The Legacy of Baron de Monte Marisco, Lord of Castle Island

Kerry historian, Mary Agnes Hickson wrote a short account of Castleisland from the foundation of its castle in 1215 until ‘the present day,’ which at the time of her writing was 1872.  The town was then described as ‘one of the most prosperous and peaceful districts in the south-west of Ireland.’[1]  In less than a decade, of course, the approaching Land War would stain that reputation with blood.  Miss Hickson’s research is now reproduced below. [2]



The Castle of the Island of Kerry is said to have been erected by Geoffrey de Marisco, younger brother of Hervey de Montemarisco (or Montmorency in France) the nephew of Strongbow, and the son in law of Maurice Fitzgerald.


Geoffrey de Marisco was appointed Justiciary of Ireland in 1215.  There is frequent mention of him in the Annals of Lough Cé translated for the Rolls Publication Series by the accomplished Celtic scholar, William M Henessy Esq of the Public Record Office, Dublin.[3]


In a Genealogical Memoir of the Montmorency family written in French by Colonel Hervey Morres (nephew of the Hon Lodge Morres who represented the borough of Dingle in the last Irish Parliament) the founder of Castle Island is styled Baron de Monte Marisco, Lord of Forth, Bargy, Dunbrody, Shelburne, Lower Ormond, Castle Island and Killagh.[4]


He is said to have died in France from whence his body was brought to Ireland, and interred at Awney,[5] in the county Limerick, where he had founded a commandery of Knights Hospitallers.[6]


Above: Castleisland Castle, ‘Baronial residence of Lord Geoffrey de Montemarisco’ and centre, his tomb in the church of St John of Any, Hospital, near Limerick, where he was interred in 1245.  On the right, the Priory of Any or Hospital of St John of Jerusalem founded AD 1215 by Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency-Morres, Viceroy of Ireland.  Illustrations from Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Montmorency, styled De Marisco or Morres (1817) by Hervey de Montmorency-Morres


The lands and Hospital of Awney were afterwards granted by James the First to the ancestor of the Earl of Kenmare.[7]  Geoffrey de Marisco also founded the priory of Kilagh (now Kilcolman) in Kerry and he is said to have erected the castle of Molahiffe but this is by no means certain.[8]


Castle Island passed to the Geraldines through a marriage with Elinor de Marisco, daughter or granddaughter of Henry the Third’s Justiciary. The confusion which exists in the early links of the Desmond pedigree is very great, but it seems probable that the Elinor Morrie or Morries who is said to have brought her husband Thomas Fitzmaurice, father of John of Callan, a large dower of lands in Kerry, was really Elinor de Marisco or Mareis, heiress of Castle Island.  The annals spell the name indifferently Mareis, or Marisco, and Colonel Morres says that in Leinster it was Hibernicized into MacMorres.


In 1345, Castle Island was besieged by Sir Ralph Ufford, Lord Justiciary, it being then held out for Maurice Fitz Thomas, first Earl of Desmond, by Sir Eustace Le Poer, Sir William Grant, and Sir John Coterel who were all executed.


In 1568 John Oge Fitzgerald was Constable of the Island of Kerry for the Earl of Desmond.  John Oge was probably the head of the family of Fitzgeralds of the Island descended, according to Collins’ Peerage, from the youngest son of John Fitz Thomas.  Their family place appears to have been Ardnagragh.[9]


In the Carew Manuscripts, there is a document giving the names of certain men ‘sworn to continue in rebellion’ and John Oge Fitzgerald of Ardnagragh Castle is mentioned with the rest.[10]


In the same collection there is a ‘Survey of Ireland and account of persons of note there AD 1570’ in which the names of ‘John Oge of the Island, O’Connor Kerrie, Ferriter and Hubbard’ appear.


When the unfortunate Earl of Desmond fell at Glaunageentha, a victim of his own folly, and the relentless greed of the adventurers, hounding on him to the last the vengeance of his old hereditary foe Ormond, it was the Fitzgeralds of Ardnagragh, faithful to the last, who stole the headless body at night from the wood where it had been left by Kelly and Moriarty, and laid it in their own burial place.


Reduced to the condition of cottier tenants under the shadow of their ruined castles, the old Sept lived on, whispering round their peat fires many a tale of the glories of their fallen chieftain, fancying they heard the strains of his piper in the wail of the winter night’s wind, and burying their dead around him in the lonely little mountain churchyard of Killonanaim (the church of THE NAME), the one sad remnant of their ancient inheritance left to them, where until very recently none but Geraldines were ever interred.[11]


Seignory of Mount Eagle Loyal


A tract of land around Castle Island was granted by letters patent of Queen Elizabeth under the name of the ‘Seignory of Mount Eagle Loyal’ to Sir William Herbert of St Julians, county Monmouth.  The Queen and Council had directed that no one undertaker should receive more than 12,000 acres in grant, but this, as well as many other conditions respecting the forfeited estates seems to have been – in not a few instances – totally disregarded.  In fact the new proprietors seem to have shuffled and exchanged lands and appointments pretty much as they pleased, without any reference to their gracious Sovereign at all.


The Seignory of Castle Island on the death of Sir William Herbert passed to his only child Mary Herbert, who married her cousin, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a youth of fifteen, afterwards one of the most eccentric thinkers and writers of his time.  His brother the Reverend George Herbert is more favourably known as a poet and divine.


In 1656, Edward, third Lord Herbert of Cherbury and Castle Island, granted in fee farm to his kinsman William Brown of Weston, Lincolnshire, the lands of Tiernagoose and Inchymacmareis and from a daughter of this William Brown who it is said married Richard Meredith, the present Merediths of Dicksgrove, formerly Tiernagoose, claim to be descended.


Their lineage and descent from the ancient family of Meredyth of Llanwyddelan in Montgomeryshire, and in the female line from the Herberts of Colebrooke, and Fitzgeralds Knights of Kerry, are given at length in Burke’s Landed Gentry.


By a survey taken in 1729, the Seignory of Castle Island was found to contain no less than 37,128 acres of which only 14,211 were then profitable.  For this vast tract of land, ten miles in length and twelve in breadth, unless we are to understand that Sir William Herbert’s descendants added extensively by purchase to his original grant, the crown in the reign of Elizabeth received only £221 5s 4d per annum.


Four years after the survey of 1729 the whole seignory was leased for ever at a yearly rent of £1900 and a fine of £6000 to five gentlemen, viz: Sir Maurice Crosbie, William Crosbie, Edward Herbert (a kinsman of the owner in chief) John Fitzgerald, and John Blennerhassett.


In 1734, these gentlemen executed a deed, incorporating Richard Meredith as joint tenant with them and in 1738, a deed of partition was made assigning to each of the six his portion of the Seignory, Richard Meredith obtaining the lands leased to Brown in 1656.


Sir Maurice Crosbie’s descendants afterwards sold their portion to the ancestors of the Rt Hon Lord Ventry, and John Fitzgerald Knight of Kerry sold his to **** Chute.  William Crosbie’s portion of the Seignory is inherited by the widow of General Berkely Drummond, and Sir John Blennerhassett’s by his descendant the Rt Hon Lord Headly.


In the middle of the last century [18th] the district appears to have been lawless and disturbed and in 1798 one of the few serious crimes which occurred in Kerry during the rebellion took place at Castle Island when three soldiers of the Mount Eagle Loyal Cavalry were murdered in their barracks.  One of the murderers fled to England where he was arrested but he contrived to strangle himself in his cell at Bow Street, the rest escaped I believe to America.


Prosperous and Peaceful Castleisland


From that time the chronicles of Castle Island have been happily tamer and less eventful, and it is at present (notwithstanding the absenteeism of the owner in chief, the Earl of Powis, whose only connection with the place is in the rent of £1900 a year which he receives from it) one of the most prosperous and peaceful districts in the south-west of Ireland.


The old mansion houses of Currens and Brewsterfield where ‘free handed hospitality’ was the rule of the day and night, have passed away, but Dicksgrove, the seat of the Merediths remains, and Edenburn, formerly Magh, once the residence of the Sealy family, now occupied by Samuel Murray Hussey Esq, with many other handsome mansions of resident gentlemen proprietors have lately been erected in the neighbourhood of Castle Island.[12]


[1] See also 

[2] Originally published in Selections from Old Kerry Records (1872), pp185-190.

[3] Castlegregory native, William Maunsell Hennessy (1829-1889), scholar and official, appointed to the Public Record Office in 1868.  He edited, in two volumes, The Annals of Loch Cé (1871).

[4] Nobiliaire Universel de France ou Recueil Général (1814) by Nicolas Viton de Saint-Allais.

[5] It is worth noting that Awney and Any should be distinguished.  The following is a description of both, extracted from the Journal of Thomas Dineley Esq who visited Ireland in the seventeenth century during the reign of Charles II: ‘Abbey Ony als Owhny anciently an Abbey of the Order of Saint Bernard …Owny, now called Abingdon, was founded in 1205 for Cistercian monks … From Abbey Owny to Ballyneclogh to Grayne-Church is a small mile … on the other side of Knock Graine… a town called Pallice … From Pallice to Mil Town Abbey is two miles … From Mil Town Abbey to a fair Seate call’d the Hospitall is two miles & half … This Hospital belongs to Thomas Brown Esqr, a very worthy Gentleman, adjoining to which is an ancient parochial Church with two monuments of Knights Templars in Grey Marble.  From the Hospitall to Emly Cathedrall is two miles [footnote added: Called in the Records, The Hospital of Any.  A commandery for Knights Hospitallers was founded  here by Geoffry de Marisco, Chief Governor of Ireland in 1215]’ (Extracts from the Journal of Thomas Dineley, Esquire, Giving Some Account of his Visit to Ireland in the Reign of Charles II, Communicated by Evelyn Philip Shirley Esq MA MP with notes by Rev James Graves AB MRIA; George V du Noyer, MRIA, FGSD; John Davis White, John Windele, Herbert F Hore, and William R Le Fanu, Esqs, The Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, New Series, Vol 5, No 2 (1865), pp 268-290.

The following is taken from The Church of Ireland in Co Limerick a record of church and clergy in the nineteenth century (2013) p525: HOSPITAL (Barrysfarm townland) Always known as The Hospital of Any … A Commandery for Knights Hospitallers was founded here under Invocation of St John the Baptist in 1215. Queen Elizabeth granted this hospital and its possessions to Sir Valentine Browne who erected a magnificent castle on the site now in ruins.  Walls of ancient church remain and on north side of altar is tomb of a knight said to be the founder (Carlisle).  Ruin of Kenmare Castle in this parish.

Note also the following from The Antiquities and History of Ireland (1705) by Sir James Ware, pp103 & 106.

Co Limerick: Any, a Preceptory of St John Baptist.  Founded for Knights of the Hospital, in the Reign of King John, by Geofry de Mariscis.  Aeneas O-Hernann the last Master of this place was design’d Bishop of Imelac by Henry VIII in 1543. 

Co Limerick: Friery of Any – Augustin Hermits Founded by John Fitz-Roberts and others, in the time of Edward II (The Antiquities and History of Ireland (1705) by Sir James Ware.

Co Tipperary: Priory of Hospital of St John Baptist, near Nenagh.  Founded and indowed by Theobald Walter, Butler of Ireland, about the year 1200, for the maintenance of Augustin Canons and the sick that serv’d God there.  From the Name of St John, to whom it was dedicated, it was commonly called Teach-eon, or the House of John. 

[6] The passage Miss Hickson referred to, taken from Nobiliaire Universel de France ou Recueil Général, is as follows: ‘Geoffroi II, sire de Marisco, baron de Montemarisco, pair d’Angleterre et d’Irlande, seigneur de l’ile d’Ely, viceroy d’Irlande en 1215 et années suivantes. Il avait hérité en Irlande de toutes les terres et baronies du connétable, son oncle; il bâtit les châteaux de Lateragh, Knockagh, Tibrack, Thorny-Bridge, Castle island, Baltimore, Modriny, Emile, etc, etc, et fonda les maisons d’Any et d’Adair, pour les chevaliers de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, et l’Abbaye de Killagh, pour l’ordre de Citeaux.  Il prit la croix pour la terre sainte en 1220; fut exilé ensuite par le roi Henri III, et mourut en France, en 1245, dans le château de baron de Montmorency, son cousin, qui fit transporter son corps en Irlande, où il est enterré dans l’église des Hospitaliers de S. Jean d’Any, où l’on voit encore son tombeau avec ses effigies, en alto relievo, supérieurement exécuté.  Il avait épousé Mathilde de Lacy, soeur d’Hugo et de Gauthier, comtes d’Ultone et de Meath, les plus puissans seigneurs de royaume d’Angleterre.  De ce mariage vinrent: …’

Geoffroi II, lord of Marisco, baron of Montemarisco, peer of England and Ireland, lord of the island of Ely, viceroy of Ireland in 1215 and following years. He had inherited in Ireland all the lands and baronies of the constable, his uncle; he built the castles of Lateragh, Knockagh, Tibrack, Thorny-Bridge, Castle island, Baltimore, Modriny, Emile, etc, etc, and founded the houses of Any and Adair, for the knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, and Killagh Abbey, for the order of Citeaux. He took the cross for the Holy Land in 1220; was then exiled by King Henry III, and died in France, in 1245, in the castle of Baron de Montmorency, his cousin, who had his body transported to Ireland, where he is buried in the Church of the Hospitallers of S. John d'Any, where we can still see his tomb with his effigies, in alto relievo, superiorly executed. He married Mathilde de Lacy, sister of Hugo and Gauthier, Earls of Ultone and Meath, the most powerful lords of the kingdom of England. From this marriage came: ... ’

See entry ‘Geoffrey de Marisco’ by William Hunt in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Vol 36. ‘Geoffrey founded an Augustinian monastery at Killagh, Co Kerry, called Beaulieu and commanderies of knights hospitallers at Any and Adair, co Limerick.’

[7] See note 5 above.

[8] . 

‘Geoffrey de Monte-Maurisco, who was chief governor of Ireland in the years 1215, 1226, and 1230, and acquired, by grants from King John, great tracts of land in the counties of Tipperary and Limerick.  This Geoffrey built the castles Castleisland and Moyaliff, in the co of Kerry; in which county he founded the Mitred Abbey of Killagh.  He also founded, in Limerick county, the priory of Any, for knights-hospitallers of the order of John of Jerusalem; likewise the priory of Adair in the same county and that of Thurles, in Tipperary.  He was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son, Jourdan de Monte Maurisco’ (Burke’s Peerage, 1839).


[10] Miss Hickson directed the reader to pp168-9 of her book for further reference to the ‘Certayne men sworn to continue in rebellion.’ She also added the following footnote: ‘In the State Paper Office there is a letter dated 18th November 1568 from the Earl of Desmond (then a prisoner in the Tower) to the Knight of Kerry and ‘John Oge, Constable of the Island,’ directing them to assist the Countess in collecting his revenues.  A note to the volume calendaring the papers of that year says that John Oge was ‘probably Desmond’s uncle’ and the Munster commissioners, writing February 1568 to the Lords Justices, mention ‘an old uncle of the Earl’s who has proffered his services to govern the Palatinate,’ which proffer was rejected for John of Desmond and Danvers (whom he afterwards murdered) with Andrew Skiddy were appointed governors of Cork, Limerick and Kerry. (V Appendix).’

[11] Kilnananima; further reference,

[12] In 1872, when Miss Hickson was writing, Currans House (or Currens) appears to have fallen into ruin ('In the mid nineteenth century, the house had a decayed appearance,’ Bary, Houses of Kerry).  In 1872, Brewsterfield House near Glenflesk was in the occupation of a tenant farmer, Garrett Fitzgerald, but it was later inhabited for a short period by landlord Richard Hungerford Orpen, JP, descendant of the Brewster and Herbert families.

Further reference,