The townland of Ticroghan is located about a mile south of Clonard in south–west County Meath. The name of the townland may be spelled a number of different ways – Ticroghan, Tecroghan, Ticoghran, Tycroghan and Teach Cruachain. The townland contains the remains of a castle, church and graveyard.
The castle site, church and graveyard are on private property and it is necessary to get permission before entering a private premises.
The Fitzgeralds Family of Ticroghan
The Fitzgerald family of Ticroghan were descended from the earls of Kildare. The Fitzgerald family were a prominent noble family in medieval Ireland. The earldom was created in 1316. Garret Mór Fitzgerald served as Lord Deputy of Ireland as did his son Garret Óg. Thomas Fitzgerald, Silken Thomas, led a rebellion in 1534, was defeated and executed. In 1569 the Kildare family were restored to their title and lands.
George Fitzgerald established the family at Ticroghan in the 1500s. The family held lands in Meath and Westmeath. George married Lady Alisona St. Lawrence, daughter of Christopher, Lord Howth and they were succeeded by their son, Sir Edward Fitzgerald. In 1599 Lord Mountjoy stayed at the house of Sir Edward at Ticroghan, situated in ‘a pleasant and fruitful country’. Sir Edward married Alison Barnewall of Crickstown and their eldest son, Luke, succeeded to the title and lands. Sir Luke was born about 1586.
In the 1620s the Catholics of Ireland were seeking a recognition of their religion and freedom to hold their estates. In 1625 Sir Luke Fitzgerald was recommended by the lord treasurer for a subordinate position in an auxiliary forces to be raised in the counties of the Pale. Fitzgerald was obviously someone of stature in order to be nominated for this position. In 1639 Sir Luke was made responsible for the raising of troops for a Catholic army for the Pale.
Sir Luke married the Hon. Mary Netterville of Dowth and they had children. George was the eldest son. They had a daughter, Helena, who married Colonel Henry O’Neill, Eoghan Roe O’Neill’s son. Eoghan Roe O’Neill was the leader of the Irish Forces in the 1640s and had returned from France to fight for Catholic rights. Henry and Helena’s son, Hugh, was born at Ticroghan about 1647. Henry was put to death at the end of the Confederate Wars when Hugh was only a child. Hugh was brought for Ireland to Brussels and then onto Rome and finally to Spain. Here he became Colonel of the Regiment of Tyrone and knight in the Spanish military order of Calatrava in 1667. Hugh could claim to be the sixth Earl of Tyrone. Other records show that Eleanor/ Helena Fitzgerald married Theobald Bourke, Viscount Mayo and she died in 1684. It is unclear if these are two different daughters or the same daughter or the facts are confused. The son from Helena’s marriage to Henry O’Neill became the Earl of Tyrone and from her marriage to Theobald Bourke are descended the Marquess of Sligo and the Brownes of Westport House. Another daughter, Jane married Mathew Plunkett, 7th Lord Louth.
Sir Luke took an active part in the activities of the Confederate Wars of the 1640s. He was a regular correspondent with Ormond, one of the leaders of the Irish army. Sir Luke was one of Ormond’s emissaries to Eoghan Roe O’Neill in 1649 to negotiate a peace settlement. For his activities Sir Luke was outlawed in 1642.
Sir Luke held most of his lands in Westmeath but also held lands in the vicinity of Ticroghan. He held 8,560 acres in the barony of Farbill, Co. Westmeath. Sir Luke held 3092 acres in the barony of Lune, co. Meath, including Ballivor, Kildalkey and Donore.
In the 1650s Ticroghan had a castle, mill and diverse cabins and farm houses. Like most Catholic landowners Sir Luke’s lands were confiscated by Cromwell and he was sentenced to be transplanted to Connacht. He was granted 2031 acres in the barony of Athenry; 2034 acres in the barony of Kilconnell and the barony of Ross, all in the county of Galway. Lady Mary Fitzgerald wrote that as a result of the transplantation all the gentry were forced to live under the sky or in conditions resembling siege conditions.
After the death of Cromwell and the restoration of Charles II as king the new ruler was forced to attempt to solve the land problem in Ireland. Charles attempted to restore the previous landowners but often did not force the issue as the new owners were a strong political force. Charles II in his 1660 Declaration stated that Sir Luke’s son, George Fitzgerald of Ticroghane, was to be restored to his estates. The soldiers were to be turned out immediately ‘out of the dwelling house’. In 1661 Mary, widow of Sir Luke Fitzgerald, made petition for the restoration of her husband’s lands. The Fitzgeralds could not be restored and pleaded for a pension or the quick rents of the estate. Mary Fitzgerald made a claim as joint owner of her lands with her husband in the Second Court of Claims in 1665.
Luke’s eldest son, George, served Charles II while he was abroad. He retrieved some estate lands at Ticroghan following the restoration of Charles II in 1660. This was a difficult and lengthy process. In some cases he purchased his own lands back from the English soldiers who had been granted them by Cromwell.
George married Jane, the daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Carey of Portlester. They had only one daughter who married her cousin, Henry Fitzgerald of Rathrone. The Fitzgerald family of Ticroghan and Rathrone died out in the late 1700s.
A stone castle was constructed at Ticroghan possibly in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The castle may have been constructed at the time that the Fitzgeralds became the resident lords of Ticroghan. The castle was also known as Queen Mary’s Castle possibly after Queen Mary Tudor but more likely after Lady Mary Fitzgerald who defended the castle in the 1640s and 1650s.
The castle was located in an island in the bog. The castle was only a few miles from the main east west road across Ireland and so was in a strategic position. The castle at Ticroghan was of such importance that during the Confederate Wars of the 1640s it was known as one of the two great pillars of Leinster.
The castle was further strengthened by the addition of earthwork defences. It is suggested that the earthworks were created at the time of the Confederate Wars in the 1640s and based on a French design. The castle was surrounded by a rampart and bastion of earth and a deep dyke.
In 1647 Ticroghan was described as being exceptionally strong by nature of the ground, the site and addition of skill. In 1650 it was described as having huge ditches, strong rampiers and turrets above the castle. The marks of the earthworks are clearly visible in an aerial photograph. The ditches and fosses can be clearly seen in the grassy field.
In the 1830s the castle was described as a ‘common square tower about 12ft. high, roofless and with two doors on opposite sides. By 1837 the castle at Ticroghan had been taken down and its material used for house construction and the repair of the main Dublin–Galway turnpike road.
From Castles and Fortifications in Ireland 1485-1945 by Paul M. Kerrigan
The Battle of Tycroghan
The battle of Ticroghan was part of the Eleven Years War, also known as The Irish Confederate Wars. These wars were fought between the Irish forces, the English forces and the Royalist forces and concluded as a war between the Irish and the forces of Cromwell.
The Irish Uprising of October 1641 rapidly escalated into a war that involved Ireland, Scotland and England. The uprising began in Ulster and had spread through the whole of Ireland by the spring of 1642, gathering force as the predominantly Catholic Anglo-Irish aristocracy joined the native Irish insurgents. These forces included Luke Fitzgerald. Troops were sent from England and Scotland to quell the uprising but Irish forces became more organised with the inauguration of the Confederation of Kilkenny in May 1642 and the return of exiled veterans to fight for Ireland and the Roman Catholic faith.
King Charles attempted to come to terms with the Confederates in the hope of using Irish soldiers against the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War. The Confederate Assembly became deeply divided over the negotiations, with hardline followers of Archbishop Rinuccini demanding the full restoration of the Catholic church in Ireland, while moderate Anglo-Irish noblemen worked for a negotiated religious settlement with the King. Luke Fitzgerald is said to have taken part in the Confederate Assembly at Kilkenny. The wars in England and Scotland prolonged and complicated the Irish war. Neither the Confederates, the Parliamentarians nor the Royalists were able to deliver a decisive military blow. The King’s deputy the Marquis of Ormond surrendered Dublin to English Parliamentarian forces in 1647 rather than allow the city to fall to the Catholic Confederates. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, however, Ormond negotiated the Second Ormond Peace, which secured an uneasy alliance between the Royalists, the Irish Confederates and the Ulster Scots against the English Parliamentarians. The Confederate Wars ended with the conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army in 1649-52.
Because of its strategic position on the road to the west Ticroghan castle played a role throughout the war. From the early 1640s Eoghan Roe O’Neill used Ticroghan castle as a base for the Ulster Army. In 1642 Sir Charles Coote and his army marched against Sir Luke Fitzgerald and he refused to engage with them even though they went within musket shot of the castle. Sir John Gifford of nearby Castlejordan supported Sir Charles Coote. In 1643 Fitzgerald provided Eoghan Roe O’Neill with a cannon which was used to bombard Portlester resulting in the defeat of Lord Moore by O’Neill. In 1646 Ulick Burke, the earl of Clanricarde and his forces massed at Ticroghan. In 1647 following Thomas Prestons’s defeat at the battle of Dungan’s Hill he and his forces fled to the safety of Ticroghan castle. Cromwell arrived in Ireland in August 1649 and Ormond and the Confederate army camped at Ticroghan while Cromwell laid siege to Drogheda in August 1649.
Major Luke Maguire was placed in charge of Ticroghan while Fitzgerald was serving with the army. Robert Talbot was despatched to replace him. Maguire was reluctant to transfer his authority to Talbot as he mistrusted him. On the reassurances of Lady Mary Fitzgerald Maguire transferred his command of the castle to Talbot.
In May 1650 Ticroghan came under threat from the Parliamentary forces. A siege of the castle began. Nearby Leggar takes its name from the Irish word, Léagar, meaning siege and so the English forces must have been located in the vicinity of Leggar. Lady Fitzgerald took an active part in the defence of the castle being nicknamed Colonel Mary.
One of the Irish commanders, Clanricarde, was ordered to lead forces across the Shannon to protect the castle. Clanricarde and Castlehaven arranged to gather at Tyrellspass before marching to Ticroghan to relieve the castle. Clanricarde had a force of 2,600 men, including 800 horse. Parliamentary forces under Reynolds and John Hewson arrived at the castle in May but Hewson departed with a number of companies to Wicklow. This left the parliamentary forces of around two and a half thousand to lay siege to the castle.
The castle was surrounded by a force of 1,400 English infantry and 1,200 cavalry, entrenched behind crude earthworks. Shortly before the battle Clanrickarde withdrew, leaving Castlehaven in charge of the attack. On the 19th June Castlehaven ordered his cavalry to attack the enemy’s flank. The Irish forces were to advance through the bog.
The cavalry were dismounted and they were to advance on foot. The Irish column moved forward meeting the English force at Tocar Gearr, four miles away from the castle. The Irish forces under Richard Burke drove the English forces back on the right flank. A sudden attack was made by the English on the right flank and in the centre which resulted in the Irish being driven back. Panic took hold and the Irish retreated. A number of the Irish soldiers made it safely to re-inforce the castle and also to a safe refuge for themselves. Casualties in the engagement were small, as few as five men died on the Irish side.
The battle is considered a minor victory for the Irish as they managed to achieve their objective of providing new troops to the castle and disrupting the besieging army A number of sallies were made by the Irish forces from the castle in following days but the English forces were reinforced and the Irish leaders realised that they could not get the siege lifted.
Sir Robert Talbot and Lady Fitzgerald surrendered the castle on 25 June. The terms were lenient with the garrison allowed to march out with their weapons and serve elsewhere in Ireland.
A story is told that the besiegers were about to give up when they saw that the garrison were using silver bullets and realised that the castle’s inhabitants were running out of ammunition and had melted down the family silver. There were suggestions at the time that Talbot was a traitor surrendering the castle while there were still supplies which would have allowed it to hold out for further weeks or even six months.
Ticroghan Church and Graveyard
The church at Ticroghan may date from the eighteenth century. Ticroghan is not mentioned in the 1693 list of churches recorded by Bishop Dopping. In the 1860s Dean Cogan wrote “The old church of Tycroghan measures thirty-five feet nine inches by sixteen feet six inches. It seems to have been used for Protestant service some years back.” The graveyard is circular and contains the vault of the Fitzgerald family which could imply that the vault may have existed prior to the church. There are gravestones to the Maloney, Leech, Moran and Sherson families.
“Sacred to the memory of Robert Maloney of Kinnegad who died aged 66 years. Resquiescant in Pace”.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” Hebs (9. 27). “Here lie the mortal remains of Elinor Leech of Tycroghan who died the 20 of May 1780 aged 40 years. Also of her husband George Leech who died the 10th of Feby 1830 aged 60 years at whose request. . . . . . Has been erected to the memory of her father and mother also her husband Thomas Byrne”
“Here lise ye body of Thomas Moran who departed this life May ye 1725 and his family”.
“Erected by Richard Sherson in memory of his father William Sherson Sebr ye 11th 1767 aged 66 years”.
Clarke, Aidan. The Old English in Ireland 1625-42. (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966).
Inchiquin, Blog: Battle of Ticroghan June 1650. inchiquin.blogspot.com/2008/09/battle-of-tecroghan-june-1650.html
Kerrigan, Paul. Castles and Fortifications in Ireland, 1485-1945 (Cork, 1995)
Lenihan, Padraig, Confederate Catholics at War (Cork, 2001)
Moore, Dr. Beryl F. E. Tycroghan Ruined Church, Clonard Co. Meath, Tombstones and Inscriptions,1975-6.
O’Siochru, Michael. God’s Executioner – Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland (London, 2008)
Scot-Wheeler, James. Cromwell in Ireland (Dublin, 1999)