Ballynakill Castle between Roscrea and Dunkerin (Photo by 1soanes). It is surrounded by the high walls of a large bawn and accessed by arched gateways.
Walter Butler of Ballynakill Castle was a C17th soldier of fortune who fought for the Holy Roman Empire in the 30 Years War, and arranged the 1632 assassination of Albrecht von Wallenstein. Emperor Ferdinand II created him a Count of the Empire, gave him the domain of the Count of Friedberg and presented him with the Imperial Gold Chain. He died at Schorndorf in 1634.
The castle was acquired by Sir Richard Stephens, who sold it in 1680 to a former Cromwellian soldier, Col. Charles Minchin. His descendants, two of whom were High Sherriffs of Tipperary, added a house at the southern end. Humphrey Minchin moved to England in 1760.
Dunkerrin & Moneygall (Co. Offaly / South)
Dunkerrin is an attractive rural hamlet set around a landscaped triangular junction, formerly known as “the crossroads of Ireland” on the main Dublin – Limerick road, but now bypassed by the N7.
The village is dominated by a First Fruits church (CoI) built in 1818.
The Dunkerrin Arches, erected in 1757 by landlord Francis Rolleston of Francfort Castle, were designed to enable traders to display their wares at the three popular annual horse fairs and regular markets. It is claimed that the idea of having small shops in railway stations was inspired by these stalls.
The Arches B&B, a Victorian house owned by Chris Wright and Elaine Simpson from Yorkshire, specialises in providing accommodation facilities for motorbike enthusiasts.
The Dunkerrin Arms, a popular rest stop on the N7, seves good food.
Moneygall / Monegall / Monegal (Muine Gall – “grove of the foreigners”) (pop. 350) was until recently an ordinary rural village, remarkable only as the 1828 birthplace of Joseph Prosser, a British army Private awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in the Crimean War.
The Obama Connection
Sign on N7 (Photo by Dan in Woods Hole)
Fame came in 2008, when the local CoI rector, Canon Stephen Neill, produced the C19th church records of local shoemaker Joseph Kearney and his wife Phebe. Their 19-year-old son Fulmouth emigrated to America in 1850 and found retrospective celebrity as the great-great-great-grandfather of USA President Barack Obama, whose 2008 election caused great jubilation locally.
This distant connection was the basis of the appalling song There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama by the opportunist Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys.
On 23rd May 2011, the 44th American President and Michelle Obama arrived in the White House helicopter, Marine One, amidst swarms of secret service men and attendants to visit the village, drastically refurbished and bedraped for the occasion.
President Obama in Moneygall
Jokingly referring to themselves as “the O’Bamas of Moneygall, in search of their missing apostrophe“, they shook hands with many of the 5000 people waiting to greet them, cooed over babies, bought souvenirs, met long-lost relatives and enjoyed a pint of Guinness poured by the First Lady in Hayes pub, departing after 90 minutes in a hail of rapturous good wishes; the shellshocked community is likely to take some time to recover!
(It is to be hoped that Moneygall derives more profit from its presidential heritage than Ronald Reagan’s ancestral home, Ballyporeen (Co. Tipperary), where an initial flurry of interest soon faded, leaving several hopeful businesses high and dry. New Ross (Co. Wexford) still benefits from President JF Kennedy‘s roots there, perhaps because he was the first Irish-American to reach the White House, while no real attempt was ever made to exploit links with Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton).
Moneygall Aerodrome, the home of Moneygall Flying Club for over 20 years, traces its origins to a pre-Independence British Army facility.
Loughton House was built in 1777 by Thomas Ryder Pepper on the site of a C17th dwelling.
Lieut. General Benjamin Bloomfield, Private Secretary to the Sovereign from 1817 to 1822, ennobled as Baron Bloomfield in 1825, had the house considerably altered in 1835 by the Pain brothers, and the result is considered their finest classical work.
Members of both the Ryder Pepper and Bloomfield families are interred in the Bloomfield Mausoleum at Borrisnafarney church (CoI) near Ballycormick.
While the Uraguayan writer and literary critic Emir Rodriguez Monegal (d.1985) may have had ancestors from Offaly, the prominent Hotel Monegal at the top of Barcelona’s famous Ramblas is probably not named after this village.