Shane's Castle in Ireland

American emigrant Hugh O'Neill came to the Colonial Delaware in 1730 as a midshipman aboard a British Naval vessel. Prior to his arrival in Christiana, Delaware he lived at his fathers home, called, Shane's Castle on Lough Neah in Antrim, Ireland.

Here is Shane's Castle:

Shane's Castle

Picture credit to "Ireland in Pictures" by John Fimerty, Chicago, 1898 among others.

Who was Shane?

Shane's Castle was named after the grandfather of Brian O'Neill, whose name was Shane McBrien O'Neill, the Castle is currently occupied by Lord O'Neill near Randalstown, on Lough Neagh, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Shanes Castle as described by actress, Mrs Siddons, "I have no words to describe the beauty and splendour of this enchanting place which, I'm sorry to say has been levelled by fire. Here was often assembled all the talent, and rank and beauty of Ireland. The luxury of this establishment almost imspired the recollection of an Arabian Nights entertainment." This widely quoted description of Shanes Castle is borrowed from The Offical Guide by David Barzilay to Shanes Castle Railway and Nature Reserve.

The Burial Chamber in the same guide is described as being built in 1722 by "French" John O'Neill, brother of Hugh O'Neill/O'Neall and adjoins the graveyard. It bears this inscription, "This vault was built by Shane McBrien McPhelim McShane McBrian McPhelim O'Neill, Esq. in the year 1722 for a burial place to himself and family of Clanaboy." The coffins were removed to the family vault at Drummaul Parish Church in the 1850's.

Another view of Shane's Castle

17th Century Shane's Castle

Yet another view of Shane's Castle

More is written about Shanes Castle in "The O'Neills of Ulster; High Kings of Ireland" by Sir Ian Moncreiffe of the Ilk and with additional information provided by Kathleen Neill. An interesting chapter entitled "Odds and Ends about Shane's Castle" gives some insight into this ancestral home. It says, "a passage about 100 yeards in length runs underground from the Castle to the adjacent graveyard, and was the servants entrance." Also great vaults are built underground and raised the addition to the level of Lough Neagh and gave the building better frontage. There is an old safe and a curious figure-head, said to be much older than the ruins which contain it. The tradition states that when it falls so too shall be the end of the family of O'Neill.

Hugh O'Neill

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, died in Rome in 1616

In 1598 Sir Hugh O'Neill had resided at Shanes Castle, and in 1607 James I, settled the estate upon the descendants of Shane McBrian O'Neill, of whom was Hugh, our ancestor.

Sir Neil O'Neill

Sir Neil O'Neill, Battle of Boyne with James II

Having left Ireland by 1730 and being third in line to inherit, Hugh took his leave from Ireland forever, and raised his seven sons and one daughter in America, where many thousands of descendants live today.

Even his brother who came into possesion of the Castle and its holdings in 1716 had earlier made his way in life by being a wool trader, rather than a Lord. He in fact displayed his wool cards predominatly in the Castle Hall after inheriting to show he was not ashamed to be a tradesman. In 1722 he built the tomb for O'Neill dead.


The Banshee!

The Story of Shane's Castles BANSHEE! So it goes in legendery olden times an O'Neill assisted McQuillan in a raid, and found a white heifer whose horns were tangled in a tree with thorns. O'Neill disregarded the fairies tale of a single thorn tree being sacred and let the cow go, being the only one to help the doomed cow. When O'Neill returned home he found his daughter Kathleen had been carried away by the wee folk all the way to the bottom of the Lough. The wee folk allowed her to return and tell him that she was safe, but made her promise that whenever misfortune visited the family she must appear and be heard to wail. Her bedroom window was pointed out to visitors and her chamber maid said she could see her impression on her bed.

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