Malahide

We must, however, put an end to our moralizing, and hasten to follow our artist to MALAHIDE; the village and castle of which are much visited, from their vicinity to the capital. Malahide stands in a very secluded spot, upon a creek of the Irish sea, scarce twelve miles from Dublin, and promised at one time, from the commodiousness of its bay, to become the principal seaport of Ireland. The inlet, on whose margin it is placed, possesses sufficient depth to admit vessels of considerable tonnage; and the islands of Lambay and Ireland's Eye, check the violence of the storm, and break the fury of a raging sea, thereby affording a safe asylum in waters at all periods but little agitated. "These advantages," says Wright, "were fully appreciated by our ancestors, and the preference given to the little cove of Malahide excited the keen envy of the corporation of Dublin, who caused a fine to be imposed upon Sir Peter Talbot, of Malahide Castle, for suffering vessels to break bulk at this port, contrary to the king's grants made to the city of Dublin. No commercial advantage is now derived from the security of the harbour, nor any benefit from its marine position, except that it has encouraged the settlement of a little colony of hardy sailors, engaged in the perilous life of deep sea-fishing; and others who follow the more secure, but less profitable, employment of oyster-dredging. For all their produce they find a convenient market, and an expeditious sale in Dublin.

The lordship of Malahide was granted by Henry II. to an ancestor of the present proprietor, the eldest representative of Sir Geoffrey Talbot, who held Hereford Castle against King Stephen for the Empress Maud. He was contemporary with Sir Amoricus, of Howth, and other bold adventurers, who sought acquisitions by the sword, at a time when disorganization amongst the inhabitants appears to have left their country an easy prey. Of all the successful chieftains whose grants were confirmed and enjoyed by their descendants, the Talbots and St. Lawrences alone continue in possession. Attainder dispossessed some, improvidence impoverished others. The piety of the first Talbot who settled here, induced him to grant away a portion of his estate, called Mallagh-hide-beg, to the Abbey of St. Mary's, in Dublin. It may be mentioned, in continuation of the family history, that Thomas Talbot was summoned to parliament in 1372, by the style and title of Lord Talbot de Mallagh-hide, and that in the year 1475, by a grant of Edward IV., in addition to the different manorial rights and privileges of holding courts leet and baron within his lordship, the Lord of Malahide was created high-admiral of the seas, with power to hear and determine upon all offences committed upon the high-seas or elsewhere, by the tenants, vassals, or residents of the manor of Malahide.

In the dark records of 1641, Thomas Talbot is written down an outlaw, for having been a participator in the Irish rebellion; and, in 1653, a lease was granted of the hall of his forefathers, together with five hundred acres of land, for a period of seven years, to Myles Corbet, the regicide, who sustained the weight of his guilt within its walls for several years. The exterior of the castle is venerable, and the principal front displays much grandeur. The date of its foundation is probably coeval with that of the acquisition of the manor; though uniformity is preserved in the front only, which this brief notice professes to describe. It consists of a centre of strong masonry, pierced with windows, and is flanked by two lofty, handsome, round towers, finished with a graduated parapet. The entrance is through a low pointed doorway, in the northern front, giving access, by a spiral staircase, to the oak-parlour. This ancient apartment is the most interesting in this spacious and comfortable residence; it is lined with dark oak highly polished, and divided into small compartments, ornamented with rich carvings of figures in small life, chiefly scriptural subjects.

Interior of a room at Malahide Castle

Interior of a room at Malahide Castle, Dublin

During the desecration of this venerable apartment by the presence of a regicide, we are told the little effigy of the Blessed Virgin, which occupied the panel immediately above the chimney-piece, miraculously disappeared, and, in a manner equally unaccountable, returned to its position upon Corbet's flight from Malahide. A window, whose light is derived through the medium of the stained glass that adorns it, augments the gloomy effect produced by the solemn character of the architectural decorations, and reminds the spectator of the proud spirits of these halls, that have passed away from their earthly grandeur. Other ages find here their illustration in coats-of-mail, visors, gauntlets, and greaves of ponderous cast, exhibited to the curious. The other state apartments are spacious, yet comfortable, but have lost much of their interest by being deprived of all their original furniture and decorations.

The paintings which adorn the different apartments are of the highest merit; and the manner of their acquisition confers upon them a deep degree of interest. The portraits of Charles I. and his queen are by Vandyke; of James II. and his queen, by Sir P. Lely; a fascinating portrait of the Duchess of Portsmouth, together with on of her son, the first Duke of Richmond, were the gifts of that celebrated lady to Mrs. Wogan, from whom they have passed as heirlooms to the present owner. There is also a half-length of King James's faithful adherent, Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel, and portraits of his daughters, all by Sir P. Lely. But the chef-d'oeuvre of this collection is an exquisite painting by Albert Durer, intended for an altar-piece, and representing the Nativity, Adoration, and Circumcision, divided, as was his manner, into compartments. Many other works of conspicuous merit are here omitted, not from inclination, but necessity.

Adjoining the castle, and embowered in a thick grove of chestnuts, that in their leafy honours cast a melancholy gloom upon the picture are the roofless ruins of a venerable church—silent, sad, and solitary; its solitude more striking from the appearance of a low and lonely tomb, standing in the centre of the temple, bearing on its surface the effigy of a female, habited in the costume of two centuries ago. She was the daughter of a Baron Plunkett, of Killeen, and in early life had been betrothed to the young Lord of Galtrim. Upon the day of celebrating the nuptials, and at the delivery of the last words of the solemn contract, the bridegroom was called away from the altar-steps to head his followers, and scatter a gathering of the Irish. Oh, vanity of earthly hopes! in a few short hours he was borne homewards to his widowed bride—

"Stretch'd on his shield, like the steel-girt slain

By moonlight seen on the battle plain."

This sepulchre the curious now often visit to contemplate the resting-place of one who had thus the unusual fortune "to be maid, wife, and widow in a single day." Her fortune afterwards proved less wayward, for she lived to marry, as her third husband, Sir Richard Talbot of Malahide.

The scenery around the castle is of a tame and sombre kind. The ancient moat is filled up, and transformed into a sloping bank, decorated with shrubs; stately timber everywhere decorates the park, and the sea-view, which the castle commands, is terminated and adorned by the picturesque island of Lambay. This islet rises with much boldness from the water, is situated about three miles from the coast, and occupies an area of thirteen hundred and seventy-one acres. The ruins of an old fortress upon it have been repaired, and converted into a sporting-lodge by the proprietor; rabbits and sea-fowl being there very abundant.


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