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Carrigafoyle Castle at the mouth of the River Shannon, near Ballylongford in County Kerry was referred to as the ‘Guardian of the Shannon’ because of its strategic location overlooking the shipping lanes that supplied the city of Limerick. The castle was built in the 1490s by Conor Liath O’Connor. The name Carrigafoyle derives from the Irish Carrig an Phoill, meaning ‘rock of the hole’. The castle consists of a single tower, over 24m in height. During the rebellion of Gerald Fitzgerald, 15th Earl of Desmond the castle was fortified with a garrison of fifty Irish and sixteen Spanish soldiers, who had arrived in Ireland in 1579. The castle was attacked during Easter 1580 by government forces under Sir William Pelham, Lord Justice of Ireland. Tradition recounts the siege as seeing one of the first uses of artillery fire-power in Kerry. On the first day Pelham ordered troops to cross to the sea-wall, where they were pinned down by gunfire and had boulders thrown at them from the battlements. On the second day government reinforcements arrived. The castle walls cracked under the impact of a few shots of cannon and the west wall collapsed, crushing many inside. The remaining occupants of the castle were subsequently put to death.
Photo: Don MacMonagle