In 2018 Irish-Americans Tom and Shawn Carlson were discussing Shawn’s family lore. She was recounting the story of how her ancestor, Cornelius O’Leary, shot the English Sheriff Morris after the Sheriff had ambushed and murdered Art O’Leary, his brother, over petty jealousy, and a horse. Art O’Leary is an Irish national folk hero and his story is well known because his young widow, Eileen, a traditional Bard, created “The Lament for Art O’Leary”, an epic poem said to be the finest example of the type.
While discussing details of the story Tom looked up the O’Leary family history on his laptop and up popped an advert for, “Last Standing O’Leary Castle For Sale”. This surprise led to a trip to Ireland for Tom and Shawn and their two teenage children to at least have a look.
On a cold, rainy day in January they stood amongst the ruins. The task would be enormous. But with a sense of responsibility to the past, and to the future, they decided to begin the process of bringing Carraig na Curragh back to life.
While standing in the great vaulted hall on that fateful day, they made a second decision. To buy and restore the last stronghold of Clan O’Leary would, in good conscience, require that it be shared with the other O’Leary’s and the rest of the Irish Diaspora the world over. Only by sharing it could the investment be deemed a worthy endeavor.
And so, “My Irish Castle” was born. (Say it out loud, “My Irish Castle”.)
Soon the project expanded beyond the single structure. The associated church ruins and ancient graveyard requires stabilization. Other archaeological sites surrounding the castle need help. Ancient cairn and dolmen and ring forts and stone circles surrounding Carraig na Curragh all need stewardship.
And, as the vision developed, a restoration of the old Irish culture grew out of the restoration efforts of the structures. The organizers of Clan O’Leary worldwide heard of the efforts and joined forces. Soon there were communications and virtual meetings with hundreds of O’Leary’s from seven different countries.
And as part of the organizational means of helping the Irish Diaspora to participate in service to the homeland of their ancestors, the Order of the Irish Riders was researched and is being reborn as the Ridire’ na Carraig na Curragh soon to spread to other Clans and other castles.
So, what started as a quick check of the facts from the family lore has grown to, (say it out loud) “My Irish Castle”. Your Irish castle on the banks of Lee River, in the heartland of your ancestorial home.