Set on the banks of the Barrow river right beside Crom-a-boo Bridge, from which you can see Woodstock Castle, lies Whites Castle which is now a private residence. It was built-in 1417 by Sir John Talbot, Viceroy of Ireland, and was one of many such fortifications built to protect both the important bridge over the river Barrow but also the inhabitants of the Pale from the invading Gaelic tribes.
It is rumored to have got its name from James ‘White’, Earl of Desmond and Lord Lieutenant to the English king whom was repudiated to have slaughtered many of the O’Moores clan at Athy in 1420. In its time it has been a garrison for troops, a prison, a constabulary barracks and recently a private residence. But here may have been a structure or fortification at this site from as early as 1297 when David Fitz le feure was held in the ‘ward of Athy’.
Built into the wall on either side of the original entrance doorway are two sculptured slabs. The Fitzgerald’s were one of the most powerful houses in Ireland and ruled as the Earls of Kildare and Dukes of Leinster. They were landlords in Athy town and owned both Woodstock Castle and Whites Castle. On the right of the former doorway is the Earl of Kildare’s coat of arms as shown below, signifying the Earl’s ownership of the castle in former days.
Interestingly the coat of arms of the Dukes of Leinster derives from the legend that John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare, as a baby in Woodstock Castle, was trapped in a fire when a pet monkey rescued him. The Fitzgerald’s then adopted a monkey as their crest and occasionally use the additional motto Non immemor beneficii (Not forgetful of a helping hand).The slab on the left bears the date 1573, and the name Richard Cossen, Sovereign of Athy. It is believed to have been taken from a mill which once stood on the site of the present Castle Inn.
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