Brief Lives

Once prominent in the East Muskerry region of County Cork, the Long family is believed to be descended from a branch of the Ui Eachach. By the late Mediaeval period, their base was at Canovee, otherwise called Cannaway, and often referred to as an island since so much of the area is surrounded by water, with the river Lee to the immediate north, north-east and north-west, the river Kame and one of its tributaries to the east and another stream to the west. The Civil Survey of the Barony of Muskerry conducted in 1656 lists a great deal of the land around here as having belonged to ‘John Long of Mount Long, Irish Papist (deceased).’ This John Long was the son of Dr Thomas Long, a doctor of civil and canon law who had evidently prospered since he was able to acquire land elsewhere in County Cork, specifically to the south overlooking Oysterhaven Creek. Here in 1631 John Long embarked on building himself a new residence, named Mount Long. 

At the time of its construction Mount Long’s design would have embodied contemporary architectural trends. By this date, Irish domestic dwellings were no longer being built as tower houses but, in misplaced expectation of future peace, as fortified manors. As Stephen Byrne writes, the building ‘exemplifies the new style. Its proportions and detailing, including large mullioned windows, mark the transition from dimly-lit towerhouses with an overt defensive capability to properties boasting comfortable well-lit rooms and a modicum of fortification.’ Of three storeys and three bays on every side, Mount Long features a near-square flanker tower at each of its four corners, a feature borrowed from English architecture and intended to increase both the amount of accommodation and the quantity of light, aided by those aforementioned abundant mullioned windows. Obviously these left the building more vulnerable to attack and the presence of gun loops on the exterior walls indicates this was still deemed a threat. The elevations are notable for their then-fashionable gables: originally twenty in number, today just twelve survive. The present state of the building makes it difficult to understand how the interior looked, or the layout of rooms, not even a chimneypiece remaining. As late as 1907 architect James Franklin Fuller could write that cornices survived ‘with figures representing scriptural subjects and fieldsports’ but these can no longer be seen. 

John Long only enjoyed his smart new residence for a very short time. 1641 saw the start of what would become known as the Confederate Wars, in which Long and his two sons took the side of the Roman Catholic forces. They established a camp not far away near Belgooly but the following spring were defeated close to Bandon. Taken prisoner, Long was convicted of treason and hanged. It is said that, knowing his fate, he sent a message to his daughter at Mount Long in 1643 telling her to burn the house in order to stop it falling into enemy hands. Whether true or not, the building was certainly consumed by fire at some date: extant lintels over doors and windows still show evidence of scorch marks. Despite post-Restoration efforts by John Long’s heirs to regain their property, Mount Long was granted to the Busteed family who built another house on higher ground close by. Mount Long fell into dereliction and is now a ruin. The west wall has entirely collapsed, along with most of the towers on either end, but the other three sides still stand, albeit in a somewhat precarious state. With just twelve years between its construction and destruction Mount Long reminds us that owing to changed circumstances buildings can sometimes have very brief lives. 

Mount Long is the October Building of the Month on http://www.buildingsofireland with an accompanying text written by Stephen Byrne. 

6 comments on “Brief Lives

  1. Finola says:

    The “burn it down” story is also told about Coppinger’s Court which, as you know, is of the same vintage and has a similar history. This one looks, if possible, to be in even worse shape.

  2. Finola says:

    That’s ‘if possible’ not impossible.

  3. Peter Davidson says:

    A wonderful piece on that vanished culture which still shows traces –as in the fine Latin verse inscriptions from the 1640s in Kilkenny cathedral. “Doctor of Both Laws” is usually a higher or honorary degree: I wonder which continental university? I wish we had more information about the plasterwork, it might provide a fascinating point of comparison for Thomas Tresham’s recusant buildings in England.

  4. morgan says:

    I’m looking for the lineage of John Long, through his 2 sons John & James and daughter… Trying to link to an John P Long born 1858 in Elizabeth, NJ.

  5. Karen Long Scholbe says:

    In 1987, about 65 of my family members from the US made a trip to Ireland to trace our family roots. Part of that trip was to see Mount Long Castle as we are decendents of John Long. We were able to visit the castle and walk the grounds and take pictures, even though the castle is located on someone’s private property. One of the family members made this possible and I do not know who he contacted. My father, myself and my daughter were part of the 65 family members in 1987.

    My father has since passed and I have scheduled a trip to Ireland during the first two weeks of June for my son’s 40 birthday. He was unable to be a part of the trip in 1987. My daughter and her husband now have two sons, my grandsons. I would like to visit Mount Long Castle to show my son, as he did not have the opportunity in 1987, and share with my grandsons, another generation, this castle.

    I contacted the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage and asked for guidance to find out who I need to contact so we can visit this property. The NIAH was kind enough to give me your name and email address. I would really appreciate any help you could give me to reach out to the property owners and get permission to visit the Castle?

    Thank you so much for any help you may be able to give..

Leave a Reply