Eyrecourt Castle, County Galway
Built by John Eyre circa 1660, Eyrecourt “Castle” was an exceptional building. The two-storey mansion with open windows, a broad roof, and lofty chimneys was built of brick faced with rendered rubble. The warm, rich interior had ornately decorated wooden staircases, gallery and panelling. The ‘House of Liberty’, has been described by Bence-Jones as one of only two important mid 17th century houses to survive into the twentieth century. The estate was to remain in the Eyre family until the late 1920’s. On their departure, the castle fell into ruins. The original gates leading into the demesne were restored recently through community effort.
A splendid double staircase was carved by Dutch craftsmen and transported from Holland. It is now in store at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It is the only surviving Irish example of a type of staircase found in many 17th century English Houses. The balconies and banisters are carved in designs of foliage and fruit with pedestals supporting ornamental baskets of fruit. The wood, partly chestnut, was painted in pastel shades as was used in houses of the period.
Eyrecourt “Castle” was a manor house, built without any defensive features, in contrast to the nearby tower houses. Derryhivney Castle, only a few miles from Eyrecourt, and one of the last true castles, was built only twenty years beforehand.
Col. John Eyre had arrived in Ireland during the Cromwellian Wars (1640’s). He was a member of the commission established for settling the lands and houses in the counties of Galway and Mayo. He was granted lands in East Galway, North Tipperary and North Clare and he settled on the site of the old O’Madden stronghold. Here he built his mansion and founded the village of Eyrecourt circa 1660. In 1679 the land (about 10,500 acres) was consolidated into a manor with the right to hold a weekly market (see Market House) and two fairs yearly. Eyrecourt became a significant centre in East Galway and landowners visited to see the model plantation village.
Giles Eyre was Master of the Galway Blazers and M.P. at the end of the 18th century. He was a famous huntsman and duellist and has been immortalized as Charles Lever’s ‘Charles O’Malley’ –
The Man for Galway
To drink a toast
a proctor roast,
Or bailiff as the case is;
to kiss your wife
or take your life
at ten or fifteen paces;
to keep game-cocks,
to hunt the fox,
to drink in punch the Solway-
with debts galore but fun far more-
Oh that’s “the man for Galway”.
The King of Oude
Is might proud,
and so were onst the Caysars;
but ould Giles Eyre
would make them stare
with a company of the Blazers.
To the devil I fling ould Ranjeet Sing
He’s only a prince in a small way,
And knows nothing at all of a six-foot wall-
Oh, he’d never “do for Galway”.
To think the Blakes
Are no great shakes-
They’re all his blood relations;
And the Bodkins sneeze
At the grim Chinese,
For they come from the Phenaycians:
So fill to the brim, and here’s to him
Who’d drink in punch in Solway;
With debts galore but fun far more-
Oh that’s “the man for Galway”.
Market House/ Old Theatre, Eyrecourt, County Galway
The Old Theatre was built by the Eyre Family between 1680 and 1700. The building was used at various times as a market house, courthouse, school, theatre, cinema and town hall. The Building is a five-bay two-storey structure with a three-bay central breakfront. In private ownership, it is now unused.
St. John the Baptist Church, Eyrecourt, County Galway
St. John the Baptist Church, the present Church of Ireland parish church of Eyrecourt, was built in 1867.
It is a fine Victorian, Anglo-Gothic building of red brick. And it has been described as “without doubt one of the most striking in the Church of Ireland diocese”. Tradition has it that, four Johns erected the church: Eyre, Butson, Watson and Seymour. Fittingly it was dedicated to John the Baptist.
Throughout the building, various memorials acknowledge former parishioners who where killed in active service in major international battles across the world. There are some fine mural plaques bearing the names of the Eyres, Pollocks and other local latter-day gentry.
The church itself is an architectural gem and is surrounded by a landscaped graveyard. Of interest in the grounds is a Lych Gate located on the Eastern Boundary leading to Eyrecourt Castle. The inscription on the gate records its dedication in memory of W.H.G. Eyre 1860-1925. It was restored in 1988 in memory of William and Susan O’Neill, Woodfield House.
For info on the town of Eyrecourt click here.