A Co Cork family on Monday welcomed home historic limestone statues of King William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell and two huge eagles which were stolen from their country house eight years ago.
The statues of the eagles, which are both 2m high, and the statues of King William and Oliver Cromwell, which are about 1.5m tall, were stolen from Milltown Castle, 7kms south west of Charleville in north Cork, on July 18th, 2011.
They were found by a man out hunting in Co Clare.
Gardaí believe a gang used cutting equipment and a truck with a hydraulic lift to remove the statues which were located on top of stone pillars at the entrance to the house which has been owned by the Keane family since the 1890s.
The statues were thought to date back to the late 18th century and were of significant sentimental value to the family.
Speaking at the time of the theft, the late Claude Keane snr, who died in December 2016, spoke of the family’s upset. “The statues have no material value and are all made from limestone. But they were part of our life as we saw them every day when we came and went and they were like part of the family,” Mr Keane said at the time, adding they were installed by the Bruce family in 1775 when they owned the house.
“When I read up on Cromwell it was said he had a wart over his right eye. And sure enough, when I checked there was a wart over the right eye of our fellow as well. The statues bothered nobody, although the IRA broke off the nose of Cromwell in 1921 when they hit it with a hammer,” said Mr Keane snr.
The statues were recovered after gardaí were alerted by a man out hunting who found them near a derelict outhouse outside Cratloe , Co Clare.
The man contacted gardaí, who notified the investigation team from Charleville. They obtained a warrant to search the lands last Friday and recovered the stolen statues using lifting equipment.
According to a Garda spokesman, the statues, which weigh quarter of a tonne each, were in reasonably good condition.
“The statues are back in Charleville in storage at the moment as the family are deciding whether to get some repair work done on them before bringing them back to Milltown. It’s a pity that Claude Keane Snr didn’t live to see them returned but the family are glad to finally have them home,” he said.
Gardaí at the time said that they were keeping an open mind who was behind the theft. A lorry was seen driving through a crossroad near Milltown Castle at speed at around 2am on July 18th, 2011 and gardaí believe it may have been involved in the crime.
Gardaí are appealing for anyone with information about the theft or who has information about how the property ended up on lands in Co Clare to contact Charleville Garda station on 063-21770 or Mallow Garda station on 022 31450.