Tybroughney Castle - Bastion of Romans and saints and now restored by the Dowleys

WHEN the Vikings, the Danish branch, swept up the River Suir their tidal march was stopped at Tybrougney and it was here they settled and here they perished. It is said that the cries of hundreds of Norsemen, their wives and children killed during the massacre can still be heard at night in the rooms of Tybroughney Castle. Thankfully, the former Ormonde stronghold has received a new lease of life from the current custodians and the tricolour waves proudly from its ramparts.

WHEN the Vikings, the Danish branch, swept up the River Suir their tidal march was stopped at Tybrougney and it was here they settled and here they perished. It is said that the cries of hundreds of Norsemen, their wives and children killed during the massacre can still be heard at night in the rooms of Tybroughney Castle. Thankfully, the former Ormonde stronghold has received a new lease of life from the current custodians and the tricolour waves proudly from its ramparts.

It is one of only handful that have survived in Kilkenny and a family steeped in the history of the south decided to restore Tybroughney

This wonderfully robust fortification with walls nine feet thick is also at the heart of a micro climate found no where else in Ireland where the alluvial soil linked with the sheltered lower valley of the Suir gives a unique protection from the elements and ensures that it is almost always one or two degrees warmer than places even a few miles away on the far side of the South Kilkenny “mountains.

Local historian, Robert Duggan who became infatuated with the site while researching the history of the Iverk Show described better than anyone else the history of the castle during a tour of the place as part of the Heritage Week earlier this summer: “Fished, farmed and forded for eight thousand years; invaded on the tide for conquest and culture; domesticated by Celtic monks bringing Roman symbols; haunted by fallen Danes and Normans; a king built castle to face the men of Munster; battleground of Roses, corn and Fenians and bypassed by rail, motor-way and Celtic tiger.”

A survey of Tybroughney throws up more questions than answers. Is their a Norse long boat at the bottom of the Suir at Tybroughney. was Tybroughney, a stop-off point fro Roma refugees. The uniquely Roman symbols on the photograph from Tybroughney cemetery suggest this, Robert Duggan thinks and we agree with him.

“I believe may have come to Ireland after the fall of the Roman empire as slaves and clerics. The final stand and last remnant of roman rule was in west Wales.St Patrick was not our only import, and the transition from bronze age to an island of saints and scholars was a little too sudden to have been without import. Were we a lifeboat for the scholars of the western Roman empire? In Kilkenny there are a few sites with real and accumulating evidence of this,” Robert suggests.

There has been a human presence in Tybroughney since long before the arrival of Christianity. It has always been a coveted place to live and the quality of the land here remains a talking point to this day. In the centre of this oasis of is Tybroughney Castle. “Not everyone can live in Tybroughney - That is the throw-away line that has been used for hundreds of years in taking about the micro-climate by the Suir where orchards abound and where milk yields are well above the national average where much of the country’s vegetables are grown and where yields of grin are on average 10 to 15% above the national average per acre. It is home to Iverk Produce, one of the largest and most respected fruit and vegetable producers in these islands.

It is a blessed place and at its heart, surveying it all is Tybroughney Castle, Literally translated as the well of St Fachtna, it is closely linked with the Butlers of Ormonde, the Mountgarret branch and its status went up and down with the fortunes of the Ormondes. Standing on its restored ramparts, there are amazing views of Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny - Breathtaking scenery and the castle dominates the landscape and looking out from here, you can why it was so important as a boundary between the two provinces.

Robert Duggan tells us that an early Christian monastery was established at Tybroughney by St. Madomnec who studied in St. Davids,Wales and that he may have imported the Scottish and Roman symbols from post- Roman Britain. He also set up a church in Balbriggan in Dublin and was Bishop of Ossory and retreated to being a hermit in his final days. He is reputed to have brought the first domesticated bees to Ireland. The holy well at Tybroughney is named after the later St. Fachtna who was Bishop of Lismore for a time. the Tybroughney stone which is on Dowley’s farm and just to the East of the castle is dominated by Centaurs and roman symbol. and this links in to roman remains in places like freestone Hill and Tory Hill in Kilkenny and provides us with serious links to the Romans.

On a coolish but gently early autumn evening standing on top of Tybroughney Castle where Louis Dowley has done a magnificent job in cladding the roof and lime tendering the entire building, you can just make out the settlement that surrounded it, the now ivy covered church, the churchyard, the mill and the forge that made it a village long since removed from human memory. You can also see the imprint of the deep channel now completely covered over which allowed the boats to go from the castle to the River suit and where the first cot net fishermen worked the river, catching salmon and trout. On my visit there with Robert Duggan visit there, we knock on the front door and there standing on a chair putting up a rather delicious metal candle holder is the current owner of Tybroughney, Louis Dowley. He and his wife Daphne is suggesting that it should be placed a little higher up the wall and he agrees. We receive a warm South Kilkenny welcome and given the freedom to roam the castle.

The Castle restoration is a long term project and and recent renderings with correct lime plaster have gone a long way to making the castle dry and habitable. The present castle dates from 15th century and stands on the remains of an earlier castle built in 1185 when Prince John passed by here after sailing upstream m from Waterford city. It is fascinating to note that in the last 2000 years the water levels of the tidal Suir have increased by two metres. Even in 1185, boats had to anchor at Grannagh Castle, downstream and set out again when the tide came in again before getting to Tybroughney. Will water levels go up another two metres in the next two millennia?

As we leave the main reception room in the castle, below you is the new oak floor which looks majestic. Above the 25 feet long timber beans rescued from a decaying mill which form the base for the floorboards holding up the first floor.To the side is the old farm house dating back hundreds of years and it is not dissimilar in design to the farm house attached to Clomantagh Castle but not as ornate. Again we suspect that walls from various outer defences at Tybroughney were used to build this house and the large number of farm buildings which surround this working dairy farm.

Canon Corrigan in his History and Antiquities of Ossory, Vole. 4. (Dublin 1905) says that there was at Tybroughney in ancient times “a town well inhabited and in high repute, particularly on the arrival of the English.” According to local historian, Mary O’Shea The “English” referred to here are the Anglo-Normans. In common with many early Christian monastic foundations,

Tybroughney grew and developed around the monastery. A monastic type settlement in which there was the parish church, graveyard monastery, monks’ huts, forge, perhaps a mill and farmland. Early finds in the area including axe heads along the river going back eight thousand years.

The Rath at Tybroughney, Fiddown and lookout posts in hereby hills are typical of the 1200s in Kilkenny

VIKINGS and in particular the Danes were very fond of South Kilkenny and in particular of Tybroughney. And after being massacred at Tybroughney Castle in 980AD they again settled there and re-established the settlement. The Battle of Piltown 1462 was a major confrontation which took place in the area and was part of the war of

the roses between the local Ormond and Fitzgerald lords where almost 10,000 fought. The losing side recorded

the death of 400 horsemen alone.

Tybroughney Castle stands proudly on the corner of Leinster and was at one point in its illustrious past, the border between Munster and Leinster. The Mount garret family lived here before being displaced by the forces of Oliver Cromwell.. it was given to Sit Algernon May

A time line of the owners of Tybroughney has been put together by Edward Law of the Kilkenny Archaeological society

TIBBERAGHNEY CASTLE, parish of Tibberaghney, Iverk barony.

23.3.1834 Michael Rivers Esq., of Tybroughney died. [IG Hayden commonplace book]

1839 Joseph M Rivers Esq., Tybroughney Castle, Co Kilkenny. [IG Wfd Poll list]

27.2.1839 Mr Michael Rivers of Tybroughney, dec’d. [IG Hayden commonplace book]

1884 Stanislaus J Lynch, JP, Tybroughney Castle, Carrick on Suir. [Bassett]

1884 Tybroughney Castle is on the estate of Mr Power of Bellevue, Waterford and is the residence of Mr D Lynch, formerly of Dublin, by whom it has been leased and restored. [Bassett]

1969 Tibberaghney Norman castle mentioned in the Irish Annals stands in good repair at the ford mouth on the Suir. Believed to have been built by Prince John of England in c1185 it is now the home of the Dooley family. In the first half of the 17th century it belonged to the Mountgarret family who forfeited to Cromwell in 1653. [O’Kelly]

1993 Tybroughney, very fine late medieval tower-house with house attached, partially occupied, 2 miles W of Piltown. 22.S.44.21. [KK Dev Plan]

We are indebted to Robert Duggan for his vast knowledge of Tybroughney and the local people owe him a huge debt of gratitude for opiecing togther so much about the castle and its hinterland. Mary O’Shea, another local historian has done so much to enlight us aboutour past in heritwge rich South Kilkenny.