Rathaldron Castle

Rathaldron Castle is located to the north of Navan on the banks of the Blackwater river.  It is a minature battlemented country house.  Approached by a grand avenue and an impressive castle-style gatehouse the castle consists of a medieval tower house with an added wing which had battlements added about 1800. A traditional story tells of two brothers quarrelling over a woman.  It is said one brother killed the other in the “Blue Room” of the castle.  The dead man haunted the castle until a priest imprisoned the ghost in the chapel.

The Cusack family held the castle until 1840, it then came into possession of the O'Reilly family who held it until at least 1911.  George Lowry held it in the 1920s and 1930s and Meath County Health Board held it in 1937 for less than a year.

The Cusacks were an important family in Meath during the medieval times.  Michael Cusack was the eldest son of James Cusack of Portrane, Co. Dublin.  Michael married Margaret, daughter of Richard Dexter of Rathaldron and thus acquired the estate.  A cross at nearby Nevinstown commemorated Michael and his wife. Michael was succeeded by his eldest son, George, who held Rathaldron and Balreask.

The family also held Castletown-Tara.  George was succeeded by his son Patrick of Rathaldron.  Patrick married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion, Co. Dublin.  Fitzwilliam Square and Merrion Square commemorate this family.  Patrick is also recorded as have married Cicely, eldest daughter of Patrick Nangle, Baron of Navan. Patrick's lands were confiscated under the Cromwellian plantation.  Patrick's son, Michael of Balreask, was a lawyer.   His son, Christopher, succeeded to Rathaldron.  Christopher was accused of attacking Protestants in Navan in 1641 but this charge was probably false.  He was restored to some of his lands at Rathaldron.  Christopher supported King James and sat as M.P. for Navan in the parliament of 1689 when Catholics took over the parliament.  Then came the Battle of the Boyne and his lands were confiscated.  A claim was made that the lands had been transferred to his grandson before the confiscation for treason.  The infant was innocent of treason and so the lands went to the grandson, Christopher.

Christopher was succeeded at Rathaldron by his son, Patrick, who was a minor when his father died.  As a result of the Penal Laws he had to share his estate with his younger brother Richard.  Patrick died in 1744 and by 1769 Richard had managed to buy out other family members and take full charge of Rathaldron.  His son, Christopher, succeeded his father before 1792. Christopher was described as a gentleman farmer.  Christopher died in 1824 without issue and in 1836 his widow died leaving the estate to her husband's first cousin Charles Cusack.  Charles was brought up in Essex and never lived at Rathaldron.  He was well established in business in Liverpool.

The Rathaldron estate was encumbered by debt and in 1840 the estate was sold to Fleming Pinkstan O'Reilly of Mountjoy Square, Dublin.  He had been dis-inherited by his father in 1800 as a result of marrying without his father's permission.  However he still managed to reach the position of treasurer of County Meath. Fleming Pinkstan O'Reilly, died in 1844 in his 75th year.  About 1845 the O'Reilly's added two floors of larger rooms.  The castle style gateway with its high octagonal towers may be the work of the architect, James Shiels. Hugh O'Reilly succeeded to Rathaldron.  In 1876 the representatives of Hugh O'Reilly, Rathaldron, held 243 acres in County Meath.  In 1900 Rathaldron Castle was the seat of Capt. F.L.H. de la P. O'Reilly. Electricity was installed in 1929.

George Lowry held the property in the 1920s and 1930s and Meath County Health Board occupied it in 1937 for less than a year.

Later Rathaldron became the home of the Drummond family. Beatrice Drummond of Rathaldron Castle married Herbert Purcell in 1950. Their youngest son, Peter, was capped in rugby for Ireland six times. Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert 'Percy' Purcell served as a pilot in the RAF and as an infantry officer in the Indian Army.  During the Second World War he was part of the British army advance into Burma and Vietnam.  The castle was completely renovated in the 1970s. Herbert died in 2001 aged 90.

Elizabeth Hickey wrote an article in the 1970 issue of Riocht na Midhe on the Cusacks of Portraine and Rathaldron. H.D. Gallwey wrote an article on the Cusacks of Rathaldron in The Irish Genealogist of 1982.

Source: meath-roots.com


1772 - RATHALDRON - OS 25:5:3/6 (17.0, 37.7) 'Rathaldron House' OD 100-200 N 8458, 6932

Tower House - Four-storey tower house with some original features. Renovated, probably in nineteenth century, and still lived in.   SMR 25:11     16/10/1984