CASTLE-ISLAND, a town and parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CASTLE-ISLAND, a town and parish, in the barony of TRUGHENACKMY, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 8 miles (S. E. by E.) from Tralee; containing 6161 inhabitants, of which number, 1570 are in the town. This place derives its name from the "Castle of the Island of Kerry," erected by Geoffrey de Marisco in 1226, and which, in 1345, was taken by Sir Ralph Ufford, lord-justiciary of Ireland, from Sir Eustace de la Poer and other knights, who held it for the Earl of Desmond, and on being captured were immediately executed. In 1397, Gerald, the fourth Earl of Desmond, commonly called "the poet," having gone out of his camp here, was privately assassinated. Queen Elizabeth granted the town and lands adjoining to the Herbert family, under the designation of "the manor of Mount Eagle Loyal," which, by a survey made by Hogan, in 1729, was found to comprise 36,920 plantation acres, valued at £3169. 12. 10. per annum. In 1733, a fee farm lease, subject to a reserved rent of £1900 per ann. for ever, was made of this property to five of the principal gentlemen of the county, who subsequently admitted a sixth; and hence it acquired the title of "the seignory of Castle-island." The proprietors afterwards made a division of the property, with the exception of the town and about 600 acres around it.

The castle, of which there are still some remains, was destroyed by the Irish in 1600. The town is situated on the river Maine, and at the junction of the mail coach roads from Tralee and Killarney to Limerick; and on the completion of the new Government road from King-William's-town, it will be also on the direct road from Tralee to Cork. It consists chiefly of one long and wide street extending nearly east and west, with a market-house at the western extremity, from which the road to Tralee branches off on the north-west, and that to Killarney on the southwest: it had formerly a market and daily post. The new Government road has opened a line for a new street, which will diverge at right angles from the south side of the main street towards King-William's-town. In 1825, an act was obtained for dividing the town and undivided lands, which was carried into effect, and under it various improvements were made in the town.

The total number of houses, in 1831, was 266, several of which are neatly built of limestone 3 and since the construction of the Government road, several additional houses have been erected. The river Maine rises suddenly from a well, called Tubbermang, about three quarters of a mile to the south-east of the town, and flowing by the south side of it, is crossed by three bridges at a very small distance from each other. This was once the capital of the county, and the assizes were formerly held here; but since Tralee became the county town, the place has declined very much, and its market has been discontinued. Fairs are still held on the first Monday in January and February, March 17th, April 20th, Easter-Monday, May 20th, June 24th, Aug. 1st (which is a great horse fair), and Oct. 1st, and there are two in November and two in December.

There is a penny post to Tralee, Newcastle, and Killarney; a constabulary police force has been stationed here, and petty sessions are held at the court-house every alternate Wednesday. A manor court for the seigniory was formerly held, in which small debts were recoverable; a weighmaster and other petty officers are still appointed by Lord Headley, one of the proprietors, to whom the tolls of the fairs are payable. The court-house is a neat and substantial building at the western extremity of the main street; and there is a small but neat bridewell near the old barracks; it is one of the eight in the county, and contains, besides the rooms for the keeper, six cells, two day-rooms, and two airing-yards.

The parish comprises 32,577 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the soil is various. Part of it is within that portion of the seigniory of Castle-island which belongs to Lord Headley, and consequently participates in the extensive and beneficial improvements which his lordship commenced in 1823 in this previously barren and unprofitable district. Among these are branch roads constructed at his expense from the new Government road between Castle-island and Abfeale, extending nearly 10 miles, and affording a facility of communication with every farm. Great improvements have been accomplished by a more efficient system of draining and fencing; upwards of fifty substantial farm-houses and cottages have been erected, Lord Headley having made stipulated allowances for that purpose; plantations to the extent of 350 acres have been made, and the appearance of the country has now an air of cheerfulness and comparative fertility. Limestone abounds, and is extensively used for manure; and there are considerable tracts of bog.

The living is a rectory entire, in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and in the patronage of Lord Headley, H. A. Herbert, Esq., Colonel Drummond, and W. Meredith, Esq., as proprietors of the seigniory of Castle-island, also of Colonel Townsend and W. T. Crosbie, Esq., who sold their respective shares to Lord Ventry and F. Chute, Esq., but retained their right of advowson. The tithes amount to £638. 18. 6. Previously to the decease of the late incumbent, the parish was united with those of Ballincuslane, Dysert, and Killintierna; but in consequence of the proprietors of the seigniory having omitted to nominate an incumbent within the limited time, the presentation for that turn lapsed to the bishop, who dissolved the union, and divided it into the three separate and distinct benefices of Castle-island, Ballincuslane, and Dysert with Killintierna, which separation was confirmed by act of council dated Jan. 4th, 1836.

The church consists of the nave of a former structure, with the belfry thickly covered with ivy; and contains a neat mural monument to some of the Merediths of Dicksgrove, and on the south side of the exterior is a small sculptured head supposed to represent that of St. Nicholas, probably the patron saint; it is about to be thoroughly repaired, for which purpose the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have granted £290. The glebe-house, at Kilbannevan, was built in 1818, by aid of a gift of £100 and a loan of £1200 from the late Board of First Fruits; the glebe comprises 32 acres, valued at £48 per annum. In the R. C. divisions the parish for the greater part is the head of a union or district, comprising also the greater portion of the parish of Ballincuslane, and the remaining portions of both are included in the district of Brosna. The chapel at Castle-island is a spacious cruciform structure, and has recently been repaired and newly fronted with hewn limestone; adjoining it is a dwelling-house for the parish priest, recently erected.

There is also a chapel at Knocknagashel, in the north part of the parish, which is attached to the Brosna district; it was erected in 1834, on a site given by Lord Headley, who also paid one-half of the expense of its erection, the other half being defrayed by his lordship's tenants in that district. There is a third chapel at Scartaglin, in the south part of the parish, which belongs to the district of Castle-island. Male and female schools are supported by the proprietors of the seigniory and the rector; and there are two schools under the superintendence of the R. C. clergyman. In these schools about 190 children are instructed; and there are also eight private schools. A dispensary has been established at the court-house. Between the western and the central bridges, on the banks of the Maine, are the ruins of the castle, consisting of several detached masses, two of which are of lofty elevation, and the whole show the original structure to have been of considerable extent. At Kilbannevan, adjoining the glebe-house, are the remains of an old church with a burial-ground; and there is still remaining a portion of the old court-house, in the rear of the present building.

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