If you are looking for a castle to visit in Galway, you might want to check out Drumharsna Castle, a five-storey tower house near Ardrahan. This castle has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the 16th century or earlier. It was also the scene of a tragic event during the Irish War of Independence, when two brothers were brutally killed by the notorious Black and Tans.
Drumharsna Castle is believed to have been built by the Kilkelly family, who were Anglo-Norman settlers in the area. The castle was later owned by Shane Ballagh, a member of the O’Shaughnessy clan, who was granted lands in Ardrahan by Queen Elizabeth I in 1577. The castle was designed as a defensive structure, with thick walls, narrow windows and a spiral staircase. It also had a bawn, or walled enclosure, around it for extra protection.
The castle survived the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland in the 17th century, and remained in use until the early 20th century. It was occupied by various tenants over the years, including farmers and labourers. Some of them made alterations to the castle, such as adding fireplaces and chimneys. The castle also had a well and a garden nearby.
In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, Drumharsna Castle was taken over by the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC), also known as the Black and Tans. These were former British soldiers who were recruited to suppress the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their supporters. They were notorious for their brutality and violence, often targeting civilians and burning villages.
The Black and Tans used Drumharsna Castle as a base and a torture chamber. They interrogated and killed many suspected rebels and sympathisers there. One of the most horrific incidents happened on 26 November 1920, when they arrested two brothers, Patrick and Harry Loughnane, who were active members of Sinn Féin, the political party that sought Irish independence. The brothers were taken to Drumharsna Castle, where they were tortured and mutilated. Their bodies were then dumped in a nearby pond, where they were found over a week later.
The Loughnane brothers became martyrs for the Irish cause, and their funeral was attended by thousands of people. Their deaths also sparked outrage and condemnation from international media and human rights organisations. The Black and Tans continued to occupy Drumharsna Castle until 1921, when they left after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed.
Today, Drumharsna Castle is a national monument under the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW). It is open to the public, but access is limited due to safety reasons. The castle is in a state of ruin, with only parts of the walls and towers remaining. Some of the original features can still be seen, such as the corbels that supported the floors and ceilings, and the loopholes that allowed for shooting arrows.
Drumharsna Castle is a reminder of the turbulent history of Ireland, and the struggles and sacrifices of its people. It is also a testament to the resilience and endurance of medieval architecture.
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