|Myself and William, our cabbie/guide|
Ross Castle was built in the 1400s for the O'Donoghue Chieftans, who were able to defend it successfully against all enemies, until the British attacked from the lake side of the castle, which no one had ever tried before. It was poorly defended on that side and most of the able-bodied men were away helping other clans fight the British so most of the men who were left at Ross Castle were wounded, weak, or old. It wasn't much of a battle.
|Ross Castle Exterior|
This was about the mid-1600s and the Queen put the Browne family in charge of the castle and its estates. About 25 years later the Brownes built a house on the estate and turned the castle into military barracks.
Castles aren't really meant to be lived in, we were told. They were for defense against attackers, and as storage for food, cattle, and other necessaries to get the people through the winter and lean times.
In the 1800s England levied a roof tax on any building one owned with a roof. So the Browne family simply moved the military to another location and pulled the roof down on the castle. It lay in ruins for approximately 150 years until a vigorous restoration project began. Interestingly, every stonemason, woodworker, and craftsman who worked on the restoration had to be trained in medieval architecture and design and the castle was restored to a brand new condition (practically) using only the techniques that would have been used in the 1400s!
Thus the stones we stood on while visiting the top floor were the actual stones used in the original construction of the castle! That was pretty awesome. When they took the roof off, they just rigged up a way to pull the support beams down and it crashed in, then as time went on, each successive floor caved in on top of itself. The wood rotted away but the stones from the top floor simply fell to the bottom of the castle and were re-used when it was restored.
The bottom floor was a stone floor, but every floor up until the last had a wood floor so as not to put too much weight upon the castle walls. The final floor was also a stone floor, however, as protection against fire, should enemies get in and try to burn the place up. One more thing we learned today.
We also learned that castles were built with spiral staircases that all ran clockwise. This was because most swordsmen were right-handed, and as they battled their way upward, their sword arm would be impeded by the central core of the staircase, whereas defenders had their right arm free to swing at the enemy below. Also, the stairs were intentionally built of different heights - called "stumble steps" - to disorient and distract an enemy attacker. I noticed this the first time I climbed the staircase at Blarney Castle in 2014 but attributed it to just weathering and poor workmanship ... now I know it was an intentional defensive design. Eye opening!
The toilet (the Irish don't call them bathrooms or restrooms or washrooms) - was called a garderobe - and it was just a small open air slit in a room at the back of the castle that opened directly onto the courtyard. If you had to sit and it was windy (which Ireland often is), it would blow right back up your bum so you were quick about your business. It was called a garderobe (French for "guard clothing") because you would hang your cloak and other clothes *over* the toilet and wind would blow the smells of the toilet (including ammonia in the urine) back onto your clothes. The ammonia would kill the fleas, ticks, and other little insects that would make homes in your clothes. The smell? You didn't care about how you smelled back then. Everyone smelled the same!
We didn't get many pictures today, but what we did are here and over at my personal page on Facebook.
|Karen Dutil & daughter Amy|
Then we drove from Killarney up the coast to Liscannor, near the Cliffs of Moher, which we intend to visit tomorrow. Tonight was reserved for dinner with friends.
Karen Dutil is the wife of one of my best friends in life, Tim. Their daughter Amy (one of four beautiful children they have) married an Irishman and moved to a small town nearby. I'm not going to go into any details because I won't trade her tragedy for entertainment value, but let me just say that Amy endured something that no mother should ever have to, and Karen was in Ireland to help see her daughter through it. They were gracious and graceful to spend a couple hours with us over dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit together.
|Bonnie with Baby Mannix|
In fact, Bonnie got to hold Amy's barely five-month old baby, which you can see she just loved! It was a great time and we are definitely thankful we got the opportunity.
TOMORROW: The Cliffs of Moher, perhaps Ireland's most iconic natural treasure.
Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis but that may change without notice. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Click the photos. You'll be glad you did.