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|Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp|
V: Corofin District: Ruan Parish:
Caherlough Group (O.S. 17)
The old bed of the Fergus is now dry, but is still crossed by Kells Bridge over water-fretted sheets of rock, the fissures of which perhaps contain valuable antiquities. Dr. Macnamara found from a very old woman (who did not survive very long afterwards) that this old ford was named Corravickburren. This identifies it with an important ford of the Fergus, crossed by the army of Prince Dermot O’Brien, in 1317, on his way to the battle at Corcomroe Abbey; it was then called Cora mhic Dhaboirean or MacDavoren’s weir. South of the river bed and of Kells rises a long rough ridge of crag sheeted with dense hazels and thorns largely in the townland of Caherlough. It lies about a mile from the townland of Tullyodea and the fort of Liscarhoonaglasha or Cahernamart.
I think it probable that here and not at Tully the fierce little battle of Tulach (? Ui Deadhaid) was fought in 1313, when Prince Murchad O’Brien led his first attack on his opponents of the house of Brian Ruadh. He was aided by the O’Kellys of Aidhne, some of the Burkes, O’Maddens, Comyns, O’Loughlins, and Macraith O’Dea, with the men of Cineal Fermaic. O’Shanny brought them news that their opponents had mustered on Tulach’s slopes to the southward with the clan Mahon O’Brien, the O’Gradys, and the Ui Bloid of eastern Clare. The foe saw Murchad’s banners on the mountain moor, and soon he was leading his forces under a shower of missiles up a ‘steep-cut, rough, and seamy’ hill ‘steep hillside,’ ‘a projecting bluff,’ and with difficulty he got foothold on the table-land on top, and after a fierce, bloody fight, drove the enemy down into the wooded country; few could have escaped but that night fell, and Murchad’s force could not pursue through ‘the close and rugged country.’ With the morning the Prince proceeded to take pledges from Corcavaskin in the south-west of the County Clare, and soon had driven out the sons of Prince Domnall and Mahon O’Brien, who fled to Richard de Clare at Bunratty Castle.
The battle certainly did not take place on the ridge of Tully, a grassy, gently rising, broad-topped hillock. It was fought up a ‘steep, rough, and seamed ridge,’ on top of which there was hardly room to fight for the short space during which the issue hung doubtful. It commanded the approach from the important pass of Bealach Fhiodhail or Rockforest. All of these facts suit the Caherlough ridge; the only difficulty lies in the name, Tulach, and, the titles of battlefields are notoriously artificial. The ridge is most difficult to examine between the often impenetrable thickets and the dangerous fissures of the rock beneath, which is practically earthless. It has a curious group of late-looking forts which I purpose examining.
The first of the group lies just within the townland of Rinneen, divided by the side road from the end of Caherlough on its eastern edge. Caher-Rinneen is a nearly levelled but interesting ruin. The wall is from 10 feet to 11 feet 4 inches thick, the garth 73 feet across north-east and south-west along the axis of the souterrain. The ‘Ooan’ (uamha) is 6 feet 4 inches from the wall at the south-west, and is T-shaped on plan; the longer limb is 20 feet long and 4 feet 3 inches wide, its southern end is roofed with large limestone slabs for 12 feet. The cross-wing at the northern end is 13 feet 6 inches long and 4 feet 2 inches wide; only three of its lintels remain. It is 42 feet from the wall. North from the end is a trace of a hut-enclosure adjoining the rampart.
To the south-east is another far smaller cathair, also with a side enclosure. The former has a wall of coarse, large blocks, with no batter, 5 feet high, and 7 feet 6 inches thick. There are two hut-sites in the garth, which is 93 feet to 95 feet across, also a rock-cutting (probably once roofed to form a souterrain). It has a lining wall, and lies east-south-east, and west-north-west, being partly buried in debris. The fort-wall embodies several large blocks, which evidently lay on the crag before it was built. The annexe (unlike that at Caherlough) is carefully bonded into the fort; it is 6 feet thick with a little filling, and it is evidently contemporary with the fort. The rough garth is 60 feet across north and south, and 75 feet east and west.
Another slight ring-wall, nearly levelled, lies some 700 feet northward from the last. Over the north edge of the townland, beyond the road from Teernea Cross to Ruan, and in Teernea, was a curious fort, 8-shaped in plan, of two equal rings, and excellent masonry with two faces and filling. It seems to have been built in one piece: the wall is usually 4 feet to 4 feet 6 inches high; so thick are the sloes and hazels everywhere (inside and outside) up to the wall, that I could not get any cross-measurements.
North from it, in an open field, is the last cathair of the group, also in Teernea. It is 102 feet wide inside, the wall 6 feet thick to the west, where it is only 3 feet high and 10 feet thick, and over 4 feet high to the east. The north and north-west parts are levelled to the foundations, which are of large blocks. Of the other fort-names in Ruan, I note Rathcahaun, Rath-vergin, Lisronalta, Lisbeg, Lisnavooan, Lisduff, Lismuinga, Lissyline, Doonanoge, and Ooankeagh.