Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five Days in Fermanagh

Just back from a short break in Fermanagh with the family. In between trips to a) the Marble Arch caves, b) the swimming pool, c) the shops and d) the football pitch beside Enniskillen Castle Museum - where Jacob and I had a "Hit the Crossbar" competition and we impressively drew 3-3 with just 20 shots each! - we also diverted to some of the local historical sites/sights.

Fermanagh was one of the six western counties of Ulster that were "planted" with landlords and then tenants from England and Scotland from the year 1610 onwards. Historically speaking, I find that the organised, low-to-medium-impact Plantation of Ulster is all too often over-emphasised, and that this is largely to the detriment of the more natural, high-impact, migrations between east Ulster and western Scotland that had been going on for many centuries, and which have continued right up to the present day. And of course there are also the migrations of ordinary people within Ulster itself - the story is more complex, and more interesting, than simply the 120 or so aristocratic landowners who arrived from England and Scotland during the Plantation. (Having said that, George Montgomery - Hugh Montgomery's younger brother - was bringing Scots from Glasgow, Ayr and Irvine into Derry, Killybegs and Donegal in Spring 1607 even before the infamous "Flight of the Earls" of September 1607, so Plantation isn't even the whole story for the west of Ulster.)

However, Fermanagh has many Plantation-era castles dotted around Lough Erne, each of which tells a story. Here are just three:

Monea Castle (two pics below) is impressive, built between 1616 - 1618. It was built for local landlord Malcolm Hamilton from Dalserf in Lanarkshire, and it was described as "a strong castle of lime and stone".



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Tully Castle (below) has a lovely Ulster cottage style visitor centre (thankfully unmanned and without a gift shop or cash register) and was built by Sir John Hume of Plowarth in Berwickshire in 1613. The interpretive panels in the cottage tell its' story. On Christmas Eve of 1641 the local Irish Gaelic chieftain Rory Maguire had his men storm the Castle, taking all of the occupants - 15 men and 60 women and children - prisoner. Despite Maguire providing written assurances that no harm would come to them, the next day they were all stripped naked and killed, and the Castle was then set on fire. Surely there should be a memorial of some kind here. The gardens were planted as part of the castle's refurbishments of the 1980s, and are in saltire and diamond style formations, said to be as close as possible to the original.


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Castle Balfour (below) is in the grounds of Lisnaskea Holy Trinity COI Church, and was built by Michael and James Balfour of Kinross in Fife, Scotland. They arrived in Ulster in 1610 and the castle was built by 1619. I also visited the ancient Aghalurcher Graveyard just a few miles away, looking for the grave of James Johnston, the Lisnaskea minister who was ejected from his pulpit in 1661. I thought I'd found it, took loads of photographs, but when I got home and cross-checked my photos with one that William Roulston has sent me (and which was printed on the cover of the Covenanters in Ulster heritage trail), I'd photographed the wrong one! It did look very similar though. However I don't think I'll be making the 6 hour round trip to go back there to re-photograph it anytime soon.


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And finally, perhaps of just as much cultural significance for this generation as castles were for the early 1600s, this chip shop in Belleek is one for the trademark infringement police, but 10 out of 10 for creativity:

2 comments:

GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME said...

Hi Mark,

My wife is frae Fermanagh so I've had the chance tae look at the castles ower the last twenty odd years an' mair. When ye were at Monea, ye were only about 3 mile awa' frae John Gowans bookshop - plenty o' Evangelical stuff - but also a hantle o'Ulster historical stuff tae. Maybe just as well ye dinnae get, especially if you're guardin' the plastic!

Fair fa'ye!

Stephen Jamison said...

Mark Thompson knows his Castles but Colin Maxwell knows his bookshops!
Stephen J.