Donomona Castle, Clogher in Co. Mayo

Donomona Castle has played a central part in the history of the Clogher area of County Mayo and was originally a Bourke stronghold. The castle was built as a typical Irish Tower House.

It was also referred to as the “ten-pound castle” because King Henry VI of England gave ten pounds as a grant to erect it. In the early 15th century, the O Kellys of Ui Maine occupied it.

Probably, the descendants of this clan still occupied the castle in the 1600s because, according to historian Hubert Thomas Knox, a cross made in 1633 by David Kelly and Cate Bourke, his wife, for the soul of his father Meyler Kelly, who died on Oct. 8th 1627, was found in the area.

The Indenture of Composition of Mayo was ratified by Sir Richard Bingham. It was also here that most of the chieftains of Mayo submitted to his authority in 1588. William Bourke, who was known as the Blind Abbott and Justin Mc Donnell, chief of the Clandonnell Gallowglass, were among the first to submit.

Bingham hanged Justin one year later for his part in sheltering Spaniards who were shipwrecked off Ballycroy on Ireland's western shore.

However, during Bingham's reign, mock trials and hangings were frequent at Donomona Castle. The hanged men were buried in the nearby Cemetery, which local people regarded as a wicked place.

Over the years, the Castle passed to the Actons of Bridgemount, who owned over a thousand acres of land in the barony of Carra. The limestone blocks of the castle walls were reused to fence the Acton Estate, and Donomona became a ruin.

According to folklore, the large hole at the top of the remaining wall was due to cannonball fire by the French to the British around 1798, but another version of the story tells that the Pirate Queen, Grainne O’Malley, fired the cannonball during an assault to retake the castle under her control.


In O Donovans Letters of 1838, the following account is given:

“In this parish stands in ruins the castles of Doonamona (Dun Na Mona) and Gwesdian,(pronounced Gweeshadan), which we find recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters at the year AD 1592, as having, together with other castles, been taken possession of the governor Sir Richard Bingham.”

The account runs in these words:

“Those Bourkes who were leagued with the Mac Williams aided by all their adherents, took up arms to defend themselves, of which the governor, Sir Richard Bingham, had no sooner heard,than he proceeded into the County of Mayo and took possession of all the towns, whether uninjured or ruined, that were in the country, namely, Dun Na Mona, Cuil Na gCaiseal, Gaoisdeach and Cluainin. The Bourkes, however made an attack upon the Governor at Cuil na gCaiseal, but they sustained more injury on this occasion than they were able to inflict upon him.”

O Donovan’s Letters:

One of the last to submit to the might of Bingham was Edmond De Burgo of Castlebar, “Eamonn na Feasoige”, but he was later made an example of and was executed following a trumped-up charge of treason at a mock trial that took place at Donomona. Bingham then confiscated the castle and estate at Castlebar.

By Brian Hoban, updated by Heather and Corine Kelly October 2005.

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