Sir William Penn and Macroom Castle

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The Gateway and tower are all that remain of Macroom Castle, which was granted to Admiral William Penn, (father of the founder of Pennsylvania U.S.A.) by Cromwell.  

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Macroom Castle

The boyhood home of William Penn during the years that he lived in County Cork. It stands on the western margin of the town of Macroom and its windows look away into the distance where a rugged land lies at the foot of the mountains. King John is said to have built part of the castle. In 1660 the monarchy was restored and under the rule of King Charles 11, the Castle and lands of Macroom were restored to Lord Muskerry (MacCarthy’s).  Admiral William Penn in turn, was granted Shanagarry Castle (near Middleton east Cork) in exchange for Macroom Castle.  The river Sullane flows quietly beneath the walls of the castle. To this castle Admiral Penn invited Thomas Loe when his son William was twelve or thirteen years old. Here William listened to the man who ten years later, in the nearby city of Cork, was to finally convince him of the way of life of Friends He had intense religious experience, he became skilled in the administration of property and he had intolerance to religious and racial inequality. Macroom is proud to be associated with playing its part in the great man’s life. "I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

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William Penn  1644 – 1718

William Penn was born during the Civil War near Tower Hill, London, on 14th October 1644. His father was Vice-Admiral Sir William Penn, a great sea-captain, who was a friend of King Charles II and his younger brother the Duke of York, later to become James II.  During Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate William Penn senior was made an Admiral and was granted Shannagarry estate in Ireland.  After an unsuccessful expedition to the West Indies led by Admiral Penn the family moved to Shannagarry.  It was here that William Penn met and was greatly influenced by Thomas Loe, who was a Quaker.

At 16 William went up to Christ Church, Oxford. The Church of England was the only accepted form of worship at this time and students were expected to attend services.  Penn was increasing drawn to Quakerism, which had been started by George Fox in 1652.  He began to organise meetings and to challenge the authorities.  In March 1662 he was sent down. His father disapproved, and sent him to France hoping to dispel his rebellious ideas.  There Penn enrolled in the Huguenot Academy and was influenced by Moise Amyraut, a strong supporter of religious freedom.  On his return to England he commenced law studies which were interrupted by the Great Plague of London.  His father sent him to care for the family estates in Ireland.  Here he became a convinced Quaker.

In 1668 he was imprisoned for seven months for his religious beliefs. While in prison he wrote No Cross No Crown, one of his most influential books. Around this time he also met Gulielma Springett, daughter of Mary Penington and step daughter of Isaac Penington, both committed Quakers.  The Conventicle Act banned public meetings of more than 5 people, in an attempt to suppress all but Anglican worship. In 1670 William Penn and his friend William Mead spoke to a large crowd in London’s Gracechurch Street, and were arrested and tried at the Old Bailey. The Penn-Mead Trial has gone down in legal history due to Penn’s skilled arguments and the courage of the jury. It set a precedent for the rights of juries to reach independent conclusions and is still referred to today. It is a very important part of Penn’s legacy, both in the UK and in the US.  In 1672 William and Gulielma married.

William’s father had died in 1670. Part of William’s inheritance was a crown debt of £16,000 which his father had lent to Charles II, and in 1681 in settlement of this debt he was granted land on the west bank of the Delaware River in the American Colonies. Penn wanted the province to be called Sylvania, but the King insisted on the name Penn being prefixed in memory of his father, so it became Pennsylvania.

He went to America in 1682 and spent two years there establishing the colony. He called it his Holy Experiment because it was to be a place where the Quaker ideals of equality, religious freedom, and open democratic processes could be put into practice in ways that seemed impossible in Europe.  He treated the Lenape Indians with great respect and made a treaty with them for the use of their land.  Voltaire said of the treaty that it was the only one “not ratified by an oath, and that was never infringed." Penn also drew up a remarkably progressive constitution for Pennsylvania.  It served as a model for several other states, and was a key influence on the US constitution drawn up in Philadelphia nearly a century later. Soon after Penn’s return to England in 1684, the King died and was succeeded by James II. As a close friend of the new King, Penn did much to further religious freedom. The culmination of this was the 1689 Act of Toleration which enabled Quakers and all other religious groups to worship openly.

In 1694 Gulielma died. Two years later he married Hannah Callowhill, and they went to America in 1699, to live at Pennsbury, near Philadelphia. He had to return to England in 1701 where his health declined and he had financial problems. In 1712 he had a stroke and suffered from loss of memory. He died in 1718 and is buried in the grounds of Jordans Quaker Meeting House in Buckinghamshire.   Here William Penn (1644-1718) Quaker Statesman and Man of Vision, Founder of Pennsylvania and Planner of Philadelphia, Friend of the Indians, Crusader for Civil and Religious Liberty, Designer of European Peace, resided for five years after his marriage to Gulielma Maria Springett (1644-1694)

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The stone above this tablet from Pennsbury, Pennsylvania, the ancient home of William Penn on the Delaware River, was presented by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission who are the custodians of the property.

The Bealick Mill

Erected in the early 19th century, The Bealick Mill located just a short distance from Macroom on the River Larney in County Cork has recently been restored from dereliction and is now a fully functional mill, heritage centre and tourism attraction.

The site of Bealick Mill is hugely important in the annals of Irish history. For the mill derives its name from 'Bealach Leachta', an ancient route used by local saints. Adjacent to the Mill site the Leach Mahon standing stones which commemorate the Battle of Bealach Leachta, a legendary brutal battle was fought and won in 978AD by the forces of Brian Boru, the first High King of Ireland.

The heritage centre displays an exhibition including photographs, reports, documents and studies carried out on famine conditions in local parishes during this time.

If you go: Open April to September 10am to 5pm daily and Sundays 2pm to 6pm. From October to March it is open by arrangement only.

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Macroom Attractions

Tourist attractions include a colourful town centre, an 18-hole golf course and scenic surroundings. A few kilometres to the north of Macroom is Mushera Mountain, with the family attraction of Millstreet Country Park, a 1.5 km walk to the summit of the mountain, and the ancient Saint John's Well. Also The Castle Grounds located in the town is a popular place for tourists and includes fishing and golfing facilities.

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There are many holy wells, churches and other sites in the area associated with ancient visionaries and healers. 6 km west lies the historic Carrigaphooca Castle. In the town itself, the Castle Arch, a remainder of the demolished Macroom Castle, admits walkers to the Castle demesne parklands, held in trust as a gift to, and possession of, the people of Macroom. This large park contains riverside walks among mature oak and beech trees. It is very popular amongst mushroom enthusiasts.

Eating Out

DINING OUT:

Well, everyone has to eat, and in Macroom you will find a wide variety of different cuisines at a price to suit every pocket. Below is a list of restaurants and food outlets found in the town of Macroom :

Read more: Eating Out

Entertainment in Macroom

Castle Hotel - Live music in Dan Buckley Bar every Saturday night and Sunday nights of Bank Holiday weekends. Traditional Music on Tuesday nights during Summer Months.

Murrays Bar - Live Music Bank Holiday Monday from 7pm to 9pm.

Bridge Bar - Live Music on Saturday nights.

O'Riadas -  Disco on Saturday nights.

Briery Gap Cultural Centre- Theatre, Film, Music and Dance - The Briery gap offers a varied program of events throughout the year. For details visit the website www.brierygap.com

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