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

Part IV: Glasha Group

The only remaining group of any consequence lies along the seashore on the border of Corcomroe. The road from Ballinalacken to Roadford runs southward, and roughly marks the bounds of the shale and the limestone districts. As usual, stone forts are nearly absent from the former, and abound on the latter. They lie along a low ridge, rising northward to its highest point (about 300 feet above the sea) at the fort of Cahermaclancy, and falling thence northwards towards Shanvally in Ballyreen, and southward towards Bealaghaline Bay. The forts have suffered horribly by the hand of man. A few earth-forts lie near Killilagh Church and the hills at the end of the cliffs of Moher. Some (as Knocknastoolery) are of some size and interest. The only other antiquities are small cairns near the streams, and sometimes on actually marshy ground.

Tooclae Group of Forts
Tooclae Group of Forts

The place does not figure in early history, Glasha (Glaise) and ‘the immunities of the MacFlannchada,’ or Clanchies, being first named in the 1390 rental. The MacClanchies were hereditary brehons of Thomond, and often appear in local history both under the O’Briens, and even under English influence. So famed for their legal knowledge was this clan, that the unfortunate Gerald, Earl of Desmond, employed one ‘O’Clankey, called Brehuff an Erle or the Earle’s judge,’ who was in possession of Shanegowle, near Askeaton, in County Limerick, in 1586, and is named that year in Christopher Peyton’s important survey of the Earl’s confiscated estates.[1] His contemporary, the merciless Boetius Clancy, was on the winning side, and left a dark tradition in Clare. He was sheriff of that county in 1588, and took active measures for the defence of Thomond from the Spaniards. Little defence was needed. The storm-tossed ships, with pestilence-weakened crews, came helplessly, seeking for shelter and water, along that dangerous coast, helped by pitiless men, and obtained no succour. Two ships are known to have perished at Tromra and Dunbeg. Tradition tells of a third at Doolin, and is borne out by the wreckage which drifted into Liscannor at the time the Zuniga lay off it in vain negotiations.[2] Those who escaped the breakers and the skeans of the maddened rabble of human wolves (who assembled to the plunder from all directions) fell into Clanchy’s hands, and were duly hanged. The mound full of bones at Knockaunacroghera marks his work and in 1878, as a boy (and before the letters recording the wrecks in Clare had been published), I was shown it as ‘the place where Boethius O’Clanshy hung the Spaniard grandee.’ Clanchy accordingly stood well with Elizabeth’s government, and was confirmed in the family ‘immunities,’ which were made into the manor of Knockfin, the name only surviving in the cross-road near the chapel.

In more peaceful times, says tradition, a princely house in Spain got leave to remove the bones of one of its sons; but they sought them in vain in that Golgotha of Corcomroe, ‘in one red burial blent’ with his brother officers and subordinates. It is wonderful how vivid tradition of the ‘great Fleet’ remains all along the Irish coast - so authentic that I have little hesitation in accepting even an unsupported statement, if older than 1880, when tradition began to get defiled. ‘S.F.,’ in The Gentleman’s Magazine,[3] makes a curious mistake about Doolin and Killilagh Church; he regards them as the ‘Dubh Glean’ and ‘the Abbey’ named in the Cathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh, as the site of the fierce battle of Corcomroe in 1317. The real sites were at Deelin and Corcomroe Abbey, over fifteen miles away. After the civil war, in the disturbed times of 1655, the Clancies lost their heritage by confiscation. A later Boetius then held the Cahermaccrusheens, Cahermaclanchy, and Ballyroe, with Daniel oge O’Clanchy; Glasha, with Hugh Clanchy, and, as his own share, Cahergalleen, Tergoneen, and Toomullin. The confiscated lands were divided between John Sarsfield, Conor, son of Donough O’Brien, and Thomas Carr.

The destruction of the Down Survey maps of Clare, though most regrettable, is to some degree compensated for, the Book of Distribution and Survey for Clare being unusually detailed. There, under the parish of Killilagh, we find these lands (described as rocky pasture): Doonmacfelim, passed from Donough O’Brien to John FitzGerald; Doolin from Boetius Clancy to John Sarsfield; Tregownine, Corkeilty, Cahirgalline, West Glassie, Ballymaclancie, and Killeylagh glebe lands to the same. East Glassie, the property of Boetius and Hugh Clancie, went to John Gore; Caher Mc Crosseyne from Boetius and Donnell oge McClancie, to Conor, son of Donough O’Brien. It was arable, rough pasture, and pasturable mountain in 1655. Much of it passed to John Gore by 1675, the Edenvale Survey showing Ballyroe, Cragcurridane, Killeilagh, East Glassy, Ballymaclansy, and Cahermacreseine as his, while Tomolinny, Doolin, and Donegore, Tirgounine, Cahergaltine, and West Glassie belonged to Sarsfield. We need hardly say that Doonagore does not take its name from the Gores; for example, Terellagh O’Brean, of Innyshdyman, was granted ‘Dounegoar’ in 1582,[4] and the name occurs in other early records.

Lastly on March 30th, 1719, Brigadier-General Francis Gore, of Clonrone, granted in trust to John Vandelure, of Kilrush, and others, Cahircrusseen, Carhuegare, Tirgearnine, Dun mc Phelim, Cahirkeill, Cahirgunine, . . . Carhuenemanagh, West Glassy, Killylogh, . . . Timolin, Doneaghir . . . and Ballyvarry, alias Knockfinn, in the Barony of Corcom-roe.[5]