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Stolen statues of King Billy and Oliver Cromwell found

The limestone carvings were erected in Cork in 1775 Image copyright An Garda Síochána (Irish police)
Image caption The limestone carvings were erected in Cork in 1775

Sculptures of William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell, which were stolen from an Irish stately home eight years ago, have been found in County Clare.

The life-size busts, carved out of limestone, disappeared from Milltown Castle in County Cork in July 2011.

Two limestone eagles, mounted on 10ft pillars, were also taken during the raid on the property in Charleville.

Earlier this week, a member of the public spotted all four statues on lands near Cratloe, County Clare.

The stone figures had been abandoned on the grass near a derelict outhouse.

The discovery was reported to Gardaí (Irish police) and a local officer connected it to the 2011 theft, which was widely reported in the media at the time.

Catholic suppression

The sculptures date back to the late 18th Century and depict two of the most significant and controversial figures in Irish history.

Image copyright An Garda Síochána (Irish police)
Image caption William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell's legacies divide opinion in Ireland

Oliver Cromwell led the rebellion against King Charles I which saw the English monarch put on trial and beheaded in 1649.

Later that year, Cromwell's troops began a brutal campaign to suppress rebellion in Ireland, slaughtering thousands during sieges of Drogheda and Wexford.

William III, also known as William of Orange or King Billy, was a Protestant Dutchman who seized the English throne from the Catholic King James II in 1688.

He is revered by the Orange Order as the man who secured the Protestant ascendancy in British-ruled Ireland, through his victory over James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The sculptures were erected by the Bruce family in 1775 who were originally from Scotland but settled in Cork in the mid-17th Century.

'Broken nose'

The carvings stood guard at the entrance to the Milltown Castle for more than two centuries, even withstanding an attack by the IRA during the War of Independence.

But in 2011, it was reported that a gang used heavy machinery to rip the statues from the walls of the gate lodge and load them on to a lorry.

Image copyright An Garda Síochána (Irish police)
Image caption Two limestone eagles were also stolen in the 2011 raid

Milltown Castle estate was taken over by the Keane family in the 1890s.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner after the 2011 theft, Claude Keane said: "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."

He added: "The statues bothered nobody, although the IRA broke off the nose of Cromwell in 1921 when they hit it with a hammer."

Gardaí have appealed for information about the theft and want to hear from anyone who knows how the sculptures ended up in County Clare.

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