The Castle History

The earliest record of the Lloyd connection with Lisheen townland is to be found in the will of John Lloyd Esq., dated 1770, which records that he was in possession of the lands of the Lisheen, Ballyerc and Lisdonowly by that date through purchase from George Grace. He was also in possession of an impressive number of other townlands in the Templemore / Loughmore area. From this deed it would seem that he parcelled out his landholdings among his sons. John, his eldest son, got Cranagh and Lloydsboro, Thomas got lands in the Borrisnoe area, George got Kilolonagh, Henry Jesse got Castleiney, and Fredrick got Lisheen, and the two adjacent townlands, namely Ballerk and Lisdonowly.

Loading Wagons in Lisheen Courtyard

Loading Wagons in Lisheen Courtyard

Frederick, who like his other brothers, apart from George, was educated in Trinity College, married Julia Vereker of Roxborough, Co Limerick. He inherited some other lands in Co Cork named Ballymacrease, probably from his father. When he took up residence in Lisheen is undetermined. His eldest son, John, was born towards the end of the 1700’s and is recorded on a school list of 1803. Whether Frederick was living in Lisheen by that date is not known, but is seems that he came there sometime fairly early in century, where according to tradition, he occupied a three storey Georgian house built by Grace on the site of the later castle.

Lisheen Castle Circa 1860

Lisheen Castle Circa 1860

Frederick Lloyd is mentioned in a report dated July 1822, as leasing or renting land in Lisheen to a farmer named John Maher, and there is a letter in the National Archives from Frederick, dated August 1822, written to Dublin Castle regarding the return to the neighbourhood of some apparently notorious character named Edmund Delahunty. These show that Frederick was still the landlord of Lisheen at that time. It was probably he who embarked on the building of the present castle, which according to tradition was built around the Georgian house in stages. There is no record as to when the work started, but it may have been very early in the century. It is thought that he began building it for his son and heir, John, who got married to Catherine Rotton, of Bath, England. The date 1808 is given in Burke’s Irish Family Records, p.731, as the date of marriage, but that appears to be too early a date for it, as his earliest child was not born until 1821.

Frederick appears to have returned to Limerick City, as the inscription on the tomb of another son, named Frederick after him, and dated 1832, records him as ‘of Fortfield House.’ Frederick Junior was a lieutenant in the army, and died at the early age of 41 years. He was the first of the Lisheen Lloyds to be buried in Cooleeny.

Lisheen Castle

Lisheen Castle

The earliest recorded mention of the castle is to be found in the Tithe Applotment Book of 1827, where John Lloyd Esq., ‘of the Castle’ is listed as paying tithes on parcels of land amounting to around 122acres, plantation measure. It was apparently fairly imposing by the mid-1830s as Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, published in 1837, described it as ‘a handsome castellated building.’ But John apparently continued to add to the structure, as the O’Donovan letters, dated 1841; state that Mr Lloyd was ‘now building a new castle.’ The police barracks across the road from the castle entrance was built sometime after 1836, and is first mentioned in the rate book of 1842. It is also shown in the OS map of 1841.

The castle is a battlemented Tudor-style structure, with side turrets, and a central machicolated turret enclosing the main doorway. Such castle-like structures in revivalist styles were in vogue in that early Victorian period. Lisheen is a more modest version of the impressive castellated residences built in the first half of the nineteenth century, such as Charleville, near Tullamore, designed by Francis Johnston, Castle Bernard, near Kinnity, Co Offaly, Blackrock Castle, Cork, designed by James and George Richard Pain, and Glenstal, near Murroe, now a Benedictine Abbey.

The Family Lisheen Castle

The Family Lisheen Castle

John and Catherine had a family of at least five. As already mentioned, his first child, Charles Henry, was born in 1821. John was appointed a magistrate, and as such took Archdeacon Rev Henry Cotton, the rector of the Church of Ireland parish of Thurles, to task for criticising the local magistrates in a letter to a Dublin newspaper, alleging an unwillingness on their part to play a more positive role in the matter of the collection of the tithes. There is an exchange of letters on the part of both of them in the Tipperary Free Press of 1832, when the Tithe War was at its most tense period in Thurles and its neighbourhood. Lloyd signed his letters as simply as John Lloyd, Lisheen.

The next we hear of him is as involved in committees as the distress of the Great Famine first began to reach alarming proportions in the course of 1846. At a public meeting in April in Thurles courthouse called to devise means of creating employment for the labouring classes, and to urge landowners to subscribe to such employment projects, and towards a fund to procure food for the destitute, John Lloyd was appointed on a committee to carry out the objectives of the meeting. All the other JPs in the Thurles Union were on the committee, as was Archbishop Slattery, and Archdeacon Cotton, and the other parish clergy.

Painting of Lisheen Castle

Painting of Lisheen Castle

At a later meeting in the town John Lloyd proposed that a committee of the clergy of all denominations, the magistrates, and the Poor Law Guardians, be appointed in each parish for ascertaining what employment projects in each of them would be beneficial both to the labourers and their localities. He was appointed chairman of the Moyne Relief Committee, which was set up in August 1846. Towards the close of that year the parish priest, Fr Patrick Larkin, wrote to Dublin stating that the poor in the parish were in ‘an awful state of destitution’, and that he feared an outbreak when the public works would come to an end. There were five public works schemes going on in the parish in that winter of 1846/47, and the relief committee was praised in the Tipperary Vindicator for its efficiency.

John Lloyd was a member of the board of guardians of the Thurles Union at least by 1852, and he may have been a member as early as 1850. He was also a member of the dispensary committee of management of Moyne/Templetouhy/Loughmore. His namesake, John of Lloydsboro and Cranagh, was also a member of the board, and it was he who made Cranagh available on lease as an auxiliary workhouse in 1850. (He had acquired Cranagh through his marriage to his cousin, Debby Ann, only daughter and heiress of John Lloyd and Amy Brazier of Cranagh).

Catherine, the wife of John of Lisheen, died in 1853, and it was family lore that he was so grief-stricken that he decided to emigrate to Canada. Records, however, show that he was remarried in Dublin the following year, 1854, to Mary Ann Minton or Minchen. He and his new wife emigrated the following year, 1856, and settled on Ontario, where a second family was started. John became involved in railway construction in Canada, probably in the role of engineer, in which profession he may have qualified while in Trinity College. Family lore also tells that Lisheen was in financial straits at the time, due likely to the building costs incurred in the castle, and the subsequent Great Famine, which partially at least impoverished many estates. John’s only other son, Frederick, also emigrated to Canada, but at what stage is not on record.

A daughter, Catherine married William Butler of Drom. Charles Henry succeeded to Lisheen and its estate in 1856, if not before that. He was then thirty five years of age, and was to remain as landlord until 1887. He was appointed to the Moyne dispensary committee by at least 1857.

Lisheen Castle in the 1970s

Lisheen Castle in the 1970s

In the Tipperary by election of October 1866 following the death of John Blake Dillon, the erstwhile young Irelander, the two candidates were Captain Charles White, who was the sitting member for Dublin County, and a liberal Protestant, and Laurence Waldron, a Catholic barrister, who was the conservative candidate. White won the seat, but a petition was later presented against his return, and a select committee was appointed by the House of Commons to investigate. The investigation threw much light on the conduct of that intensely contested election and all the passion it generated.

Lisheen Castle was marginally drawn into it through the staying there of Captain Richard Cooper, an absentee landlord, who lived in Northamptonshire. He owned the townland of Ballyknockane, and came to Ireland regularly for the fishing season. As a landowner he was entitled to vote in the Tipperary election, and he was probably invited over by Charles Lloyd and other supporters of Waldron, to organise the voting of his tenants.

Such was the rivalry between the supporters of the two candidates that Cooper’s tenants who had votes refused to travel to the polling booth in Thurles unless they had police protection. John Lloyd ensured that such protection would be available, and early in the morning of the election day there was an escort of twenty dragoons, and some mounted police under the command of the resident magistrate, Gore Jones, drawn up outside the castle. There too were thirty four of Cooper’s tenants, and probably as many more of Lloyd’s, all of whom would be required to vote according to their landlord’s wishes. The secret ballot did not come in until eight years later.

Landlord and tenants needed all the protection they could get for their voting that day. As Cooper and his tenants made their way along the road to Thurles they got hissed at certain points by White’s supporters, but that was only a minor affair compared with the jostling and abuse they got as they made their way through the narrow crowded Jail Street in the town to the tally room, where the final mustering and counting of Waldron voters took place. Despite the heavy police and military presence a hostile crowd tried to prevent them coming out of the tally room and crossing the street to the courthouse to vote by a show of hands. Cooper himself was at the receiving end of stick-wielding, mud-slinging opponents, and when he and his tenants managed to vote they opted to make their way back to Ballyknockane and Lisheen by taking to the fields and going cross-country.

The end of the 1870s and the 1880s was a period of severe economic depression, which activated the beginning of the so-called Land War. Some landlords responded to the distress or at least the down-turn in
the returns of the tenant farmers by voluntarily reducing rents by from 15% to as much as 25%. The tenant farmers generally would have been satisfied if the rents were reduced to Griffith’s valuation level, which was popularly called the government rent, and which was that accepted as the standard of a fair rent by the Land League, founded by Michael Davitt at that time.

Among those landlords, however, who attempted to hold a tough line were Charles Lloyd and his old friend Cooper. Lloyd seemed to have deliberately scaled up the rent by demanding as much as 50% above Griffith’s valuation, probably to precipitate the eviction of defaulting tenants. When the Land League threatened him with a boycott, and declared they would hold what they called an indignation meeting ‘very convenient’ to Lisheen Castle, Charles Lloyd backed off temporarily. Fr William Power, the assertive and deeply politicised parish priest of Moyne-Templetouhy at the time, came to Lisheen Castle to request Charles Lloyd to agree to get his rent settled through arbitration. He gave a verbal promise of some kind that he would do that, but then went back on it. A little later he served writs of ejectment on nine of his tenants, including Michael Everard, who was a vocal and active Land Leaguer, and the great grandfather of the present owner and restorer of Lisheen Castle.

The Land League, although then suppressed by the government, was still a fairly powerful force. The local branch prevailed on Lloyd’s workers to stop working. It was in the spring of the year 1882, and Lloyd would have got no ploughing, tilling, and manuring done on his lands, if it had not been for Mrs Mary Power Lalor of Longochard, who herself was being boycotted at the time, due to an eviction she had effected through her agent, George Ryan of Inch. Her working staff had remained on the whole loyal to her, and refused to leave their employment although the local League had tried to get them to do so. Her ‘plucky men’, as she called them, did the work at Lisheen that spring.

It was one of the most intense and divisive times for the parish community, with deeply provocative events happening locally in quick
succession, such as the arrest of Tom Collier of Templetouhy under the Coercion Act, the sale of his cattle, the eviction of the widow Bourke by the Power Lalors, the building of a Land league house in the parish, probably the first such one in North Tipperary, and the attempted boycott of the Power Lalors and Lloyd of Lisheen. Although the attempted boycott of Lisheen was ineffectual, the tenants under threat of eviction by Lloyd held out and in due course got their rents reduced by arbitration under the terms of the 1881 Land Act.

As well as the campaign for fair rents and security of tenure, the 1880s also saw the growth of the campaign to improve the lot of the agricultural workers, most of whom were living in wretched conditions. They and their families were the hardest hit by the economic depression of the time. Charles Lloyd was in no way amenable to the scheme for the building of new cottages on half acres of land for the local laborers, at least as far as his own land was concerned. He blankly refused to give any of his land for a labourer’s cottage, nor would he allow any of his tenant farmers to do so, even if they wished it. He declared that he was bound by his settlement, whatever that meant.

Charles Henry was then in a third marriage, from which there were seven children. His third wife was Louisa Jackson, a Canadian, and a cousin of his first wife. He died in 1887, and by then all his family had emigrated to various countries, such as England, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. He bequeathed Lisheen and its lands to his eldest son, Charles Edward, who was born in 1854, and whose mother was Anna Langley of Killenure.

The new owner of Lisheen appears to have set off for Australia sometime after his father’s death. According to family tradition the property was in financial difficulties, and Charles Edward hoped to make his fortune in Australia and then return to put Lisheen on its feet again. He settled in Melbourne, and it was probably there that he got married to Louisa Dorcet Schultze, who was of German extraction. His step mother, Louisa, continued to live in Lisheen for a few years. Then she sold off all the furniture and effects in the castle, (they must have been willed to her by her husband), and went to live in England.

Charles Edward must not have made his fortune in Australia. He never returned to live in Lisheen. He put the property in the hands of a Thurles agent, who rented the castle to Henry Hamilton and his family for £80 a year. The Hamilton family were renting it from around 1896 to at least around 1903. An American visitor to the castle in 1903 journeyed by rail to Thurles, where she hired a jarvey car, or horse car, as she called it, and arrived at Lisheen towards the end of October. In a letter she wrote to a Mrs Lloyd in America she provided very little by way of impressions of her visit, except to record that the castle was situated in a lonely wood, and that there was not a vestige of the old belongings left in it. She was much more detailed about the cost of getting to Lisheen, which was 26 shillings by return rail and twelve and six for the jarvey car or horse car from Thurles.

Mars Hamilton gave her two photographs of the castle, and she enclosed in her letter some ivy leaves from the left corner of the building.

The Wyndam Land Act of 1903 brought another great change to Lisheen. The act gave incentives to landlords to sell out, and tenants to buy by favourable repayment terms. Negotiations were started in November 1904 between the tenants and Webb, the agent for Charles Edward Lloyd, who was then living in London, regarding the sale of the Lisheen estate apart from 143 acres of the demesne, which included 50 acres of Turbary. The negotiations were finally concluded in April of the following year, between about a hundred tenants and the landlord. The tenants got between twenty one and a half years and twenty three and a half years to pay off the annuities at 4% per annum. Their farms, which they had worked as tenants, were their own at last.

Charles Lloyd continued to rent Lisheen Castle and its 143 acres, and then in early 1918 an auction notice appeared on the Tipperary Star declaring that E.F. Lloyd was to sell his right, title and interest in Lisheen Castle and Demesne. (He must have been a son of Charles Edward). The lands were described as all in ancient pasture, sheltered by fine whitethorn hedges and abounding with oak, elm and beech. The auctioneers stated in their advertisments that they wished to direct the attention of ‘Capitalists’ to this important sale. The sale took place on the fair day of 5 February. The buyer was William Bray O’Brien, Ardfort House, Thurles, and the price was £3,740.

The most remakable thing about the purchaser was that he was married to Kathleen Lloyd, a daughter of Charles Edward, and she had been living in New Zealand, where she had met her husband William O’Brien. It must have been a strong wish of hers that Lisheen would not lose its Lloyd connection. Their only daughter, Camilla, married John Francis O’Meara of Killough, and Lisheen Castle was settled on them on the occasion of their marriage. Thus Lisheen passed into O’Meara ownership.

The next notice regarding Lisheen Castle that appeared on the Tipperary Star was a short paragraph on its issue of 2 July 1921, stating that the castle, the property of John F. O’Meara, Ardfort, was burned down on Wednesday night, 29 June, and that it was only recently that a large sum of money was expended in renovating it. It was one of the last of the burnings of unoccupied big houses in Tipperary that took place in that final phase of the War of Independence. A fortnight later, on 11 July, the truce came into effect. In fact the same issue of The Tipperary Star carried in a nearby column De Valera’s dispatch to Lloyd George that he as in consultation with as many representatives of the Irish nation as were available, and that they most earnestly desired to help in bringing about a lasting peace between the peoples of these islands.

Lisheen Castle was occupied at the time only by the caretaker, Patrick Sweeney. A number of men ordered him out, a drawing room window was smashed and petrol was thrown in. The deed was done by local IRA activists, whose names were known. Other buildings burned down around that time in Tipperary according to the Star report were Loran House, near Templemore, Derrycastle Bungalow overlooking Lough Derg, and vacant RIC barracks of Holycross, Shevry and Roskean.

John F. O’Meara was awarded £15,000 compensation the following October. The judge hearing the claim stated that he was satisfied that the O’Mearas intended to use it as their residence, and that it was an effective dwelling house at the time it was burned.

The castle remained a shell. Around 1971 a Carol Lloyd from Canada came to see it, and in a letter to her grandmother she said she expected to find only a few stones, and how tremendously surprised she was to see the stone frame of the building in fairly good order. She also said she called to see Mrs Camilla O’Meara, John F. O’Meara’s wife, who told her that the IRA boys who burned Lisheen ‘probably wanted to make a bonfire as big as the others fellows.’ The excuse they gave, she said, was that they thought the military was going to occupy it.

The Land Commission took over the land still going with the castle in 1960 and divided it. Lisheen lost its fine heritage of trees at that stage. In 1994 the castle ruins and the yard were bought by Joan and Michael Everard, and in 1996 they embarked on their great restoration programme. By December 1999 the work of restoration was completed, and on 1 May 2000 Lisheen Castle was opened to the public.