The history of Killahara Castle in many respects reflects the history of the country from 1550. The disruption of a country still largely under ancient Brehon laws and mores, the relative silence of the 18th century, the turmoil of the 19th, ongoing struggle for land, power and cultural dominance, the devastation wrought by Malthusian economics, the Great Famine, pastoralisation mass forced emigration, the Land War, the demise of an aristocracy, and the War of Independence - all are represented in the story of this Castle.


One of the current owners and restorers of Killahara, Tom O'Neill, has researched and written an account of the history of the castle, which is available a a free ebook through the link above. Alternatively, there is a brief summary of the main events below.



Fleadh agus Fáilte - Festivities and Welcome
The motto on the Ó Fogartie / Fogarty family crest.
Chief Donagh Ó Fogartie would have welcomed you to his Castle.

  • First built by the Donagh O'Fogartie in about 1550
  • O'Fogartie was killed in battle in 1582
  • In the early 1600's the Castle passed through marriage from the O'Fogartie clan who operated under Brehon law to the Purcell family, operating under English law
  • In the 1650's Cromwellian forces sacked the Castle dispossessed the Purcells for being 'Irish Papists' 
  • The Castle and lands were awarded to an English 'adventurer' and subsequently became the property of a branch of the Trant family, then considered compliant with the new Puritanical order
  • In the 1670's the Purcells were partially reinstated on other lands, under Charles
  • Fogarty descendents becane tenants at the Castle some time in the late 1700's
  • In 1819 the Trants evicted one branch of the Fogarties from the Castle and attached all of their posessions.
  • In 1850, Black Jack Fogarty, beggared by the Great Famine, was evicted from Killahara
  • In 1852 the Trants embarked on restoring the castle as part of the new estate village of Dovea
  • Work on the castle petered out as John Trant diverted his funds to building Killahara Church
  • A 'harsh' land agent called Ellis, employed by the Trants, was murdered in 1858 very near the Castle and is buried 150yards away in the graveyard of the old Church.
  • Infamously, the Cormack brothers, who lived across the field from the Castle, were hanged (apparently wrongly) for the murder. (See Nancy Murphy's 'Guilty or Innocent' for a fascinating insight on these events.) 
  • In the 1880's the Trants were targetted for a boycott in the land wars.
  • The Trants continued to use the castle as a meeting place for where the North Tipperary ascendancy assembled for lawn tennis parties.
  • In 1903 Lady Emily Trant decided she would take up residence at the Castle and another attempt at restoration was commenced.
  • As with the previous restoration attempt, the roof was not reinstated. The alternative attempt at water proofing (a rubber sheet across the top of the vault, was not highly successful and Lady Trant lived in the Castle for only a year.
  • In 1921 the 'Black and Tans' burnt out the Castle in response to reports that the IRA was meeting there. This destroyed all the inner structure, windows, and, presumably, the rubber screeding!
  • In the 1920's and 30's the castle was the venue for dances and many people still living in the Dovea and Loughmore area met their partners in Killahara Castle
  • By the 1930's the Trant estate, like many of the remaining 'Anglo Irish' estates, was heavily encumbered. The fondly remembered Laurence Trant sold the estate to a local farmer's coop and generously donated an agricultural scholarship from the proceeds. (see his son Ion's book, 'Just Across the Water', for an interesting perspective on the period).
  • In 1981 a cow took up residence at the top of the castle. A fondly remembered lady, Mrs. O'Brien, took water and hay up the spiral stairs every day for 18 months - until the last resident of Killahara Castle make her way down again.
  • In 2006 the SE Cattle Breeders' Society sold the Castle to the current owners in the hope that it would be restored
  • On March 28, 2009 many local people attended an open day at the Castle - and participated in an evening of recollections and celebration that would have made old Chief Fogartie proud



Though this is only a summary, our account of the history of Killahara is completely open to comment and correction by all.