Archive for Maynooth Castle

Maynooth and the Boyle Family

Posted in History, Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2021 by telescoper

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon in Maynooth and I don’t feel like taking my usual walk so I thought I’d post another bit of local history like I did last week. This is another thing I’ve just found out and thought I’d share. This is a view I took last spring of Maynooth Castle (or the ruins thereof):

The Castle, together with a Manor House that was next to it, belonged to the Fitzgerald family, local aristocracy since the 13th Century. As I mentioned in a previous post, Thomas Fitzgerald, the 10th Earl of Kildare, led a rebellion against the English authorities during the time of Henry VIII. He acquired the nickname “Silken Thomas” because of the ribbons of silk worn by his supporters. The rebellion failed and his family castle was badly damaged. Thomas surrendered and was subsequently executed, along with several members of his family, in 1537. The family fortunes declined pretty drastically at that point but the family line did survive.

Now fast forward to 1630 when George Fitzgerald, the 16th Earl of Kildare married a Lady Joan Boyle. She was the daughter of a tremendously powerful figure by the name of Richard Boyle, the 1st Earl of Cork. Richard Boyle had been part of the Tudor plantation of Ireland and had acquired enormous amounts of land and personal wealth in the process. He spent some of his riches at the time of his daughter’s wedding doing up the ancestral home of his son-in-law, refurbishing the castle and building a new manor house next to it.

Unfortunately this didn’t last long. During the Irish Confederate Wars the Castle was attacked several times and badly damaged. It remained in occupation but by the end of the 17th Century it was derelict. The Fitzgerald family eventually moved to a new home at the other end of Maynooth, Carton House (now an upmarket golf resort). All Richard Boyle’s refurbishment work went to nothing and all that survives to the present day – the Gatehouse and Solar Tower – dates to the 13th Century, no doubt because it was more solidly built.

I’ve known about this for quite a while, but only this morning I discovered something else. Richard Boyle had a very large family – fifteen children altogether – and his seventh son (14th child altogether) was none other than the famous natural philosopher Robert Boyle, after whom Boyle’s Law is named. He was a particularly important figure in the development of chemistry, paid for the publication of a translation of the Bible into Irish, was a founder member of the Royal Society of London and, more importantly than any of those things, wrote the book whose cover I use when I post rambling from In The Dark on Twitter:

It’s a very descriptive title for this blog, but perhaps not so catchy.

Anyway, largely because he found it difficult to acquire materials and equipment in Ireland, Robert Boyle spent most his scientific career in England. He did however return to Ireland a number of times. He was born in Lismore, in County Waterford, so probably would have stayed near there on these visit. It is entirely possible – and indeed likely – that he may have visited his sister in Maynooth while in Ireland.

Historical References

Posted in Biographical, History, Maynooth with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2017 by telescoper

This morning, having a few hours free after breakfast before some househunting activities, I took a stroll to buy a newspaper and decided to take a few snaps.

First, here are a couple of pictures of St Patrick’s College, where I am staying. My room is on the top floor, to the left in the wing that juts forward from the main building. The chapel (with the spire) is on the other side.

The building I’m in forms the most impressive side of a quadrangle, one other part of which you can see in the second photograph.

St Patrick’s College was founded in 1795, and its style could best be described as Gothic Revival. It was in fact built as a theological college with funds supplied by King George III. There was a political reason for his largesse. Roman Catholicism was brutally suppressed in Ireland during and after the Eleven Years War in the mid-17th Century, culminating in the vicious subjugation of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. In effect, the Catholic Church in Ireland was outlawed. Starting from about 1766 some of the restrictions on Catholics began to be removed, but there were no institutions in Ireland capable of training priests so all of those wishing to join the priesthood had to study abroad, primarily in France. George was worried that this would lead to an influx of priests whose heads were filled with revolutionary ideas from the continent, so he decided to fund a place where they could be taught in Ireland, where at least there could be some control over their education.

The old theological college of St Patrick (the `Pontifical University’) forms the core of what is now the South Campus of Maynooth University. Some of the old buildings here seem to take their names from the components of the old Liberal Arts degree: there is a Music House, Logic House, Rhetoric House and so on.

Next the entrance to the South Campus you can see this:

These are the remains of Maynooth Castle (or Geraldine Castle, after the Fitzgerald family), built around 1200. It was a huge and imposing fortress but now only the gatehouse and solar tower remain. It has violent history: heavily damaged in 1535 by siege cannons, its garrison surrendered only to be summarily executed. Rebuilt in the 1630s, it was destroyed completely in the 1640s during – you guessed it – the Eleven Years War. It has been a ruin ever since, but provides an intriguing entrance to the campus!

I’m by no means an architectural expert but I had a hunch that the Church (above) that stands opposite the Castle on the other side of the road leading into campus might also be quite old. Indeed it is. It was built in 1248 as the chapel to Geraldine Castle. It is now an Anglican Church, still used for regular worship.

The South Campus is separated from the North Campus (where the Science Building and other modern facilities are) by a main road. The North Campus is very new, most of the buildings are less than 20 years old. Here’s a picture showing the splendid library, with the spire of the chapel of St Patrick’s College in the background.  This is one of the few newer buildings on the South Campus: the pedestrian path you see leads to the main road that splits North and South Campuses.