23. Kanturk Castle

It needs to be said at the outset that this is not the original castle of Kanturk which was taken by Gerald Earl of Kildare in 1510 and visited by the Chief Justice Sir William Pelham seventy years later. Rather, it is the manor house of Dermot McDonagh McCarthy, Lord of Duhallow. It is in the townland of Paal East.

Natives of Kanturk call this building the ‘Old Court’, for what reason conjecture may only answer, as it must for many facets of this interesting ruin, one of a group of six stylistically similar structures in Ireland. It is a mixture of native tower-house and Tudor manor house, marking a transition in building styles influenced by more settled times. Nevertheless, it clearly had a strong security purpose, evidenced by a number of gunholes.

Its period of construction remains uncertain, though Maurice Craig dates its renaissance west door to pre-1609. The size, shape and variety of its doors, windows and fireplaces, its limestone string courses, mullions and corbels, all whet the appetite of anybody interested in architecture.

We may speculate what Kanturk Castle might be like if finished, but it is the general opinion that the Old Court was never completed or inhabited. The vacuum in our historic knowledge about the structure has been filled by much lore and romantic legend.

According to legend, Mc Donagh was very angry when he heard that the Privy Council in England would not allow him to complete the building . He then smashed the blue ceramic tiles for the roof and threw them in the nearby stream. The stream became blue and the area has since been called Bluepool.

Another legend says that the seven stone masons working on the castle were called John, giving the castle the name ‘Carraig Na Seáin Saor ‘ meaning The Rock of John the Mason.