Saturday, February 22, 2014


Hugo Fitzduane, in case you don’t know, is the protagonist in three of my thrillers—and lives in a castle on a small island just off the West Coast of Ireland.

The above is not identical to the one I created for Fitzduane—the roof of his tower is flat, for instance—but it gives the general idea.

Some people find that a little incredible that anyone would still live in a castle, but clearly they know little of Irish history or the country itself. Ireland was, in fact, invaded by the Normans in 1169—and the first thing that Normans did after they has seized land was to build a temporary castle, which, over time, would be replaced by a stone one.

Then, after they had secured one parcel of land, they would move on, seize more land, and build another castle. Eventually, they ended up with a network of mutually supporting castles-and the remains of such fortified structures still dot the landscape. In fact, not all are in ruins—and some are still lived in.

Thoor Ballylee - - 67589.jpgThe poet, William Butler Yeats, lived in one for a while. It is called THOOR BALLYLEE—and, yes, I have been in it. In fact I have toured many castles, and even slept in a couple, though I have never lived in one.

Yeats bought his keep for about $50—lucky man!

I did, in fact, plan to build a Yeat’s type tower for a while—but trying to communicate this concept to the local planning people proved problematic. They looked at me as if I had two heads.

The reality is that I just like castles.

The website comments as follows:

As with church building, the Black Death was one significant reason why Norman castle construction came to a virtual halt in Ireland around 1350. But, probably within half a century or so, a new kind of less strong fortification evolved - the tower-house. In contrast to the Norman castles, which were designed to house the Lord and his retinue of retainers and soldiers (these latter housed in long-vanished barracks within the curtain walls), the tower-houses were essentially family homes of the better-off landed proprietors. Their distribution throughout the country (though their paucity in the north is probably the result of considerable destruction) shows that, unlike the larger earlier castles, the tower-houses were built by Irish and Anglo-Norman alike. They were sometimes contained within a bawn, which was doubtless more effective in keeping cattle in than human marauders out, as best seen at Dunguaire near Kinvara. The towers were up to four storeys high, with the family living on the upper two floors and the servants occupying the vaulted basement. Furniture and comfort was probably frugal, except perhaps in castles such as Bunratty, Cahir and Blarney, where the impressive size suggests greater affluence in the families which lived there. Tower-houses are mainly a product of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but one instance is recorded as late as 1643 at Derryhivenny in Galway which, like other western maritime counties such as Clare and Limerick, is particularly rich in monuments of this type.

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