Castle Bourke

Castle Burke by Mike Searle

An Article by Eamon Bourke author of ‘Burke People & Places’ recalled that in 1854 Thomas Lacey described this castle as ‘An Old and Fortified Building.’  The castle was built approximately in 1570 by Edmond Bourke’s son adjacent to the shores of Lough Lannagh in Castlebar.  The Mayo Bourke families disagreed with Sir Richard Bingham with disastrous results that included the slaughter of Edmond also his relatives.  The Estates were confiscated, the castle was never completed.  The ivy – covered ruins are still visible.  (Brian Hoban 28th June 2011) [i]

Sir William de Burgh ruled Connacht for fifty years.  The last de Burgh descendant ‘The Brown Earl’ was killed during 1333.  Knox’s ‘History of Mayo’ on (page 282) who wrote that Ballinrobe Castle with lands were possibly let by Maurice Fitzgerald’s heir to Sir William Liather or his sons prior to 1300.  There was not much historical data available of the MacWilliamships up to 1569 with the arrival on the scene of the first English Governor Sir Edward Fitton.  The former name of De Bourgh was converted to Bourke notably the division of the 2nd Sir William – Sir Thomas Bourke’s Estates in 1401.  On the demise of Sir Thomas Bourke during 1402 his estates were divided between his five sons.  According to Knox ‘History of Mayo’ (page 283) Walter received Kilmaine, Edmond (of the Beard) inherited the Castlebar Estate, Turlough Parish went to Richard Bourke, Robeen to John Bourke whilst Thomas Bourke obtained South Kilmaine.  In 1543 Ulick Negan attempted to acquire all of Mayo, he had by then purchased the Castle of Moyne with lands in Kilmaine.  During 1570 The Lord Deputy Fitton captured nineteen castles from the Bourke’s.  Fitton described Sir John when they met to discuss a deal to forfeit lands as ‘an old man of amiable disposition, very sensible, though wanting in English yet understanding the Latin: a lover of quiet and civility, desires to hold his lands of the Queen and to suppress Irish extortion and expulse the Scots.’  Fitton decided that Sir John be created an Earl with his son as a Baron, but Sir John died in 1580 before the position was created.  Sir John’s eldest son William settled in Tyrawley: he was appointed Sherriff of Sligo during 1582.  By 1585 William Bourke was head of the Sept Walter.  In the Indenture of Compensation 1585 the Mac William descendant held the Castle & Manor with 1,000 acres of Demesne, of Ballinbrobe, the Castle & Manor of Kinlough plus approximately 2,500 acres in Demesne, rent – holdings in the Barony of Kilmaine, the Castle & Manor of Newtown (Castle Gore) in Tyrawley, lands in Carra also Burrishoole.  From 1558 to 1570 Richard Bourke was the Mac William.  (Extract from ‘Random Notes on the History of the County Mayo with special reference to the Barony of Kilmaine’ by G. V. Martyn published in Vol X11 of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological & Historical Society.) [ii]

The house of de Búrka was Latinised to de Burca or de Burgo.  The surname refers to an English village Burgh in Suffock that means ‘fortified town.’  The Irish branch of the Anglo – Norman noble family de Burgh began in Ireland with William de Burgh (1160 – 1206) who was a Knight also an Adventurer who travelled with King Henry 11 of England during 1185.  He was the elder brother of Hubert de Burgh, earl of Kent also the Judiciary in England.  William was granted lands from King John who had succeeded King Henry 11 during 1199.  William was appointed Governor of Limerick & Thomond.  He was expelled during 1203, lost his Connaught seat, his demise occurred during 1205.  He was succeeded by his son Richard who received the estate also lands at ‘Connok’ ie Connaught.  From 1228 – 1232 he held the Office of Judiciary of Ireland.  In turn his son Richard succeeded him then with his demise, by a son Walter who was granted the County of Ulster so he became Earl of Ulster.  Again, his son Richard became 2nd Earl.  During 1286 he subdued Connaught, deposed Brian O ‘Neill as Chief native King: he spent over forty years in the area.  He occasionally participated in the British Parliament.  ‘The Patent Records of 1290’ stated that in addition to his Ulster lands he possessed several in Munster also the Isle of Man.  The 3rd Earl (his grandson) was William 1326 – 1333) who was the son of John de Burgh & Lady of Clare.  He married a daughter of Henry Earl of Lancaster.  He was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland during 1331.  Following his demise his male kinsmen adopted Irish names & customs: in South Connaught: they were known as ‘The Mac William Eighter’ plus in County Mayo ‘The Mac William Oughter’ resided.  Theobald Burke resigned his Mayo territory but later received it back by English tenure, he was created Viscount Mayo.  The 2nd & 3rd Viscounts suffered losses during Cromwell’s time, but the 4th Earl had his Estates returned during 1666.  The Peerage ceased on the demise of the 8th Viscount in 1767.  During 1781 a Mayo man John Bourke was created Viscount Mayo.  He also was appointed Viceroy of India & Andaman Islands He was killed at the latter island.[iii]

Knox mentions the De Burgo Lordship of Connaught on pages 100 / 101 plus the de Burgh family in Connaught & their neighbours in his ‘History of Mayo 1910 (page 137.)’ [iv]

This family of Burke’s or de Burgh’s were descendants of Richard Mor de Burgh the 1st Lord of Connacht.  The Clanricarde title was first recorded in 1335.  Their initial Territory stretched from the Barony of Clare to County Mayo also east to the River Shannon.  This site has a list of the Mac William Uachter or Clanricarde families from 1333 to 1544.[v]

At the head of Lough Lanark, near the town, is an ancient burial-place, that commands a fine view of the distant mountains; also, on the other side of the lake are the ruins of a fortified residence. [vi]

Castle Burke was a five – storey tower on the northern shore of Lough Carra, originally known as Kinvoynell.  It was renamed after it was granted to Miles Burke, 4th Viscount Mayo, whose successor sold it to the Browne’s of Westport.  The south east corner collapsed in recent times. [vii]

This five-storey tower on the northern shore of Lough Carra was originally known as Kinvoynell.  It was renamed after being granted to Miles Burke, fourth Viscount Mayo, whose successor sold it to the Brownes of Westport.  The south east corner collapsed in recent times.  An image by Mike Searles is featured on this site. [viii]

This castle was built by O ‘Flaherty during 1611 it passed on to Tibot na Long, son of Granuaile (Grace O’Malley) also Richard de Burgo. [ix]

An Image of Cloonacastle in December 2010 by John F. Staunton, Ballinrobe, plus “The ruins of Cloonagashel” by Margaret Twybill, Ballinrobe Writers’ Group are available at this link. [x]

This site has an extract on the castle from the Folklore Collection. [xi]

There is an image of the castle by Dr. Charles Nelson at this link.[xii]

This site provides information of Castle Burke mentioned in the ‘Westport Estate’s Papers’:

The Family of Bourke Viscounts of Mayo history is included in ‘Castle Burke: Formally Kilboynell Castle in Carra Barony, Co. Mayo’ 1929  Blake J. Martin in Journal of Galway Archaeological  & Historical Society Vol 14 No 3 / 4 Pages 101 – 108  at this site:

Burke Clans of Ireland Facebook page:


Lee Johnson lists Castles at this site:

There are Mayo castles listed in alphabetical order at this link:

Castles in County Mayo are listed on this site:

Images of several castles by Mike Searles may be view at his site;


[i] Castle Burke ( [assessed 21st March 2020]

[ii] ‘Random Notes on the History of the County Mayo with special reference to the Barony of Kilmaine’ Martyn G. V.

[iii] House of Bourke ( [assessed 2nd July 2020]

[iv] History of County Mayo ( [assessed 19th March 2020]

[v] List of Irish Kingdoms ( [assessed 17th February 2020]

[vi] Topographical Dictionary ( [assessed 19th March 2020]

[vii] Historic Buildings ( [assessed 17th  March 2020]

[viii] Castles of Connacht ( [assessed 12th February 2020]

[ix] History of Ballintubber ( [assessed 17th February 2020]

[x] Historical Ballinrobe ( [assessed 17th February2020]

[xi] Castle Bourke ( [assessed 19th March 2020]

[xii] Castles of Ireland ( [assessed 2nd July 2020]

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