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

Part V: French and Irish Forts: The Clare Forts

The Clare Forts
Need I again commence by stating that I use the term ‘prehistoric’ for any unrecorded early period,[18] and ‘forts’ for residential, sepulchral, or ceremonial enclosures? Of over 2400 forts in county Clare, there are in Burren some 310, in Inchiquin some 320, and in Corcomroe 190, but in the richest district recorded in this paper and its predecessors lie some 500 forts only. Of these I have given notes on about 350; the others are in (so far as I have seen them) mere defaced rings of debris, or rude, late, featureless cattle pens. In no case has one of these forts (even such important ones as Ballykinvarga, Cahercommaun, Caherdooneerish, Lismacsheedy, or Turlough Hill Caher) been conserved or vested as an ancient monument. Of the rare features - perfect gateways (which hardly exist outside Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry) are found at Ballykinvarga, Poulcaragharush, Caheranardurrish in Glensleade, Moheramoylan, Lisananima, and the ‘Cairn-Caher’ of Ballyganner. Others standing in my recollection, at Dangan, near Ballyvaughan and Cahercuttine, not to speak of others evidently entire in very recent days (such as Rannagh, Moheraroon, Lismoher, Caherlisaniska and Caherminaun), are now defaced and the lintels thrown down. Outside of Clare, I only know of the three at Dun Aengusa, in Aran, one at Ballynasean, in the same island, four at Innismurray in Sligo; others at Coolcashel (Kilcashel) and Cashelbarna, in Mayo; Dunbeg (Fahan) and Staigue in Kerry and Cahermoygilliar, county Cork, but others very possibly remain and should be recorded and photographed; that at Grianan Aileach is (of course) rebuilt. Antiquaries in 1893 laid down that there were no terraces or steps in Clare cathracha,[19] but there are terraces (and walls in two or more sections) at Ballykinvarga, Caheridoula, Caher-Mullach, Caherahoagh, the upper fort of Ballyallaban, Glenquin, Caherbullog Lower, Cahernaspekee, Caherschrebeen, Cahercommaun, two at Moheraroon, Caheradoon in Ballynahown, Doonaunmore, Poulacarran crescent fort, and probably Poulgorm; steps remain in Caherminaun, Ballyshanny, Caherahoagh, Cahercommaun and perhaps Caherdooneerish. Plinths remain outside part of the wall of Ballyallaban Caher, and inside that of Cahercuttine and Caherduff; Creevagh and Cahernabihoonach enclose dolmens. Of unusual or complex plans - Cahercommaun is triple, the outer walls being of crescent plan, Glenquin, Cahergurraun, and Tullycommaun cahers are double: Doonaunmore and Anneville (Inchiquin Lake) are inland promontory forts, and Caherlisaniska an unusual type of cliff fort; Cahercashlaun, Cashlaun Gar, Tirmicbrain, Croaghateeaun, and the east caher of Moheraroon are fortified knolls; Turlough Hill fort has numerous gateways; Doon near Kilfenora has a rock-cut fosse, steps and piers, and Ballykinvarga, is one of the four Irish forts possessing an abattis, while Creevagh and Cahernabihoonach (bitheamnach, a robber) enclose dolmens, and a cairn and small cist existed in Caheranadurrish (Glensleade) in 1895. These notes show how remarkable a group still exists, though in great jeopardy, in north-western Clare, and I hope may justify this attempt to continue if not to complete the survey of that district, even should it lead to no effort to preserve even a few of these important remains.

In Clare, at the very least, the forts of Bealboru, Magh Adhair, Cahercalla, Cahershaughnessy and Moghane in the eastern half; Cahercommaun, Glenquin, Cahermacnaughten, Lismacsheedy, Doonaunmore, Cahercottine, and, above all, Ballykinvarga in the north-western, and Doonegal, Lisnaleagaun, Liscroneen, and Dundahlin in the south-western part should be vested. It is not a question of spending money, for any ‘restoration’ is greatly to be deprecated, but only to secure each structure from further injury. Were the above bare list, by any good fortune, accepted, and others ordered to be preserved, it could be easily extended. Ballydonohan Caher, Lugalassa, Lisnagree, Langough, the double forts of Drumbawn and Creevagh near Quin, and the square fort of Culleen in the east, Caherdoonerish, Turlough Hill, Cahercloggaun, Caheranardurrish near Glensleade, Cahercashlaun, Cashlaungar, Caherconnell, Lisnastoolery with Cahernabihoonach and Creevagh near Glencurraun, with their enclosed dolmens, Cahergrillaun and Doon in Burren and its borders, Mullach in Inchiquin, Cahermurphy Castle earthworks, Dundoillroe, Doonaghbwee, Lisduff near Moveens, and others, in any country save Ireland, would be held worthy of conservation. If this is not soon undertaken, the vandalism of country gentry, farmers, rabbit-hunters, road-menders, and treasure-seekers must soon reduce the well-preserved and remarkable remains of Clare to the condition in which antiquities are found in county Limerick.