News Archive

Tubbrid Castle, Co. Kilkenny, Irish Times, February 2019

A Castle earns its keep in Kilkenny

John Campion Jnr: “Dad put so much effort into saving it from falling down, I felt it would be a shame not to complete the task.”

Many of us dream of being king or queen of the castle but one Co Kilkenny man, a doctor by day and restoration man by night, picked up where his father had left off and turned a tower house, a structure built some 500 years ago and uninhabited for over a century, when it was used as a shed for his family’s dairy herd, into a warm and comfortable home. It took two generations of Campions, a father and son, both named John, to make it happen. Their people have farmed the rich lands of northwest Kilkenny for generations. Tubbrid Castle has always been in their lives. It was constructed in the 1500s reputedly by Margaret Fitzgerald, Eighth Countess of Ormond, and is one of about five in this part of southwest Kilkenny. Skirmishes saw the property pass into the hands of the Shortalls who owned at least three similar structures in the area and then to the local landed gentry, the St Georges. It was still in their ownership when a Catherine Campion, John’s great, great grandmother, is listed in the Griffith Valuation of 1851 as residing in the castle as a tenant of Sir R.B St George.

Tubrid Castle, Portlaw, Co Waterford. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

His great-grandparents bought the lands on which Tubbrid Castle stood around the turn of the 20th century, when the Land Acts allowed tenants to buy the lands they were renting from their landlords. It was a bleak house, Campion recalls, devoid of a roof and no glass in the windows. Around the same time the family moved into a farmhouse a couple of hundred metres from the historical house and they took a limestone fireplace from it with them. Carved in two pieces, each bore the numerals 15 and 96 marking 1596, possibly the year the tower was built.Growing up, John Campion Snr had plans to rehabilitate the tower house. When he had reared his family he started turning those dreams into a reality and began works in 2004 when he was in his mid-50s. He hired a conservation engineer, Ivor McElveen, who suggested he repoint the exterior, put a roof on it and even employed professional stonemasons to rebuild the door and window lintels.He applied for planning permission in 2016 and had to submit archaeological impact reports, and retain an archaeologist throughout the works.

“But the efforts to make it safe and habitable are eclipsed by the original physical effort it took to erect it. In an era of mechanised cranes and power tools the effort is unimaginable.” With his architect, Cormac O’Sullivan of Bluett & O’Donoghue Architects, he went through every detail which meant by the time Murphy Brothers Building Contractors came onto the site much of the problem-solving had been done.

One of the bedrooms in Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
One of the bedrooms in Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. 
One of the bedrooms, Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
One of the bedrooms, Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. 
Under th eaves at Tubrid Castle, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
Under the eaves at Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny.

Full Irish Times article ….. Tubbrid Castle