Leamaneh Castle: Red Mary’s (Máire Rua) House

Leamaneh Castle, the Burren, Co. Clare
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Sitting prominently at the junction of the Ballyvaughan, Kilfenora and Corofin roads, Leamaneh castle is an impressive gothic pile stuck onto a tower house. It was once the home of the infamous Máire Rua who apparently outlived three husbands (and may have even dispatched one or two herself.

For a 17th century woman (born around 1615), she wielded plenty of power, especially after her first husband ( Daniel Neylon of Dysert O’Dea) died and she took over his estate. Her second husband, Conor O’Brien of Leamaneh, died in a battle against the Cromwellians at the Pass of Inchicronan. This is where it gets interesting. In some versions of the story, he was taken home to be nursed. She would have realised that his rebellion would have meant forfeiture of his property, so as soon as he was dead, she got all dressed up, and headed for Limerick, offering herself in marriage to any willing Cromwellian soldier. Other versions say that she didn’t marry for two years after Conor’s death, in 1653.
Leamaneh Castle, the Burren, Co. Clare
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Either way, she married a Cromwellian soldier – Cornet John Cooper, and they had children. She managed to retain a certain amount of power over her estates – a good thing, as Cooper later ran into financial problems, leading to the mortgaging of Leamaneh. There is, however, not much evidence to support the story that she threw cooper out of an upstairs window, to his death, or that she forced him to ride his horse over the Cliffs of Moher.
Maire Rua was definitely a formidable character, and like the Mayo pirate Granuaile, wild stories have sprung up about her life. It is true that she granted a royal pardon on murder charges connected to her involvement in Conor O’Brien’s rebellious activities.
More: Máire Rua from the Clare Library »
More: Legends of Máire Rua (withe some fanciful legends indeed!) »

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Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of Blather.net, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.