Barry’s Castle was built on the banks of the River Awbeg by Philip and William de Barry around 1200 AD, on land seized from the Gaelic O’Donegan’s who used to rule the lands around Kilnamullack before the arrival of the Normans. Philip de Barry came to Ireland in 1185 and was awarded the lands around Buttevant as a reward for his part in the conquest. The castle was a powerful defensive structure, as it was built on top of a high cliff of sheer rock, where it got the name Boutavant, meaning ‘abutment’ in old French. The river offered additional protection, as it acted as a large natural moat, making an attack on the walls of the castle even more difficult. The castle suffered many attacks, not least that of Morrough O’Brien in the 1400s, who overran Munster, captured Buttevant town, and attacked the castle but, thanks to its strong walls, the castle held firm on this occasion. The castle was captured once, in the late 1500s, during the Elizabethan plantation of Munster, by Lord Deputy Sidney, who laid a successful siege that allowed him to occupy the castle for a time.
A gargoyle sits above the front door and has watched Buttevant life for 800 years. Some say it is a representation of David Og, others say it is of King John. All it has for company is the drummer boy, who according to legend is doomed to eternity to repeat his betrayal of the Barrys. The boy is said to have betrayed the castle to the besieger, Sidney, in Elizabethan times. When the castle was taken, the bugler or drummer was executed by the victor, who said “Thus may all traitors perish.” At night, the head still rolls down the stairs, crying “Betrayed, betrayed”, and a blood-stain on the stairs cannot be washed away.
The Barry family held the castle until the late 1700s, when they suffered financial difficulties. It was purchased by John Anderson, and he renovated the old medieval castle to become a fashionable stately home. He too suffered financial problems after the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, and the castle came into the possession of Lord Doneraile. The castle changed hands a number of times after, and it was lived in as a home until 1920. The last person to live in the castle was a Mrs Guiney, who vacated it after a major fire. The castle is still in private ownership today.