Neglecting History


The background to the appearance of workhouses around Ireland in the 19th century has been discussed here before (see Silent Witness « The Irish Aesthete). In total, 163 such institutions were constructed, one of them on a six-acre site to the immediate south of Tipperary town. Overseen by a Board of Guardians, in November 1839 a Poor Law Union had been established in this part of the country and the workhouse soon followed; built of limestone in a loosely Tudorbethan manner and at a cost of £6,240 plus a further £1,110 for fixtures and fittings, it received the first occupants in July 1841. As was the case with all other such properties, this one was designed by the Poor Laws Commissioners’ architect George Wilkinson and intended to provide places for 700 persons. Inevitably, with the advent of the Great Famine in 1845, that figure was greatly exceeded; by the end of the famine period, there were four times as many occupants, this severe overcrowding leading to many deaths from diseases such as typhus. A graveyard was opened in August 1847 to provide burial sites for those who had died in the workhouse. Subsequently additions were made to the site, with a long, two-storey wing running behind the austere three-storey entrance/admissions block, the former concluding in a chapel, constructed in 1871. 





By the start of the present century, much of the former workhouse in Tipperary had fallen into  disrepair, although part of it had been converted into commercial premises (and this remains the case today). In 2000, the Tipperary hostel project, a community-based project, embarked on the transformation of the building into self-catering accommodation for tourists. The project successfully secured support and finance from a number of agencies, most notably FÁS, a state-funded training agency intended to encourage employment. Upon completion, the facility was expected to operate primarily as a local community-based hostel under community and voluntary management. The income generated from this enterprise was expected to finance further educational and training work in the fields of traditional trades and crafts, not least by hosting residential workshops. However, while the project was supposed to be completed in four or five years, in 2010 it transpired that while almost €4 million had been provided in state funding, the job remained unfinished and further finance had been suspended. Three years later, in December 2013, the Irish Independent reported that a police investigation had been launched into ‘how a derelict pre-famine workhouse, which was to be refurbished into a modern hostel in a Fas-run project, remains rundown despite almost €5m of public funds being spent on the project’, with only room on the site completed. Furthermore, ‘several of the 23 workers who were supposed to be working on the site of the former workhouse ended up working in 62 other locations, including local GAA and tennis clubs as well as community halls and other local amenities. Twenty private dwellings were also renovated.’ Work on the project had already been halted and was not resumed.





Following this debacle, responsibility for the Tipperary workhouse passed to the local authority, which appears to have done nothing to ensure the building’s future or to secure it against incursion: in March 2018 the site suffered a bad arson attack which left large sections of the roof exposed to the elements, but no repairs were undertaken, leading to further deterioration. Meanwhile, most of the windows were broken and also left unrepaired. Then in February 2019 it emerged that the county council was attempting to sell the workhouse, although it seems there were no offers made for the place, or at least none sufficiently satisfactory for the place to change hands. Instead, it was left to fall into the present condition. This is how the workhouse now looks, abandoned and neglected, with little evidence that just over 20 years ago the plan was that it would become an important tourist asset for Tipperary, bringing visitors to the area, providing employment for residents, improving the local economy. Instead, it has become another broken-down building, an eyesore instead of an asset. This isn’t an unusual story in Ireland. Indeed, there’s hardly a town around the country that doesn’t have a substantial property, too often owned by either a national or local authority, or a state body, which has enormous potential but has been allowed to fall into a ruinous condition. Once again, this is how we choose to treat our architectural heritage. 

New Ruins


New ruins have not yet acquired the weathered patina of age, the true rust of the barons’ wars, not yet put on their ivy, nor equipped themselves with the appropriate bestiary of lizards, bats, screech-owls, serpents, speckled toads and little foxes which, as has been so frequently observed by ruin-explorers, hold high revel in the precincts of old ruins (such revelling, though noted with pleasure, is seldom described in detail; possibly the jackal waltzes with the toad, the lizard with the fox, while the screech-owl supplies the music and they all glory and drink deep among the tumbled capitals)…’





‘…But new ruins are for a time stark and bare, vegetationless and creatureless; blackened and torn, they smell of fire and mortality. It will not be for long. Very soon trees will be thrusting through the empty window sockets, the rose-bay and fennel blossoming within the broken walls, the brambles tangling outside them. Very soon the ruin will be enjungled, engulfed, and the appropriate creatures will revel. Even ruins in city streets will, if they are let alone, come, soon or late, to the same fate. Month by month it grows harder to trace the streets around them; here, we see, is the lane of tangled briars that was a street of warehouses; there, in those jungled caverns, stood the large tailor’s shop; where those grassy paths cross, a board swings, bearing the name of a tavern. We stumble among stone foundations and fragments of cellar walls, among the ghosts of the exiled merchants and publicans who there carried on their gainful trades. Shells of churches gape emptily; over broken altars the small yellow dandelions make their pattern. All this will presently be; but at first there is only the ruin; a mass of torn, charred prayer books strew the stone floor; the statues, tumbled from their niches, have broken in pieces; rafters and rubble pile knee-deep…’





‘…But often the ruin has put on, in its catastrophic tipsy chaos, a bizarre new charm* What was last week a drab little house has become a steep flight of stairs winding up in the open between gaily-coloured walls, tiled lavatories, interiors bright and intimate like a Dutch picture or a stage set; the stairway climbs up and up, undaunted, to the roofless summit where it meets the sky. The house has put on melodrama; people stop to stare; here is a domestic scene wide open for all to enjoy. To-morrow or to-night, the gazers feel, their own dwelling may be even as this. Last night the house was scenic; flames leaping to the sky; to-day it is squalid and morne, but out of its dereliction it flaunts the flags of what is left.’


Extracts from Pleasure of Ruins by Rose Macaulay (1953). Photographs show Ballymorris, County Laois, a house believed to date from c.1760 and which appears to have been occupied until some 15 years ago but has since fallen into its present sad condition. 

 

Traces of Former Glory

As its name indicates, the County Longford village of Abbeylara (‘Mainistir Leathrátha’, meaning ‘Abbey of the half – or small – fort’) grew up around a religious house. In this instance, a monastery is supposed to have been founded here in the fifth century by St Patrick, who then appointed St Guasacht as its first abbot. Guasacht, who also acted as Bishop of the short-lived diocese of Granard, just a few miles away, was the son of Maelchu, the man under whom Patrick worked as a slave when a youth in Ireland. Following Patrick’s return to this country, it is said that Maelchu preferred to lock himself into his home and set fire to it – perishing in the flames – rather than encounter his former slave. His son Guasacht, on the other hand, did so and was duly converted to the Christian faith.





The present remains of a monastery at Abbeylara can be traced back to 1205 when the Anglo-Norman knight Richard Tuite invited a group of Cistercian monks to settle there. Tuite, who had come to Ireland as one of Richard de Clare’s supporters, was granted large swathes of land in this part of the country and in 1199 had built one of the largest motte and baileys in Ireland. A daughter house of St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin, the Abbeylara monastery was likewise dedicated to the Virgin. When Tuite, by then Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, died in 1210, he was buried here. A century later, in 1315, Edward Bruce – brother of Scotland’s Robert Bruce – who arrived in Ireland with his army earlier that year, having first burnt nearby Granard, seized control of the Abbeylara monastery and spent the winter there. The monks returned following his departure but the establishment’s decline appears to have begun soon after: in both 1410 and 1435 the Papacy permitted funds to be raised for the buildings’ repair through the sale of Indulgences.





From the start of the 15th century until its eventual closure, the monastery at Abbeylara had come under the control of a powerful local family, the O’Farrells, as testified by the fact that successive members of this family were appointed its abbot. The last of them to do so, Richard O’Farrell, surrendered the abbey with its lands and possessions to Henry VIII in 1539: in return, he was appointed Bishop of Ardagh. At the time of its dissolution, the Abbeylara house held over 5,500 acres of land but the buildings were falling into ruins. Today little remains other than the former abbey church’s great central tower, and the adjacent north and south walls: high on the latter can be seen a badly weathered figure which may be a Sheela-na-gig. A Church of Ireland church which once occupied part of the surrounding graveyard has long since been demolished. 

A Preposterous State of Affairs



Founded in 1890 as part of a larger philanthropic initiative by Edward Guinness (head of the family brewery and future first Earl of Iveagh), the Iveagh Trust is one of this country’s most effective, but relatively little-known charities. As the trust’s website explains, Guinness regularly passed through Dublin’s Liberties area on his way to work and ‘was appalled at the conditions that prevailed in this corner of Dublin. A warren of foul-smelling laneways lined with crumbling and overcrowded houses that were no longer fit for habitation.’  Having floated two-thirds of the company in 1886, he became the richest man in the country and so began to think about establishing a charity to address the terrible living conditions experienced by so many people in both Dublin and London, and donated £250,000 ‘for the amelioration of the condition of the poor labouring classes’ in the two cities. Among the trust’s first undertakings was the construction between 1894-1901 on a two acre site at the corner of New Bride Street and Kevin Street of three five-storey blocks originally containing 336 separate flats. But perhaps the best-known work of what in 1903 officially became the Iveagh Trust, was an enormous scheme undertaken at the start of the last century on the area north of St Patrick’s Cathedral and south of Christchurch Cathedral, and running from Bull Alley Street and Bride Street; requiring several acts of parliament to ensure its successful conclusion, the project’s cost exceeded £220,000, with further monies spent on the creation of St Patrick’s Park and other associated works which were directly funded by Edward Guinness. 
A superlative example of Edwardian architecture constructed 1901-05, the Bull Alley Estate, designed by the architectural partnership of Joseph & Smithem, comprises eight five-storey blocks today holding 213 apartments (a comprehensive, six-year refurbishment of the entire site was completed in 2012). But of course, the clearance of large areas of the old city for improved housing meant many of the residents lost the place in which they had hitherto earned their meagre livelihoods. In the Liberties, this was especially the case for street traders, who found their former pitches cleared and needed to find an alternative site in which to conduct business. It was for this reason that, according to a report carried in the Irish Times in July 1906, when work commenced on the Bull Alley site, Edward Guinness, by then Viscount Iveagh, undertook ‘to provide suitable accommodation for the vendors within five years.’ He was as good as his word and personally paid for the provision of an alternative venue, the aforementioned Irish Times report which celebrated the official opening of the Iveagh Markets.





Designed by Dublin architect Frederick George Hicks, the Iveagh Markets sits on a parcel of land much of which was formerly occupied by a brewery: the initial cost for the project was some £45,000 but in the end the sum was closer to £60,000 all personally funded by Lord Iveagh. The site includes two covered markets, the larger one, measuring 100 x 150 feet, intended for selling clothes. Roofed in iron and glass, and with a first floor gallery 15 feet wide carried on cast-iron columns around the perimeter of the building, this market also provided the main entrance to the property from Francis Street, the seven-bay facade has an advanced and pedimented breakfront, the granite-fronted ground floor taking the form of an arcade, with quoined arches of Portland stone, each keystone representing various trading nations of the world: the upper parts of the building are of red brick. Behind the clothes market is a second, smaller space measuring 130 x 80 feet where stallholders sold fish, fruit and vegetables. Within the complex and to the immediate north was an area for the disinfection of clothes before they could be offered for sale, with space for 40 washers, four centrifugal wringing machines and 40 hot air drying horses: these facilities represented an enormous improvement in what had previously been available to residents in the area, and reflect Lord Iveagh’s understanding of the importance of good hygiene. A number of other buildings were constructed here for administration and a resident manager. 





The Irish Times article of July 26th 1906 noted that although Lord Iveagh had paid for the new markets to be built, on the occasion of their official opening a deed of conveyance and keys to the property were handed over to Dublin’s then-Lord Mayor. ‘The Corporation of the City of Dublin,’ the report added, ‘has undertaken to take over and control the markets as in other parts of the city, and though a further responsibility is thrown on the shoulders of the city fathers, still, everyone will admit it is a worthy one.’ The corporation – now Dublin City Council – continued to exercise that responsibility until the early 1990s, although even before that date inadequate maintenance of the markets meant they were in poor condition. A report commissioned by the local authority and produced in 1992 observed that the ‘restoration of the building to its original splendour and its refurbishment as a modern indoor market would be of considerable economic and social benefit to the surrounding area.’ The following year, the council offered each of the market’s stall holders £20,000 to vacate their stands and give up their licenses, before announcing plans for a £1.25 million refurbishment. However, nothing happened – other than a steady rise in the cost of the proposed refurbishment, and in 1996 the council decided to invite a private developer to take on the job. The following year the council granted Dublin publican Martin Keane a licence to redevelop the site, and all appeared well until questions were asked about whether the council had the authority to issue such a document under the terms of the Dublin Corporation Markets Act, passed in 1901 to allow the construction of the Iveagh Markets. The dispute was only resolved in 2004, it then took a further three years for Mr Keane to obtain planning permission for a scheme that would have included restaurants, a 97-bed hotel, a music venue and an apartment hotel, as well as the refurbishment of the old buildings. This work was never begun and a long, sorry saga over the building then ensued: anyone who wishes to understand what befell the Iveagh Markets over the past 15 years is encouraged to read an article on the subject published in the Irish Times on November 19th (The Iveagh Markets: Can a former Dublin glory be saved? – The Irish Times). At the moment the matter is subject to ongoing mediation but there can be no doubt that Dublin City Council must accept a substantial amount of responsibility for the unhappy situation here. For several decades the local authority has shown scant regard for historic properties in its care. On the other side of the river Liffey, for example, the old Fruit and Vegetable Market, opened in 1892, was closed in August 2019 by the council which said it was about to undertaken a two-year restoration of the site. This was after 17 years of successive announcements of diverse schemes for the building (for a chronology, see Dublin’s Victorian fruit market to close for two years for revamp – The Irish Times). Last August, three years after the Fruit and Vegetable Market was closed (supposedly for just two years), Dublin City Council said that it had ‘initiated a tender process for a design team “to detail the conservation works needed” for the property. Initiating a tender process suggests a great deal more time will pass before anything actually happens and this is just one of a substantial number of projects in which Dublin City Council’s intervention has proven catastrophic. Recently, for example, the council announced that the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter, initiated in 2013 (and supposed to have been completed in 2017) would not see even the ‘first phase’ be delivered until at least 2027. Then there is the long-anticipated development of a new public plaza in College Green where successive design schemes have been launched to much fanfare and then quietly abandoned.
As for the Iveagh Markets, it cannot be denied that what ought to be a thriving and valuable public resource which would do much good for not just the local community but all of Dublin, has been allowed to deteriorate over some 30 years to the point where it is now at risk of being lost forever. The gift of a generous man to an impoverished city has been needlessly squandered as a consequence of poor decision-making and lack of action. Who would ever want to gift anything to Ireland’s capital, seeing what its governing body has allowed to become of the Iveagh Markets? Meanwhile, the original benefactor’s other great philanthropic gesture – the many blocks of flats constructed in the greater Liberties area – continue to be managed by a private charity, the Iveagh Trust, and continue to benefit large numbers of people. The contrast between these thriving buildings and the Iveagh Markets could not be more stark.   


Kept on Ice



Further to Monday’s post about Castle Gore, here is the property’s surviving ice house, located north-west of the now-ruined building and immediately above the river Deel. Prior to the invention of the refrigerator, ice houses were a common feature of country estates, ice being gathered during the winter months and then stored within such sites, usually sunken with an interior lined in brick, in order to preserve the ice for use during summer months. Although the roof is badly overgrown, this example – which probably dates from the late 18th century when Castle Gore was built – preserves much of its original form.


Sent Up in Flames


‘Many a time I walked for three or four hours without meeting even one human being. Here and there a stately mansion, around it the gate lodge of the serf, the winding avenue, the spreading oaks, and the green fields in which no man was visible. Landlordism, the willing instrument of British rule, had wrought this desolation. I renewed my resolve to do my share in bringing about the change that must come sooner or later.’
Dan Breen, My Fight for Irish Freedom (1924) 





“I’ll bloody well settle that: six big houses and castles of their friends, the Imperialists, will go up for this. I don’t know what GHQ will do – but I don’t give a damn.” We selected six houses and castles from the half-inch map, then sent off the order.’
Ernie O’Malley quoting Liam Lynch in On Another Man’s Wound (1936)





‘Castles, mansions and residences were sent up in flames by the IRA immediately after the British fire gangs had razed the homes of Irish Republicans. Our people were suffering in this competition of terror, but the British Loyalists were paying dearly, the demesne walls were tumbling and the British ascendancy was being destroyed. Our only fear was that, as time went on, there would be no more Loyalist’s homes to destroy, for we intended to go on to the bitter end. If the Republicans of West Cork were to be homeless and without shelter, then so too would be the British supporters. ‘
Tom Barry, Guerilla Days in Ireland (1949)

Photographs show Deel Castle, County Mayo, formerly owned by the Gore family, Earls of Arran, and burnt by the IRA in September 1921. 

Particularly Commodious


In 1680 two sisters from County Offaly, Elizabeth and Jane Hamilton, were married on the same day. While Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Crosbie, Jane married Sir Thomas’s eldest son (from an earlier marriage), David. Thus the latter’s heir Maurice, future first Baron Branden, was both nephew and cousin of Sir Thomas and Elizabeth Crosbie’s eldest son, also called Thomas. While David inherited the family’s main estate at Ardfert, County Kerry (see An Incomplete Story « The Irish Aesthete), Thomas Crosbie was left another estate further north in the same county at Ballyheigue. The ancient family formerly in occupation here were the Cantillons who supposedly occupied some kind of fortified building; they were displaced in the 17th century by the Crosbies (who, in turn, had been moved by the English government from their own traditional lands in Offaly). The younger Thomas died in late 1730, supposedly after he suffered from exposure and fatigue involved in rescuing the crew and cargo of a Danish vessel, the Golden Lion, which had become stranded on the local coast: the cargo happened to include 12 chests of silver valued at £20,000. A complex drama involving the disappearance of at least some of this silver, and the possible involvement of Thomas’s widow, Lady Margaret Barry (a daughter of the second Earl of Barrymore) then followed; what exactly happened and who benefitted from the theft has never been clearly established. In any case, a new residence was built at Ballyheigue c.1758 by Colonel James Crosbie, heir to the younger Thomas. Seemingly this was a long, low thatched property, by then somewhat old-fashioned in style, and surrounded by an orchard, gardens and bowling green. It was his grandson, another colonel also called James and an MP, first of the Irish Parliament and then, after the 1800 Act of Union, of the Westminster Parliament, who gave the house, renamed Ballyheigue Castle, its present – albeit now semi-ruinous – appearance. 





Two early 19th century engravings exist showing Ballyheigue Castle. The first, engraved by W. Radclyffe and published in 1819, depicts the battlemented building dramatically towering over the edge of a cliff with a precipitous drop straight to the sea. Six years later, James and Henry Storer produced an engraving for J.N. Brewer’s Beauties of Ireland (1826) which shows the castle standing so close to the seashore that waves almost lap the entrance. Both images were highly fanciful, testament to the era’s fondness for romantic settings. In truth, the building is located on ground that gently slopes down to a beach with expansive views across Tralee Bay. As already mentioned, the house was given a comprehensive overhaul shortly before either engraving appeared. Like so many other estate owners of the period, Colonel James Crosbie turned to one of the period’s most hard-working architects in Ireland, Richard Morrison. Around 1809, the latter invited his talented son William Vitruvius Morrison – then aged barely 15 – to come up with a suitable design for the building; responding to the challenge and ‘to the astonishment of his father, he, in the course of a few days, produced the noble design subsequently erected.’ How true this tale, or how much – like those early images – it is just an entertaining fancy, remains unknown. In any case, when the first engraving was published, an accompanying text in J.P. Neale’s Views of Seats reported that the intention of the architect(s) was to give an impression that the castle had been constructed in two different periods, neither of them the early 19th century. Instead, ‘the entrance front exhibiting the rich and ornamental style of the early part of the reign of Henry VIII; the flank elevation towards the sea has the character and appearance of the castellated mansions of King Henry VI.’ Inside, the same document observed, ‘the apartments are elegant, and are arranged upon a plan particularly commodious.’ Both the text and the engraving were heavily reliant upon material provided by Richard Morrison. 





Text here…Colonel Crosbie died in 1836 and four years later, when Ballyheigue Castle was occupied by his heir Pierce, it suffered a terrible fire during which, according to a contemporary report, the entire interior at the front ‘was consumed from the roof to the ground.’ However, most of the contents were saved and the place was soon rebuilt, presumably with the same ‘elegant’ apartments. The last of the Crosbies to live in the house was Pierce’s grandson, Brigadier-General James Dayrolles Crosbie. In 1912 he decided to sell the property for £7,700 to his eldest sister Kathleen who wished to keep Ballyheigue in the family. However, with the onset of the War of Independence and the Civil War, she in turn opted to dispose of the place: it was bought by a local man, Jeremiah Leen, for £4,000. He did not have long to enjoy possession of the building. During the War of Independence, Ballyheigue Castle had been occupied for a period by Crown forces and perhaps for that reason, in May 1921 the house was torched on the instructions of the IRA. Although Leen received some compensation for his loss, the castle was not rebuilt, the main block left a shell, although the service wing to the east, which presumably survived, remained in use. In the 1970s, the western section of the house was converted into a series of apartments but the most important portion, that once containing those elegant apartments, remains a ruin. Meanwhile, in the mid-1990s the surrounding demesne land was converted into a nine-hole golf course, with a club house built behind the castle. Accordingly, a restoration appears unlikely.

How the Mighty have Fallen (Part II)


Last July, one of Ireland’s major banks, AIB, announced plans to withdraw all cash services from 70 of its 170 branches. Although the company – in the face of near-universal outcry, not least from politicians in whose constituencies the threatened branches lay – quickly withdrew the proposed withdrawal, its original declaration of intent provided proof of what has long been evident throughout the country: the seemingly irreversible decline of regional towns. One by one, the staples of a thriving Irish urban settlement, whether it be the community hospital, the agricultural mart, the creamery, the post office, the bank and so forth, have packed up and left. For more and more of their needs, residents in smaller towns have been expected to head to a handful of bigger conurbations, where all the major services are congregated. Although this phenomenon is much discussed and analysed, one important aspect of the decline rarely appears in such discourse: the near-total disappearance over recent decades of Roman Catholic religious orders and the consequent abandonment of their buildings. 






The Presentation Order (full title: the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary) was founded in Cork in 1775 by Honora ‘Nano’ Nagle, member of a wealthy Roman Catholic family. Within a few years of its establishment, Presentation nuns had begun to open and run schools for girls, first in Ireland and then elsewhere around the world. In its country of origin, the order soon came to have a presence in every town of significance: indeed, by the mid-19th century the presentation of a Presentation Convent and attached school could be seen as indicative of a town’s economic and social importance. There was, therefore, widespread delight when the first three nuns of this order arrived in Mitchelstown, County Cork in June 1853. As if to emphasise the significance of this event, the site they would occupy dominates the town: immediately adjacent to the Catholic church (built at the same time) on high ground to the east of New Square. A month after their arrival, the nuns opened a school and within a few weeks 637 children of all ages had enrolled there for classes. Thus matters continued for the next 150 years, during much of which time it must have seemed as though the Presentation order would long remain a notable presence in Mitchelstown. However, towards the end of the last century, the numbers of nuns declined and those remaining grew ever older. Twenty years ago, in 2002, the last of them left and the convent they had once occupied, along with the school they had run, became vacant.






The former Presentation Convent in Mitchelstown consists of a three-storey, five-bayed central block facing due west. Gable-ended wings on either side extend eastwards to the rear, making the entire building U-shaped. The north wing held the chapel, described by Frank Keohane in his Guide to the Buildings of Cork as ‘a charming if old-fashioned Gothick affair with a rib-vaulted ceiling with bosses and pendants, a gallery on clustered columns and tracery-like panelling to the E wall.’ Following the departure of its original residents, the entire site was sold to a development company, Irish and European Properties, which in 2007 received permission from the local authority to convert the existing buildings for ‘community and commercial use’, create an underground two-screen cinema complex with associated car park spaces and then cover much of the surrounding grounds with apartment blocks. The economic crash of the following years put that scheme on hold but in 2012 Cork County Council granted an extension to the developers’ plans. Nothing happened – except that the company went into receivership – and two years later, in 2014, the council announced plans to prosecute the owners of the former convent under the Derelict Sites Act. Although it seems some remedial works were then carried out on the building, little has since happened and so the place has fallen into a state of almost complete ruin. In the past, the claim was sometimes made that Ireland’s country houses suffered neglect and abandonment because the majority of the population felt no sense of association with them. That argument does not apply in this instance: the Presentation convent was an important part of Mitchelstown’s identity for some 150 years, representative of the town’s importance and a centre of education. There must be many local residents who attended school here, and who can remember how it once looked. Furthermore, it is not as though the convent has disappeared: these buildings still dominate Mitchelstown, but their present condition now tells a very different story, one of disuse and decay. This is not a problem unique to Mitchelstown. There are many other towns throughout Ireland with similarly dilapidated complexes previously occupied by religious orders. As much as the closure of banks and post offices, they demonstrate the ongoing decline of Ireland’s regional towns.

How the Mighty have Fallen



South-east and to the rear of Kilkea Castle, County Kildare are the remains of a 13th century church, once associated – as was the main building – with the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare (and later Dukes of Leinster). Only the east gable and the remains of a chapel to the north survive, along with fragments of monuments to this once-mighty family. Inserted into a wall, for example, is a carving of a chained and collared animal, which might be a dog or perhaps a monkey which featured on the FitzGerald arms. Aforementioned arms can also be found on another stone. Kilkea Castle is today an hotel.


Crumbling is not an Instant’s Act

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays —




‘Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis

An Elemental Rust —




Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow —
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crash’s law.


Crumbling is not an Instant’s Act, by Emily Dickinson
Photographs of Rappa Castle, County Mayo