An ancient story lies behind the name of Ightermurragh Castle, County Cork. In the second quarter of the 17th century, Edmund fitzjohn FitzGerald, son and heir of the last official Seneschal of Imokilly, had three daughters. Since there was no son to inherit his property, he decided to divide it between the trio, allowing them to choose which part of the property they would take. The eldest said ‘Beigh Inse na Chruithneactha agam sa’ (I will have the Wheat Field by the River): this is a tower house called Castle Richard. The middle daughter said ‘An Cnoc Ghlas damh-sa’ ( The Green Hill for me): this is a townland which came to be known as Knockglass. Finally, the youngest daughter, Margaret FitzGerald said ‘Agus an t-Iochtar mo Rogha’ (The lower is my choice): from this utterance the name Ightermurragh is said to have derived.
Margaret FitzGerald married a local man, Edmond Supple, whose family was said to have descended from a Norman knight called de Capel or de la Chapelle. The couple embarked on constructing a new residence for themselves at Ightermurragh; a chimneypiece still extant on the first floor carries the following inscription in Latin ‘Edmundus Suppel Dominus Margritatque Gerald, hanc struxere Domum quos ligat unus amor 1641’ (Edmund Supple and Margaret Gerald, whom love binds as one, built this house in 1641). As was so often the case, especially during the troubled period of the Confederate Wars, the couple did not long enjoy the place: before long: in 1642 the Catholic rebels, having failed to persuade Supple to join them, drove him and his wife and children from Ightermurragh Castle and burnt it out. Edmund Supple died in 1648 and not long after the remains of the building and surrounding lands came into the possession of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery who managed to hold onto this acquisition even after the Restoration of Charles II when many old Irish families managed to have their estates returned to them. Edmund Supple’s descendants instead received other land in the area and built a new house for themselves, which they called Supple’s Court. In the 18th century, Ightermurragh Castle – presumably restored – was leased to a branch of the Smyth family. However, in 1772 Mr Beverley Smyth was attacked by a band of robbers who broke into the building and supposedly roasted the occupant on a gridiron in order to make him tell them where he kept his money. The castle was thereafter abandoned and left to fall into its present condition.
Of five storeys (including an attic and semi-basement) and divided by four string courses, Ightermurragh Castle – really a fortified house – stands on a rise above the river Womanagh and is cruciform in shape. What might be considered the main block runs east to west and measures 72 by 32 feet, with walls some five feet thick. The dimensions of the wings are 20 by 16 feet, the walls around four feet thick;; that to the south held the entrance, to the north the main staircase. Forty-five feet high, the building retains six of the original seven chimneystacks which rise a further ten or 15 feet; twelve of the fireplaces survive in situ. Of various dimensions, there are 45 windows, although none on the west gable end.