And another two beheadings...though I didn't have as much sympathy as I might have had because they really brought their fate about by their own actions...

They were Richard Wydevill and his second son, John, who were Lancasterians, but changed sides when they realised the Lancasterians were losing and while with a small party of Yorkists were captured by...some Lancasterian soldiers... who promptly held a swift trial and dispensed with their prisoners heads. It isn't playing nicely to swop over to the winning team half way through...so you could say it served them right.

And then I found another man who was described as the Justicar of Ireland...it was a title rather like being the Prime Minister...I'd never come across the word before. Nor had I realised that the English Lords had so many houses and castles in Ireland....as well as vast amounts of land, back in the 1200's. There is a gorgeous book full of photographs of the ruins of those great houses...it's called Abandoned Ireland and costs a small fortune but is on my bucket list...!

Some of those houses and castles have completely disappeared over the past centuries but there are still some just about standing though much ruined. Once the Irish began to take rebellion against their English landlords seriously, many of their grand homes were burned to the ground or ransacked and the stones carted away to build walls etc.

Most English landlords rarely set foot in Ireland...they put a Bailiff in charge of the estate and let them have free reign over the small tenant famers and the cottagers...although maybe cottager is the wrong description for the tiny cabins built from turf which were the homes of the very poor until the 1800's.

But the wealthy landlords often put their wives into their Irish houses...then went straight back to London where they could behave as though they were single men again...and some of those wives led a miserable existence...far from the parties and dances and tea with other fashionable ladies, they lived in virtual isolation in great houses out in the middle of nowhere in particular. They couldn't speak Irish of course and the higher born you were the more an attempt to learn Irish was frowned upon...

The Coachman and the stable boys either pretended not to understand the lady's request for a trap to take her out into the countryside...or had so little English they simply didn't understand what it was she was asking. Having servants drawn from the nearest village...frequently many miles away...rough country girls to do the housework and the cooking with whom the lady had nothing in common and infrequent visits from other women in the same position, their lives must have been quite miserable.

It is difficult to find sympathy for those women, even though they were far from London society and all they were familiar with...it is with the little girls of ten and eleven years who slept three to a bed in the attic, who were up at dawn to clean out the fires and scrub the endless passageways and the lads of fourteen who cared for the horses and slept above the stables in the hay...lucky to see their families once or twice a year, they were exploited and carelessly minded and my sympathy is reserved more for them than their 'betters'...

Some of those old houses are under the care of the heritage people...most are on private lands so you have to make an effort to find the grumpy farmer who owns them now to ask nicely...please can we go and have a wander about...and for some reason those farmers are usually grumpy like the chap who owns the land on which Moygara Castle stands...he is so grumpy he practically had a stand up fight with the University folks who wanted to find the Sheela-na-gig...he's swathed the surrounds of the castle ruins with barbed wire now and installed fiercesome looking baby bulls who can run faster than any unwitting visitor...

Most of those homes are so ruinous that it's difficult to visulise them when whole...the house of the French family near us is smothered in thick growths of ivy and is virtually impossible to access due to the brambles and stands of nettles surrounding the ruins...it is sad that such great places once filled with expensive furnishings and tapestries hanging on the walls...the tiny cramped attic bedrooms of the servants and the huge elaborate stable yards have gone forever...all those secrets and lies....the plots and the devious plans hatched in musty old rooms.

To be a time traveller just for a while...to eavesdrop on conversations held in secret when the servants had been dismissed for the night...to watch while the Lady of the big house struggled to make herself understood to a stubborn coachman...to listen at the keyhole of the little girls attic bedroom and to know they told each other stories to send themselves to sleep and took it in turns to blow out the candle...to be there in the stables and rub the nose of a high bred mare and watch as she danced about her stable on high stepping legs and blew hot breath on the face of the stable lad who loved her...

I'd not have wanted to be witness at Richard and Johns beheading in the quiet gloom of the Forest of Dean...and I'm unsure whether I'd have really wanted to meet with the Justicar of Ireland...I think he would have probably been an imposing figure...

But to watch quietly from the sidelines as the Wars of the Roses petered out and high born women were left in Irish bogs to more of less fend for themselves...to see the beginnings of the Irish rebellions against the oppressive English Landowners...just to see my little cottage when it was a well-to-do small farm with a milch cow and pigs to fatten and a purpose built hen house...

That I would like very much.