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The ruins of Leamaneh Castle
|Location||County Clare, Ireland|
|Built||c. 1480 tower house
c. 1650 mansion
Leamaneh Castle is a ruined castle located in the townland Leamaneh North, Parish of Kilnaboy, between the Villages of Corofin and Kilfenora in the region known as The Burren in County Clare, Ireland. It consists of a 15th-century tower house and a 17th-century mansion.
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" or léim an fheidh ("the deer's leap").:38 It is also sometimes spelled "Lemeneagh Castle".
The castle was originally a basic, 5-storied Irish tower house which was built circa 1480, probably by Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain, King of Thomond of the O'Brien family, one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland and a direct descendant of Brian Boru.
In 1543, Turlogh Donn's son, Murrough surrendered his title of King to Henry VIII and was created in 1st Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin. In 1550, Murrough gave Leamaneh to his third son, Donough. Donough was hanged in Limerick in 1582 as a rebel.
In 1639, Donough's grandson, Conor O'Brien married Máire ní Mahon (MacMahon). She became one of the most infamous women in Irish folklore who, due to her flaming red hair, was commonly known asMáire Rúa ("Red Mary"). She was 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 sometimes written O'Neillan or Neylan) 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.
Part of the tower house was demolished and replaced by a 4-storied mansion around 1648. Máire accompanied her husband on raids against English settlers. In 1651, he was mortally wounded fighting on the Royalists' side at Inchicronan (Crusheen). Reportedly, immediately after her husband's death, the widow, realizing that the punishment for his rebellion against the English would be the forfeiture of their property, drove to Limerick and offered to marry any Cromwellian officer who would take her hand.:40 (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.)
General Ludlow, who commanded the English Parliament forces at Inchicronan subsequently conducted counter-insurgency operations in the Burren, making his well-known statement about the area's barrenness. He went on to say about Leamaneh "and finding it indifferent strong, being built with stone and having a good wall about it, we put a garrison into it and furnished it with all things necessary".:40
Máire Rúa's third husband, Cornet John Cooper was a Cromwellian soldier and through this marriage she 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.
In the 1660s, Cromwellian troops were stationed on and off at Leamaneh. Máire Rúa's son, Donagh or Donough (later Sir Donat) found the tower and manor damaged but stayed there until 1685, when he moved the family seat from Leamaneh to the much larger Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-On-Fergus, south of Ennis.
Although Máire Rúa's children from her first marriage to Daniel O'Neylan (or O'Neillan) were raised Catholic, Sir Donagh/Donat was brought up as a Protestant and eventually became the "richest commoner in Ireland."
Leamaneh had various occupants in subsequent years. However, the house finally fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century. The barbican-like gates which adorned the entrance to the property were moved to Dromoland Castle in 1908 by Lord Inchiquin.
The most elegant of the fireplaces was relocated to the "Old Ground Hotel" in Ennis.
Today, the ruins include both the tower house and the four walls of the adjoining manor house with their mullioned and transomed windows. Unlike many of the castles in Ireland, Leamaneh is unmaintained. It is located on privately owned land and the area is used for farming. The castle stands on the corner of a three-way intersection in the region known as The Burren.
- O'Brien of Thomond: The O'Briens in Irish History 1500-1865, Ivar O'Brien, Phillmore & Company, January 1986 ISBN 0-85033-582-5