Castles and Monasteries were virtually self-sufficient communities...within the surrounding walls of a castle would have been many cottages for instance, where people lived and went about their work...sword making and weaving...mending and producing boots and shoes ...keeping chickens and goats and welcoming in those traders and merchants from far flung places who brought spices and dye stuff...maybe a bear with a thick chain around his neck, or a chattering monkey, perched on the shoulder of an exotically dressed man from the Orient.
If the castle were moated, there would have been a work crew whose daily tasks were to keep the moat clear of weed so the fish within could grow...to ensure there was a fat enough swan for the next banquet and to operate the sluice gates if the moat was fed by a river...
There were some trades who needed to operate outside the castle walls...the tanners for instance, who were engaged in a job which made them and their surroundings stink...using urine collected daily from the castle inhabitants and left to ripen in order to cure the skins of the cattle and sheep...
The slaughtering of the animals would also have been carried out outside the castle walls...we know little about how the meat was prepared other than salt petre would have been used as a preservative...where the meat was kept until it was needed was probably in the huge castle kitchens hanging from hooks...
Most castles and monasteries had farms attached where basic crops were grown...wheat and barley and oats for animal feed and to make breads and pottage and a simple porridge...the monasteries differed in that they had herbal gardens where medicinal plants were grown to make the remedies the monks were famed for...
Straw and reeds were essential for putting down on the castle floors...to keep in the warmth...to provide beds for visitors and those servants whose work meant they needed to be readily available...and to absorb the moisture from hunting dogs urine...
Both castles and monasteries would have been hives of activity...an endless coming and going of people about their daily business. Visiting clans would arrive with their extensive entourages of children and knights-at-arms and their ladies...there'd have been the horsemen and the servants and the hangers on...all expecting to be fed and given a place to sleep for the night or for several weeks depending upon how cordial the relationships were...
So what happened when the castle was attacked...and there can't be a single castle in the whole of Ireland which wasn't attacked at some point. They fled. The tanners and the slaughterers and the harness makers...the dyers and the weavers and the shoemakers...they fled to the surrounding countryside and made their way back to the villages of their birth where they kept a low profile until the danger had passed.
The soldiers stationed in the castle fought...they tried to stop the flaming bundles of straw catching the thatched roofs alight and fought hand to hand with swords and some rode out through the main gates on their horses and spread the word about the attack and others would come and join in the battle.
Many castles were attacked repeatedly...repairs would be made and deals struck and then there would be another attack by another clan...
It was when Cromwell's troops came to Ireland that the real disaster began ...not just for the castles, but more especially for the monasteries. But that's for another day.