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Waterford Castle & The Fitzgeralds

Waterford Castle & The Fitzgeralds

Castle Structure

The first structure built by the Fitzgerald's was a Norman Keep; a tower like stone structure with thick walls, narrow slit windows and a lead roof. At that time the Keep would have been the core of any defence in battle and would have been virtually impenetrable. By the 14th Century, the ruins of the Keep were no longer habitable. A tower, the centre part of the present Castle, was then constructed on the site of the old Keep. Initially it was relatively modest in size but over the years was enlarged, firstly by John (Purcell) Fitzgerald in 1849 and subsequently in 1875. In 1895, the East and West wings were added all built entirely of stone and still now indistinguishable between old and new. Another feature added to the Castle throughout the Centuries was the roof top gargoyles. The gargoyles were brought from Castle Irwell in Manchester and belonged to a female ancestor. Up until the present century the Castle retained it's original arrow slit windows giving a fortress like exterior and a rather dark uncomfortable interior. It was during the last stage of expansion that the farm buildings and stable yard were developed on The Island to support an entire community.

Fitzgerald Dynasty - 15th Century Onwards

During the 15th and 16th Centuries, the Fitzgerald dynasty were the Kings of Ireland in all but name and held many feasts and banquets on The Island. The Castle was never out of the social limelight and figured prominently in the 18th Century as the home of Mary Frances Fitzgerald (Est. 1775-1855), a formidable lady who dominated the social world of the time. At one stage engaged to the Duke of Wellington - The Iron Duke, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and later became a British Prime Minister - she broke off the engagement to marry her first cousin, John Purcell (1755-1852) in 1801. (John Purcell took the name of Fitzgerald when his wife Mary inherited her father's estate in 1818.

Of her children, Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) was the most prominent and is best remembered as being the translator of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. (A selection of poems by Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) written in quatrains in his native Iranian language, Farsi). Fitzgerald first published in 1859, some critics maintain that the poetic quality of Fitzgerald's finished product exceeded that of Khayyám's original quatrains.

Edward Fitzgerald was the great, great uncle of Mary Augusta de Lisle Purcell Fitzgerald (1908-1968), who was the last of that name to own the Castle, ending their 800 year legacy. She married an Italian Prince, Prince Caracciolo, whom she met while studying in Italy. On their return they made their home in Dublin, where she was a prominent patron of the Arts.

1958 Onwards

In 1958, the Igoe family who came from County Mayo yet had business interests in Rhodesia, bought the property from the Princess Caracciolo, thus ending the remarkable link between the Fitzgerald's and The Island. The Igoe's installed a five-acre complex of glasshouses from which they produced fruits and flowers. The chain link ferry was also commissioned at this time conveniently transporting residents and visitors alike to The Island across the Kings Channel.

Their interest in the venture and The Island passed to the Farren Brothers who concentrated on tomato growing, also updating the roads and fencing throughout The Island. In 1978, The Island was rented to Roger Shipsey, a Waterford Pedigree Dairy Farmer who saw a great advantage of The Island as a disease free area due to its isolation and later bought The Island outright. In 1987, Eddie Kearns bought The Island and preserved both its past and secured its future by opening the beauty of the Castle and The Island to all visitors by developing it into a luxurious Hotel and Country Club. In 1997, The Island sold to a business consortium.

The current owner, Seamus Walsh, purchased The Island in 2015. A local man from Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny who along with his family embrace this historic Island and great Castle. Breathing new life into the 48 Lodges, Golf Club and grounds whilst preserving the Castle and Island's rich history. Plans are in place to restore the 1870 farm buildings and stable yards to their former glory, whilst installing 21st century comforts. Seamus and his family have been welcomed by The Island's staff, many of whom have been here over 25 years.

Together their desire is to continue to share The Island with visitors, as the truly intimate internationally renowned historic Island experience it is.

Waterford Castle & The Fitzgeralds

Learn how Waterford Castle and The Island developed during the Fitzgerald's 800 year reign
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Historic Features at Waterford Castle

Experience The Island's history through the features that decorate the Castle such as The Fitzgerald Coat of Arms and antique furniture and tapestries
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