Residency at Damer House Gallery, Roscrea, Ireland
We were invited to undertake a three-week residency in June 2014 at Damer House, funded by Tipperary Arts Office.
Damer House Gallery is a new artist-run space in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary in Ireland’s oldest inland town and is ran by co- Directors: Therry Rudin and Patricia Hurl. It is supported by OPW. The aim of the residency was to develop research and develop film work, which engaged with the community and how the town has evolved and changed over the years.
DHG is a collaborative artistic research project, opening a new critical space within which to create/produce a platform for public awareness for art and criticism, through the presentation of contemporary art practice / dialogue, public discussions, and publications with unorthodox interventions, in order to explore what a great critical art forum could be for art and for the public in the Midlands. Roscrea is rich in history as a 6th Century Monastic Town.’
For more information see https://www.facebook.com/DamerHouseGallery
Roscrea is a small quiet town with interesting characters and rich history and folklore. The town is had a still and empty atmosphere, due to the recent recession, which contrasted against the colourful, friendly and almost Jamaican laid back, ‘soon come’ attitude of the Irish. A lot of the community were really enthusiastic about getting involved in what was happening in the local area and linking us with places and people we could research to find out more about the histories of the people and changes which have happened in the town.
We were interested in finding out more about the folklore and history. Some of the places we visited and people we spoke to included
- Monnaicha (The island in the bog, is a monastic settlement located 3 miles outside the town.)
- Interviewed historians George Cunningham and Kathleen Moloughney
- We did tours of Damer House and Roscrea Castle.
- We spoke to local photographer and writer Ciaran Mac Nioclais who published a book, Muintir Ros Cre,about photographic memories of Roscrea people
- Went to traditional Irish music and storytelling night in Patsy’s Bar just outside Roscrea.
- Spoke on radio station Today FM about our project and to find people interested in sharing their stories
- Visited the Sean Ross Abbey and St. Anne’s (Mother and Angels Plot) Convent where the plots of unmarked mothers and babies graves were found and film Philomena was based on.
We became friendly with owner of the pub in the centre of the town called The White House. It was a great meeting point for the local community to drink and socialise. Residents began to tell us some of the ghostly and darker stories about Roscrea’s past which really grabbed us. We then were lead to discover the famous Leap Castle, which is supposed to be Ireland’s most haunted castle which has had many ghostly sightings and experiences. We met Sean Ryan, who is the owner of the Castle and has lived there since 1991 with his wife and daughter.
Brief History of Leap Castle
According to the Annals of the Four Masters – a medieval chronicle of Irish history the Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald attacked the castle unsuccessfully but returned three years later where he did manage to then partially demolish it. The O’Carroll’s regained possession of the castle in 1557.
There are some variations on the story but one tells of one of the O’ Carroll sons starting mass for the family in the upper hall of the castle without his rival brother. This small but significant act was seen as a huge insult and when his brother did finally arrive, he did so in a great rage and slaughtered his priest brother by stabbing him in the back. The priest had been chanting the Holy Rites before his brother had charged into the chapel and it is said that he died on the alter in front of his family. From this day forth the chapel where this terrible murder occurred was referred to as the ‘Bloody Chapel’. Leap Castle stayed with the Darby family until the 1900′s, During this period in time the occult was a fashionable past time to dabble in, Mildred indeed dabbled. It is believed that her innocent foray in the occult awakened a particular spirit called an ‘Elemental’ and it awoke with a vengeance. Whilst renovating the old castle, workers discovered an oubliette just off the Bloody Chapel, this frightening small room had a drop floor which prisoners were pushed down and fell to their deaths. The prisoners that managed to miss the spikes found on the dungeon floor would starve to death, forgotten in the windowless room. It took the workers three cartloads to carry out all of the human bones that were found at the bottom of the oubliette.
We produced a short film about our experiences...