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The Charter of Clare Abbey and the Augustinian ‘Province’ in Co. Clare
By Michael Mac Mahon

An Inventory


Dr. Gleeson’s attempt at disentangling the fifteenth century inventory of the possessions of Clare Abbey throws some further light on the grants made in the earlier charter, although as already stated, this document too is difficult to unravel. Since Gleeson’s account was published, however, abstracts from the Inchiquin estate papers have become available, and these are of some help in teasing out some of the place names which Gleeson found problematical. The inventory as printed by Gleeson (from a reading made by Fr. Gwynn) reads as follows:

In primis Killynriddane; item in kinred of onane: item in kinred of Kelye; item in Downemore: item in cloighane; item in the village of Our Lady in ybricane: item in the village of mc duane:item in the village of Christe;item in the village of ballymc krekayne; item in knockane;item in monkes ylande; item in beskynis kwne; item in ballagh bruyne (?); item in ballaghe faddy; item in maykn; item in lissane; item in quarter coyne; item in Maighry monastery; item in ylande of Cronane; item in mc craighes ylands….

It will be seen from the text of the document just quoted that identification of the place names mentioned in it must to a large extent remain speculative. ‘Killynriddane’ could refer to the rectory which gave its name to the later parish of Kilfiddane. In any case there can be no doubt that the rectory of Kilfiddane was impropriate to the Canons Regular since it was granted to the earl of Thomond in 1545 with the confiscated nunnery of Killone.[12] The ‘kynred (cantred?) of onane’ is also difficult to identify with any certainty though it may refer to Ballyonan, part of the churchlands of Kilfieragh.[13] We know from other sources that Clare Abbey did, in fact, hold rights in that parish.[14] ‘Item in kelye’ is the vicarage of Killow, the old name for Clareabbey parish. It appears in the taxation as Kilug and it is listed by the Protestant bishop of Killaloe in the seventeenth century as one of the parishes in the deanery of Tradree.[15] The vicarage (i.e. vicarial tithe) of Killow is ‘the moiety of the abbey of Clare’ frequently mentioned in seventeenth century inquisitions. ‘Downemore’ appears as Donmore in a reference to the lands of Clarecastle in 1772 and thus can be placed in the vicinity of the abbey.[16] ‘Cloighane’ is likely to be Cloghanenaboy which appears in a Clarecastle rental in 1656.[17] The ‘village of our Lady in ybricane’ refers to the rectory attaching to the church of Kilmurry-Ibricane. It is clear from entries in the papal documents that this benefice included the united parishes of Kilmurry and Kilfarboy.[18] The ‘villages of christe and mc duane’ are the rectories of Kilchreest and Kilmacduane. ‘Bally mc Krekayne’ appears in the early survey maps as a subdenomination of Ballyveskil in Clareabbey parish. ‘Berne(?)Ny Kyhie’ undoubtedly refers to Bernageeha in Killone parish. ‘Knocane’ can be taken to mean Knockinamana in Clareabbey parish as it is listed beside Lissan in the Inchiquin papers.[19] It appears as Knocknagannanagh in 1813, a name which apparently derived from Cnoch na gCannónaigh (i.e. the canons’ hill). The ‘monkes ylande’ may be read as Canons’ Island in the Fergus estuary which became the site of the Augustinian abbey of St. Mary. The next denomination ‘besknis kwyne’ bears a phonetic resemblance to the neighbouring island of Inishmacowney. ‘Ballaghfaddy’ and ‘Lyssane’ can be easily recognised in modern townlands in the neighbourhood of the abbey, but ‘ballagh bruyne’ is less certain. ‘Quarter Coyne’ appears as ‘Carhowkeyneone’ beside Lissan and Craggaunahilla in the 1656 rental mentioned above. The name derives from ceathrú na gcannónaigh (i.e. the canons’ quarter) and was probably somewhere near the abbey. Item in ‘mayhn’ and ‘maighry monastery’ are obscure and are best not attempted. The ‘ylande of cronane’ and ‘mc craighes ylands’ are archaic renderings of Inchicronan (Crusheen parish) and Islandmagrath in Clareabbey parish.

Essentially the benefices assigned to Clare Abbey consisted of rectories (i.e. the rector’s share of the tithe) of certain lands over which Donal Mór O’Brien, as lord of the soil, held the right of ecclesiastical patronage. It is important to bear in mind that the formal parishes had not yet been established, and so we find some of the rectories called simply after the lands of a particular tuath or tribal territory e.g. Uí Cormaic, Uí Bracain etc. We have already seen that these territorial rectories could be quite extensive and in the later parochial arrangements they were sometimes carved up into two or more parishes.

Mention must also be made here of the term ‘in lay fee’ sometimes found in the charter. Lands in ‘lay fee’ or in ‘rural fee’ (the terms were synonymous) were so described to distinguish them from pre-existing church lands (i.e. the termons of ancient churches). The latter sometimes formed separate rectories in ‘ecclesiastical fee’, but were not usually in the gift of lay patrons.[20]

It would appear from the wide geographical distribution of the rectories set out in the charter that the Augustinians were being facilitated to cast a wide pastoral net. This, in fact, they did and in time five other houses were established on the charter lands, namely Canons’ Island, Inchicronan, Kilshanny, Killone and St. Peter’s cell in Limerick, the last two for Augustinian nuns.


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