Maigh Reichead Castle

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The crumbling ruins of Maigh Reichead Castle have fascinated me for many years. As you travel the M7 towards Portlaoise you will notice the ruins of this once fine castle rising up over the horizon. After passing it by on numerous times I eventually took the time to seek it out. And I am sure glad that I did. It actually resides in someone’s back garden now. So after a knock on the door and a quick hello, the lady of the house gave me permission to go onto her lands to have a look around. I didn’t stay too long, as I unfortunately attracted the interest of a couple of horses grazing on the land, one of whom seemed to like the idea of nibbling on my camera bag for some reason. Whilst there is very little mention of the castle to be found,  Maigh Reichead or Morett as it is commonly known these days has a history going back thousands of years.  The earliest mention I could find off Morett is in the Annals of the Four Masters, which states that the woodlands of Maigh Reichead had been cleared during the reign of Irial Fáid, (1681–1671 BC). Irial was I guess an ancestor of mine as my family are said to be descendants of his father Érimón, one of the early Milesian High Kings of Ireland. As the story goes Irial followed in his father’s footsteps to become King. Érimón killed his brother at the battle of Airgetros before becoming sole Ard Ri. And Irial followed suit by killing three of his cousins, Ér, Orba, and Ferón the sons of Éber Finn in the Battle of Cul Martha. It is said that this was in revenge for their killing of his brothers Luigne and Laigne, although it may have had more to do with leaving him with no opposition to the throne of Ireland. During his reign he was said to have cleared twelve of Irelands great plains, built several royal forts and fought four battles against the Fomorian’s whom were still lurking around Ireland up into the times of Cú Chulainn.  This Castle was also referred to as Moret Castle in Groses’s Antiquities of Ireland. Believed to have been built around 1580Ad by a Lord Mortimer. It consisted of a rectangular tower house, built on a rock outcrop and constructed from rubble limestone. Rising up too four storeys high with NE, SE and SW corners are barely there, but most of the connecting walls have fallen. I could not see any evidence of a murder hole, garderobe or doorway, but considering its current state, this is no surprise. There is a large chimney stack in the remaining cable with a number of fireplaces at different levels.

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Morett soon passed into the hands of the Geraldine Dynasty and by 1585 the Earl of Kildare had left Morett and almost 3000 acres of land to his son Gerald Fitz Gerald. Morett remained in Fitzgerald hands until 1641 when their lands were seized by the Crown, although by 1660 Morett was returned to a Robert Fitz Gerald. One terrible story associated with Morett concerned the local Gaelic clan of O’Kelly. As the story goes the Earl of Kildare came to stay with the O’Kelly’s and was made sponsor too their new-born child. On the day of the child’s baptism, both the child and mother were found dead in their bed. After the funeral The Earl invited the grieving chieftain to come stay with him at Kilkea Castle where he came to an untimely end and was beheaded. However despite the account it would seem that the wrong Gerald Fitzgerald was blamed. It was actually Gerald of Morett that was responsible for the deaths of the O’Kelly’s. He was married to one of John (The Pike) Bowen’s daughters of Ballyadams Castle. John was brutal man, known for carrying a pike wherever he went, and a sworn enemy of the native O’Kelly and O’ Moore’s. However for his treachery Gerald was killed by the O’ Moore’s and they burnt Morett to the ground. During the confederate wars in Ireland many Châtelaine were said to have taken up arms to defend their homes. One such occurrence involved Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Whom told that her husband would be hung if she did not surrender? Her response was not what you would expect. Calling their bluff, she responded that ‘Lady Fitzgerald may get another husband, but she would never get another castle’. And so her poor husband was hung, but she held on to the family home. The Castle is now in a sad state and unlikely to ever be repaired. Just another one of our fine pieces of heritage heading for the historic scrap heap 😦

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Castles, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Maigh Reichead Castle

  1. Chas Spain says:

    Great history Ed – what names! Really gives the photos an extra bit of atmosphere

  2. beetleypete says:

    As always, the sinister images reflect the dark times mentioned in the story. Good stuff, Ed, and that horse does look hungry!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Rajiv says:

    Brilliant stuff, man!

  4. jfwknifton says:

    Sorry, I hadn’t realised that you were a descendant of the High Kings of Ireland. If you have a shop that would be great for business. It would get you on local TV at least once.

  5. At least he/she was a friendly horse. Good horses like to hang out and have fun… oh, and the castle is cool too!

  6. John says:

    Great lineage you have! It seems sad that these wondrous buildings are left to crumble but realistically, who will pay for the reconstruction? Looking at the photo I can imagine what it could have been in it’s day.

  7. A castle guarded by horses. There’s a first. Great pics and history, Ed.

  8. I’m continually amazed how these ruins are hanging out in people’s backyards! It’s sad that these antiquities are slowly crumbling into oblivion. Good thing you are capturing and documenting so many of them. Very funny pic of the horse, too! You captured his over-friendly personality. 🙂

  9. colonialist says:

    What a pity so little remains – but you did well with what is left. Wow, they were a violent lot. I like the lady’s logic. They probably would have bumped him off anyway.

  10. Ali Isaac says:

    What an amazing place, Ed, it looks just like some kind of dark film set, so atmospheric and evocative. I know there’s not much of it left, but you can still get a good sense of its presence in the landscape, and how it might have looked. And what a history to go with it. I ADORE that picture of the horse with the castle in the background… fabulous and quirky! 😁

  11. belshade says:

    Great shots – you have mastered the art of portraying the mood of ruins. I had a thought looking at your post – Why are most of the great structures of the past dedicated to war or religion? Is there a connection? Is today’s world doing any better? Is it wealth symbols today? (Think I need something to eat . Too much philosophy is bad for you).

    • Lol, thanks a mill Des, I never thought of it that way, I guess you are quite right. Mankind seems to have an unhealthy passion for money and power, or as you put it war and religion. I don’t think we have changed much over the years, just found better ways of doing it. Too much of anything can be bad for you, even coffee, which I am in dire need of right now 😁

  12. Hello
    I’m french and like very very much ruins of old castels.
    In France I’ve visited last year a ruin od an old castel and for the history i Think he was in the very very big property of an (ancien >>> in french) races horses trainer. But int the old past I think Jeanne d’Arc is passed here.
    https://yoshimiparis.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/1-088365-la-maison-de-marcel/

  13. Great pictures as ever Ed but my god you tell a grim story!
    They were never happier than when they were murdering and beheading each other back in the old days, were they?!!!

  14. love the haunted images with this tale!!

  15. PS I like that lady’s logic!! lol

  16. chattykerry says:

    I loved this one with the sad tale of the wrong person being killed. Great shot of the horse.

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