Ballyadams Castle | Harpole Slab | Old
Church Ballyadams | Ballyadams Hill
The old name for the townsland of Ballyadams was Kylemehyde
and it was situated in the district formerly called "Ui Buidhe".
The Anglo Normans took possession of this area in the late twelfth century
and were still there up to the mid fourteenth century. They built a
castle at Kylemehyde. In 1346 the O' Mores, O' Connors and O' Dempsey's
attacked and destroyed the castle of Kylemehyde When the O' Mores regained
control of this district in the reign of King Henry Vii (1485-1509),
it is thought, the more ancient part of the present castle was by an
Adam O' More, hence the name Ballyadams or the Town of Adam.
Following the rebellion of Gilla Partick O' Moore Chief of Leix, who
was in possession of Ballyadams, in1546 the O' Mores and O' Connors
burned the town of Athy. The Lord Deputy and the Earl of Desmond led
a large army into Leix and took Ballyadams Castle. In 1549 a Welsh man
John Thomas a p Owen, later called John Thomas Bowen, was constable
of Ballyadams In 1551 John Thomas Bowen obtained a twenty- one years
lease of the Castle of Ballyadams.
This John Bowen was a cruel and brutal man and was called " or
John of the Pike, by the Irish because he always carried a pike when
he ventured out. He died in 1569 and was succeeded by his son Robert.
Robert was Sheriff of Queens County in 1579, he died in 1621. The monument
in the old church of Ballyadams was erected to his memory in 1631. Robert's
son, Sir John Bowen was Knighted on 13 November 1629 and was Provost
Marshal of Leinster and Meath.
In 1643, the Confederates under Lord Castlehaven were attacking the
Grimes or Graham Castle at Ballylinan, Lord Castlehaven states, "While
this place was putting in order, I went with a party of horse to Ballyadams,
a Castle about a mile distant belonging to Sir John Bowen, Provost Marshal
an old soldier, and my long acquaintance. I went to speak with him and
after some kind expressions, told him I must put a garrison into his
Castle. He flatly denied me and calling for his wife and two very fair
daughters, he had desired only one favour, that in case I was resolved
to use violence, I would show him where I intended to plant my guns
and make my breach. I satisfied his curiosity and asked him what he
meant by this question. Because saith he swearing with some warmth,
I will cover that, or any other your Lordhship shoots at, by hanging
out both my daughters in chairs. 'tis true the place was not of much
importance, however this conceit saved it." There is also a poem
written about this incident.
About 1700 the castle was granted to Katherine Bowen who had married
Pierce Butler from Tipperary. The present owner David Butler is a direct
descendant of Pierce Butler. The castle was attacked by insurgents in
1798 and the Butler family didn't live there after that.
There is some evidence to suggest, that the castle was
built around the end of the Fifteenth Century, by an Adam O'More. The
two round tower date from around this time and are the oldest part of
the present structure. The tower on the left contains a winding stone
stair-case and leads right up to the turret, which is approx. sixty
five feet high, the one on the right contains many small rooms. The
wing on the right appears to be the oldest and was built towards the
end of the seventeenth Century by the Bowen family. The one on the left
was built by the Butler Family at a later date.
Austin Cooper, the antiquary, visited the castle on the 10 August, 1782
and made the following entry in his Diary. "At Ballyadams is a
large Castle; the front consists of two large round towers between which
is an entrance, and over it a wall is carried in a line with the exterior
limits of these towers, so as to form a machicolation over the door.
Adjoining these towers on each side are two large modem wings, one of
which is kept in repair as a lodge by Mr Butler, the present propriotor;
the other was never finished". He also states that the inside of
the castle is in a bad state of repair.
The Romance of Ballyadams
"Herald! be a trumpet blown, I would speak with Sir
John Bowen ! " Thus cried Castlebaven's lord, and the parley soon
Soon the answering trumpets sound; quick the drawbridge strikes the
O'er it comes the Senesehal, and thus spakes before them all-
Castlehaven's noble lord, Sir John Bowen sends thee word,
Dinner 's on the Castle board, feast thee first, then draw the sword."
To Ballyadams, all alone, Castlehaven's lord is gone;
High at board is placed his chair, 'twixt Sir John's two daughters fair.
Lovely as the budding rose, each young blushing maiden shows;
Sweeter than the song of bird are their gentle voices heard. -
When the feast had gaily sped, thus Lord Castlehaven said-
"Good Sir .John, thou hast not here culverin nor cannoneer;
Yield, then, Ballyadams' tower to the high Confederates' power; Yield,
my friend,. and will take the terms that thou thyself shalt make,
Now, my Lord, to me attend; thou bast been my early friend; Didst thou
ever know me break oath that ever I did, take?"
Stainless has thine honour been," cried the Earl, "well I
Whatsoe' er thou say'st to me, with my life I'll guarantee."
"Then, my lord, on oath I make; if this tower you seek to take,
If my walls by shot be riven, thus I'll do, so help me Heaven- "I
shall hang my daughters fair, fastened each upon a chair,
right in front of the wide breach, though their breasts thy shot must
Started Castlehaven's lord, wondering at that desperate word; Then,
to the pale maids he turned, deeply for their fate he mourned.
Took he then each maiden's hand, as beside the board they stand; Kissed
he then each maiden's cheek, and thus gallantly he spake- 'God be with
thee, stout Sir John, I shall let thy fort alone; Though for this I
lose my head. Harm I will not either maid
"Though my life the Council take, for that I their orders break
Death from them I'd rather dree than that these should die by me."
Then ho marched his troops away, far they were ere close of day;
Thus was Ballyadams tower saved by beauty's gentle power.