The History of Tullaun Castle

The earliest documented reference we have found is in the 1580 list of Ormond Freeholders where it is named as the residence of Dairmid na Brosny O’Kennedy. The O’Kennedy clan were descended from Cinneide (Kennedy), the nephew of Brian Boru (High King of Ireland 940-1014). Brian Boru was the greatest of the kings of Independent Ireland but he was killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 (the surname O’Brien comes from Brian Boru). Cinneide’s father Donchuan was the eldest brother of Brian Boru. The O’Kennedy’s initial territory was close to Killaloe in County Clare but pressure from the powerful O’Briens and Mc Namaras led them to crossing to the east side of the Shannon and settling in Upper and Lower Ormond in County Tipperary. Here, their power increased and from the 11th to the 16th Century they were the Lords of Ormond.

The O’Kennedy sept consisted of three branches – Dunn (brown), Fionn (fair) and Ruadh (red). Ormond is described in the Irish annals and the English state papers as the “Countrie of the three O’Kennedies”. Tullaun Castle was owned by members of O’Kennedy Fionn. The three branches of the O’Kennedys are shown as three helmets on the coat of arms (pictured here). It is thought that the name is derived from “helmet-headed”, “rough-headed” or “ugly-headed”. Although in Gleeson’s book (The Last Lords of Ormond) he says it means “a nation”. When President John F Kennedy was presented with a specially commissioned coat of arms on his visit to Ireland in 1963 the “helmet-headed” interpretation was chosen (it was believed that O’Cinniede was one of the first of the Irish to wear head-dress into battle).

The O’Kennedys either built or came into possession of many stone tower houses. Documentation from the 17th century states that they owned 11 castles in the baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond. In 1653 an Act was passed by the ruling English that prohibited the “O” and “Mac” surname prefix (grandson and son respectively) being used. In 1656, the then owner of Tullaun Castle, John Kennedy of Knigh is transplanted to Connaught. Tullaun’s story essentially ended here because, unlike other tower houses in the area (Annagh, Castletown and Ballycolliton), no settler set up home in its vicinity. This was probably because of its inhospitable location, which makes the fact that it was ever built at all a great feat. Its location in the bog, initially an excellent means of defence, may be why most of its cut stonework is still intact.

In Bridie O’Brien’s book How We Were – in the parish of Kilbarron – Terryglass, Co. Tipperary she writes that Tullaun Castle is the jewel among the ruins. The castle is one of only a few of the O’Kennedy castles to have survived the ravages of time. Nearby Annagh, Cashlaunteigebocht, Knigh and Tombrikane are mere crumbling shadows of their former glory.

After the invasion of Cromwell an Act of Parliament in 1653 designated the confiscated lands of the baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond to be divided by lot amongst parliamentary forces in lieu of army services.

According to the book of Survey and Distribution of 1662, Captain Solomon Camby (a senior officer in Cromwell’s army in Ireland, born in 1613) received approximately 958 acres in the parish of Kilbarron, which included Tollaghane (Tullawn). Solomon Camby took up residence at nearby Castletown, which was another O’Kennedy castle. In May 1762 a lease between Solomon Cambie (great-grandson of the Solomon Camby mentioned above) and John Minchin was made for the lands of “Liskillebeene” (the new name for the townland of Tullawn). On October 5th 1846 it was reported in the Tipperary Vindicator that a William Latchford was murdered in broad daylight near the residence of Solomon Cambie.

There is also record of a Lease dated 1858 for “part of the lands of Lisquillibeen” by F.J. Minchin to Matthew Costelloe. There were Kennedys still living at Lisquillibeen in 1910 although we don’t actually know if these were related to the Kennedy’s who originally owned Tullaun Castle. In letters (please see below) written by Dan Kennedy of Lisquillibeen in 1910 to his cousin Patrick, who had emigrated to Australia in the 1850s, he mentions John and Matt Costelloe “near the Black Castle”. The next reference we can find to the tower is in the 1950s when the Office of Public Works removed the ivy that had given the castle its local name. The tower was also partly re-pointed at this time. This work on the tower was done by a local called Martin Moran. While reading How We Were I came across the mention of another Martin Moran (died 1927) with connections to the locality who lived in East St Kilda (I grew up in East St Kilda!) around the 1920s. I would love to know if there is any connection to these two apart from having the same name.

I think this letter in How We Were is brilliant and feel it must get a mention.

Lisquillbeen - 18th July 1910

Dear Patrick,
I received the Photos and papers alright and the Photos are splendid as every one that saw them said and we are very glad of the fine large respectable Family of Sons and Daughters you have and you and Mistress so fresh and healthy yet. You are in my memory yet and when I saw you I could not say I ever saw you before. Mrs Donohoe, Publican would not know you. Mrs Meara (Mary Scully) you must remember her would know you well your not the same as she says as when you were leaving Ireland but still she would know you. John Costelloe (Matt's son near the black castle) would not know you. Mrs Carroll, she is one of the Darcys of Cuminthus she married Peter Carroll (Darby's Son) near Sheehans. She thinks she would know you. John Treacy old Johnny's son that lived in the lane thinks he would know you. Bryan Casey would not know you. Ned Maher Coolbawn his brother Pat was school teacher Kilbarron would not know you and I suppose you would not know any of them. Dear Patrick all of them rejoice how well you have done out there and the large and respectable family of sons and daughters you have brought up which is a credit to you and the old land. Half a century brings a great change on. People it would be hard to know them. I am sending you a drawing of the old Castle Nenagh. You must remember it. Also the new convent school in the jail. Martin expects to sail in the Moravian July 30th from London. The weather is warm here now with heavy showers of rain & thunder & lightening and we hear of great damage being done through the country. We are very glad of the fine Family you have in a good country as the papers you sint shows. May God bless you all we all join in thanking you for your kindness to us and wish you and your family good health and happiness. I will write again soon.

Your sincere cousin
Dan Kennedy