Clonegal Castle - Guide, Tour of the Castle

The High Altar in the Temple of Isis, with wooden statue

carved by David Durdin-Robertson.

Tour of the Castle

The tour normally starts at the S.W. of the castle, facing the courtyard. The door opens on to the Oak Hall. Facing one, as one comes in, is a stylized carving by David Durdin-Robertson of a hawk; opposite it, over the fireplace is the head of a lady, also carved by him. The mantel piece was carved about 1870 by Alexander Durdin (ii). The cat, from Bath stone, was carved by Anna Durdin Robertson (Currey), second daughter of Lawrence. The oak paneling behind is probably Jacobean. The pieces in front of the door, of two Roman scenes, were carved about 1900. The plain wood architraves, dated about 1850, are neo-Gothic. At the top of the stairs, one enters the castle proper. To the right of the Oak Hall passage is a square arch leading into the Tower Room, on the left of which is the rest of the tower, stripped of plaster and repointed. This room shows how the outside part of the castle was added to. A narrow loophole looks into the dungeon. A small window, higher up, looks under the main stairs. On the right is a seven foot carved figure of archangel, Bavarian, last century (originally) from a convent. It probably represents the archangel Raphael. Hanging n the panelling is a breast plate, of about the mid-seventeen century. It is of cast iron and very heavy, a bullet mark on the surface, is a proof mark of a bullet on the breast. It may have belonged to a private or N.C. O. Next to this are some pieces of equipment dating back to the Boer War. On the left going up the stairs, is a coat of chain mail found in Afghanistan, about 850 years old. Above it is a large wooden dragon carved by David. The top of the stairs goes through the thickness of the castle walls: here they are about 4 feet thick.

In the Hall passage opposite the stairs is a dragon screen showing one Chinese dragon in the middle and one in each angle; they are imperial (5 clawed) in gold thread on blue silk. They used to be in Chinese houses facing the door; scaring off demons and evil spirits! Above the screen is the winged disc, emblem of protection, carved by David against a background of oak paneling. The staircase is about 300 years old and follows the inside of the round tower. On the right hand wall (& the second flight) are some maps, dating about 1600 - one of Leinster and several of the whole of Ireland. In two of these, Ireland is shown in a different position, as seen from Wales. On reaching the lobby one comes to several bedrooms. Immediately on the right is the main Bedroom and then facing the staircase, on the right is the Guest bedroom. Against the S.W. wall is a four poster bed (about 1835) and a small stairs to enable one to get into bed. In the S.E. wall is a carved granite mantel-piece, of about 1720. To the left of the S.E. Wall is an alcove, with the castle walls here about 5 foot thick. The window looks out on to the Yew Walk. On the N.E. wall on the right one can see the Front Avenue and the Bawn. On the left is a window looking on the porch. In the wardrobe on the N.W. wall is a beautifully embroidered Chinese Mandarin’s Robe, and some uniforms of Lieut. General Sir L.W. Parsons. In the passage joining the lobby and the wing, on the right side is a portrait of Manning Robertson (1928) by Sean O’Sullivan. Down the Flying Stairs, on the left is the outside of the Round Tower. This leads to the bathroom passage, at the S.E. end of which is a picture of Mrs. Manning Robertson by Miss Ouless (1921) in front of that before the Library staircase is a carving by Cliona Cussen of a mother and child (about 1965), called “Big Mary” out of a block of teak. Opposite is a portrait of Olivia Robertson by Florence Pielou. On the right is a Tibetan teapot and to the right of that is a chair back of an Irish harp and a wolf hound. To the left of Mrs. Robertson’s picture is the entrance through the round tower through a five foot wall. The ceiling of the entrance is of Yew beams. The hall passage then opens out into the inside of the Tower. There are here two loop-holes, one into the Tower room, the other looking out inot the Tapestry room; both loop-holes looked out into the outside originally. Beside the tapestry room loop-hole, hanging on the wall is the coat of arms of Rev. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, registered by Gerard Slevin, Chief Herald of Ireland and depicted by Mrs. O-Shea, official heraldic artist. It represents the feudal barony of Strathloch, with mermaids supporting a chapeau, and a baronial helmet.

Further along the passage on both sides are some Hayman family portraits; the door into the tapestry room and opposite on the far side, is the door into the drawing room; at the end of the passage is the door into the Conservatory, which houses the vine, grown from a cutting from the Hampton Court vine and planted in about 1900. It bears purple grapes; it s root is inside under the balcony, outside the front entrance to the temple beneath the Tapestry Room on the left facing the Conservatory.

On the wall to the N.W. is an Aubusson tapestry carpet, about 1750. It was taken from France by an R.I.C. sergeant and bought by Mrs. H. Robertson in about 1900. On the wall to the South-West is the heavy granite fire-place; on the walls are some pieces of tapestry cloth. On the tapestry hang some pictures of the Durdin-Robertson children painted in 1964 by the local artist Desmond McCarthy. On the South East side of the room is a three light bay window. On the NoE. Wall is a picture “The Slaney Valley” by Cecil G. Lawson, unfinished, painted about 1871. It is a view of the Slaney Valley from one of the fields of the farm. Cecil Lawson was staying at the Castle and was one of three suitors of Helen Durdin, the other two were Herbert Robertson and a Dr. Durdin, who left his money to the Durdin Trust to supply Bibles. The third, finally, whom she accepted, was Herbert Robertson, M.P. (Conservative for S. Hackney). Cecil Lawson, being disappointed, left the “Slaney Valley” unfinished. It was later bought back after his death.

The Hall with St. Leger portraits and original fireplace, 1625.

The Conservatory has the Hampton Court vine. On its N.W. wall is a fresco showing what was going on at the Castle in 1930, laid out and painted by Mr. Manning Robertson, Barbara Robertson and Mr. Jarrett, an architect. Three concrete plaques (a cat, a squirrel and a duck) were made in 1930 by Ursula Livett. On the last door on the left going towards the Conservatory is the Drawing Room. In the Drawing Room on the South-East wall is a carved oak mantel piece by Alexander Durdin (the II) and against the northwest wall is a slightly cracked Chinese bowl, taken (or rather looted) from the Imperial Palace in Peking by a soldier, bought by Lieut. General Sir L.W. Parsons and brought to Ireland. In a glass fronted cupboard in the S.W. are some pieces of modern Dresden China and a set of Rosenthal tea cups. A picture of Olivia of Twelfth Night by Frith on the S.E. wall near the fireplace, and opposite is a Vauxhall mirror. On the first door on the left going towards the conservatory is the door into the Old Hall. In the N.W. wall of the Hall is a granite fireplace with the date 1625 on the key stone; a low passage is built through the thickness of the wall entering the kitchen, serving as a hatch for food. To the right of the fireplace is a stained glass window made in 1870 by Powell, showing in heraldry the history of the Castle. The walls are hung with Bedouin Arab tent-hangings from Tunisia bought by Mrs. Herbert Robertson in about 1900.

On the N.E. wall of the Old Hall is a pair of double doors, being the original entrance to the castle. The right hand has a spy-hole and the left another spy-hole through which the muzzle of a gun can protrude. These doors open into the Porch built in 1680 which has its own door, strengthened with a gate. Above it is a coat of arms of the Rev. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson and his wife Pamela (Barclay). To the left of it is the certificate of registration from Mr. G. Slevin, the Chief Herald of Ireland; to the right and left of the porch are displayed the books written by Miss Olivia Robertson and the Rev. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, connected with the Fellowship of Isis. This was founded in 1976 by Lawrence and Pamela Durdin-Robertson and the Hon. Olivia Robertson, basically as a form of religion to worship the Goddess in her many forms. It is multi-racial, multi-religious and its membership Catholics and Protestants, Hindus, Shintoists, Cherokee Indians and some others in sixty-four different countries which include Ireland, Britain, U.S.A., Germany, Romania, Iceland, Japan and Siberia. Nearly half the members of the F.O.I. are black, from W. Africa. Festivals are held in the Temple eight times in the year, and outside in the Dana Temple as well if the weather permits. Many members of the F.O.I. and other visitors visit part of the Castle and the grounds and the Temple.

The Temple of Isis occupies the old basement of the Castle. It is approached through a double door. Facing one on the wall is a Ankh, “The origin of life”; above it is a solar wheel divided in 12, representing the signs of the zodiac. Above the doors is a mask of the goddess Neith carved in box-wood by David. To the right of the doors is a Halcyon bird in painted Tulip-tree wood, also by him. Down some granite steps, on the left is a wall. In front of this is a carving of a goddess presented by Archpriest Michael Okoruwa of Nigeria. Beyond that is the bell, formerly from the old chapel. Through a heavy iron gate one comes to the well enclosure with the well, believed to date from Druid times. It has 15 feet of water and is reputed to have healing powers and is now dedicated to the Goddess Brighid of the Tuathe de Danann. People may anoint themselves on their forehead from water left out in a silver Basin on the Sagittarius altar.

To the north is a window looking out on to the Dana Temple or old Abbey. In the North East the old Druid well, believed to date from pre-Christian times. This chapel contains the shrines of Libra, with a reredos by William Morris; Scorpio, opposite to it on the right, and Sagittarius on the left and in the North a window looking out on to part of the Abbey. Against the North East wall is a window looking out on to part of the Abbey. Against the North East wall is the sign of Capricorn. Over it hangs a tapestry woven by Liesbeth Fomkert from Seisal. It depicts the “Fate of Life.” A doorway to the right, leads to the Adytum, the “holy of holies” dedicated to Ishtar, with some pictures by various members of the F.O.I. also a picture of Dana, facing the door, by Olivia Robertson. Through another door of the adytum is the treasury, containing many engravings and pictures of the Goddess. Back through the iron fate, on the left is a Tibetan bell, of an amalgam of eleven metals which when struck gives a resonance; and on the wall facing it is the sign Virgo, depicting Isis raising Osiris from the dead. To the left of this is another of a “Cairo cloth” depicting the mother-goddess Mut. To the left of this is another of the Black Isis. Opposite these is the granite trilithon entrance to the dungeon. It was last used as a place of confinement in 1921, when the IRA took over the Castle. Now it is the chapel of the Mothers, used for initiations. Its barrel vaulted roof served to represent the womb. Facing the door is the Great Mother, in a modernistic style, and on the wall to its right is a West African mother goddess mask. This Chapel also contains many animal, vegetable and mineral figures made by members, representing the realms of Nature in the Great Mother’s womb. The Chapel has a loop-hole facing the door, which looks into the Tower room. On the left is the sign Leo, with a naked Venus torso from Yew wood by David. Then follows the sign of Cancer, with Juno Queen of Heaven. At the South angle of the Temple beyond Cancer is a passage way in the South, going through the thickness of the walls (6 feet). To the left of the passage is Gemini and the Offertory, at which anyone may choose to light a candle making an intention or a wish. To the left of the Offertory is the sign Taurus, on the right side of the fireplace. Then on the left is the sign Aries with the ram-headed god Amum-Ra on the side of the fireplace; above is a wooden pediment with Isis blessing the Nile.

There are two pillars separating the chancel from the nave. Pisces is on the right having a small figure of the Virgin Mary with a miraculous medal of her beneath; this was presented by a nun of the F.C.J. convent of Bunclody, flanked by two small figures f the Boddhisatva. Passing through the two pillars one comes into the Chancel of the N.E. wall between the two stained glass windows on the N.E. side is Aquarius, with a dancing figure of Uzume. Facing the two pillars is the high altar upon which stands a carved elm figure of Isis, carved by David aged 15. It is flanked by 4 candle sticks with a little lamp in front and an African figure on each side. It is within a harlequin, the former brass tabernacle cover from Bunclody Church. The altar-table came originally from the old Chapel. Flowers, either artificial or natural, often given as gifts, are placed on either side of the altar. The South angle of the temple leads into the Hindu chapel, on the N.W. wall just inside the door is a picture of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth or prosperity (Shree), with the Elephant God Gayanana on one sid eof her. At the far side of her is an Indian picture of Shiva and Parvati, the Third Persons of the Hindu Trinity. The East has a truer idea than the great Western religions; Judaism, Christinity and Islam do not accept the female as having any official part in the Godhead. Through a narrow door on the N.E. corner is ahealign chapel with a large plaste rhead of Tutankhamon; on each side of her are wooden busts of African Masai female and male figures, presented by Mary Rose and John Macken. Bottles with colored fluids are on the window wills, used for colour therapy, and also a large cauldron contains different herbs for aromatherapy. This chapel is a sort of museum, with the old Beeston furnace and remains of the hot pipes installed about 1880 by Herbert Robertson, and fire-irons, a spinning wheel, an old kitchen chair. In the southern corner is a large female statue bu David of Ceridwen, the white Welsh goddess “The White Rock,” on the S.W. side is a large oil painting by Anna Currey of a female centaur. In the South corner of the Lakshmi chapel is a door with stained glass leading out into the patio supported with brick and granite Monolithic columns. There is some mosaic work on the capitals and some Greek and Cretan tiles. In a trilithon type shrine on the N.W. is a stone carving of Sappho. To the left are the steps to the balcony. Up the steps is an iron figure of Atalanta by Dugel of Paris. At the Western angle of the Castle the gravel was excavated.

Prof. Ulrich Rukhriem, the well known German sculptor put up granite monoliths, one at the top of the Front Avenue, near the Bush Meadow gate; another at the rear end of the Back Avenue near the entrance of the Kennel Park. The Red House was converted into a house as accommodations for students.

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