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Ballylongford 1880

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Ballylongford has the finest oysters in County Kerry and, in my humble opinion, better than Galway Bay oysters.If you enjoy oysters as much as I do and a drink go to the oyster festival in Ballylongford.

That is why I always try to take a visit to Ballylongford on the third weekend in September, the “Ballylongford Oyster Festival”. You can enjoy Ballylongford at its best. At this time of the year there are coach trips from all over County Kerry to come and join in the festivities.

All the oysters you can eat for free, washed down by a pint of the best Guinness. Actually you don’t really eat Oysters, you just swallow them whole. Great for your libido, or is it the Guinness, I have never really worked it out.

There is a Galway song “Four Roads To Glenamady” you could possibly say the same about Ballylongford. It is basically a crossroads village.

To the North is Ballylongford Bay, Carrig Island, the River Shannon and the Oysters, to the East where we have just come from, Tarbert, to the South the busy farming town of Listowel, and to the West, where we will probably finish up for the night, the seaside town of Ballybunion.

Ballylongford is situated in the parish of Agravallin, Barony of IRAGHTICONNOR, County of Kerry, and the province of Munster, containing roughly 1300 inhabitants living in about 300 houses.

Ballylongford had a strong trade in turf at one time, which was dug up from the vast supply of bog in the vicinity. Turf from this area was used in forming part of the possessions of Trinity College, Dublin.

At high tide the harbour has 16 feet of water, and is capable of being made one of the best on the Shannon, but I hope this does not happen and Ballylongford retains all its charm.

A fair market is held every alternate Thursday, chiefly for pigs and cattle. Petty sessions are held every Monday, and, once in three weeks, a baronial court for the manor of Carrig-a-foile, here is where the Garda Station is based.

At first glance, apart from the oyster festival, Ballylongford may look and seem a bit boring. But there is a lot more to Ballylongford than meets the eye.

Do you know who you are? Does your great, great grandfather come from Ballylongford?

Carrigafoyle Castle

Ballylonford was the stronghold of the O’Connor clans of Ireland; just to the West of the village you will find the ruins of Carrigafoyle Castle, built in 1490 by the Chieftain Conor O’Connor.

Carrigafoyle has had a stormy history and although wrecked by a series of bloody sieges, remains a remarkable castle. Cleverly located between the high and low water marks on the shore of the Shannon Estuary, it comprises a large tower built towards the end of the 15th century by the O'Connors of Kerry. The tower was protected on the landward side by two square bawns, an inner one with rounded turrets and an outer with square towers at the corners. These bawns extended into the water and enclosed a small dock, so that boats could sail right up to the castle - a rather useful if not unique feature.

There are only three walls remaining, at the riverside entrance a wide spiral staircase of some 100 steps leads to the tower battlements, with incredible views of the Shannon estuary.

Carrigafoyle was once considered impregnable until attacked by Queen Elizabeth on Palm Sunday in 1580.

The Castle held out against the British bombardment for weeks, until a maidservant, who had fallen in love with an English Officer, betrayed the O’Connor Chieftain and his defenders by holding a lighted candle in a window at the weakest part of the structure.

The English army then concentrated their bombardment at that point, breaching the wall and taking the castle.

Lislaughtin Friary

To the north of Ballylongford stands the imposing Gothic Ruins of Lislaughtin Friary built in 1478 by John O’Connor Kerry.

The once most sacred Friary is now clad in ivy, roofless, its great tower and cloisters long gone and Kerry bushes growing out of the centre.

The remaining walls are well preserved with the East window divided into four pointed lights by stone mullions.

There is a magnificently carved “Sedilia”, a three seated bench for the priest and his assistants on the south facing side of the alter and three imposing windows.

The Friary has a violent history and, on a full moon in the month of October, the ghosts of three monks, holding candles, have been seen walking through the ruins.

They were beaten to death in 1580 by English soldiers. The soldiers were drunk and celebrating the victory at defeating the O’Connor chieftain and his army at Carrigafoyle Castle.

An officer, who had heard the screaming, rushed to help the defenceless monks, but he was easily overpowered by the murderous mob of drunken soldiers.

His name was captain Tom Wallis, a proud Englishman from the Midlands of England.

As he looked down at the broken corpses of the three helpless monks he felt ashamed and disgusted. He felt ashamed to be a ranking officer of the English Army, he felt disgusted at playing a leading part in the whole campaign, for Queen Elizabeth of England.

Captain Tom Wallis

Captain Tom Wallis felt such remorse at the killing of the three monks he decided he had had enough. He drew his sword and drove it into the earth at the back of the friary; he turned to his horse, leapt on, and rode like a man possessed, his cape flapping behind him, all the way to Blennerville Tralee.

He knew that from there he could get away from here. At that time there was a ship sailing for Europe, and with his papers he would have no trouble boarding the ship and leave his memory behind him.

As he rushed up the gangplank Tom accidentally knocked over a young Irish Colleen, she was wearing a Galway shawl and heavily pregnant.

The story goes, their eyes met and they instantly knew that they were lovers from past life times. She was a daughter of the O’Connor chieftain recently defeated at Carrigafoyle Castle Ballylongford.

Tom came to a sudden halt, he was stopped in his tracks, he knew he had met this woman before, all his guilt and remorse suddenly left him, he felt free and calm, her eyes burnt into him and he felt at a loss of what to do.

The young Irish girl was breathing heavily, she had to leave Ireland for her own reasons, and she thought she had been caught, knowing that capture meant death. But as she looked up to Tom Wallis’s eyes she saw a softness, a cry for help, the same that she felt herself.

What happened next is a whole new story. But for now we had better get back to Ballylongford.

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