Irish actor calls on Irish-America to help save Ireland’s castles

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Irish West End actor calls on Irish Americans to invest in his “Historic Estate Investment Trust” to save Irish castles and other old buildings in danger of collapsing.

Sean Simon, originally from Roscommon, who has played many leading roles in the West End, has been the keeper of Cloontykilla Castle and McDermott Castle since 1997 and aims to restore both castles to their former glory.

He has almost completed the restoration of Cloontykilla Castle but faces an ongoing battle to ensure McDermott Castle remains standing before he can restore it.

Simon took almost 25 years to restore Cloontykilla Castle to its original state due to a number of factors, including the 2008 financial crash, and is keen to avoid similar delays with any future projects he has. he will undertake.

He told IrishCentral that it would take him around five years to restore an old castle if he had the funds available up front and then looked for investors to help start other projects.

Sean Simon at Cloontykilla Castle

While Simon is almost ready to open Cloontykilla Castle to the public, he has yet to start work on McDermott Castle, also known as Castle Island.

The 14th-century castle is steeped in Irish history and was once home to the Mac Diarmada clan who ruled the kingdom of Moylurg in Connacht.

The castle was in a state of disrepair when Simon acquired it in 1997 and he had to face a constant battle with the ivy and brush that threatened to tear down the walls.

Simon cut down vegetation and regularly injects lime mortar into the castle walls to further strengthen them against the elements and ensured the survival of the castle. For the moment.

However, he said the conservation of the ancient ruins is an ongoing battle and added that lime mortar is frequently washed away from the walls of the seven-foot-thick castle by rainwater seeping into the building. because the castle has no roof.

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The absence of window frames and bay windows allows the lime mortar to escape through Gothic arches that once served as windows for the castle.

The ivy that once threatened the structure of the castle has also returned, although not as thick or as dangerous as before.

Simon is a strong believer in restoration rather than conservation, declaring that the conservation of ancient ruins is “dead money”.

“The Public Works Office spends a lot of money to keep the castles. It takes a lot of money to keep them, but you only need to restore them once,” he told IrishCentral .

He said ancient ruins are never safe until they have a roof and added that he would restore McDermott Castle as soon as possible if he had the money.

He is set to launch an Historic Estate Investment Trust (HEIT) on January 1 next year, to help fund the restoration of McDermott Castle and other castles threatened with collapse across Ireland.

He said the concept was similar to that of a real estate investment trust, except that it is only interested in “like-minded people or businesses who wish to be a part of Irish history. “.

Simon described castles as limited resources and said there was no way to replace a castle once it collapsed.

“All of these buildings are finished and every year pieces of them fall off. Time is on our side if we have to do anything about it.

“You can’t build a new one because people would laugh at you. They’re only worth their story.”

As a result, Simon is looking for like-minded people to invest in his HEIT and prevent as many old buildings as possible from collapsing.

He said that anyone investing in the trust must do so for the right reasons and he insists that there is nothing worse than a castle or an ancient building falling into the wrong hands.

“A building can fall into the wrong hands. Even after their restoration, these buildings must be in the hands of protectors.

“You can’t have a scenario where someone has an idea and puts a glass door on a castle. I’ve seen that and it’s a horror story.”

However, Simon is keen to stress that the trust is not a philanthropic endeavor and says that anyone who invests “will get something out of it.”

As an example, he cited Cloontykilla Castle, which will be rented between € 25,000 and € 45,000 per week when it is ready to open next year.

Cloontykilla Castle

Cloontykilla Castle

He said investors will be like shareholders and will receive a dividend once the castle they have invested in is restored and makes money.

“Anyone who invests will be part of a trust, which means they won’t be grappling with the complete restoration of a castle.

“It will be like a company of like-minded people who can profit from their investment and when the place makes money, they get a return.”

Simon injected over 1.2 million euros into the restoration of Cloontykilla Castle with another investor who also invested over one million euros in the project.

He is currently looking for a third investor to help him acquire specialized furniture and accessories to give the interior of the castle an authentic look, which could cost more than a million euros.

However, he thinks the investment is worth it because it allows people to feel like they are part of an ancient castle and to say that they have helped save it.

The trust “cannot compete with real estate investing or Bitcoin,” he said, but investors will get something in return because of the huge demand for castles as luxury vacation homes.

He plans to live in Cloontykilla for several weeks each year when not rented out and said investors will be able to do the same with future projects.

His attention will turn to restoring McDermott Castle on Castle Island once he opens Cloontykilla Castle and secures enough investment through the HEIT.

Located in the middle of Lough Key, McDermott Castle holds over 800 years of Irish history and is one of Ireland’s most important historic sites.

The castle has witnessed war and witchcraft throughout its history, with the famous Battle of the Curlews taking place on the shores of Lough Key in 1599 during the Nine Years’ War when the McDermotts joined forces with Red Hugh O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill defeating a full-fledged Elizabethan army.

The Gaelic clans were eventually defeated by an even stronger Elizabethan army at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the castle was later confiscated from the McDermott as a punishment.

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The castle fell into disrepair shortly after the McDermott’s departure and remained in a perilous state until 1810, when John Nash was commissioned to redevelop the historic building as a summer residence.

Nash demilitarized the castle by lowering its original western bawn and opening the building’s windows, but he incorporated the 15th-century McDermott Tower into the structure.

Castle Island

Castle Island

Irish poet WB Yeats sought to acquire the castle in 1890 and turn it into a castle for heroes to meet the needs of those who have dedicated their lives to Ireland.

Yeats, however, was unable to secure the funds to purchase the castle and the dream died.

The castle was then set on fire during World War II.

Simon now aims to succeed where Yeats failed and restore the historic castle to its former glory.

He has gained invaluable expertise over the past 25 years and plans to find people with a similar love for ancient Ireland to help him save the castle for good before moving on to other projects across the country. .

For now, however, he will continue to wage a war against the thick ivy that stubbornly returns to the castle’s face every year.

Anyone interested in investing in Sean Simon’s HEIT can contact him on +353873457740 or visit the Cloontykilla Castle website.


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