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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 3: Pre-reformation church and monastic sites
Chapter 23: Kilconry Parish


Nat. Grid. Ref: R365616; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: Kilconry Church, from the south-east
Photo 1: Kilconry Church, from the south-east

R.C. Parish : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Townland : Rineanna North
6” O.S. Sheet number : 61 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 2.4 cm North; 10.7 cm West
Height (G.L.) : 50’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 143 (Limerick)

For information relating to this site refer to : (a) site plan (b) site description (c) series of photographs on the site

Plan of Kilconry Church:

Kilconry Church:
The photograph of the southern wall of Kilconry Church on a previous page (photo 1) has already shown one the nature of the vegetation cover over this site. The ivy, along with some bushes and trees, are so heavy that it was impossible to examine the site in any adequate detail. Such a covering must be doing a deal of damage to the surviving traces of the Church.

The southern wall contains the entrance area (photo 1). An examination of the actual doorway suggests it was of the pointed cut-stone type (Leask, type B). Unfortunately the depth of the ivy covering makes a proper examination of it impossible (photo 2). Field work found that much of the cut-stone over the doorway was gone, leaving only rough limestone pieces. It is not clear if such cut-stones fell or were removed. The entrance area is 2.25 metres high by 1.30 metres wide on the outside and 1.60 metres wide in the inside.

This southern wall is 21.50 metres in length externally with an average height of just over 3.50 metres. The wall is higher towards the west and averages only 2.0 metres to the east. Concerning a window, now fully covered by ivy both inside and out, Westropp stated in 1900 : “The south window is also pointed and the splays have flat arches…” (page 150).

The eastern wall, as the site plan shows, has collapsed in part. This seems to have only taken place during the present century as Westropp said about this wall in 1900: “…the east window has two pointed lights…” (page 150). No trace of such a window now remains. The surviving part of the eastern wall, which averages 2 metres in height, is also heavily covered by ivy.

The northern wall can be traced along its full length (see site plan). This wall survives to an average height of 4 metres though it is heavily covered by ivy (photo 3). A pen sketch of the outside of this wall may be found in “The Other Clare”, Volume 2, 1978, page 32, fig. 2.
The western wall is pointed, reaching at its point a height of some 9.0 metres. Though ivy covered the lower interior part of this wall contains a nineteenth century grave slab. As the site plan shows the western part of the site’s interior is cut off by a low wall and iron railing as it is a private burial area (photo 3).

Date of Church:
The original Church, presumably on the same site, was founded by Saint Conaire around 500 A.D. This is the Saint to whom reference has already been made when dealing with the sites of archaeological interest (section 1) in Kilconry Civil Parish. She, as you may remember, had wished to die at Saint Senan’s Monastery on Iniscarthy. He at first refused her permission but when she died around 530 A.D. he allowed her remains to be interned on his island (Frost, 1893, page 189. He cites other sources for this tradition).

Westropp, based on an examination of the now destroyed or hidden eastern and southern windows, suggested a late fifteenth century date for the present Church ruins.


Frost, 1893, page 189 (largely is concerned with the lore about Saint Senan).
Westropp, 1900, page 150 (useful for dating).
The Other Clare, Volume 2, 1978, page 32.
Ordnance Survey Letters (1839), Volume 2, 1928 edition, pages 141 & 142 (O’Donovan)

The 1839 description is quite useful as it gives us some information on this ivy covered site : “…(along) the south wall… at a distance of two feet from the east gable there is a window measuring on the inside four feet two inches in height and two feet one inch in breadth and on the outside three feet seven inches in height and five and a half inches in breadth. It is pointed on the outside and flat arched at the head on the inside. The east gable contains a window which is rectangular headed inside and outside and divided into two divisions which are arrow headed. It measures on the inside five feet ten inches in height and three feet six inches in width and on the outside four feet ten inches in height and one foot seven inches in width, of which the mullion is seven inches…” (The approximate positions of the southern and eastern windows are marked in on the site plan. As these positions are, as stated, an approximation I have put a question mark in each window space).

Other sites of religious interest:
Frost, citing a number of sources, has an interesting few sentences relating to Feenish Island, also part of Kilconry Civil Parish: “…it should be noted that Saint Senan founded a Church on Feenish Island, but no trace of it remains, nor is there any tradition amongst the people that such a religious institution ever existed. Yet it is clearly stated in the life of the Saint that in his time Saint Bridget… presided over a Convent of nuns in Feenish…” (1893, pages 189 and 190).
Not only is there no trace of these possible sites but local tradition has no reference to them.

Photo 2: Ivy covered south door, Kilconry Church
Photo 2: Ivy covered south door, Kilconry Church

Photo 3: Interior of Kilconry Church, facing west
Photo 3: Interior of Kilconry Church, facing west