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Ballynahinch Castle and the O’Flaherty Lords of Connemara
Lecture by Michael Gibbons: Ballynahinch Castle and the O’Flaherty Lords of Connemara in Folklore, History and Archaeology
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the death of the Gaelic lord and scholar Ruaidhri Maic Aodha Ó Flaithbheartaigh and is an opportune time to explore the history of human settlement in a place synonymous with the O’Flahertys, Ballynahinch Castle estate – following recent discoveries, we now know that settlement there dates back over 7,000 years.
The talk’s key focus will be on the lake island cashel-castle and the cast of extraordinary figures associated with it. It began life as an island cashel or stone crannóg built by the local O’Cadhla lords, who fought with the O’Briens at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. It was later transformed into the lake castle we see today by the incoming O’Flaherty lords, who replaced the O’Cadhlas and other leading Connemara families in the 13th century. The O’Flahertys had been driven westward by the English de Burgo lords.
In the late Middle Ages, the castle was fought over by various branches of the O’Flahertys before they lost out in the wars of the 17th century. During the 18th century, the Martins gained control of the estate and transformed the old castle into a summer palace and, later, brew house. The O’Flahertys, despite losing most of their lands, managed to survive in Connemara and on Aran as major players into the 19th century.