732; IN HER 63RD YEAR. HER GRIEVING HUSBAND BURIED HER. The Chapel, its vault and monument are now lost. However many years ago, contractors digging a foundation to a house in the general area of the Castle Conway grounds uncovered an opening that may have been a vault or tomb. They closed up the opening and continued their construction.