In years gone by, one of the most impressive buildings of
the time was Monellan Castle, situated a few miles north of
Crossroads, Killygordon. Although it was the largest building
in the Valley at the time, set in beautiful surroundings second
to none in the area, it cannot be clear whether it was a castle
or a mansion house.
The same can be said of other large buildings in the Valley,
such as Drumboe Castle, Meenglas Castle and Glenfin's Cloghan
Castle. All were large enough to be called a castle, certainly
dwarfing the humble dwellings of the time, and were a tribute
to the architects who designed them.
Monellan Castle was built during the 1700s, and part of the
35 room dwelling was underground, to be used as a place of
safety - if such was required. The castle and its grounds
were in full glory for some time after the Catholic Emancipation
Act in 1775, until its demolition in the 1930s - on orders
given to the Irish Land Commission from the Government of
Rev Delap's Grave.
Click to enlarge
The subsequent division of this large estate, formerly owned
by Rev Robert Delap and his family, to the poor local farmers,
was much welcomed. In hindsight, the demolition of the castle
itself was a monumental blunder of the time. Imagine the tourist
attraction this magnificent edifice would be today!
At the time of the division of the estate, some of the small
farmers who had bad housing conditions were lucky, in that
the Land Commission built them new and better residences.
Most of the stones from the castle were used to build roads
on Cronlaughey and Meenlaught, in early 1945. Most of the
bogland divided at that time has been cut out and is no longer
Set in a uniquely picturesque area, Monellan Castle must
have been a splendid sight to behold in its heyday. The approach
to it was done out with Rhododendron hedges, and must have
been spectacular to behold when these were in full bloom.
Sadly, very little of these hedges remain.
Stories handed down tell us that although Monellan was the
largest castle of its kind in the Valley, it was also one
of the 'ugly sisters' when compared to other Irish castles
or mansions. Built by expert stonemasons from the localities
of Meenreagh, Lismullaghduff and Killygordon, with Scottish
supervisors looking after the work, it took almost three years
to complete. It also had a large number of outhouses for the
use of the land stewards, servants, maids and coachmen. These
buildings extended from a spot known locally as McGlynn's
Bridge, and included Monellan Burn Pass, Edenoughill and Casey's
Brae, and also included byres, stables and other buildings
for domestic uses.
Surrounding the castle were beautiful flower gardens, tennis
courts and a bowling green. The owner of the castle and estate,
Robert Delap, who was a barrister, was later ordained a Minister
of the Church of Ireland, and built St Anne's Church at Crossroads.
He was said to be a decent enough character, and gave a lot
of employment to many local men and women.
As well as the wage of sixpence per week, each worker was
allowed to take home with them on a Saturday night some milk,
potatoes, vegetables and even flowers (if a special occasion
was to be celebrated). Up to twenty women workers would be
employed at the castle each Monday - Wash Day - to wash the
bedclothes, linen and tablecloths, and as there were none
of the modern-day washing appliances, all had to be steeped
in tubs on the previous Saturday for washing out on the Monday.
Washing completed, the garments were put through a hand operated
roller-wringer and then dried and aired outdoors.
Blankets and home-made embroidered quilts for the main bedrooms
of the castle were too big for the wringer, and had to be
done by the strong hands of the women themselves. Anyone walking
on the Monellan/Glen Road at the time could see for themselves
the long line of clothes laid out to dry on the flat and neatly
trimmed Rhododendron bushes.
According to stories told by the older generation,
during the famine years, a stonemason from one
of the Valley's highlands (Lismullaghduff to be exact) collapsed and died
from the pains of hunger, while engaged in the
building of Monellan Castle's high walls. All
he'd had to eat was a slice of raw turnip, it
the fate of Ireland's many poor under English
Monellan Castle, its gardens and private grounds, arable
and small parts of the forest were protected by a high wall,
extending three miles around most of the estate. Most of this
wall remains today. No wall was required for the part of the
estate adjoining the townland of Ballinaman, as a large tributary
of the River Finn, known locally as Monellan Burn, served
the purpose of protection.
In the early 1800s, whilst still a barrister, Robert Delap
had a friendly encounter with the Liberator, Daniel O'Connell,
when engaged in a High Court sitting in Dublin. After speaking
some words in Irish to Dr Delap, which the latter did not
understand, O'Connell asked him if he was an Irishman at all.
Delap replied that a man named McHugh from the Killygordon
Glen would soon teach him Irish. Whether he ever attempted
to learn Irish is not known, however, he later changed from
the practice of law to become a Minister of the Church. Having
completed his studies, he returned to Monellan Estate as Rev
Delap - and became first Minister of St Anne's Church of Ireland,
which he was responsible for building.
It was said by past generations in the Valley that Rev Delap
sometimes baptised children of St Anne's Church at an outside
here to visit St Anne's Church of Ireland