Cahermoyle or Caher Maothail translates as 'the stone fort of the soft ground'. About 1/3 of the circular stone wall of the 'Caher', probably dating back two thousand years still survives one hundred yards west of the house.
Cahermoyle fell to the Norman Fitzgeralds shortly after 1170. After the Desmond Rebellion came to an end with the death of Gerald the rebel Earl in 1583, all of Gerald's lands were forfeited to Queen Elizabeth with one exception. Cahermoyle escaped because it was part of the dowry of Catherine, daughter of Earl Gerald. She married Sir Daniel O'Brien of Carrigaholt, Co Clare.
Following the fall of Limerick to the Cromwellians in 1651, John Bourke, a leading wealthy merchant rented Cahermoyle. He was MP for Askeaton in the Parliament of James the Second. He died here in 1702 and is buried in the Bourke vault, beside Bishop Lacy's grave, at Ardagh. The famous poet Dáibhí O'Bruadair was a regular visitor at Cahermoyle at this time. He refers to the house in which John Bourke lived as 'the lime white mansion of the chieftain bounteous'.
In the late 1700's Sir Edward O'Brien of Dromoland got into financial difficulties and failed to meet the payments on the mortgaged lands of Cahermoyle and Dromoland. On a visit to Cahermoyle, where the money-lending attorney Bill Smith was in residence, Edward met Smith's eldest daughter Charlotte, and at a fairly obvious hint from the wily attorney he proposed to Charlotte and was accepted.
The marriage of Edward O’Brien and Charlotte Smith took place at Cahermoyle on November 12th 1799. At the wedding meal Charlottes father Bill Smith announced he had a gift for the happy couple, whereupon he withdrew some papers from an inside pocket and consigned them to the fire. The mortgages of both Cahermoyle and Dromoland went up in flames. Thus for the second time a dowry had saved Cahermoyle for the O'Briens.
William Smith O'Brien inherited Cahermoyle from his mother Charlotte. He was MP for over 20 years at Westminster fighting the Irish cause. Having become disillusioned with the parliamentary process, William took up arms for the cause. Defeated at Ballingarry, arrested, convicted of treason, and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, he had his sentence commuted to penal servitude for life. He was pardoned in 1856 and returned to Cahermoyle.
He had expected to regain possession of the house and lands, which he placed 'in trust' for his wife and eldest son Edward, before the debacle of Ballingarry. However, his son did not appreciate his nationalist aspirations and he never regained Cahermoyle. He did live there until his wife's death but then moved to Bangor in Wales where he himself died in 1864. His body was brought back to Ireland for burial.
The mail boat bringing his remains docked at the North Wall at 3.30 a.m. but even at that hour of the morning the quays were lined by those who appreciated the battle he had fought and the price he had paid for his patriotism. All the way to Kingsbridge the thousands lined the streets. From Limerick Station to his beloved Cahermoyle William was borne by hearse drawn by four white horses. Next day twenty-four Catholic and twelve Protestant clergymen led the cortege to Rathronan cemetery where William's mortal remains were laid to rest. At one point the cortege was two miles long stretching all the way from Rathronan back to Cahermoyle.
In 1922 Cahermoyle was acquired by the Oblate Order and became a novitiate. Local people recall as many as thirty young Oblate Students based here during the 1950's. They were a familiar sight on Sunday evenings on their walk to places like the waterfall at Glenastar. The Oblate Fathers later added an extra twenty rooms to the house as well as a refectory and community rooms. They ran a model farm that made them self-sufficient. It was with the greatest regret that the local community heard the news that falling vocations would force the Fathers to leave Cahermoyle. The farm was sold in a number of separate lots and Cahermoyle House became a Nursing and Convalescent home, and remained as a Nursing Home up until lately in 2017.
Shared on IrelandXO by: St Kieran's Heritage Association.
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