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Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part II: Kilcorney and the Eastern Valleys

Kilcorney Parish is intersected by three valleys - Eanty, an extension of Poulacarran, Glensleade, a small abrupt basin at the end of a depression, and Kilcorney, a long irregular glen, bounded by picturesque cliffs. The name has been retained unaltered since, at any rate, 1302. Windows, probably as old as the eleventh or twelfth centuries, remain in its ancient church, one with a carved head in the style of that at Inchicronan, but no records or traditions of its founder seem to exist. The primitive structures appear to have hitherto attracted no attention, though Kilcorney Cave, with its ‘outputs’ of water, fish, and fairy horses,[1] has received notice since the middle of the last century.

Gough, in his edition of Camden’s Britannia 1789,[2] after enumerating some of the plants of the district, describes Kilcorney as ‘a pretty low valley entered at the east end. On the north side of a small plain of an acre, under steep rugged cliffs, lies Kilcorran Cave, the mouth level with the plain, about three feet diameter, part blocked up.’ ‘The cave pours forth occasional deluges over the adjacent plain to a depth of about twenty feet. Sometimes, once in a year or two, commonly three or four times a year, preceded by a great noise as of falling water. It flows with great rapidity for a day or two.’[3]

Gough, however, mentions none of the antiquities, and, as he states in another place[4] ‘of the ancient cathairs we have now no remains but the duns,’ his information must have been defective.

Of the forts, the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839, and later writers, give only a few names. Mr. J. Foote, of the Geological Survey (in a letter to George V. Du Noyer, January 8th, 1862), wrote enthusiastically of the ruins, but neither he nor Du Noyer published any description.[5] He writes:- ‘There are no less than seven cromlechs, sixteen beautiful stone forts, some having caves, and all walls of great thickness, an old castle, and a stone cross. Here is ground for the antiquary! The place must have been creeping with druids. I never saw such beauties (of cromlechs). Here is one (Poulnabrone) I sketched yesterday. The end stone and some of the sides are down: the front stone 5 feet high (he gives the top slab as measuring 9 feet north and south, 12 feet east and west, with a slope to the S.S.W.). All stand on little green mounds of earth, surrounded by bare sheets of rock, and some slope to the east.’ By a plan he shows that Ballymihil cromlech and the second at Berneens were then still standing, and that the top slab still rested on the south cromlech of Cragballyconoal. He locates the ‘stone cross’ where ‘monument’ is marked on the Ordnance map and where it still remains.

The place has little or no history. Glensleade (Gleana Slaodh) appears in the 1380 rental and the 1569 map. In 1641, Caherconnell and Poulanine were held by Donough O’Brien, Lysagh O’Loughlin, and Mac Loughlen Roe O’Cullinan: Ballymihil and Glensleade by William O’Neylan and Teige O’Loughlen. After the war, several of the Hogans, Comyns, and Macnamaras were settled in the parish, and at a still later period a branch of the Lysaghts (Gillisaghta) settled in the Kilcorney Valley.