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The MacAuliffe Castles
he name 'McAuly' in the above verse, from the Edward Walsh poem "The Legend of Meelan", is one of the archaic variations of the name MacAuliffe and refers to Castlemacauliffe, the chief castle of the clann, which was situated about a mile to the west of Newmarket, on the western side of a glen overlooking the Dalua.

A sketch of the castle appears on the Downe Survey map of Duhallow, made out about 1660. The sketch suggests that the castle was of the single Norman keep type, more suited for defence than for comfortable living. Also described as tower houses, because they were built high to facilitate a good view of the surounding countryside, this type of castle was built extensively throughout Ireland in the Middle Ages, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. They were the fortified residences of local lords and chieftains, both of the native Irish families and the descendants of the Anglo-Norman settlers. They were frequently built close to river crossings in order to control movement along and across river valleys. The proliferation of these fortified houses was a response to the disturbed political and social conditions of late medieval Ireland.

Ireland at this time was divided into baronies, each ruled by a chieftain or lord, some being of native Irish (Gaelic) stock and some Norman lords. Usually there were sub chiefs heading the various septs of the clan. Over time many of the septs came to be recognised as clans in their own right, while still owing allegience to the overlord. The MacDonogh MacCarthys were overlords of Duhallow.  There were three sub-chiefs to MacDonogh.  These were The MacAuliffe, The O'Callaghan, and The O'Keeffe.

The MacCarthys of Duhallow descended from Dermod, the third son of Cormac Fionn MacCarthy Mór (1170-1242), King of Desmond. They ruled from Kanturk.  One mile south of Kanturk town is Kanturk Castle, also known as The Old Court. The Castle was built for MacDonogh MacCarthy, Lord of Duhallow. Building took place over a long period of time most accounts hold that it was never actually completed.  English settlers on the forfeited lands of the Geraldines objected to the structure as being too fortified for a Gaelic leader.  As the battlements were about to be raised, the English Privy Council ordered that work be stopped.  This fulfilled the prophecy of MacAuliffe, as seer and step-brother of MacDonogh, who, according to yet another legend, predicted that the Castle would never be completed, and that it would provide "too fine a home for crows"!  Further mention will be made of "MacAuliife the Prophet", as he is sometimes called, elsewhere on the site.

The MacAuliffe Castles
The existence of the sketch of the castle on the Downe Survey map of Duhallow in 1660 suggests that the castle was still intact at the time of the survey. It is said that a cannon-ball was found among the ruins, which bore signs of having been burned. The ruins were still to be seen in 1840, but all trace has disappeared today.

The MacAuliffes had a second castle at Carrigcashel, about two miles north-east of Newmarket, commanding the western entrance to what is now known as Priory Glen. In earlier times this glen was known as Glenanaar "the glen of slaughter", recalling a time in the distant past when the MacAuliffes had raided O'Keeffe country, carrying off a great herd of cattle. A great battle ensued and the Owenarra River, which flows through the glen, is said to have run red with the blood of men and beasts.

The Carrigcashel castle stood in a little hollow above the level of the glen and from the appearance of the ruins it seems to have been of similar type to Castlemacauliffe - compact and easily defended. D.H. Allen records that " These ruins are not extensive; all that remains is a low stump, a grim reminder of the treatment meted out to a clan that showed too much independence."

A third castle was located at Anacrohane, the site of present-day Newmarket,but little is known about it. Local tradition tells of another McAuliffe castle at Curragh, near Kanturk, but no firm evidence for that can be found.
"In the Gloom from afar o'er the soothing scene -
The tall cliffs and wavy wood.
And mournful and grey are the rude rocks seen;
So heaves the green turf in huge mounds between
Where Castle McAuly stood."
No, not a MacAuliffe castle, for none remain today, but the MacAuliffe castles were probably of similar type to Carrigaphooca (right) built by the MacCarthys.
Photo of Carrigaphooca Castle Remnant of Castlemacauliffe
Little remains today to show where Castle MacAuliffe once stood. The site is literally a 'hole in the ground' from which all the larger stones have been removed. The edge of the outer wall can be seen  in this 2008 photo. More photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery.
Google map
Although Castle Macauliffe is long gone, the name remains as the name of a townland,
as seen in this Google Map showing the route from Newmarket to Castlemacauliffe.
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Much of the information on this page is derived from
D.H Allen 'The McAuliffes of Clanawley'1991.

Clann MacAuliffe Castles
Site designed and maintained by Bob McAuliffe, New Zealand.
This page last updated 28 June 2009

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