Castleplunkett (Co. Roscommon / West)
Castleplunkett / Castle Plunkett / Castleplunket etc. (Lios Lachna), historically aka Lislaghna, is a small rural community. (Photo by Sarah 777)
The hamlet takes its English name from a branch of the descendants of Oliver Plunkett, who was created Baron Louth in 1541 and died c.1555, through his fourth son, Hon Alexander Plunkett, of Carstown, Co. Louth.
Field Marshall Thomas von Plunket
Thomas von Plunket (1716 – 1779), a locally born son of John Plunket and Bridget (néeFitzgerald), was one of numerous Irish officers serving in continental armies during the C18th.
Plunket joined the Imperial Austrian Army when he was only 12 years old, fought against the Turks and in the War of the Spanish Succession, was promoted to Lt Colonel and Adjutant-General in the (Austrian) Netherlands in 1743 and to full Colonel in Italy in 1746, took part in the 1846/47 invasion of Provence, was promoted to Major General (Obrist-Feldwachtmeister) in 1753, served valiantly during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and was promoted to Field Marshall-Lieutenant in 1759. In the summer of 1760 he fulfilled the role of Austrian emissary in in Posen (now called Poznan in Poland) at the Headquarters of the Russian General Soltikoff, who he urged to take action against the Prussians, and also commanded a corps, gaining much honour in July 1762 when, due to his strategic position on the hills near Humdorf in Bohemia he prevented the Prussian General Kleist from any further advances.
Field Marshall-Lieutenant Plunket and his regiment (recruited mainly in Bavaria and Franconia, but with a significant Irish element amongst its officers) were stationed near Brussels in March 1766, but set out for Bohemia in June. March 1768 found him stationed in Linz in Upper Austria and the following year in Vienna, where he remained until May 1770, when his appointment as both Governor and Commander of the Citadel at Antwerp and its subsidiary fortifications was confirmed. He served in this capacity, dealing with a restive population, for some eight years.
His wife was Mary D’Alton, born at Grenanstown, County Tipperary, a daughter of Peter D’Alton and sister of General Count Edward D’Alton, also in the Austrian service. The couple had 4 sons and 5 daughters. The eldest boy became a Dominican while the three others followed military pursuits. One, whose godmother had been Empress Maria Theresa herself, was to die of wounds received during the storming of Belgrade in 1789, another was killed by a sniper’s bullet in 1799 during the second battle for Zurich. Mary died in October 1778 and was buried in the mausoleum of the English Carmelite monastery in Antwerp’s Hopland Street where her epitaph, in English, can be seen beneath the armorial bearings, engraved in silver, hanging next to the altar.
Plunket himself died only three months later, on 20 January 1779 at Liege, apparently while visiting some of his children who were at school in that city, and was buried locally. It would seem that as a Knight of the Military Order of Maria Theresia he had been entitled to apply for the issue of a Patent of Nobility as Baron at no cost to himself, but never did so, and was thus only entitled to a Knighthood. Neither he himself, nor contemporary documents refer to him as Count but only as “von”. His sons, however, called themselves Counts and were referred to as such in documentation.
The C18th was the high point for Irish officers in the Imperial Austrian service. To show the great esteem in which Irishmen were held, the Spanish Ambassador to the court in Vienna (himself of Irish descent) gave “‘a grand entertainment in honour of the day” on St Patrick’s Day, 1766. All who attended are said to have worn a cross in honour of St Patrick and “so did the whole of the court”. Not surprisingly among the principal officers of State and “persons of condition” who attended, were the Irish officers Count Franz Moritz Lacy (1725-1801) who had received the Grand Cross of the Order of Maria Theresa in 1758 and was by then a Field-Marshall and President of the Council of War, and Generals O’Donnell, McGuire, O’Kelly, Browne, Plunket and McEligot.
Lewis (1837) described the Castleplunkett vicinity as “bare of trees, with the exception of Millton, the seat of Roderic O’Conner, Esq., where the woods extend down a gentle slope to a turlough of nearly 200 acres, and have a rich appearance“.
The painter Roderic O’Conor (1860 – 1940) was born in Castleplunkett.
Ballintober (Co. Roscommon / West)
Ballintober / Ballintubber (Baile an Tobair – “settlement of the well”), historically aka Ballintober Bride, is a neat attractive village that has won several Tidy Town awards over the years.
St Brigid’s Well, from which Ballintober gets its name, can be seen in the centre of the village.
It is said that when Cathal Crobdearg (“Cathal of the wine red hand”) Ua Conchobair / O’Conor, king of Connacht, commissioned a monastery to be built at Ballintubber, his workers started construction here rather than the eponymous location north of Lough Carra in modern County Mayo. When O’Conor discovered this, he upgraded and enhanced the plans for the ordered that a greater and grander building in the latter place, the present Ballintubber Abbey.
Ballintober Castle, one of Ireland’s greats, overlooks the village. First mentioned in writing in 1311, the original building was probably built by William de Burgo, although it may have actually been constructed by the O’Conors of Connacht, whose principal stronghold it was for over three centuries.
The castle was taken by another branch of the O’Conors in 1315, and later figured prominently in local wars, suffering destruction, occasional burnings, and restorations over the next three centuries. It was held by successive O’Connor Dons from 1385 until The Wars of the Three Kingdoms; in 1641 it became a centre of Catholic opposition under Hugh Óg O’Conor, a Kilkenny Confederation officer who led 2500 Connacht men to defeat by English troops commanded by Sir Charles Coote at the Battle of Ballintober in 1642.
The castle was confiscated by the government in 1652 and assigned during the Cromwellian redistribution to one Col Burke of Portumna (a relative of the Earl of Clarnricard), but after much legal wrangling it was reclaimed in 1677 by Charles O’Conor Don (d,1699), whose son Andrew is said by some to have remained in residence until 1701. Subsequently, the castle and lands were mortgaged to the same Burke family and fell into disrepair. In 1790 the property was sold to Maurice Mahon of Strokestown House, who became the first Baron Hartland. The castle and part of the divided lands eventually reverted to the O’Conor Don‘s family of Clonalis House, Castlerea, and the building is now a National Monument.
It is a typical moated keepless courtyard castle, nearly square in plan, with an open courtyard in the centre and a strong polygonal tower at each corner. In the east wall there are two projecting turrets which guarded the entrance. The interior quadrangle, occupied over the years by thatched mud cabins, wooden houses and other structures, measures about 3,000 sq.m.
In the old part of the cemetery there are vaults belonging to the O’Connors of Ballinagare.
St Bride’s church (RC) was erected in 1899.
Ballintober is on the River Suck Valley Way cross-country walking route.
Emlagh Cross, an medieval High Cross located in a field two miles south-east of Castlerea, is reported in A Descriptive list of the Early Irish Crosses by Henry S Crawford as follows: “Base and part of a shaft, 5 feet high, with interlaced and other patterns. There are also the fragments of a plain shaft, and a broken head without a ring, but having the arms wider at the ends than at the centre, and ornamented with bosses in relief“.