The owner of the Carrigacunna Castle in Killavullen has issued an invitation to members of the local community to join him in celebrating the rich and colourful heritage of the imposing medieval 16th-century tower-house.
ative New Yorker John Landy purchased the Castle and the adjacent stately 18th-century Manor House situated on 50 acres of stunning North Cork countryside next to the River Blackwater in January of last year for a sum he joked was “nobody’s damn business but my own”.
On Saturday, August 29, John was to have welcomed up to 200 members of the local community to his home estate for an evening to celebrate the 500th anniversary of “this magnificent architectural symbol of our shared history and culture”.
However, the re-introduction of restrictions this week limiting outdoor gatherings to 15 people until further notice has meant the event has now been postponed indefinitely.
“It will take place when the restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so,” said John.
The 56-year-old, who retired from the commercial and real-estate business in New York five years ago, said it had always been an ambition of his to move to Ireland, having spent most of his summers holidaying in the country as a child.
“My mother’s family hails from Gneeveguilla in County Kerry, and my father’s family from Carlingford in County Louth, so from a very young age I have been steeped in the Irish tradition. So for me the idea of moving to Ireland was, in a manner of speaking, a sort of homecoming,” he said.
John said that he initially had looked at relocating to Wicklow to be near his sister in Dublin. However, for various reasons, he decided to look further afield and fell in love with Carrigacunna Castle and the surrounding estate at first sight.
“I was looking for somewhere with a slower pace than New York, and Killavullen fitted that bill perfectly,” he grinned.
After purchasing the estate, John set about updating the interior of the Manor House, which he now proudly calls home.
“While the Manor House, which was built around 1750 and embellished in 1826, had been restored and maintained in great condition by its previous owners, the interior was somewhat minimalistic. I have spent the past 18 months redecorating and reshaping the interior. This has included a new mahogany library and a new kitchen. The biggest expense has been collecting antique furniture, which required a lot of searching around antique shops and online research. One of the biggest problems was trying to find a set of 3.5-metre-long period curtains,” said John.
With the refurbishment work complete, John decided to hire the Manor House out for weddings, just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. While on the face of it the timing of this may have seemed somewhat unfortunate, John said it has actually worked in his favour.
“With many venues either booked out or not open at all, couples are looking for somewhere special to celebrate their big occasion. The Manor House fits that bill perfectly. It proves the old saying that every cloud has a silver lining,” said John.
While the Castle itself is not inhabitable, it has undergone major restoration work over recent years, with John saying that visitors will have the opportunity to mingle in its atmospheric ground and first floors.
“They will get the opportunity to see its interior, get an idea of what life might have been like for its original occupants and discover some interesting aspects of its past. For example what a ‘murder hole’ is and why it had one,” said John.
He said the main reason for holding the outdoor event, which will include refreshments and live music as well as access to the landmark castle, was to give the people the chance to celebrate Carrigacunna Castle’s history and its place within the lives of generations of people from the local community.
“In actual fact the castle was built sometime between 1520 and 1540, which technically means that its 500th anniversary is probably not for another two decades. However, I may not be around by then, so now is as good a time as any,” laughed John.
He said his initial idea had been to invite the entire community in Killavullen to the event. However, COVID-19 restrictions meant he had to limit the number of invites to 200.
“To be perfectly honest, I do not regard myself as the owner of the Castle and Estate. I am merely its caretaker for a period of time until that privilege is passed onto someone else. Carrigacunna was here long before me and will be here long after I have gone,” he said.
“It is the local community and future generations that will be the real keepers of the Carrigacunna tradition. That is why I felt it was so important to share that tradition and legacy with them through this 500th-anniversary celebration.