The Legacy of Máire Rúa

The last photograph featured below shows the familiar exterior view of Leamaneh Castle, County Clare which originally consisted of a plain five-storey tower house (the portion to the right). This was built around 1480 by Turlogh O’Brien, King of Thomond and is said to derive its name from the Irish ‘Leim an eich’ (The horse’s Leap). In 1543, Turlogh O’Brien’s son, Murrough, surrendered the castle and pledged loyalty to the English crown; as a result he was subsequently created first Earl of Thomond and Baron Inchiquin. In 1648, his descendant Conor O’Brien extended the tower with the addition of a four-storey manor house following his marriage to Máire ní Mahon who on account of her flaming red hair, was commonly known as Máire Rúa (Red Mary).

Many legends are told of Máire Rúa, most of them apocryphal (such as that which proposes she had twenty-five husbands, after which she was sealed into a hollow tree and left to die). However it is true that when Conor O’Brien was killed by an English soldier, she married a Cromwellian officer, thereby ensuring the family estates were preserved for her son, Sir Donough O’Brien. He was the last of the family to live at Leamaneh, moving instead to live at the larger and more commodious Dromoland Castle. Early in the last century Sir Donough’s descendant, Lucius William O’Brien, 15th Baron Inchiquin organised for the stone gateway (hitherto marking the entrance to Leamaneh) to be removed and re-erected in the grounds of Dromoland where it still remains. Around the same time a stone chimneypiece from the castle was also taken out and installed in the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis where it likewise continues to stand.


9 comments on “The Legacy of Máire Rúa

  1. A collection in Clare County Library, I believe by T.J. Westropp shows the gables as semi circular with finials in the manner of Portumna. Lovely photos.

  2. Patrick Kell,upy says:

    Dear Irish aesthete, Having been following with interest your Instagram and blog for the last few months , when I came across these old photographs of Castle Kelly or Aghrane Castle I thought that I would forward them on to you. I suspect they were taken when the property was sold by the Bagot family around the year 1904. I understand that the house was demolished in the 1920’s. The interior image with the decorated ceiling must have been taken from the ancient part of the Castle, I wonder if you have any idea what it depicts? Yours Patrick Kelly

    Sent from my iPad

    > > > >

  3. Cathal says:

    Hi my names cathal I hagan I am a great great great great great great great grandson of Maire Rua mc Mahon of lemenagh castle she didn’t die that way in her last luxturies days in Dromoland Castle she and other Dromoland Gentry rode from Dromoland to cratloe woods on a hunt in her old age she was still fierce and rode ahead into the forest following the hunting dogs until she was out of sight. She didn’t see a forked branched stock out and caught her throat in it painfully hanging herself

    On behalf of the family we would like you to write the real ending

    Thank you

    • Balor O'Brien says:

      In fairness, after 9 generations you aren’t the only relation of hers. At least half of the county can make a similar claim. What you should do is attach some kind of evidence to this as it absolutely could be true. But you being a relative or not is completely inconsequential and ridiculous to mention. If everyone did that we would all walk around as the descendants of kings, queens, popes, dictators, heroes, etc etc.

  4. David Curtis says:

    Circumstantial evidence suggests that Kate Cooper of Clonmel (my great grandmother) descended from Captain John Cooper and Maire Rua, and their son Henry Cooper. Documentary evidence eliminates other contemporary Cooper families, most notably Coopers of Markree Castle. Records of Henry Cooper’s immediate descendants are not available, probably because of church burnings along with parish records. Kate Cooper’s ancestors moved south via Castlecomer to Tipperary. I would be interested to hear from anyone who may have corroborative evidence of descendants of Henry Cooper, son of Maire Rua and John Cooper.

    • Terese says:

      We attended a reunion in Canada w Coopers from Ireland. They had a chart displayed which showed the lineage through John Cooper of Cromwell.
      Pierce Cooper (of Tipperary, I think) has genealogy documented on Ancestry.

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