CASTLEMAINE, formerly a market-town

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CASTLEMAINE, formerly a market-town, in the parish of KILTALLAGH; barony of TRUGHENACKMY, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, l ¼ mile (N. by E.) from Milltown; containing 387 inhabitants. This place, which is situated on the harbour of Castlemaine, on the south-west coast, takes its name from a castle erected on the bridge over the river Maine by McCarthy More and the Earl of Desmond, as a defence to their frontiers. Each of these chiefs was to garrison it alternately for their joint protection; but when the earl received possession of it from McCarthy, he retained it in his own power, and on the expiration of the term for which his garrison was to remain, refused to admit McCarthy, and kept entire possession of the castle, which remained in his family till the reign of Elizabeth.

The garrison under Thomas Oge defended it for a considerable time against the Queen, but it was ultimately taken by the English forces. During the war in 1641, it was in the hands of the Irish, till it was taken and demolished by Cromwell's troops under General Ludlow. After the Restoration, though the castle was in ruins, a constable continued to be regularly appointed, and the clerk of the Crown was generally selected for that office. The constable had 10s. per day and the fishery above the river; but on the death of the last constable the income was reduced, and the present constable receives £50 per annum for the ground rent, with the privileges of the two fairs and the fishery. The royalty extends to high water mark on the south side of the river; and the crown lands, which are on the north side, comprise about seven plantation acres, which are called the King's acres.

The town, which is situated on the north side of the river Maine, and on the road from Castle-island to Dingle, contains only 62 houses. The Maine flows into the harbour of Castlemaine, which is a continuation of the bay of Dingle; the bridge is supposed to be coeval with the old Thomond bridge at Limerick. The castle stood over it, and projected considerably on the east side; the buttresses of the arch by which it was supported are remaining, and the stone socket on which the pivot of the castle gate turned is still to be seen. The trade consists principally in the exportation of corn, and the importation of coal, salt, and other necessaries; but since the erection of a quay and warehouses at Callanafercy, between the mouths of the Maine and Laune, it has very much decreased. Vessels of 100 tons' burden can come up to the bridge; but from the circuitous course of the river, they require two tides, which creates a delay very injurious to trade. On both sides of it are level tracts of ground, formerly swamps, but now wholly embanked and reclaimed.

The late Mr. Nimmo reported that, if cuts were made across the winding parts of the river, vessels drawing 12 feet of water might discharge their cargoes at the town, and barges navigate four miles above the bridge, to which distance the tide extends. The expense of this improvement, and also of laying down proper marks to direct the navigation, would not exceed £1500; and the advantage derivable from it to the agriculture and the trade of the district would be very great. The erection of a pier would be a great improvement, there being scarcely any portion of the old pier remaining. Fairs are held on September 3rd and November 21st, for cattle, and two others have been recently established. Three miles to the west of the town are the ruins of Castledrum, erected by the sept of Moriarty; and on the lands of Farnass is a good chalybeate spa.—See KILTALLAGH.

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