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Who were the Jordans?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Jordan's Castle is one of the six which stand in the small village of Ardglass on the County Down Coast. It was owned by the Jordan's who lived there until the end of the 1600s but who were they?

Jordan's Castle in Ardglass
Jordan's Castle

One of the first references we have of the name Jordan is of a Jordan de Saukville. In the 13th Century the Jordan's controlled the pound in Ardglass. After a few peaceful centuries, the next we hear of them is in 1598 when their castle was beseiged by Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. The seige lasted for three years until 17th June 1601 when Lord Deputy Mountjoy sailed into Ardglass and drove the beseigers off.

It is said that a huge battle was fought in Dunsford, literally two fields away from my back door in Dunsford Bog. A large stone is said to mark the spot. Mountjoy went onto camp at the ruined Bishop's Court which is known today as Mountjoy Hill.

For their resistance the Jordan's were awarded a concordat and a private bounty by Elizabeth I. This interesting fact actually reveals that the Jordan's were still a Catholic family! After the Reformation the Old English in Ireland could express an allegience to the Crown but when the pope invited the deposition of Elizabeth the situation became a bit trickier! How though do you survive that seige? Looking at the castle, the clues are there: the built in seats around the windows when you need to burn the furniture. The added dovecoat to the top of the tower for keeping pigeons as messengers and a delicacy!

In 1641 the Irish successfully conquered Ardglass. The English fought back and regained control but once again in 1689 the Irish captured Ardglass. After this point the English withdrew entirely and the town fell away to ruin.

In 1911 when the Ardglass estate went bankrupt the castle was auctioned off as a building site. Thankfully, the ruin was purchased by Francis Joseph Bigger. He set about on a three month restoration and opened it in September 1911 under the name of Castle Shane - after Seaghan an Doimais - Shane O'Neill.

Being a fanatic Gaeilge speaker Bigger used to mingle with the Donegal fishermen on the harbour. In 1913, he met Patrick McGinley. This fateful encounter culminated in a meeting between McGinley, Sir Roger Casement, Lord Ashbourne and Alice Stopford Green in the Ardglass Arms. In this meeting McGinley was recruited as a crew member for the Howth Gun Running on the Asgard. Many of these Mauser Rifles wound up in the hands of the revolutionaries in the Easter Rising!

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