Castle Leslie

I’ve just come back from cousin’s wedding in Ireland so I’m going to take a brief detour from my usual themes and talk about the wedding venue: Castle Leslie.

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Castle Leslie is deeply intertwined with my own family’s history. We’re descended from one of the original architects, Thomas Kerr, who was brought over from Scotland for the project and then chose to settle locally and marry a Monaghan woman. I mentioned I was going to write this blog post to one of the staff and he actually took me to see some of the original plans so I could photograph them.

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Thomas’ descendants have continued to work for the family, most often as jewellers, although my great grandmother also upholstered most of the furniture at one time. According to my grandfather, who used to play on the grounds while she worked, some of that furniture is still there. (I completely failed to get a picture of it of course). I do have a picture featuring the original wallpaper however. Its crooked because I took it in a hurry but isn’t it and the fireplace beautiful?

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The portico outside has four arches with relief profiles of the first owner’s four children,. He had three daughters and a son and I think its nice he wanted to celebrate all of them like that.

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The grounds themselves and much of the interior are inspired by the Italian palazzo’s, and the weather was so unnaturally good for Ireland that it actually felt a little like being in Florence.

I would love to have that conservatory to write in.

The best and weirdest part of the place are the bedrooms, because each one has been redesigned uniquely. One of the cousins had the haunted disco bathroom (by the time she showed me my phone was out of power so no pictures sadly). Its a basement bedroom where the previous lord’s disco equipment (he was a big fan) is all set up in the bathroom, so you can turn out the main lights, turn on the flashing red and green ones and have a bath under the disco ball. We’re not sure who the ghost is though.

Another bathroom had LED constellations set over a jacuzzi while one of the rooms, which once belonged to an actress had murals of her painted on the wardrobe and a mirror covered in lights, Hollywood style. The room mum and I were in is the old Nursery and it was creepy as anything. We actually thought it was a prank the cousins were playing on her at first because she hates clowns and things like that but apparently we were given the room at random. It looked like this:

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With the bathroom built into a life size playhouse (that had a scary parachuting clown in the toilet).

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My favourite part was the delightfully classist alphabet border.

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A Field Guide To Irish Goddesses

So I’ve recently signed a book contract to write a book that provides a plain English, clearly sourced and cited book on Irish goddesses. To that end I’ve set up a patreon to help support me during the writing process and if I get enough pledges I’ll be producing regular bonus content just for my patrons. You can check it out here

The Banchomarba

In pre-Norman Ireland people were counted as part of their father’s fine, which in modern terms can be understood as something between a family and a clan. While this may seem no different to the way kinship was counted in much of Europe where it does differ is what it meant for inheritance law. Land belonged to the individual who held it, but beyond that it also belonged to the fine, and consequentially inheritance law was written to make sure that it didn’t pass outside of it. The reason for this was that the fine’s political and military power depended on how large a territory they controlled between them, and so it was imperative that it couldn’t be passed out of their control through marriage. What this meant for women and their inheritance was that, despite the relative freedom and respect Irish women were granted compared to their counterparts in much of Europe, they would generally receive no land at all, with their father’s property being divided up amongst their brothers.

What of the brotherless girl however? Who was to receive her father’s land? Rather than being divided up amongst her male relatives, as was common even in other regions that didn’t prohibit women’s inheritance, here we see the banchomarba, the woman heir. An Irish girl with no brothers, and whose father had possessed a great deal of land held a status similar to that of the female viking ring giver. She possessed her lands in her own name, lead her people into war and answered to no man save those above her in the fine hierarchy. Unlike the ring giver however, she could not pass on more than ten percent of her lands to her children because of those rules protecting the fine’s aggregate land. Despite her status as leader or ruler she still couldn’t pass on membership of her fine to her children as a man of equivalent status would.

See Nerys Patterson’s Cattle Lords & Clansmen for further reading.