ATHLONE SLIDESHOW 003

Street Photography By William Murphy

ATHLONE SLIDESHOW 003

ALL THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE HI-RES SO IT TAKES A WHILE TO LOAD THE SLIDESHOW - PLEASE WAIT

Athlone Castle is the geographical and historical center of Athlone. Throughout its early history, the ford of Athlone was strategically important, as south of Athlone the Shannon is impassable until Clonmacnoise, where the Esker Riada meets the Shannon, while to the north it flows into Lough Ree. In 1001 Brian Bóru sailed his army up river from Kincora and through Lough Derg to attend a gathering in Athlone.

A bridge was built across the river in the 12th century, approximately 100 metres (330 ft) south of the current structure. To protect the bridge, a fort was constructed on the river's west bank, within Athlone, by Turloch Mór Ó Conor. On a number of occasions both the fort and bridge were subject to attacks, and towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification there. This earthen fort was followed by a stone structure built in 1210 by Justiciar John de Gray. The 12-sided donjon, or tower, dates from this time; however, the rest of the original castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged.

Throughout the wars that wracked Ireland in the seventeenth century, Athlone contained the vital, main bridge over the River Shannon into Connacht. During the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–53), the town was held by Irish Confederate troops until it was taken by Charles Coote in late 1650, who attacked the town from the west, having crossed into Connacht at Sligo.

Forty years later, during the pan-European War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97), the town was again of key strategic importance. This time around, Athlone was one of the Jacobite strongholds that defended the river-crossings into the confederate-held Province of Connacht following the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690. That same year, Colonel Richard Grace's Jacobite forces in Athlone repelled an attack by 10,000 men led by Commander Douglas. In the following year's campaign, the Siege of Athlone saw a further assault by a larger allied force, during which the invading troops of King William and Queen Mary eventually overran the entire city. The defenders were forced to flee further west, toward the River Suck, at such speed that eyewitness accounts record that they "flung their cannons into the morass" as they fled. The most recently discovered account of the Siege of Athlone, written after the attack, on 5 July 1691, was found in 2004 in an archive in the Netherlands. The account was penned by the victorious commanding officer from the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, general lieutenant Godard van Reede, in letters written to his family in mainland Europe. In the account, the commanding allied officer reported that half of the city's defenders retreated westward, towards the rest of their army, leaving almost 2,000 dead within the city walls and more than 100 taken prisoner, including dozens of officers.
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