Back To My Roots

One’s home is often considered a sanctuary: A place to escape from the hustle & bustle of the outside world, recharge from the day’s work, and spend quality time with family and loved ones. It’s a place to rest, reconnect, and feel safe.

Our new home, however, has not yet felt like that. Sadly, the renovation delays on our new house have dragged on even further, and have taken a serious turn. I won’t say more on it for a few reasons, other than while the delays to our plans have been truly heartbreaking (and almost spirit-breaking), there is only recently some new hope to get across the finish line.

Still, thankfully, we’ve been granted some luck in the form of distractions and weekend trips away, most recently including a friend’s wedding in Kilkenny City. It was a welcome excuse to go back to the Butler family’s ancestral home, as my family are closely connected to the Butler dynasty and, to a smaller degree, to Kilkenny Castle. My great-great-grandfather was reportedly (according to family lore) an illegitimate child of James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde, however considering the surname remained and my family stayed in Kilkenny until the early 1960s, the illegitimacy could be disputed. That being said, the link to the dynasty is real; my grandfather, Séamus Butler, was one of five representatives of the Butlers of Ormonde to attend the 1967 ceremony of Kilkenny Castle being given to the people of Kilkenny.

Considering the family history, the castle has been a source of pride for me since I was a child, and I remember looking up at a portrait in the castle (of either Piers Butler or Thomas Butler, AKA Tomás Dubh de Buitléir) and thinking that it was my uncle John! I also fondly remember playing around the trees with my cousin Jane in the castle grounds on a trip with my parents. It felt wonderful to go back to the castle on the Sunday after our friend’s wedding, explore the grounds and take a tour of the wonderfully restored building. We spoke with guides working there about the history of the Butlers, their influence across Leinster, and I have to admit that one guide made me smile with a sense of pride when he shook our hands and addressed us both “Mr. O’Connor, Mr. Butler – wonderful to meet you both!”.

A photo of myself on the Moorish staircase in Kilkenny Castle.
Standing on the Moorish stairs in Kilkenny Castle

I walked around the castle feeling that sense of peace, belonging, restoration, and ease that one should feel from a home, feeling like (or hoping, maybe) that my own energy was connected with the castle in some way. It was a feeling that I have not felt in months, thanks to the stresses of new home ownership, so it could not have been more welcome. I was so grateful to my partner for letting us escape the wedding’s “day two” events to take some downtime at the castle, because it brought back my hope.

The family connection to Kilkenny makes it a strong possibility as an option for our own wedding, as we tried to consider the castle and nearby Butler House as options, but unfortunately they’re too small in size for what we’re planning. We’ll see if we can return to a larger venue for the big day, but either way, the castle and city have a very special place in my heart. I also feel a renewed sense of pride – and to some degree, duty – in my family’s history and legacy, and their influence throughout Ireland over so much time.

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