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Lassara head pic

A mile from Warrenpoint on the main Newry road is the old castle of Narrow Water, which in 1641 was garrisoned by a warden and his troops from Newry under the command of Sir Arthur Tyringham. At that time, Conn Magennis was the Clan Chief, based further north in the homelands of Iveagh. During the winter, a wandering harper had stayed with the Magennises, entertaining them each night with his playing by the glow of their campfires. With the advent of spring and early summer he lingered on, and one morning met Lassara, daughter of the Magennis, who had become fascinated by his music. He invited her to go away with him to his island keep in Lough Ochter, away from the strife of the impending uprising.

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Narrow Water Castle, near Warrenpoint, County Down.

He had previously approached her father, Conn, for her hand in marriage but had been refused. Lassara agreed to go with him, and it was arranged that at dawn on the following day, when she heard his harp playing, they would meet and journey to Nun's Island where they would be married. At daybreak the next day, they met as arranged, and made their way to Nun's Island, intending to proceed from there to the harper's home at Ochter Island. At dusk that evening, they reached the Clanrye River opposite Shane O' Neill's castle, and taking a skiff that was moored to the bank, made their way down river to Nun's Island. Even in the fading light, however, they were spotted by a keen-eyed sentry as they passed Narrow Water castle. When he received no reply to his challenge, the sentry fired, killing the harpist, who fell overboard into the dark depths of the river.

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Lassara collapsed with shock into the bottom of the boat, being carried to the bank a little further on, where she was rescued by the soldiers from the garrison, only to be imprisoned when they identified her as the daughter of Conn Magennis. She was kept in the dungeon of the castle, her only comfort being that she could still hear the music of her murdered harpist as dusk fell each evening. The warden now began to pester her for her favours and threatened to have her killed unless she consented to marry him.

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One night, when the warden came to her cell and opened the door, she slipped past him and ran up the back stairway to the battlements, pursued by the furious Englishman. She then leapt from the battlements to join the harpist near the spot where he had perished just a short time before. Conn learned of the fate of his daughter Lassara from a prisoner taken during a skirmish with soldiers of the garrison, and subsequently led the clan from their territory in the mountains of northern Iveagh to Narrow Water Castle, which they captured after a fierce battle, killing all but one of the defenders. The lecherous warden is said to have chosen to throw himself into the river rather than face death by the vengeful sword of the Magennis.

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It is said that in winter-time, when storms rage round the ancient battlements, the harpist's music can be heard above the howling of the wind, while the sad ghost of Lassara Magennis floats down from the top of the castle. The harp notes fade away and finally cease as her apparition sinks slowly into the depths of the river below the ancient and blood-stained castle of Narrow Water.

Narrow Water castle by twilight, with the ghost of Lassara Magennis

Narrow Water Castle by twilight, with the ghost of Lassara Magennis

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The Celtic art images in these web pages are by Jim Fitzpatrick,
one of the most talented and respected Irish artists ever to wield a paintbrush.
Please do not use these graphics without contacting him regarding permission to do so.
You can see more of Jim's amazing work here.

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