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.
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 😦