Hidden Treasure

After my trip to the National Museum I was looking into some of the items in the museum that were found in my native Co. Kerry. One of the pieces I saw in Dublin was an amazing silver gilt cross from Lislaughtin Abbey, Ballylongford. I went about finding out more about the cross but so far the search has been fruitless. There seems to be nothing out there about it, apart from one book that only exists in the city archive library. I know it sounds all very De-Vinci-code-esque! So for the time being I’m going to shelve that until I crack the secret of Ballymacasey cross.

'Shipwreck' by Vernet
'Shipwreck' by Vernet

Anyway in my research of the cross I found a great story about a silver raid in Ballyheigue, a small coastal village also in Kerry. It’s the story of the ‘Golden Lyon’ a Danish ship which which in October 1730 was driven on to the sands near Ballyheigue during a bad storm. The ship had been travelling from Copenhagen to India with a cargo which included twelve large chests of silver bullion.

There were no casualties of the eighty seven crew but there was extensive damage to the vessel. Because of the precious cargo on board there was a threat that a few opportunistic locals might take the silver. The local landlord, Thomas Crosbie, decided that all the silver bullion should be moved to his castle where he would store it temporarily.┬áIt is said that, although he wasn’t a young man, ‘he went to the strand, drove back possible villains, comforted the sailors and had the silver transported to his own home’ where Ballyheigue castle now stands. The silver was held in an old tower until arrangements could be made to have it moved.

Ballyheigue Castle
Ballyheigue Castle

Soon after this Crosbie died. His widow quickly lodged a claim against the Danes for salvage. This resulted in a legal battle while the silver remained under guard in the tower. The following June the Crosbie mansion was surrounded by one hundred armed men. They broke into the tower, shot two guards and took the twelve chests of silver away on horse and carts.

The robbery was investigated and charges were brought against a number of people although many believed some of the ‘upper class’ of North Kerry were behind the crime. The trial in Dublin was dogged with perjury, suicide and the suspected poisoning of a witness. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty. While a small part of the silver was recovered the bulk of the silver remains a mystery.

I couldn’t believe the story when I read it, how did something that exciting happen so close to where I grew up and I never heard about it before? Granted it was a good two hundred years before I was born but regardless it’s the kind of thing that people should remember!

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