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

Part VI: Templemore-Kells; Lismuinga

Templemore-Kells (O.S. 17)
In my former visits in 1894 and 1898 I failed to recognise in the hedge of hawthorns, brambles and modern walls round the church anything notable or ancient. The new maps, showing a circular fence, led me to revisit it, and I am able to add a plan of another typical example of a church in a ring-wall, like Glencolumbcille.

The ruin [55] is situated in a pleasing position, among rich fields, near a lake, with a view of the flank and cliffs of the Glasgeivnagh Hill and Slieve-naglasha, and Mullach, with its great rock terraces and grey dome. The approach is by an old laneway to the north-east, and on that side the cashel is hardly traceable, being only marked by scattered bushes, small filling, and rebuilt modern walls. The ring measures 252 feet east and west, and 228 feet north and south over all; it is 8 to 10 feet thick, with filling of small field stones, and is 3 to 4 feet high. The foundation courses alone remain in parts on the inside, but outside to the north and north-west, the outer face is well preserved, in parts 5 feet high. It is of large blocks 3 to 4 feet high and many 5 feet long, with good masonry above. Some large water-worn boulders, in situ, are embedded in the wall,[56] and it is evident that before the great drainage works the fort was washed by the lake; the garth being raised some 4 feet higher than the field. To the south and east (as we noted) the wall is entirely overthrown and a thick hedge of bramble and hawthorn covers it, like the great, half demolished ring, in which the abbey of Canons’ Island in the Fergus stands.[57]

Canons’ Island Abbey
Canons’ Island Abbey

There are some old looking drains and embankments from the ring-wall, towards the lake, to the north-west and to the south-east, near the entrance, two holes in the field mark a souterrain. I am told that, when it was excavated long since by Col. Marcus Paterson, of Clifden, and Mr. Robert Burke Foster, of Rinroe, it was traced under the ring into the garth, but no antiquities were discovered. The field to the north-west is called ‘Moher-animerish’ (enclosed field of contention), and legend says that two brothers, O’Briens, fought and killed each other for its possession, in the perennial land hunger of Co. Clare. A somewhat similar legend attaches to the long earthwork of Killeen, south from Corofin.

Templemore, Kells
Templemore, Kells

The cashel was evidently destroyed to build the modern graveyard wall, which lies from 70 to 110 feet inside it, and is roughly square. This habit of building mortared walls round graveyards has been fruitful in destruction for early remains besides destroying most of their charm. When we hear that the Rathblamaic round tower was levelled for this purpose, and see the carved blocks of the once beautiful romanesque church built into the new wall, there and at Tomfinlough, in this country, and recall the demolition of other Clare churches, Feakle, Kilnoe, Ogonnello, Moyferta, and many others, we can only regret that the power of vandalism was conferred by law on ignorant local bodies, without some restraint from some better educated source.

The church is locally named ‘Templemoore,’ ‘Moor,’ and ‘Kells.’ The plural form (Cealla) refers to it and St. Catherine’s not far away; the latter is levelled, and its site forms an orchard in which graves and skeletons have been found. Curious to say, Aenghus O’Daly, the bitter satirist of the Tribes of Ireland, attacks, in 1617, the people of Cealla in Thomond for ‘digging in the churchyard in the snow.’[58] This custom, by the way, was against the Ancient Law of Ireland, which is severe upon those ‘digging in a graveyard and breaking bones.’

The building is of large and primitive masonry at its west end, perhaps of the 8th or 9th century. It has a lintelled door there, with inclined jambs, 26 to 24 inches wide, and still 4 feet high; the ground having being raised several feet by burials. The lintel is 6 feet 5 inches long and 2 feet thick. The church is elsewhere of poorer later masonry; it is 38 feet 8 inches by 23 feet 7 inches inside; the west end being 26 feet 8 inches across and the walls 2 feet 6 inches thick, the whole about 51 feet long. The north and east walls are only a few feet high. The south wall stands for 13 feet at the west, then a gap of the same length, then a reach of 18 feet long with a rude window slit for which the round head of an older window, cut in one block, has been utilised. There was a north-east buttress, now levelled. The vault of Michael Foster, Esq. (of Rinrow, who died on the 12th July, 1828, aged 42, erected by his brother, John Foster), abuts against what was once the east window.

Lismuinga (O.S. 17)
The fort, now called Lismuinga, is a small, well built ring-wall, about 100 feet across, the eastern half greatly overthrown. It stands on a little knoll in hazel thickets, and has a smaller fort, entirely levelled, about 400 feet to the west; a field wall passes through the last. Neither is a ‘Liss.’ To the south there is a trace of a curious rectangular fort, or bawn, between the ‘Poulashantinna’ and the road. It is oblong, and was of dry stone facing, with small filling, and entirely levelled, 120 feet across east and west, 96 feet north and south. The enclosure is divided into four by-cross walls. The owner says it is not haunted, but he has seen mysterious lights in the earth forts of Tully O’Dea near it, and he and others heard the Banshee cry before the death of his uncle.

The ‘Poulashantinna’ is one of those large funnel-shaped hollows down to an underground stream or to the sea. The name occurs at several places in North Mayo,[59] notably Downpatrick in Tirawley, and in the north Mullet. I do not know of its occurrence elsewhere, save at Lismuinga. Similar holes in Co. Clare, such as those near Ballycarr and Newmarket-on-Fergus, at Corbally near Quin, and Kilmorane to the south of Ennis, are reputed to be ‘thunder holes,’ and caused by a bolt. The name pronounced Pooláshantana, not ‘Poulashantinna,’ as on maps. Fish are caught in it.

 

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