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

Part VI: Cahermakerrila Group;
Cahermaan; Well; Cahermaccrusheen; Craggicorradan; The Mote; Lislard

Cathair medhoin, first named in 1390,[27] is identified on the new maps with an insignificant house ring, nameless in 1839. O’Donovan names it in that year as ‘Cathair meadhoin – i.e., the middle caher, a large fort in the townland of the same name.’[28] Evidently the real Cahermaan is the large cathair, 130 feet across, and nearly levelled, beside the laneway not far to the north-east of the house ring. All the facing is gone, and it is a mere low ring of grassy filling, rarely a couple of feet high. Its name evidently alludes to its position, midway between Cahermakerrila and Caher-macnaughten. Old people told me that the townland name was not attached to either of the forts in their time, so the Ordnance Survey too probably secured the identification by leading questions. The titular Cahermaan is barely 60 feet over all, 3 to 4 feet high, of rough slabs. The wall may be 7 feet thick, but the interior, like that of the previous little house ring, is full of rich soil and is cultivated.

Before turning from these townlands, I may note that the Ordnance Survey Letters, quoted correctly by Mr. James Frost, do not state that the Well of St. Colman was in the fort; but some have taken ‘Cahermakerrila’ to mean the cathair and not (as it does) the townland.[29] Most of the wells I have seen in forts are merely flooded souterrains, as – e.g., Glasha and Ballymacloon.[30] When Tulla church and its double-ringed enclosure were blockaded in 1086, the defenders were nearly reduced by thirst till the abbot, after a vision of St. Mochulla, found a spring under a boulder in the sacred edifice.[31] Mr. Orpen has noted a well in the mote of Castleknock, Co. Dublin. Streams occur beside several promontory forts, as Dun Fiachrach, Dunamo, Bonafahy, and Dunallia in Co. Mayo; Ballingarry, in Co. Kerry; Dunlecky and Dundahlin in Co. Clare, and many in Co. Cork - Dunkelly, Dunlough (Three Castle Head), Downeen, Dunsorske, Dunpoer, Ballytrasna, and Dooneenmacotter. One spring is known to me beside a ring fort in Co. Clare and not in a fosse - that in the abattis of Ballykinvarga.

Cahermaccrusheen (O.S. 8)
There is a fine oval cathair [32] near the fallen dolmen in Cathair mhic croisin, the townland bearing its name. It lies on an abrupt green knoll ending in a wall-like cliff, at the crown of the old road from Doolin northward. It looks up a glen along the straight line of inland cliffs running from it to Ballinalacken, over which peel tower lies the pink heathery dome of Knockauns Mountain. A slight rise to the north shuts off from it the beautiful view seen from its neighbour, Cahermaclanchy. It was one of the finest forts in the district till, unfortunately, vandals used it for a quarry, though stone abounded everywhere around. Nearly every one of the useless field walls near it show its fine blocks, to the disgrace of the wanton destroyer, whoever he may have been.

The rampart is 9 feet thick, and is still 6 to 9 feet high, the garth being 6 feet above the field. The gate faces the east-south-east, it is 4 feet 9 inches wide, with coursed jambs and a pillar stone at its left inner corner. The garth is 117 feet east and west, and 144 feet north and south, or 135 feet and 162 feet over all. Only two courses of large, nearly square, blocks remain of the outer face. Inside are several irregular enclosures, a house site, a strange little slab cist, hardly 2 feet wide, and a long ‘traverse’ wall running north and south.

Craggicorradan (O.S. 8)
The long marshy ridge (which falls abruptly beside Ballinalacken Castle and overlooks beyond it the bushy crags and rock-gardens of Oughtdarra [33] and the expanse of sea to Aran and to Moher cliffs) has two earthworks of a type very rare in Co. Clare, called the Mote and Lislard.[34] In eastern Clare ‘mote’ is always applied to a low earthwork, and in Oughtdarra to stone forts; here, alone, it applies to a high mound. I incline to the belief that the Mote (with perhaps Lislard) is not residential, though it has an outer ring and a fosse. The place was called Cracc I corradain in the ‘1390’ rental.

Craggicorradan and Lislard
Craggicorradan and Lislard

The Mote
At the highest point of the road, at the steep end of the ridge, rises the mote. It has an outer ring 5 feet high to the south, but levelled to hardly a foot high to the north. This is cut through by a field fence to the east, but that segment is otherwise little injured and is in the same field as Lislard. The outer ring is about 84 feet across and is 12 to 18 feet thick. The fosse is 5 to 6 feet deep, and 9 feet wide below, and 15 feet at the field level. The central mound is slightly rounded, about 12 feet high, the same width on top, but 24 feet in diameter at the base; it has a ‘berm’ 3 feet high and 3 to 6 feet wide, round its foot; a similar ledge, 9 feet wide, running inside of the outer ring. It is sheeted with stunted heather and soapwort, and has furze bushes on the ring.

About 420 feet from the mote, eastward, is another earthwork, called Lislard. The outer ring in parts is 5 feet high and 88 feet over all. The fosse is 9 to 12 feet wide, and rarely 3 feet deep, but wet and rushy to the south-east. The central mound is of two tiers, the base 48 feet in diameter, on its platform is a smaller mound 18 feet across, 6 feet on top and 3 feet high, but defaced by treasure seekers. It may have been a residential fort in which a burial took place, while the mote was probably a sepulchral mound, not being flat-topped.