Research indicates the now ruined O’Rourkes Hall beside the Bonet River in Dromahaire was built around 1220-1256. Below a description of the structure with suggested dates, compiled by Michael Moore in 2016.
Class: Castle – Anglo-Norman masonry castle
Description: Situated on a high bluff overlooking a gorge of the Bonet River which is immediately to the S, and it is at the S end of Dromahaire village. This is a hall-castle of 13th-century date, which was known as O’Rourke’s Hall, and it remained a stronghold of the O’Rourkes until the 17th century.
The castle may have been built by William Gorm de Lacy who undertook in 1221 to build three stone castles in Breifne for Philip de Angulo (Manning 1989-90, 22). Alternatively it might have been built by the O’Rourkes themselves after the Battle of Magh Sleacht in 1256 when they regained control of west Breifne (Co. Leitrim) and moved their centre of power into the fastness of north Leitrim.
Despite this advantage Sir Richard Bingham, Governor of Connaught, is said to have launched a surprise attack on Dromahaire in 1588 (Grose 1791, 2, 92).
Bigari illustration from 1790, map of O Rourke’s Hall 1880’s , an example of a preserved hall in England and a schematic drawing of similar structures.
The surviving remains are a single-storey rectangular structure (int. dims 21.5m NE-SW; 7.38m NW-SE) built of mortared limestone walls (Wth 1.5-2m; H 5-6m), the stone of which is probably derived from quarries immediately adjacent to the SE and NW. The walls are ivy-covered but there were four round-headed window embrasures in each long wall as illustrated by Grose (ibid. 2, Pl. 35), all of which are now robbed-out. There is a destroyed doorway (Wth 1.3m) at the S end of the NW wall, which is approached from the SW by an unexcavated shelf of rock (Wth c. 2m), and this is probably the original entrance. A destroyed doorway (Wth 1.03m) with two steps down inside it at the E end of the NE wall might be an inserted feature.
There is no indication of an upper storey. There is a modern standing stone c. 100m to N, and the Villiers fortified house is c. 60m to the N. (Harbison 2002, 43-7) “
The above description is derived from ‘The Archaeological Inventory of County Leitrim’ compiled by Michael J. Moore . In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
1. Grose, F. 1791 The antiquities of Ireland, 2 vols. London. S. Hooper.
2. Harbison, P. 2002 Our treasure of antiquities, Beranger and Bigari’s antiquarian sketching tour of Connacht in 1779. Bray. Wordwell.
3. Manning, C. 1989-90a Clough Oughter Castle, Cavan. Journal of Cumann Seanchas Breifne (Breifne Historical Society) 8 (1), 20-61.
OSI Map 1880’s