Yesterday I had an interview to be a Tour Guide in Maynooth Castle. The fact that it’s a stone’s throw away from where I live would make it a handy job. I’ve decided to give you 5 points about the castle so after you read this, you’ll be able to recite to yourself or a friend exactly what is that monstrous stone structure in our town. Here goes…
The Anglo-Normans first arrived in Ireland in 1169. It was they who brought over the idea of the castle. Maurice Fitzgerald was granted land here in 1176. Maynooth Castle was built where two streams meet. It was probably a Motte and Bailey wooden structure first, going on to be built of stone by Gerald FitzGerald, Maurice’s son.
The Kildare FitzGerald’s were one of the most powerful families in Ireland, becoming ‘Lord Deputys’ of Ireland (essentially holding and running Ireland on behalf of England). So powerful were they that during the Hundred Years war, though they sided with the Yorkists, and lost to the Lancasters, they still retained their power when a Lancaster King sat on the throne.
So many names are associated with the castle. The names you need to know are Garret Mór, father of Garret Óg who in turn was father of Thomas FitzGerald also known as Silken Thomas. These are big names and it was during the time of the two Garret’s at the turn of the 16th Century that Maynooth was at its power. A college was found at Maynooth during their time.
4. Silken Thomas
Garret Óg summoned to England and because of political struggles, was dismissed as Deputy, replaced by Sir William Skeffington. Silken Thomas heard he was executed and rebelled against England. Skeffington arrived and burned Maynooth town. A story is told that a man Christopher Paris betrayed the castle and opened the door for the English troops. He apparently negotiated for money but not for his life and was soon executed along with Silken Thomas and 5 Uncles. The castle was given over to future Lord Deputies but eventually restored to Kildare’s.
5. Richard Boyle
Richard Boyle Earl of Cork in 1629 bought the wardship to take care of the young FitzGerald and lived in the castle. He extensively remodeled the castle, extended wings, carved arms into the stonework etc. Wars such as the Ulster rising and the English Civil war broke out after the restoration however and many groups ransacked the castle. Furniture was taken and the library was destroyed. By 1682, the castle had already become a ruin…
Sources: Guide to National and Historical Monuments of Ireland by Peter Harbison
Maynooth (Ma Nuad) by Mary Cullen
Cannonballs and Croziers: A History of Maynooth edited by John Drennan