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

Part III: Northern Burren: Glenarraga or Ballyvaughan Valley:
Ballyvaughan; Caherloughlin; Cahermore-Ballyconry

Glenarraga or Ballyvaughan Valley (O.S. 2 and 5)
The antiquities of this valley [38] have suffered severely by the hand of man; even in 1839, as the Ordnance Survey letters state, Ooanknocknagroach fort had been ‘just effaced,’ and Caherwarraga destroyed and ‘blotted off the face of the land.’ The portion of the valley north of Ballyallaban lies in Drumcreehy parish, the remainder in Rathborney.

Ballyvaughan
Three raths and the remains of a third large fort of earth and stones, called a caher, lie near the pier of this little village. The ‘caher’ is a half-moon bank of earth and large blocks, with a few bushes growing upon it, resting on the drift without foundations; much was cut away by the sea before the present road and quay wall were made. The peel tower of Ballyvaughan adjoined it, but has entirely perished. The mounds extend for about 620 feet, and enclose a space about 430 feet long and 280 feet deep; they are 12 feet thick and 5 feet or 6 feet high.

The sea at this point has evidently made considerable inroads on the shore, whose foundations in the form of low reefs render all approach to the pier difficult and risky:-

‘A dismal sound is that the shore surf makes upon the strand;
A woful boom the wave makes breaking up the northern beach,
Butting against the polished rock.’[39]

As we have pointed out before, the Irish disposition, with its keen sense of the beauty of nature (far in advance of the taste of other mediæval nations), and its melancholy undercurrent of romantic feeling, frequently selected sites for forts more noteworthy for the view than for either convenience or strength.

Ballyvaughan derives its name from the family of O’Beachain, and is named, with the neighbouring lands of Ballyconry, Dangan, and Feenagh, in the O’Brien’s rental, circa 1380. It finally passed to the O’Briens in about 1540, in consequence of a disturbance which arose out of a small cattle robbery. This is recorded at full length in a deed published by Hardiman,[40] and gives an interesting picture of the lawlessness and the insecurity of life and property under the rule of Morogh the Thanist. The aggrieved persons set up crosses of interdiction, and got heavy fines of cattle, sheep and goats, eighteen litters of swine, a woman’s gown, a shirt and a barread; but the place, after all, was adjudged to O’Brien in the end.

Caherloughlin (O.S. 2), a large caher on the ridge near the sea, to the north of the venerable ivied church of Dromcreehy, has, since 1839, been divided into several fields, and in consequence is defaced and nearly levelled. It may, perhaps, have been named from Lochlain, chief of the Corcomroes, who died A.D. 983.

Cahermore-Ballyconry [41] (O.S. 2)
To the west of Ballyvaughan, on a low elevation, with a beautiful view of the bay and valley and of the hills towards Finnevara, lies a large stone fort, bearing the common name of Cahermore; it is the Baile i chonradhi of the 1380 rental.[42] In plan, it is an irregular oval ring, 266 feet over all, north and south, and 212 feet, east and west. A modern wall divides its garth; the western part is laid in grass and the eastern in tillage, so no internal foundations remain. The western side is reduced to shapeless heaps of earth and stones, densely covered with hazel and brambles, and peopled with rats and birds; portions to the east are still 5 feet and 6 feet high, with good though small facing, and, where most perfect, 10 feet to 11 feet thick.

A cromlech lay in the fields to the south of Ballyvaughan; it is said to have been a small cist of four slabs and a cover; it has been removed since 1839. The adjoining seven forts are dilapidated and of no great size, except Lisanard rath, which is about 170 feet long; of the seventh caher only the souterrain and the foundations of the south-east segment remain.

Cahermore-Ballyconry, Ballyvaughan
Cahermore-Ballyconry, Ballyvaughan

 

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