Athlone Castle

Athlone Castle and walls by the banks of the river Shannon

Athlone Castle • Westmeath

Athlone in the turbulent mid-17th century

The keep of Athlone Castle, on a cloudy day

The central tower, or keep, of Athlone Castle • Westmeath

The keep of Athlone Castle, on a cloudy day

The central tower, or keep, of Athlone Castle • Westmeath

The First Siege of Athlone Castle, 1690

The walls of Athlone Castle

The walls of Athlone Castle • Westmeath

The Great Siege of Athlone Castle, 1691

Sergeant Custume Athlone Castle

A depiction of Sergeant Custume • Athlone Castle

By the end of the seventh day, west Athlone was in ruins. Under cover of the bombardment a group of Williamite engineers began to lay planks across the broken arches of the bridge, to prepare for a frontal assault by Ginkel’s army.

An Irish sergeant of dragoons named Custume, and a band of ten volunteers, armed themselves with axes, picks and crowbars. They rushed from behind the remnants of the fortifications to smash down the nearly completed bridge. In response, the Williamite artillery once again roared across the bridge, accompanied by deadly volleys of musket fire. The incredibly brave volunteers managed to break away some of the timbers, but when the musket smoke cleared, all eleven men, including the valiant Sergeant Custume, lay dead. Inspired by their bravery, another band of volunteers rushed to break the bridge. Again they were met with a hail of musketry. Most of the party were casualties, but they managed to complete the destruction of the repair works, thwarting the Williamite assault plan.

Ever resourceful, Ginkel, explored the possibility of an assault across the old ford that had given Athlone its name. A band of grenadiers led by Colonel Gustavus Hamilton carried out a surprise attack. As they gained the opposite bank of the river they took the defenders unaware, hurling their grenades and charging into the breach. They moved so quickly that the shocked garrison retreated in the face of their speed and aggression. Immediately the victors manned the fortifications on the west side of the town to prevent the Jacobite army encamped outside from mounting a counter- attack. Meanwhile the Williamites repaired the bridge, allowing troops to advance across it to reinforce the grenadiers. When Saint-Ruhe saw the strength and deployment of the Williamite forces, he abandoned any attempt at a counter-attack. Despite the heroic defence of the town, after eleven hard days Athlone had fallen to Ginkel and the Williamites. Saint-Ruhe led the remains of the Jacobite forces further into Connacht, where they were heavily defeated at the bloody Battle of Aughrim just two weeks later.

The Later History of Athlone Castle

Upper left: Athlone Castle • Lower left: the exhibition of the Second Siege of Athlone • Right: Entrance to Athlone Castle

Top: Athlone Castle • Middle: Entrance to Athlone Castle • Bottom: the exhibition of the Second Siege of Athlone

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