Ruins of Kilmallock

Artist(s) : William Esdall (Engraver)

View of the ruins of the Dominican priory in Kilmallock. The town and its medieval walls lie to the right, with King John’s Castle prominent. Two figures, apparently male, are approaching the ruins, with their backs to the viewer. One has a walking stick and the other carries a bundle over his shoulder.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – Esdall Sculp.
  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – Ruins of Kilmallock.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Engravings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture, Cities and towns, Forts and fortifications
Geographical Location
  • Kilmallock - Town or city
  • Limerick - County
  • Munster - Province
Keywords(s) Archaeological sites, Castles, Churches, People, Ruins
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 10.4 cm x 16.9 cm
Published / created 1778

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy opp. p. 211
Source copy National Library of Ireland J.91414.CAN/1778
Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

Limerick, October 20, 1775.
LEAVING Buttevant, I thought the ne plus ultra of human wretchedness was then passed, but Kilmallock was before me. Had such scenes presented themselves on leaving Dublin, curiosity might have proved too weak an incentive to pro- [p.212] ceed; I should have turned back again, to avoid the sight of misery, which I could not but feel, without being able to remove.
I had been told at Charleville, that the next stage was Bruff, and there I purposed to breakfast; but after riding a few miles, and staring at a sight so unusual as a well planted park, I unexpectedly turned through an arch, under an old castle, into a spacious street, composed of houses, which, though magnificent, were windowless and roofless.
An inn was a sound unknown here; I got, however, a stable for my horses, and a room for myself, where, I suppose, a fire had not been kindled since the last election; for these ruins send two members to parliament. Sheds were raised, within these noble structures, too nasty for the habitation of English pigs. Happy would it be for Ireland, if her corporate towns were divested of the privilege of returning representatives to the great council of the nation; for it becomes the selfish policy of the lord of the soil to impoverish the voters into compliance.
[p.213] Kilmallock must be a place of high antiquity. It is reported to have been a walled town before the English got footing here. Sir James Ware relates, that an Abbey of Dominicans, or Black Friars, was built there in the thirteenth century by the sovereign, brethren, and commonalty. It formerly gave title to an Earl, and preserves a greater share of magnificence, even in its ruins, than any thing I had yet seen in Ireland. I call it the Irish Balbeck.
There was something so picturesque in the perspective of this place, that I could not help attempting to delineate it. I send you my essay done, as you see it, in less than an hour; I must, however, remark to you that I began upon a scale too large for my paper, and was not able to take in the whole town.
There is but one street now standing entire; but from some scattered piles, and from the foundation of others, there is reason to suppose that there have been more. The walls round the town, which in many places still remain, are of an oblong square. At each angle has been a castle, like those under which the traveller passes, at the ends [p.214] of the remaining street, and which you may trace in my sketch. One of these is the jail of the city. What must you think of the jail of Kilmallock, which is itself the most dreary of all prisons ? The religious houses which you may remark in the foreground have been stately,

Where my high steeples whilom used to stand,
On which the lordly Faulcon wont to towre,
There now is but an heap of lime and sand,
For the screech-owl to build her baleful bowre.

This town was abandoned by the Irish, during the last siege of Limerick, and fitted up by the English as a magazine for stores. It is conjectured, that Kil-malech was the original name. Bochart speaking of the Tyrian Hercules, or Melcartus, says, that Malech-cartha, signifies the king of the city, and O'Connor fays, that Mal-Kathrach is of the same import in Irish. [p.211-214]
Ruins of Kilmallock