Castlemacgarrett Old, Claremorris in Co. Mayo
Castlemacgarrett Old, built in the 13th century, is situated on the banks of the River Robe, three and a half miles from the town of Claremorris.
Adjacent to it is, Christina's Bridge on which the inscription reads "This bridge was built in memory of Christina Lady Oranmore and Browne who died May 1st 1887"
Castlemacgarrett Old was once the ancestral home of the Browne Family. When this house became unsafe, due to a large fire in 1694, Geoffrey Browne and his wife Mary Prendergast built the new house now known as Castlemacgarrett Nursing Home. Large quantities of the Beech trees planted by Geoffrey 300 years ago can still be seen around the old estate today.
There are also traces of a watermill situated on the banks of the river Robe, near the main Galway road, which would have pumped water to Castlemacgarrett New, which was built on an old stable courtyard. There was once an old tower house called Castlekeel which has since ceased to exist but was once close to Castlemacgarrett New.
Traces of an old summer house can also be seen on the banks of the river Robe, adjacent to the watermill, near the new bridge on the Claremorris road. The summer house was situated purposely on the banks of the river, as one can imagine the days gone hence when the family would have sat and fished for the beautiful brown trout that could be found in abundance in the river.
Geoffrey Browne's wife Mary was a descendant of Maurice de Prendergast who's father Gerald came to Ireland with Strongbow during the Norman invasion in 1170. Gerald died in 1251. Maurice was a most valiant knight and a man of his word. The tribe name, Prendergast, was taken from a Maurice Sugach, as it is so given in the Annals of Loch Ce 1335. McGarailt or McGarrett, was an alternative name, hence they've been called Fitzgeralds.
Since the arrival of the Normans in 1170 the Fitzgeralds have played a major role in every crisis in Ireland. Any account of Irish history omitting the Fitzgeralds would be impossible.
At one period a member of this family, the great Garrett Mor, was recognised by both the Irish and the English as the uncrowned King of Ireland. Rather than remaining aloof they conciously integrated by culture and marriage with the Irish and their reward was commensurated.
The name Fitzgerald means son of Gerald - Fitz (French fils) becoming Mac in Irish, hence MacGearailt. Gerald Fitzgerald, Garrett Mor, the great Earl died in 1513.
On the close of the sixteenth century the McMorris's (Maurice) had a wealth of estates including various castles, such as Castlekeel and Castlemacgarrett. In 1548 O'Connor Don and the MacDermotts invaded Clan Maurice (Claremorris) and slew Richard MacMaurice. Both castles were taken and up to 200 people were killed and 1000 heads of cattle and 10 horses were stolen.
The notorious Sir Richard Bingham visited the castle and stayed overnight en route to Ballycroy when the Spanish Sailors wrecked themselves on the West coast in 1588.
The castle is unique in that there is only one other of its kind in Ireland, that being Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare, because of the moate around it.
It also has other historically significant features. On the first floor there is a window made of sandstone as distinct from the rest of the castle. This window probably dates back to the 12th century and may have been an earlier chapel window.
The castle was also unique for its period in that it was built in a three tier fashion with a central stairway leading to each individual floor, with connecting stairs, instead of the usual single spiral corner stairway.
There is currently a preservation order and a restoration project scheduled for the not too distant future. Because of the age and present dangerous condition of the old castle, it would be advisable to view it from the roadside - climbing is strictly prohibited.
In order to help with this restoration, it is imperative that the castle stonework should not be disturbed as it is important that each piece of stonework be left in its original place