NARROWWATER CASTLE

From The Story of Belfast by Mary Lowry (circa 1913)

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NARROWWATER CASTLE is—as its name signifies—built upon a narrow part of the river which flows into Carlingford Lough. The river is half a mile in width before and after passing the projecting rock on which the castle is built. Hugh de Lacy, in the year 1212, erected the first castle on this enormous rock, as a protection for the ferry across the channel.

Later on, the Duke of Ormonde built the present massive and warlike pile in the troubled times of 1663. It consisted of one square battlemented tower standing upon the rock, which was once entirely isolated as the water flowed completely round it. It was a place of great strength, as we see from its discoloured and ominous walls. Memory invests it with many associations. Years have flowed by like the waters it overshadows, and it stands yet unchanged, a grim and silent guardian commanding the entrance to Newry by land as well as sea. The island rock is now no longer an island, a broad road connects it with the mainland, but the rampart on the seaward side is still beaten by the waves.

A romantic story lingers yet, and recalls a vivid picture of life as it was long ago. An Irishman had brought his young and beautiful wife here from the sunny land of Spain. He became wildly jealous of the great admiration her beauty excited, and he imprisoned her in a turret chamber in Narrowwater Castle. The story of her cruel treatment became known, and an old lover from Spain followed her in the vain hope of setting her free, and taking her back to her own land. Many a long night she sat on the battlements singing the old songs of happier days. Death came to the gentle lady's release, but tradition says her spirit haunted the old grey tower of her wave-washed prison, and the music of her sweet voice used to float over the waters. It comes upon us as a shock to find that the picturesque grim old fortress became in later years salt works, and the ancient courtyard was used for a coal yard. Salt works and coal yards are practical parts of our everyday existence, but we could wish that the stately ruins of the past might be spared from such desecration, and that Narrowwater Castle had remained untouched. A little in the northwest, there is a large stone in the middle of the river where two provinces meet, and an adventurous youth may stand upon three counties at once, Down, Armagh, and Louth, if he considers such a precarious venture repays the risk.

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