Three hundred years ago, the Castle at Tullynally (in Irish "Hill of the Swan") was a square tower of stone commanding the ancient oakwoods beside Lough Derravaragh. Today, it remains a castle, but one of the largest and most romantic in Ireland still lived in as a family house. A forest of towers and turrets, it occupies more than two acres of ground, totalling over 120 rooms and measuring a quarter of a mile in circumference.

For ten generations it has been the home of the Pakenham family, the family seat successively of squires, barons and earls. Each generation has left its monument in stone, paintings, furniture or in the splendid trees set in the castle desmesne.


General Sir Edward Pakenham

In 1740, Thomas Pakenham wooed and won an heiress from Longford and aquired her estates and family title. His wife, later created Countess in her own right, founded the magnificent family library which has been added to by successive generations.

Their son, the 2nd Baron, brought back his sword from the French Wars to hang beside the ancient elk-horns in the Great Hall, and then turned the place into a mansion fit for a nobleman, including a system of central heating designed by his friend, the famous Irish inventor, Richard Lovell Edgeworth.

Later he earned immortality by telling the great Duke of Wellington, then a young Irish officer, he was not good enough for his daughter, Kitty. They married despite him.

With Wellington in the Peninsular, Kitty's brothers, Edward and Hercules Pakenham, gained high honours in the campaign against the French. Their battle trophies returned to hang beside their father's in the Great Hall at Tullynally.

Sir Edward, as he became, had the misfortune to be chosen as Commander-in-Chief of the British army in America in 1814, and died leading his troops in the hopeless attack on New Orleans. His body was sent home, according to the custom of the time, pickled in a barrel of rum.

Preserved at Tullynally are some tragic mementos of the battle - Pakenham's last hastily written battle orders for the doomed men, the musket ball that killed him and the Duke of Wellington's letter regretting his death in such a cause.

At home, the 2nd Earl had turned the mansion back into a castle again, with four Gothic towers, a moat and six hundred feet of battlements, designed by the great Irish architect, Francis Johnston. These defences were not entirely for show, as the 2nd Earl was a sworn enemy of O'Connell and Catholic Emancipation. The 3rd Earl finally completed the pile, adding a further six hundred feet of battlements, a servants hall for forty, and an immense kitchen with cast-iron range, and coronetted copper pots large enough to serve a hundred or more at dinner when the Viceroy came to stay.

Historic Castle Ireland


And so it has remained. It is true that a private gas-works was installed by the 4th Earl, and a water turbine by the 5th. There are also some fascinating relics of other generations. In the library, are the papers of the Hon. Charles Reginald Pakenham, son of O'Connell's opponent, who gave up a brilliant career in the army to become a Catholic and a Passionist monk. ("You've been a good officer, Charles," said his uncle, the Duke of Wellington, "now be a good monk.")
As Father Paul Mary Pakenham, he founded the ~Irish Passionist order at Mount Argus.

There are also many momentos of the 6th Earl, who devoted his life to the Irish theatre and served as an Irish senator. His brother the 7th Earl of Longford, became leader of the English House of Lords, and wrote many books, including the official life of President de Valera.

But as to the building itself, later generations were content to leave the Castle as they found it. Today, the present owner, Thomas Pakenham and his wife, welcome visitors to Tullynally, both as their own home, and as a magnificent example of the Irish castle as it was in the days of the Duke of Wellington and Daniel O'Connell.




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