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The ruins of Leamaneh Castle
|Location||County Clare, Ireland|
The castle was originally a basic, multi-storied Irish tower house which was built circa 1480, probably by Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain, King of Thomond, one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland and a direct descendant of Brian Boru. The castle's name "Leamaneh" is believed to be derived from the Irish "léim an éich" which, when translated into English means "the horse's leap".
The tower was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1548 AD by Turlogh Donn's son, Murrough, who was subsequently created 1st Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin (the O'Briens having surrendered their Royal status to the English Crown).
The manor house was erected in 1648 by Conor O'Brien and his wife, Máire ní Mahon, one of the most infamous women in Irish folklore who, due to her flaming red hair, was commonly known as "Máire Rúa" (Red Mary). Conor, was another member of the large O'Brien family which had ruled much of Clare for several hundred years. She born in 1615 or 1616. Her father was Sir Torlach Rúa MacMahon, Lord of Clonderlaw and her mother was Lady Mary O'Brien, daughter of the third Earl of Thomond. Her first husband, Daniel O'Neylan (also written O'Neillan) of Dysert O'Dea Castle in north Clare died young and upon his death, she gained control of his substantial estate and a £1,000 fortune. This wealth enabled her and Conor to build a more comfortable mansion on to the tower house. It was, without doubt, Clare's most magnificent seventeenth-century house. The multi-gabled manor house was very modern for its time.
In 1651 Conor was killed in battle against the Cromwellians. His widow realized that the punishment for his rebellion against the English would be the forfeiture of their property. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to retain her lands and estates, she offered to marry any Cromwellian officer who would take her hand. (This is refuted in other versions of the story which state that Máire Rúa didn't marry until 1653, two years after Conor's death.)
Her third husband, Cornet John Cooper was a Cromwellian soldier and through this marriage Máire Rúa successfully retained her estates. Cooper left the army and amassed some wealth through land and property speculation. However, he later ran into financial difficulty and, as a result, Leamaneh was mortgaged.
Máire Rúa's son, Donagh (later Sir Donagh) was the last of the O'Brien's to occupy the house. He subsequently moved the family seat from Leamaneh to the much larger Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-On-Fergus, south of Ennis where his mother spent her final years. Although Máire Rúa's children from her first marriage to Daniel O'Neylan (or O'Neillan) were raised Catholic, he was brought up as a Protestant and eventually became the "richest commoner in Ireland."
The stately gates which adorned the entrance to the property were moved to Dromoland Castle in 1902 and the most elegant of the fireplaces was relocated to the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. Leamaneh had various occupants in subsequent years. However, the house finally fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century.
Today, the ruins include both the tower house and the four walls of the adjoining manor house with their mullioned windows. Unlike many of the castles in Ireland, Leamaneh is unmaintained and though it is walled off there is no true visitors center and no price for "entry." The castle stands on the corner of a three-way intersection in what is known as The Burren in western Ireland.
- O'Brien of Thomond: The O'Briens in Irish History 1500-1865, Ivar O'Brien, Phillmore & Company, January 1986 ISBN 0-85033-582-5