Alex Bradley

Johnstown Castle Looks to the Future

"Johnstown Castle Looks to the Future" was featured in the Irish Arts Review Magazine in 2017. The piece, written by writer and artist Peter Pearson chronicles the history of the Johnstown Estate and is available to read by clicking here.



Our Plans

The construction works at Johnstown Castle commenced in April 2018 and when completed we will operate the very special Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum & Grounds for all to enjoy.


Donation to Irish Famine

Muslim Assistance to Ireland during the Great Hunger.

Possibly the only uplifting aspect of the tragedy of the Great Hunger was the charitable response to the disaster by thousands of private individuals throughout the world who were neither Irish nor Catholic.  The geographical scope of this intervention was extensive, with the two first groups to contribute at the end of 1845 being in Calcutta in India and in Boston in the US.

The vast majority of this relief was donated in the wake of the second, more deadly, failure of the potato blight in 1846.  This wave of benevolence included a large donation from the Sultan of Turkey, Abdülmecid I. Born in 1823, Abdülmecid had become Sultan in 1839. Regardless of his youth and upbringing, the Sultan showed himself to be a progressive, who desired to forge closer relations with western Europe. His policies included abolishing slave markets, allowing non-Muslim places of worship to be built, establishing modern universities, and – as early as 1858 – decriminalizing homosexuality.



One of the young Sultan’s most impressive acts of generosity occurred in 1847, when he offered to donate £10,000 towards Famine relief in Ireland. If he had been allowed to do so, it would have made him the largest individual benefactor.  However, only a few weeks earlier, Queen Victoria had donated £2,000 to Ireland and diplomats in Constantinople persuaded Turkish officials that it would offend British royal protocol if anybody gave a higher amount than the monarch.  Consequently, the Sultan’s donation was reduced to £1,000 – still a generous sum, but far less than what had been originally envisaged.

The Sultan’s part in assisting the Famine poor was known at the time within Ireland, with a number of newspapers commenting on it.  A (bad) poem was even published to commemorate his intervention:

  • God bless the Turk! God bless the Turk!
  • God bless the Turk! For this Christian work,
  • May his noble shadow never be less!
  • May Mahomed guard him,
  • And Allah reward him …
  • Let Ireland be grateful,
  • And pay back the alms
  • That His Highness bestowed.

It is hard to calculate the impact of Abdülmecid’s donation, but without the charity of the Sultan and thousands of other men and women who had no direct connection with Ireland, the death toll resulting from the Great Hunger would have been even higher.

For more on private charity see, Christine Kinealy Charity and the Great hunger. The Kindness of Strangers (Bloomsbury, 2013).

Our Bat Colony

The IAM Manager, Matt and Harm Deenen (a trained field ecologist) have been conducting regular bat counts and surveys at Johnstown since 2015. In 2016 they carried out weekly counts of the maternal colony of soprano pipistrelle bats which use the first floor roof of the museum (west side). This work has continued this year so they can build up comparative data and monitor the health of the colony.

The bats gather in this roost from March until October although they reckon some individuals may hibernate there in the winter too. The roost reaches its peak in May with the biggest count being 714 individuals recorded on 5 May 2016. They have been told by experts that this is the third largest recorded roost in the country. In June the pups are born and can sometimes be seen on infra-red camera that they have in the roof.

The team have a theory that other species of bat may also use the same roost from time-to-time but in much smaller numbers – they think they have detected a daubenton bat emerging from the roost this year. Counting bats means standing outside the roost at sunset and counting for an hour in ten minute intervals - 20 to 30 mins after sunset is the peak emergence time. They use various specialist bat equipment to aid them. Records of bat counts are submitted to Bat Conservation Ireland, National Biodiversity Centre and are also available on the Irish agricultural museum website.

They also carry out regular patrol surveys around the grounds and have detected brown long-eared bats, common pipistrelle, leisler bats and daubenton bats (water specialists). They have been told that bats have used the castle in the past but they have no evidence to support this being the case at the moment.

Johnstown has the perfect habitat for Irish bats. The team intend to keep recording to build up their knowledge of bats on the site and to continue to monitor the maternal roost so it becomes the best recorded roost in the country and a flagship for bat conservation.