The name Magner has been associated with several castles in north Cork including Templeconnell, Ballinguile at Kilbroney, and the original castle built upon Magner's rock in Oldcastletown, Ballinknockane, which was pre-existent to that built by William Keagh Fitzgibbon at that same site. But the Magners' chief castle appears to have been at Castlemagner, in the barony of Duhallow, three miles south of Liscarrol.1
Castlemagner parish encompasses some thirty-five
townlands, portions of four rivers, parts of the towns of Kanturk and Cecilstown,
two villages, and one old castle in ruins.2 The .Magners held
land in Subulter and other parishes of north Cork from the See of Cloyne
from AD 1240.3 The Reverend Dr. Thomas Olden states: "as it
[Castlemagner parish] is not mentioned in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne,
it probably was not then in existence. It was formerly part of the once
important prebendal parish of Subulter, and seems to have been carved out
of that parish by the Magners, a powerful family there, who built the castle
and the church."4 Reference to the castle in a mediaeval document
indicates that it was built by the Magners prior to AD 1420.5
Today, the Castle Magner's few remaining ruins are on the dairy farm of
Tim Barry. The ravens ply the sky above the castle occasionally returning
to the ivy-robed tower of this their ancient homestead nest, while proud
friesans patiently stand guard at the tower's base critically inspecting
all its visitors. It is said that the Sheela-na-gig now on the face
of St. Bridget's well once graced the entryway to this castle.6
The Pipe Roll of Cloyne shows that up to the 15th century most of the property in this section of north Cork belonged to the See of Cloyne.7 How is it that in the 17th century we find this property under the control of the FitzMaurices of Lixnawe?8 The answer to this question is given by Bishop Bennett who alleges that while the See of Cloyne was in the possession of the Fitzgeralds, that family either lost or intentionally destroyed the title-deeds and other old records belonging to the See. For example, Pipe Colman, which is a list of the estates and manors belonging to the Bishopric in 1304 was missing when Smith wrote his history, and is said to have been recovered by accident some years later and replaced in the registry. The Bishop further asserts that shortly after the hearings in the Star Chamber Sir John Fitzgerald became apprehensive because the merit of his claim to the estates of the See of Cloyne was so weak "that he contrived another method of securing lands to his family, viz., on May 5, 1608, he assigned his manor, castle, town, and lands of Cloyne, freely and fully to the Crown, and then, as appears by a constat at present in the office at Dublin, got a regrant of the whole from James I to himself and his heirs forever."9
Then, ten years later on 6 June 1618, the 16th James 1, we see an assignment of a so-called grant by the King's agent Thomas FitzMaurice, Baron of Kerry and Lixnawe "to William Magner, of Castlemagner, Co. Cork, gent," of lands and properties previously held by the Magner family since the 13th and 14th century. Fitzgerald's reason for doing so is as yet unknown.
Pyne, in his Biographical Memoirs, writes "Castlemagner, four miles east of Kanturk on the road to Mallow. The Property of Richard Magner, being an agent to the Irish inhabitants of Killmore. This castle is fifty-six feet high, flanked with one round tower, with a battery and a dwelling house, built on a rock hanging over a stream of water [The Catra]. Magner lost his estate in the wars of 1650; he was the only [emphasis mine] man who tricked Cromwell...."10
Pyne's reference, of course is to Smith's pervasive story immortalizing the encounter between Richard Magner of Castlemagner and Cromwell.11 We shall not add to the twelve plus published iterations of this tale by other authors, nor embroider it further. There has been, however, some interesting speculation about the name of the hapless Cromwellian officer alluded to but not identified by Smith. Some have reasoned that he was no less than Captain Roger Brettridge himself; others state that Arthur Bettesworth, the defender of Mallow Castle, was governor of Mallow Castle at the time, and that he must be the officer; finally, it has been noted that a Sergeant (later Captain) Reymond is often mentioned in the documents of that time as being troublesome to the Magners and, thus, say that he may have been the dupe.12
The Magners were active among the Confederate Catholics during the war of 1642, with Robert Magner joining Richard Butler, Lord Mountgarrett, at Buttevant on 10 February 1642 along with Lord Roche, O'Callaghan, O'Keefe, Redmond Barry, McDonogh, Mr. Robiston and others.13 This war lasted from the early Stewart monarchy, through the Commonwealth, to the later Stewart monarchy. The final Acts of Settlement of 1662 ensured that all of the Catholic aristocracy who had been active in that Confederacy before the Peace of 1646 were outlawed and attained. Together these old Celtic and Norman families were dispossessed of their lands and property to pay the adventurers and Cromwellians. As has been aptly said, Ireland was made to pay the price of its own conquest.14
So those Magners who were active in the Catholic Confederacy were dispossessed of their ancient homelands which they had held since the 13th century. Their lands were granted to the Cromwellian Brettridge, and the family was scattered. Few Magners if any have lived in Castlemagner since the family was dispossessed, and none to our knowledge live there today.15
This article was originally published in Seachas Duthalla, Duhallow Magazine, for 1986, pp. 44-46, the Journal of Cumann Staire Duthalla [The Duhallow Historical Society. That original version was Edited by Francis Henninger, Ph.D. This version has been slightly modified and updated by the author on 1 Sept 1998, for incorporation onto the "Magner Home Page.".
1. Col. James Grove White, Historical and Topographical Notes, etc., on Buttevant, Castletownroche, Doneraile, Mallow, and Places in their Vicinity; Cork, 1908, See under Templeconnell, IV, PP. 139-40; Ballinguille Castle, I, p.96; Castlemagner; and Castletown Castle, (Old Castletown). I would like to acknowledge the information that the Magners held several castles in north Cork was first called to my attention by Mrs. Molly Hickey of the Duhallow Historical Society. Compare the townlands listed in the grant to William Magner of Castlemagner on 6 Jun 1618 with those mentioned in the Report on the MSS of the Earl of Egmont, Historical MSS Commission, Vol. 1.
2. Census of Ireland 1891, Munster, Vol. II of Part 1, No. 2, p. 117; Field Book of 1840, Ordinance Survey Office, Dublin, as cited by Grove White, Castlemagner, II, p.111.
3 The Pipe Roll of Cloyne, JCHAS XIX, pp .53-61, 116-25, 156-67; XX, pp. 42-50, 83-96, 124-39, 183-90; XXI, pp. 29-37, 91-100, 136-45, 190-5; XXII, pp. 135-41; XX III, pp.161-9, 212-25; XX IV, p. 45
4. Rev. J.H. Cole. Church and Parish Records of the United Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Cork, 1903, p. 172.
5. H.G. Richardson and G.O. Sayles, Parliaments and Councils of Mediaeval Ireland, Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1946, I, pp. 164-5, Item 45.
6. Col. Grove White, op. cit., 1, pp. 84-90, 11, pp. 112-3; JCHAS I 1A, P. 117.
7. Pipe Roll, Passim.
8. Col. Grove White, op. cit., II, p. 114. III, pp. 308-11; W.F.T. Buttler, Gleanings From Irish History, p. 93; W. Maziere Brady, DD, Clerical and Parochial Records of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dublin, 1864, III, pp. 3-9.
9. Rev. Brady. op. cit., pp. 1,4, 6-7.
10. Michael Pyne, Biographical Memories of Travels Through This Country, privately printed on octavo pamphlet of 83 pages. Circa 1840; p. 27; Pyne evidently traveled County Cork writing favorable articles for those who paid him hospitality or purchased his tract publications. He could be acerbic about those who displeased him or withheld their patronage. For example, "There is not a man in the country that can fetter my feet or bridle my tongue. I will humble the pride of bog-trotters, and make edified people of ignorant clowns." p. 21; cf. JCHAS, XI, p. 39.
11. Charles Smith, MD, The Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Cork, Dublin, Ireland, 1st edition 1750, Vol.II, p. 396. It appears that Dr. Smith mistook Robert Magner for Richard Magner; we retain the name as 'Richard' to keep our account in concert with Dr. Smith's version.
"Castle Magner". About two miles N. Of Clonmene, is Castlemagner; which though in the circuit of this barony [Duhallow] is reckoned to be in [the barony of] Orrery. In the rebellion of 1641 this castle belonged to Richard Magner, agent for the Irish inhabitants of Orrey and Kilmore. When Cromwell was at Clonmell, he went to pay his court to him; but being represented as a very troublesome person, and one who had been very active in the rebellion, Cromwell sent him with a letter to col. Phaire, then Governor of Cork, in which was an order to execute the bearer. Magner who suspected foul play, had scare left Clonmel when he opened the letter, read the contents, and sealing it up, instead of proceeding towards Cork, turned off to Mallow, and delivered it to the officer who commanded there, telling him, Cromwell had ordered him to carry it to col. Phaire. This officer had often preyed upon Magner's lands, for which he was resolved to be revenged. The officer suspecting no deceit, went with the letter, which greatly amazed the Governor of Cork, who knew him to be an honest man, and immediately sent an express to Cromwell for further directions. Cromwell being extremely chagrined to be so served, sent orders to let the officer have his liberty, and to apprehend Magner, who took care to get out of his reach. This castle and lands were granted to the family of Bretridge for 49 arrears; it is now the estate of Sir Standish Hartstone."
12. Thomas J. Magner, The Magners of the Blackwater Valley Cork; Research Paper Three: The Richard Magner Story; Col. Grove White, op. cit. several references to Egmont MSS; Colonel Phaire, the Regicide, JCHAS, XX, p. 147; 'Mallow and some Mallow Men,' JCHAS, XI I, et. seq., passim.
13. The Rise and Progress in Munster of the Rebellion, 164I,; JCHAS 1, p. 539; 'The English Settlement of Mallow under the Jephson Family,' JCHAS XI 1, p. 14.
14 Edmund Curtis, A History of Ireland, London, 6th Edition, pp. 243-51. 257-8, and passim.
15. The Book of Survey and Distribution, circa 1657 lists: "Robert Magner, Jun., papist, owner of Castle Magner Parish consisting of 772 acres, 1 rood, 24 perch granted on forfeiture to Roger Bretridge." Also: "Robert Magnier, owner of Rosananary in Liscarrol Parish consisting of 208 acres, 0 rood, 0 perch granted on forfeiture to Roger Bretridge." Just two years later the Census of 1659 would show the titulado for Castlemagner to be the Cromwellian Roger Brettridge, Esq.