McDermott’s Castle: A Historical Gem in County Roscommon, Ireland

Unraveling the Mysteries of McDermott’s Castle

C: SE Keenan, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nestled in the enchanting landscapes of County Roscommon, Ireland, McDermott’s Castle stands as a testament to centuries of history. This protected national monument, situated on Castle Island in Lough Key, holds a rich tapestry of tales dating back to the 13th century.

Ancient Foundations

The roots of this castle’s fortification can be traced to at least the 13th century. The tower house, possibly from the 16th century, witnessed significant transformations, with the present structure, including its crenellations, dating back to the 19th century.

Castle Island

C: Apiechorowska, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated on a mere 0.57 acres in Lough Key’s southeast corner, Castle Island provides the backdrop for McDermott’s Castle, adding an element of seclusion and mystique to its historical significance.

Mac Diarmada Dynasty

From the 10th to the 16th centuries, the ruling dynasty of Magh Luirg, the Mac Diarmadas, held sway over northeast Connacht. Their castle on Castle Island, dating from the 12th century, faced adversity when a lightning bolt sparked a destructive fire in 1184.

Tales of Siege and Surrender

1235 Conquest

Richard Mór de Burgh’s conquest in 1235 marked a turning point. The rebuilt castle faced a siege, with innovative tactics like raft-mounted catapults and fire ships. Cormac MacDermott, King of Moylurg, ultimately succumbed to the pressure.

Hospitality Obligations

A poetic account sheds light on a curious incident involving the Hag of Lough Key. Taking advantage of Cormac MacDermott’s hospitality, she stayed a year, leaving the McDermotts obligated to perpetual hospitality.

The McDermotts’ Loss

In 1586, the McDermotts lost Castle Island. Eochaidh Ó hÉoghusa lamented the castle’s emptiness, echoing the end of an era.

Architectural Revival

The early 19th century saw the castle in ruins until architect John Nash was commissioned to breathe new life into it as a summer house or folly.

Modern-Day Spotlight

In 2014, McDermott’s Castle found its way into popular culture through an episode of the sitcom Moone Boy. It portrayed the castle as the residence of the mysterious “Island Joe.”

Sale and Redemption

The castle’s intriguing tale continued in 2018 when it was put up for sale. Although listed at €80,000, it later returned to private Irish ownership, preserving its historical integrity.

Excavations of 2019

In 2019, archaeological excavations uncovered the island’s multi-period fortifications. Elements from the early medieval era, including a thick enclosure wall, revealed a rich history. Medieval buildings, high-status Gaelic artifacts, and featured research in Archaeology Magazine added to the island’s mystique.

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