Jottings of my Life in Tyrone, Ireland – Kilcolgan Castle

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Kilcolgan Castle

On the avenue connecting our house with the main road, my Uncle James St, George had the entrance to his home, a quaint old place situated between the avenue and the river. To me it was a wonderful old castle, known all over the county as Kilcolgan Castle. The lawns and flower gardens around it were enclosed with a turreted wall. I always considered his old place quite romantic. Also, the castle had battlements on the walls and a square tower over the main entrance in the centre of the building, flanked by living rooms on either side. One of the quaint things about it was a spiral staircase in the tower from which passages led to the different rooms, from which there was a lovely view of the river.

Now, this river was very accommodating. Every spring tide when the wind was right, it would overflow its banks and flood the flagged stone kitchen floor and any other room that happened to be on the same level. But no one seemed to mind because you could fish out the bedroom windows and catch the most beautiful salmon trout you ever tasted. This was great fun; all you had to do was to put the fishing rods out the window, and the fish would do the rest while you were lying in bed.

Old castles are supposed to be haunted, and this one certainly was, for it has had its share of tragedy. Several years ago when the place was occupied by Mat St. George, a great uncle of mine, I think he was, a very sad thing happened there. It seems that he had returned from India with his wife and baby to reside at the castle. The flower gardens near the house were very beautiful in the spring and summer when everything was in full bloom. Leaving the gardens, you came down to the lawn where crocuses and tulips blossomed in profusion in early spring. There were a number of fine trees planted about the place, and the family always enjoyed walking through the rustic grounds. At the lower end near the entrance to the avenue was a swamp, some parts of which were quite deep.

It so happened that one afternoon the nurse who was out with the baby met a constable near the swamp and stopped for a little chat. So they sat on a nearby seat and left the bassinet in the path by the swamp. How long they talked, God only knows, but when they looked over to where the baby was, it was gone! Well, the alarm was spread and the whole marsh searched, and the deep parts dragged with hooks, but the baby was never found, nor its ghost ever seen. Like Mitchell Henry when he lost his wife and children in Connemara, Mat St. George could not bring himself to live at Kilcolgan Castle, so he went back to his position with the British government in India and never came back even for a visit. The ownership of the place then went to Uncle James who happened to be the next of kin.

Now, I think this is a good place to say something about swans. There were several of them on the river at the back of the old castle. They stayed in groups of three or four, and when a great change or a death happened, the swans would disappear for days at a time. Some, we found, would go miles away and appear on the lake up at Lord Goughs and some would spend their time walking about the grounds near our family vault and then return to their own quarters on the river again. How can you explain that one? I can’t.

I often wondered why Uncle Jim never married, he was so handsome and good-natured, and nice to everyone. He would joke me at times and say, “It is a pity you are my niece.” Then at other times he would laugh and say, “No wife would be content to live in Jackdaw Castle, “which was the nickname he had for his Kilcolgan home. He always resided with his mother and saw that her estates were properly kept up, and of course it goes without saying, he was devoted to her. All the servants and people who worked in the gardens and fields thought there was no one like Uncle Jim, he was so kind and thoughtful and did everything in his power to make those who worked for him contented and happy.

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About this record

Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert

Published here 22 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979

Page 0080 of the Athenry History archive.

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