An Overlooked Curiosity

Staying in Carlow town, across the river Barrow from what remains of the Norman castle is this curious building, likely little noticed on what is now a busy traffic junction. It was erected by one Rowan McCombe in 1867 by one Rowan McCombe, Superintendent of the Barrow Navigation Company, a town councillor and an amateur poet rather in the style of Scotland’s William McGonagall. Many websites also propose that McCombe was responsible for Carlow’s Celtic Cross memorial to the United Irishmen who were killed during an attack on Carlow in May 1798; however, since this was erected to mark the centenary of that event, and he had died in 1877, this seems unlikely. The building shown here was intended to house a printing office as well as provide a home for its owner, but later became an RIC barracks and is now divided into flats. A curious feature are the series of carved stone grotesque masks placed above the upper windows and down the three-storey tower. The latter also incorporates a substantial stone plaque which appears to represent Hercules wrestling with the Nemean Lion and which stylistically looks out of place with the rest of the building: perhaps it came from somewhere else?

One comment on “An Overlooked Curiosity

  1. Andrew McCarthy says:

    The style of the plaque looks rather late 18th-century or early 19th-century. I wonder if it was salvaged from some other building that had been demolished? The grotesque masks are also quite interesting.

    Never having read any of Rowan McCombe’s poetry, I cannot judge its quality, but describing him as “an amateur poet rather in the style of Scotland’s William McGonagall” makes it sound dire indeed.

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