Stolen statues missing since 2011 found
Four historic statues stolen from an Irish castle have been recovered after being discovered abandoned in a Clare field.
The four large limestone statues - two of Royal eagles and one each of Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange - were stolen from Milltown Castle outside Charleville, Co Cork in 2011.
Each of the eagles had been mounted on three metre high pillars along an access roadway to the castle.
The two other stone works were life sized busts of the two generals.
The thefts, on July 18 2011, were believed to be the work of a gang specialising in Irish collectibles.
Cutting equipment and a heavy truck with a mounted crane were used to remove all four items given their weight.
At the time, fears had grown that the four stone works had been smuggled abroad for sale.
Because the statues were carved from limestone and were badly worn, it is suspected they did not attract a high price on the black market.
All four statues were installed in the late 18th Century by the then-owners, the Bruce family.
However, a man out walking on February 8 near Cratloe in Clare, stumbled across the statues on lands adjacent to an old outhouse.
He realised the statues were not connected with the property involved and he contacted the Gardaí.
It was quickly confirmed that the stone works were the missing statues from Milltown Castle.
The owners of Milltown Castle were contacted and Gardaí are now in the process of returning the statues to their original site.
All four pieces will now be assessed for possible repair before they are replaced at their original sites.
It is unclear how long the statues may have lain in the Clare field.
One Garda source said it is believed the thieves may have become concerned about being traced if the stone works were sold on the black market.
"There was a lot of media interest in the theft eight years ago particularly because of the fact statues of Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange were involved," one Garda source said.
"It is possible the thieves were worried about being traced given the high profile given the theft of the statues."
Gardaí have now appealed for anyone who may have information about the thefts or who may have seen suspicious activity in the Cratloe area of Clare to contact them.
Mallow Gardaí are leading the investigation into the theft and anyone with information should contact (022) 31450.
Castle owners across Ireland have undertaken major security reviews given a spate of thefts over recent years targeting statues, historic relics and even pieces of ironwork.
Speaking in 2011, the late Claude Keane, then owner of Milltown, said the thefts were very upsetting and were like losing a member of the family.
"They were part of our lives," he said.
"We saw them every day as we came and went."
"I believe the statues have no material value. The statues bothered nobody - although the IRA broke the nose off Cromwell in 1921 when they hit it (the statue) with a hammer."
The Keane family have welcomed the return of the statues and appealed for privacy.
Sadly, Claude Keane Snr died in 2016 and did not live to see the return of the famous artefacts.