Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)
The Normans in Rathvilly
Source: From Wikipedia
In the Beginning:
The Barony of Rathvilly is situated in the county of Carlow, and lies in the South Eastern region of the province of Leinster. During the years 1156 and 1166 Murtough MacLochlainn of Aileach, the most powerful King in Ireland was engaged in battle against Rory O'Connor, King of Connacht, for political supremacy in Ireland. Murtough MacLochlainn was supported in his fight, by Dermot MacMurrough, a chieftain in Leinster. Rory O'Connor in turn had support from Tiernan O'Rourke who was ruler of Breifne. O'Rourke and MacMurrough were constantly in dispute over the possession of Leinster. O'Connor and his ally O'Rourke, defeated MacMurrough, took his lands but left him a small holding around Ferns in county Wexford. This did not satisfy O'Rourke who was still determined to destroy MacMurrough. Tiernan O'Rourke got his way when he defeated MacMurrough's army at Ferns in 1166. With his army defeated Dermot fled to England; from there he sailed to France to seek help from Henry II who was then King of England.
The King gave him a letter of introduction which he used to recruit an army for the purpose of invading Ireland, He met with many refusals but he finally managed to get help from a Norman Knight called "Richard Fitzgilbert De Clare", better known as "Strongbow" because of his strong arms. MacMurrough, eager to get home, left England in 1167 with a small Norman Force. He no sooner landed in Ireland than he was defeated by Rory O'Connor and O'Rourke. The next invasion by ths Normans was led by Robert Fitzstephen and his allies in 1169. With the combined forces of Fitzstephen and MacMurrough Wexford was captured. This victory took O'Connor and O'Rourke by surprise and they at once made peace with Dermot MacMurrough and his allies on condition that he sent the Normans home. Dermot agreed and was granted all of South Leinster, but still not satisfied sent a message to "Strongbow" urging him to expedite his invasion of Ireland.
Strongbow did not come but sent Raymond Carew, better known as "Le Gros", who landed with a Norman force. He had no sooner established himself at Baginbun on the Wexford coast than he was attacked by a group of Irish Chieftains from Ossory and Idrone - these he defeated. With the Irish Chieftains in a weakened state of defence Strongbow landed with a large force on 23rd August 1169. He joined arms with Le Gros and succeeded in taking Waterford, after which he summoned Dermot MacMurrough. Dermot fulfilled his promise to Strong-bow by giving his daughter Aoife in marriage. In 1170 Strongbow, with the help of MacMurrough succeeded in capturing Dublin. The following year Dermot Mac Murrough died, as a result Aoife and Strongbow inherited the province of Leinster. Henry It landed in 1171 with his own army upon which both Irish and Norman leaders paid him homage. In Henry's army was a man called Hugh De Lacy to whom he granted the kingdom of Meath. In the years that followed Leinster had many rulers.
Hugh De Lacy originally came from Lascy in Normandy. This great Knight built many castles in Ireland including the castle that once stood in Rathvilly, county Carlow. The castle stood behind the present day St. Patrick's Church, which is still known as castle field. The word castle means fortified dwelling. These castles were rectangular in shape with towers at the intersections of the walls, and had several floors. Livestock and provisions were stored at the base of the castle and on the second floor the troops were usually billetted. The Lord of the castle lived on the top floor with his family. Castles were used to protect the occupants and their lands. From this fortress at Rathvilly there was a commanding view, and the castles of Rathmore and Williamstown were easily seen.
The first mention of Rathvilly Castle was in 1347 (ref. Ryans History of Carlow). In that year Edward III granted Thomas Brotherton, Duke of Norfolk the lands of Catherlough with all its castles, Rathvilly included. Thomas and his family occupied those lands until the time of Henry V111 who reigned from 1509.
The Act of Absentees passed in 1537 deprived Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and his partner Lord Berkley of the lands of Catherlough which they had inherited from Thomas Brotherton. In 1541, Henry gave these lands to friends in lieu of their support.
The Four Masters record that many different persons namely "The Geraldjnes" rebelled against the Saxons and did untold damage to the Norman Castles including the one at Rathvilly. In the reign of James I, Rathvilly Castle was restored and passed into the hands of the Ormond family. In 1620 Lady Elizabeth, only daughter of the Earl of Ormond, then wife of the Earl of Desmond, was granted these lands at Rathvilly, and its castles. Lady Elizabeth held these castles until they were seized in 1636. Those castles were granted to David Booth and his associates.
In 1650 "Ireton", son-in-law of Cromwell took command of Cromwell's troops after his departure to England. The Cromwellian troops under Colonel John Hewson attacked Rathvilly and it is stated that they were held at bay for some time at a place known as "Cromwell's Ford". They eventually succeeded in taking Rathvilly Castle, there-after dismantling it. Shortly afterwards it was partially rebuilt. The castle was lived in up until around 1736, the last person to reside there was Noll Murray.
The 1659 Census shows one Walter Murray and one George Murray lived in Rathvilly. 'Noll Murray was a descendant of theirs. Edward O'Toole mentions that in Dublin in 1903 at an International Exhibition a baton was exhibited, which belonged to a French Field Marshal labelled "property of Murray" great grand-nephew of Noll Murray, the last resident of Rathvilly Castle.
Source: Carloviana 1983. Vol 2. No. 31 p.9 & 10.