For sale: magnificent Irish castle owned by first president of Sinn Féin

Tulira Castle in Galway – once owned by Edward Martyn, first president of Sinn Féin – is for sale

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The castle – which includes a 16th century tower and a Victorian Gothic Revival main building complete with a fireplace designed by Pugin – is one of the finest in the country and has been superbly restored by its Dutch owners Ruud and Femmy Bolmeijer, who in 1995 paid £2 million for the property and its 265-acre estate.

The Victorian Gothic main house was commissioned in the 1880s by the then owners, Edward Martyn (1859-1924) and his mother. Martyn was a leading light in Ireland’s literary revival, a playwright, friend of W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, and one of the founders, and funders, of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Although a stern magistrate during Ireland’s land wars, Martyn went on to become a passionate nationalist and supported a wide range of cultural and political developments – including the Gaelic League (to revive the Irish language), the Abbey Theatre, Feis Ceoil (Irish music), and Sinn Féin.

His move towards nationalism was copper-fastened when, at a Christmas celebration at Tulira in 1899, he refused to allow a band to play ‘God Save the Queen’. When Lord Clonbrock suggested that this undermined his role as deputy lord lieutenant and commissioner of the peace for Co. Galway, he resigned from these offices, saying he no longer supported the Unionist position.

Martyn was elected president of Sinn Féin at its first annual convention in 1905. However in 1908 he told Yeats that he had ‘left the Sinn Fein organization and retired from politics altogether.’ Yeats disliked Martyn’s Catholicism and later repudiated him as ‘an unhappy, childless, unfinished man, typical of an Ireland that  is passing away.’

During the Irish war of independence many of Ireland’s so-called Big Houses were burnt down but Tulira was spared. Martyn died here in 1923.

As for the property (for sale for €6,500,000 – the monumental Great Hall with its 40ft high timber ceiling is the centrepiece of the castle.

In 1896 the English writer Arthur Symons visted Martyn at Tulira and described it as:

A castle of dreams …. in the morning, I climb the winding staircase in the tower, creep through the secret passage, and find myself in a vast deserted room above the chapel which is my retiring room for meditation; or following the winding staircase, come out of the battlements, where I can look widely across Galway, to the hills.


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