I greatly enjoyed “The Ruins of Ireland” by Robert O Byrne, which has been published by Cico Books of London and New York.

Robert O Byrne gives a short description, with contemporary photographs, of about 60 buildings that were once stately homes or castles, but are now in varying states of ruination. Some were burned during Troubles, but most fell into decay simply because the owners could not afford to keep them up.

Many of them are places I have passed by often, over the years, without knowing what they were, who once lived in them,  or how they fell into their present state.

One such is Duleek House, on the edge of the village of the same name.

O Byrne tells us that Duleek House was once the residence of Thomas Trotter, the MP for the pocket borough of Duleek in the unreformed Irish Parliament. O Byrne was apparently unable to gain entry to the House, which is  in a dangerous state and, on the brink of falling down. So O Byrne could not say if the Neo Classical plasterwork that once graced the reception rooms (where Trotter might have entertained all his half dozen constituents), is still extant.

In some cases, he did gain entry to the interior of the houses and his photographs show scenes of desolation, but also , in some cases,  great potential for restoration. If these houses were in Britain, they might have been taken over by the National Trust, and be converted into dwellings, tourist attractions, or both.

Another place of  personal interest to me is Grange Castle in Co Kildare, near Edenderry.

Grange once belonged to the Bermingham family, who were the leading family in NW Kildare until the backed the losing side in the Wars of the Seventeenth Century. Grange was sold to another prominent Kildare family, the Tyrells, in 1735. They sold it to the Irish state in 1988, and restoration was attempted. But then, in 2003, that work stopped and the place now lies empty. A tragic waste.

Some of the buildings, like Grange, have only recently fallen into ruin. Others, like Roscommon Castle, have been unoccupied since the 1690’s, but still stand as impressive reminders of their glory days. Roscommon Castle was besieged by Hugh O Donnell for three months in 1599 and fatally damaged during the Williamite wars a century later.

This is a beautifully produced, and well written, book. I recommend it.

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