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Castlerea - Roscommon - Market Square

early photo

Castlerea (Irish: An Caisleán Riabhach) is located in the west of County Roscommon, Republic of Ireland. It is the second largest town in the county with a population of 2842 (as of 2006). Roughly translated from Irish, Castlerea can mean Brindled Castle (Caisleán Riabhach) or King's Castle (Caisleán R?. The town is built on the River Suck and the River Francis (aka River Cloonard), both tributaries of the River Shannon.


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Photo Details

  • County: Roscommon
  • Town: Castlerea
  • Scene: General view of Market Square
  • Date: circa 1910


  • Digitally remastered
  • 10' x 8' printed on quality photo paper, also available in larger sizes
  • Also available mounted & framed, ask for details
  • Colour images can be printed in black & white if preferred.
  • Read about Castlerea below


Castlerea (Irish: An Caisleán Riabhach) is located in the west of County Roscommon, Republic of Ireland. It is the second largest town in the county with a population of 2842 (as of 2006). Roughly translated from Irish, Castlerea can mean Brindled Castle (Caisleán Riabhach) or King's Castle (Caisleán Rí). The town is built on the River Suck and the River Francis (aka River Cloonard), both tributaries of the River Shannon.


Clonalis House, just west of the town, is the ancestral home of the Clan O'Conor: the last High Kings of Ireland. The dynasty gave eleven high kings to Ireland and twenty four kings to Connacht. The family traces back to Feredach the Just in 75 A.D. and is Europe's oldest recorded family. The 45 room mansion was built in 1878 and contains a priceless collection of archival material, illustrating a tradition going back 60 generations.

On the 11 July 1921 an RIC man (Sgt. James King) was shot in Patrick St., Castlerea, Co. Roscommon and died of his wounds shortly afterwards. Later that day the July 11 truce was called ending the War of Independence. No one was ever prosecuted for the murder and no investigations concerning the murder were ever undertaken. It was the last shot fired in the Irish War of Independence. Detective Garda John Francis Morley and Garda Henry Gerrard Byrne were shot dead while in pursuit of INLA bank robbers at Aghaderry near Castlerea on the 7th of July 1980.


  • The first president of Ireland and founder of the Gaelic League, Dr. Douglas Hyde was born in Castlerea on 17 January 1860.
  • Castlerea was also the birthplace in 1815 of Sir William Wilde, educated in the diocesan school in Elphin and father of the celebrated dramatist and wit, Oscar Wilde.
  • Dr. Matthew Young, Bishop of Clonfert ca. 1798, an eminent natural philosopher and mathematician, was a native of Castlerea.
  • The Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Finnegan was born in the town.
  • Other notable people from the town include the poet Michael McGovern and the fur trader Andrew McDermot.
  • The town is the birthplace of Irish Times columnist, John Waters and cannabis legalisation advocate, Cllr. Luke 'Ming the Merciless' Flanagan and Sumo Ireland president John Gunning.
  • A qualified accountant Aidan Heavey arrived in England from Castlerea in Co Roscommon in 1993 and has since become one of the most influential Irish businessmen in Britain.The chief executive of Tullow Oil has taken the publicly-listed company from meagre beginnings to a billion pound enterprise. Heavey attended Clongowes Wood College and UCD before working as an accountant with RJ Kidney & Co. He later worked for Aer Lingus and Tullow Engineering before forming Tullow Oil in 1985 as an international oil and gas exploration company. He now heads the second largest British-based independent exploration and production company. "I'm very proud to be Irish and of the contributions the Irish have made, not only in Britain but worldwide," he once said.

The Sandfords

Theophilus Sandford in the 17th century was the first Sandford to obtain extensive lands in Castlerea. This was for his services during the civil wars in England. These lands had been taken from the O'Conors. He built Castlerea House c.1640 on the old O'Conor Castle site. Castlerea developed under the Sandfords, and they established a distillery (at its height producing more than 20,000 of gallons of whiskey annually), a brewery and a tannery. His descendants continued to hold their power through the troublesome 19th century, but in the early years of the 20th century they lost ground. The estate was acquired by the Land Commission and the Congested Districts Board. The Demesne in which it was set survives and the people of Castlerea now enjoy it as a public park.


In Association Football, Castlerea Celtic are the 2006 Ruby Oil Roscommon and district Premier league and cup champions, having achieved the double for the first time since 1979. There has been a large increase in the popularity of soccer in the town in recent years. A fine new clubhouse and Astroturf facility has recently been built by Castlerea Celtic.

Education and industry

Castlerea's major employers include Harmac Medical Products, Colour Communications Europe, Finola Foods and John Murphy (Castlerea) Limited, Irelands Largest Supplier of Fasteners and Fixings. John Murphy (Castlerea) Limited also owns a number of companies in the UK. A Film Production House, Round Edge Films is based in Ballingare in Castlerea.

The schools in the town are all located in one central 'block'. The area includes two primary schools, St. Anne's National School and St. Paul's National School and one secondary school, Castlerea Community School. St. Michael’s Special National School is also located within the central educational 'block'.

Post Leaving Certificate courses are held in Castlerea Community School for school leavers or adults wishing to return to education.


Castlerea railway station opened on 15 November 1860.


Amenities in the town include a nine hole golf course, an outdoor swimming pool (open to public every June, July and August), a soccer pitch, a GAA pitch and a large public park. The GAA owns a squash court, and a handball court in the town. St. Kevin's is the local Gaelic Football club.

Castlerea also has a night club known as 'River Island', not to be confused with the clotheswear chain of the same name [1]. The town also maintains a stock of between fifteen and twenty public houses.

Public houses and licensed premises in Castlerea include the Golf Course Club House, the GAA Centre Bar, Hell's Kitchen, Caulfield's, The Stagger Inn, Carthy's, Silke's, Murray's, The Halfway House, Sissy McGinty's, The Cosy Bar, The Golden Eagle, Mulvihill's, Tully's Hotel, The Horse and Jockey, The Forge, Kate's, The Westbury and Doherty's.

St. Patrick's Church (estd.1896) is the Roman Catholic church of the town, administered by Canon Joe Fitzgearld and Fr. Michael McManus.

The town also has a prison and "Hell's Kitchen" the only pub in Ireland with a train inside. Hell's Kitchen also contains a Railway Museum, probably the most unusual museum building in Ireland. Sean Browne’s railway museum includes a 1955 A55 diesel locomotive. It is open 7 days a week and is a treasure trove for railway enthusiasts. On display are bells, lamps, shunting poles, signal equipment etc. The museum has no official links with Castlerea railway station.

Castlerea is twinned with Newark, New Jersey and Soulac Sur Mer, France.

Castlerea is not to be confused with Castlereagh, a borough of Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Castlerea as a Statistical Anomaly

Castlerea stands out in statistical terms in many ways and has the:

  • Oldest average population in Ireland.
  • Second highest number of bachelors per capita in Ireland.
  • Highest percentage of Leaving Certificate students continuing on to third level education in Ireland.

"By far the majority of male gene types in the British Isles derive from Iberia (Spain and Portugal), ranging from a low of 59% in Fakenham, Norfolk to highs of 96% in Llangefni, north Wales and 93% in Castlerea, Ireland. On average only 30% of gene types in England derive from north-west Europe. Even without dating the earlier waves of north-west European immigration, this invalidates the Anglo-Saxon wipeout theory..."

"...75-95% of British Isles (genetic) matches derive from Iberia... Ireland, coastal Wales, and central and west-coast Scotland are almost entirely made up from Iberian founders, while the rest of the non-English parts of the British Isles have similarly high rates. England has rather lower rates of Iberian types with marked heterogeneity, but no English sample has less than 58% of Iberian samples..."