A story is still told today in Co. Leitrim of a notoriously cruel chieftain of the name of Reynolds. He lived in the 1700’s on the banks of Lough Scur near the village of Keshkerrigan. It is said that the way he gained dominance in the region was that he invited all the other chieftains to his house under the pretence of holding a meeting so they could settle disputes by discussion and not violence. Once he had them all present he promptly cut off their heads and in this way could be said to have succeeded in his stated aim of having no more disputes. He also had a jail built for his enemies on what has become known as Jail Island. I actually heard about and went looking for the jail but was surprised to find his residence still in existence as well. It is on a tip of land adjacent to the lake with Jail Island just 30 metres or so behind it. I could just about make out its overgrown ruins from the shore. I found a picture of the ruins taken in the late 1880’s by Leland Lewis Duncan who was a regular visitor to nearby Annadale House. Duncan’s other photos of the county can be found in The Face of Time 1862-1923 Photographs of County Leitrim (1995). Reynolds house I found is marked on the ordnance survey map as ‘Fortified House’. From the picture I took you can see it is totally covered in trees and ivy and is in fact being held together by the thickest stems of ivy I have ever seen, which are also slowly strangling it as well. There were at least 2 floors to the building and parts of the upper floor, some sections of the walls and roof are pilled high inside it. The walls are so thick that at first I wondered if it was in fact the jail (see bottom picture).
I did get an eerie feeling inside but maybe only because I knew some of the history. It struck me as an almost forgotten place, somewhere that no one would want to visit or miss when gone. I had great difficulty finding a safe path to it along the thin water logged strip of land you have to walk across to reach it. There is of course no signage to identify it or explain what it was, which is very common in Ireland. This fact alone makes it almost inevitable that people need to create a story (if one doesn’t already exist) to put such ruins in some context. (Stephen Rennicks)