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Hidden Treasure in Co. Kerry?

Shipwreck by Vernet

I spent this Christmas with my family in Co. Kerry. Like most people the holidays consisted of lots of eating but we also went for plenty of walks on our local beach. The weather was very mild compared to other years but the waves were no less impressive.

It reminded me of an article I wrote last year about a silver raid in the 1700’s. This story caught my eye as it combines two of my great loves, silver and Kerry! I couldn’t believe having grown up in Kerry I had never heard this fascinating story of a shipwreck with a cargo of silver.

It’s the story of the ‘Golden Lyon’ a Danish ship which in October 1730 was driven on to the sands near Ballyheigue (a small coastal town) 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. It 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

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 nearly two hundred and fifty years before I was born but regardless it’s the kind of thing that people should remember!

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