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HISTORIC RUINS

Strancally Castle.

A FORTRESS OF THE DESMOND.

"Brown in the rust of time-it stands sublime,
With overhanging battlements and towers,
And works of old defence—a massy pile.
And the broad river winds around its base
In bright unruffled course."

ONE great object of this series of papers on "Historic Ruins" I consider to be the drawing public attention to these fading relics of other times, and by investing them with the associations of famous deeds to which they can lay just claim, insure them respect and protection from hands too ready to anticipate the spoiler, Time. In Ireland, particularly, this calls loudly for remark. There is melancholy neglect of our monumental remains in Ireland-and in this respect we present a sad contrast to every other country-and Heaven knows the past is the brightest era of our fame. Surely there ought to be spirit enough in the country to prevent the priceless and irrecoverable memorials of our country's greatness diminishing daily before our eyes-becoming small by degrees, and shamefully less. They order these things better in France: public Boards and government officers care for and protect the historical monu ments in the land of the Gaul; but we have no fostering public departments or government Boards interested in preserving any national relics of the ancient kingdom of Erin. Does it not, then, behove the Irish to look to it, and take upon themselves the duties which other countries depute their minister to do. It is possible for every man to assist, and at least refrain from doing positive injury. The peasant need not make a gate-post of a pillar-stone, or turn the sculptured capital into a support for his cabin-door. The patriot, Davis, has denounced such conduct in his own forcible way:-"We have seen pigs housed in the piled friezes of a broken church, cows stabled in the palaces of the Desmonds, and corn thrashed on the floor of abbeys, and the sheep and the tearing wind tenant the corridors of Arleach." We, too, have similar testimony to add. We were lately in company with a friend, in the abbey ruins of Glenworth, co. Cork; sheep and horned cattle browsed amid the ruins. A portion of the chapel is in perfect preservation, save that the roof is gone; and wind and rain, the summer sun and winter blast, came and went, unchecked, through the space. The parish priest accompanied us, and informed us "that his parish was in great want of a commodious school-room-that the poor people could ill afford funds to build one; and deeming the walls of this abbeychapel quite able to support a roof, he applied to the gentleman on whose VOL. V., NO. XXI,

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property the ruins exist for the requisite permission, but the gentleman, finding it was for the purpose of national education, positively refused," and the desecrated abbey is now occupied by the sheep and cows of the neighbourhood. But a beautiful river and a bold ruin are before us. The river is the Blackwater, which has now wandered far from its cradled home, near the mountains of Sliabh Logher, to Kerry. It has swept, in its majestic course, along battle plains, and scenes remarkable in the pages of the historian. Its dark waters have mirrored back the tottering walls of castles once firmly held by puissant chiefs, whose warrior races have long since been lost to earth. O Keefes, MacDonoughs, Condons, Desmonds, Raleighs, Boyles, Barrys, have left proud memories that can never be effaced along its course ;-names connected with deeds of blood and strife that recall the horrors war inflicts on a country, and make us rejoice at their absence. What awful memories are linked with the blood-cemented walls before us; what fearful deeds have been perpetrated within these chambers, now bare and open to view! Let us recount a portion of its history.

HISTORIC LEGEND OF STRANCALLY.

"Ile rose by blood, he built by main distress,
And the inheritance of desolation left

To great expecting hopes."-Daniel.

"You ask me to give you some particulars respecting the Castle," said my friend, and I am happy to oblige you, for I think you will agree with me, that Edmund Spencer had this very castle in his mind when, in the book of the Fairie Queen,' he describes the cruelties of Pollenti, and his subjugation, by Sir Artigall. As the account is lengthened by a curious legend connected with the building," added my companion, seating himself on a huge fragment of wall, which seemed torn from the main building by some very sudden shock, as if an earthquake had heaved the mass asunder, "we may as well rest ourselves while I

relate it."

I took my seat opposite the heap of dismantled ruins, and listened attentively while my friend went on.

"You can readily imagine, from the size and strength of the pile before you, what this castle must have been in the days of its glory, when the stout fortress of the puissant Earl of Desmond. Even now, its lofty walls, and wide spread towers, so many scattered emblems of strength, attest its fame; but the walls are long prostrate, and the towers tenantless, and the moralizers on the wrecks of human grandeur may now read humanity some useful lessons. The chieftain who dwelt here was descended from an illustrious race. He was of the Geraldines: and we find that Maurice Fitzgerald, the founder of the princely race, now represented by the ducal house of Leinster, the knightly races of Glin, Kerry, Muckridge, &c., came over to this country with Earl Strongbow, and traced a far back ancestry among the Italian and Norman nobles. The most virtuous race will occasionally have to shew a dark stain on their escutcheon; and the character of the chieftain of Desmond, who dwelt in Strancally Castle, may be gleaned from the following tale:

"The bridal of Sir Herbert Fitzgerald, of Conna Castle, to the fair daughter of Condon, Lord of Ballyduff, had been the source of great gratification to the friends of both families. Sir Herbert was much beloved for his martial and chivalrous bearing, and by his junction with the Chief of Ballyduff, was supposed to have strengthened his position in the county, so as to defy any force which the grasping efforts of the Lord of Strancally might bring into the field against him. This latter noble had constantly at his command a band of daring desperate ruffians, who, ever needy, and leading the most dissolute lives, were ready to set lance in rest and unsheath their willing swords against any person to whom their lord directed them to ride, and on whose possessions he cast a longing look. I need hardly tell you, that in those times, when the humanizing efforts of good and wholesome laws had made no progress whatever in the country, such doings could be committed with perfect impunity, provided always, as you lawyers say, the acting party was sufficiently strong to resist the force of the Lord President of the province, in case that high official was not himself the offending party, as was unhappily very often the case. Well, the marriage gave content to all parties apparently; for one of the foremost to visit the Lord of Conna and his new-made bride, was Lord Desmond, of Strancally, and to assure the bridegroom of the fidelity of his friendship, he refused to leave Conna until a day was fixed for a great feast at Strancally, in honour of the nuptials.

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"I am sorry you promised that bold bad man, dear Herbert,' exclaimed the bride, as the fierce visitor, followed by his grim warriors' retinue, made his strong charger bound as he plunged the rowels into his side in exultation.

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Hush, my timid dove,' replied her husband, bad he is-but there are others bold enough to defy him-time and place proper-but now there is no cause to fear. As his guest, you know I am safe.'

"The lady silently shook her head, and went on with the embroidery of a banner she intended to present to her lord.

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Meanwhile, the joy of Lord Desmond at the success of his visit, could not be controlled in silence. He summoned to his side the leader of his band-leader in wickedness, as first in command. I have him,' cried Desmond. I have him fast, and despite their cunning, from the banks of Blackwater to the bride, all shall yet be mine. They thought to outwit me, and keep the town of Conna as a watch-house, to prevent my harrying Condon's country, but now they shall find out their mistake.'

"I guessed there was work astir, my lord,' observed the retainer. Your friendly visits are seldom congratulatory. How mean you to deal with this youthful pair? My sword, my rope, or a draught of my potion are equally at your need.' And the ruffian's face glanced murder.

"Thanks, trusty Everard, you never failed me,' returned the savage lord. But methinks your words have caused me much embarrassment. With respect to this gay gallant, I can easily manage him; if any difficulty of despatching him arises, there remains the secret chamber, the trap-bed never misses, and the dark waters of Avondhu roll so swiftly to the sea, that no corpse ever reached the shore to give rise to a suspicion. But I am loath to hurt the girl-she must be cared for.'

"With this touch of compassion, which caused a muttered curse of astonishment to rush to the lips of the attendant, the group entered the court-yard of Strancally,

"Pass we on to the day of the banquet. These walls, now so silent and desolate, rung again with the din and bustle of preparation; cooks were busy dressing viands supplied by forests, and plain, and stream-fish, and flesh, and fowl, in exhaustless store and endless variety, tempted the appetites, while mead, and metheglin, cider, and spirituous liquors, and wines of price, added to the hilarity. Music burst its chorus, for minstrels, successors to the ancient bards, were admired and revived, and held an honoured place in the household of every noble in Ireland. All the persons of rank and station in the country round were assembled, but fairest of the fair, was the bride of the Chieftain of Conna

"Sweet blushes stayn'd her rud-red cheeke,
Her eyes were black as sloe,

The ripening cherry swellde her lippe,

And all her necke was snowe.'

"Her husband was proud of her, as well he might, and rejoiced in the admiration her great beauty excited. Her arrival had caused a sensation among the assembled guests, as you have seen when the reigning belle appears at the entrance of the ball-room, and emerging from the throng of nobles with whom he had been conversing the Lord Desmond went to welcome his distinguished guests.

"Thanks for thy presence, fair lady,' cried Desmond, pressing the white hands of the bride, and thine too, noble knight,' glancing to her husband. Thy coming announces the banquet, and as we hope to prolong the entertainment into the night, your chamber is prepared, so your

return need not be looked for.'

"The lady would fain have declined, but ere she could express dissent, her husband said—That is kind of you, my Lord of Desmond. I am sure Alice will accept your proffer.' There was no declining after this, and the progress of the feast prevented any recurrence to the subject.

"To the banquet a ball succeeded, and many sought the hand of the bride for the dance. As she was naturally fond of dancing, and the rooms, well suited to the scene, thronged with all that were young and fair and high-born in the country, she engaged herself much in her favourite dances, but was not wholly devoid of care. I own uneasy thoughts, vague, indefinite sensations of danger, occasionally crept over her spirits, causing a shudder in her frame, and a sadness in her sunny smile. Her husband appeared wholly unconcerned, and she resolved not to disturb his quiet, by disclosing her fears to him.

"Once, while crossing from the dancing room to partake of refreshment in the chamber of dais, where the banquet had been held, Alice was struck by the troubled looks with which the host observed her approach the place where he was giving some very emphatic order to a domestic, and the latter seemed listening very intently-all that she heard was a perfect enigma then-afterwards, capable of a sad solution-" We must rely on the cup and the couch." Contrary to his habits of temperance, the young chieftain of Conna was this night a victim to inebriety. He seemed conscious of it himself, for addressing his wife, who was mortified at his condition, he contrived to say, That last cup was a cup too much, my Alice; I'll to bed."

"Come then, Herbert,' she said, withdrawing her arm from a guest who had just engaged her for the next dance, I am tired, and will go with you.'

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Surely you do not mean to quit the ball room so early, fair lady,' said her partner.

"Oh, I cannot hear of such a proceeding,' added Lord Desmond, who was aware of what was intended. 'Your Ladyship must remain here; I myself will escort Sir Herbert to his chamber. Ho! there, lights!' he cried, and the attendants appeared. Sleep seemed stealing over the countenance of Sir Herbert, and he clutched at the nearest attendant for support. Join the dancers, lady,' said Desmond, and depend on it I will watch over your husband till he is asleep.'

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Nay, my Lord, who so fitting as his wife for that duty,' resolutely replied the lady. I must accompany my husband, with your leave,' she added, as the host seemed disposed to place himself before her, to prevent her. She took the arm of her intoxicated husband and, sustaining him on her shoulder, bade the attendants lead on.' The men looked at their lord, he nodded affirmatively-it must be so,' he ejaculated, and Sir Herbert and his bride were soon alone in their chamber.

"Suspicion, I have already hinted, darkened the mind of Alice Fitzgerald; the sudden stupor, the inebriety of her husband, struck her as very singular; she thought the anxiety of Desmond to part them, was evinced more earnestly than was consistent with good breeding, and rejoiced she was present with the object of her fond affections, in case danger threatened. Within their apartment, however, all was orderly, and suitable to their high rank. The chamber was in a high tower, built on a lofty ledge of rock, and precipitarily placed over the river, which seemed to have worn fissures in the foot of the cliff, as she could hear the heave and dash of the current, at the base. The night was fair and tranquil, and, commending herself to God, she speedily joined her husband, who lay in a profound lethargic slumber.

"Towards noon, next day, the body of a young female, attired in nightgear, was observed by some peasants, lying near the rocks about a mile from Strancally Cliff, on the opposite side. On examination, they found that life was not wholly extinct; blood flowed from a bruise near the arm, and the limb was considerably discoloured, as if much crushed by weight, but no bone was broken. They bore the insensible form to the hut in which one of the party lived, and his wife had some knowledge of curing hurts. The care of the good woman restored animation by warmth and gentle rubbing; life once more quickened the pulse of the sufferer, but her reason seemed to have fled; she cried, and wrung her hands in despair at seeing the strange uncouth faces around her, and finding relief in tears, at last ventured to ask in the Irish tongue, which she spoke fluently, "what brought her there." She was informed how the men went out to draw their night-lines, and found her, bruised and bleeding, among the rocks. After remaining some weeks concealed in the hut, the fair Alice— for I presume you have guessed it was she-procured clothes, and a guide to conduct her to the castle of her father, at Ballyduff. She found her family full of sorrowing for her supposed death, and preparing to revenge the untimely fate of herself and her husband upon the ruthless Lord of Strancally, who had taken possession of Conna, being, he said, elected by the clansmen of Fitzgerald. When questioned respecting the events of that fearful night, she could give no distinct answer. She had fallen asleep,' she said, 'soon after retiring to rest, and dreamed she was sink

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