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The O'Davorens of Cahermacnaughten, Burren, Co. Clare by Dr. George U. Macnamara

Part I: Historical: Background to Irish Deed

Perhaps the most interesting of all the MSS. found at Corofin, is the Irish deed here given, which is stated to be a copy made from the original document at some date unknown. Its difficult contractions have been expanded and a translation into Irish made in a most careful and scholarly manner by the Rev. R. Henebry, Ph. D., Professor, National University, Cork. I am responsible for the notes only.

This deed, contrary to what one would expect, has little of Brehon law in its composition. It is clearly drawn up in terms of Feudal law, which at the time (1606) was quite a new introduction into Thomond. From this we may reasonably infer that the new law, as well as the fénecas or ancient law of Ireland, was taught in Cahermacnaughten. Another copy of this deed, in the main identical with the one here given, was found in the hands of Mr. Michael Riley, of Ennistymon[15], by Dr. John O'Donovan in 1839[16]. It is, however, not signed by either Aodh or Cosnui, the two parties concerned, but by ‘Gilla-na-Naev oge O'Davoren,’ and called his ‘will.’ The date (3rd April, 1675) is 69 years later than that of the Corofin copy, and the witnesses, James Fitzgerald and Francis Sarsfield, are also different[17]. I shall, I hope, be able to convince the reader that Mr. Reilly's MS. was not a true copy of the original deed in all its parts, and was intentionally altered to fulfil some special purpose, probably a legal one, in the year 1675.

In the first place, I may remark that the document is in no sense a will, but a deed of partition of certain lands and houses in Burren between two brothers, sons of Giollananaomh óg O’Davoren, probably immediately after his death, the terms being in accordance with their father's and grandfather's wills, about which documents we know nothing more. The date, 1675, is an anachronism and an impossibility, because long before that year the O'Davorens were evicted out of all the lands mentioned in the deed, a part only of Cahermacnaughten being regained at a later period by a Giollanaomh [sic] óg of a younger generation, the very man I believe who signs the Ennistymon copy, and eldest son and heir of Aodh (1606). It is practically certain that the brothers Aodh and Cosnui were long dead in 1675, because two years later (1677) Cosnui's grandson, ‘Constance,’ son of Hugh O'Davoren, got confirmation of a grant of Lislarheen, parish of Rathborney, formerly ‘set out to his father Hugh, as a transplanted person,’ said Hugh (Aodh) being certainly dead when his son sought relief in 1677[18]. Again, James Davoren of Lisdoonvarna, who died, aged 59 years, in 1725, was the great-grandson of Aodh, the elder of the two brothers who made the partition; and allowing thirty years to a generation, Aodh should have died about 1635. It is probable, however, that he had the misfortune of living just long enough to be pitched out of his paternal estate, for he is given as one of the owners of Cahermacnaughten in 1641.

For these reasons - and there are others I could bring forward equally strong - it is evident that the date of the Ennistymon copy, 1675, is not the true date of the partition of the lands in question, which must be put several years further back. When, on the other hand we examine the Corofin version - date, witnesses, and all - everything is in true historical perspective and hangs together in perfect order and consistency. How then shall we account for this altered text found at Ennistymon by Dr. John O’Donovan, which, though tampered with for some reason or another, was undoubtedly founded on the original document of 1606, the true date of the partition? ‘Not difficult,’ I think, and may be explained in this way, without any suggestion of either forgery or fraud: it is in all essential particulars a bona fide copy of the original document, attested before two respectable witnesses a few years after the Restoration by Giollananaomh óg O’Davoren, eldest son, I have no doubt, of Aodh of Cahermacnaughten (who, with his brother, Cosnui, made the agreement of 1606) for the purpose of helping him to get back the lands that once belonged to his father; in which attempt, it appears, he was partially successful. That, and nothing more.

 

MSS of Cosnui O’Davoren; The MacBrodys

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