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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 3. Burren, or Corcomroe East

School of O’Davorens, professors of law at Cahermacnaghten; Duald MacFirbis a scholar there; Deed of partition of land between the sons of O’Davoren

For successive generations the O’Davorens kept a great school at Cahermacnaghten in Burren. The Caher is still in a good state of preservation, and for several acres around the remains of the huts occupied by the scholars are scattered about. Among those who were disciples of the O’Davoren of that period was Duald MacFirbis, who afterwards became the greatest Irish scholar of his time. He appears to have been intended from his youth for the hereditary profession of an antiquarian, historian, or juris-consult of the Fenechas or ancient native laws of his country, now improperly called the Brehon laws. To qualify himself for both of these professions, he took up his residence at an early age in the school of law and history then kept by the MacEgans in Ormond. After this time he studied in Burren at the not less distinguished literary and legal school of the O’Davorens, where we find him, with many other young Irish students, about the year 1595, under the tuition of Donald O’Davoren, [5] an accomplished scholar and gentleman, the compiler of a Brehon Law Glossary. [6] A curious document, written in the Irish language, was found by Dr. John O’Donovan in 1839 in the hands of Mr. Michael Reilly, of Ennistymon; it relates to a division made between the sons of O’Davoren of their father’s lands. We subjoin O’Donovan’s translation of it:—

“Be it known to every one who shall read this writing that the sons of Gilla-na-naev oge O’Davoren, of Cahermacnaghten, in the parish of Rathbourney, viz., Hugh and Cosny, partitioned as follows:—They made a perpetual division of the two ploughlands of the land of their father and grandfather, viz., the half ploughland of Cahermacnaghten, the half ploughland of Lismacteige, the half ploughland of Lisduane and of Lisnaloughran, in the aforesaid parish, and the half ploughland of (Kil) Colman Baire, in the parish of Kilcorney. This is the partition, viz.: Hugh is to have for his share the most western quarter of Cahermacnaghten as bounded by the stream of Sruhaunduff flowing from the mountain and by the western ditch of Buaile Liagánach, from that down as far as Urlingmore, by the ditch of Urlingmore, thence round on the west side down to the side of the Caher; as also the half ploughland of Lismacteige and a quarter of the half ploughland of Kilcolman Baire. And Cosny is to have for his share the most eastern quarter of Cahermacnaghten as defined by the aforesaid boundary, the half ploughland of Lisduane, of Lisnaloughran, and the other quarter of the half ploughland of Kilcolman Baire. The following is the partition of the village of Cahermacnaghten, viz.: The site of the big house of Caher within, and the site of the kitchen-house which belonged to that house within the Caher, and the site of the house of the churchyard on the west side of the Caher, and all the gardens extending westwards from the road of the garden of Teige Roe, the son of Giolla Feichin, not including Teige Roe’s garden. And the house situate between the front of the big house and the door of the Caher, and the site of another house within the Caher at the north-west side, and the large house which is outside the door of the Caher, and all extending from Bearnan Fanain-an-Tayaill, which is at the east, westwards to the aforesaid road of Teige Roe’s garden, and that the garden itself is to be included in Cosny’s share of the village. Moreover, the fahy (green) of the Booley, and the road from that green westwards to Moher Turtánagh, and the water of the village, and of Shruhanduff, and of the well of the village, are common and free to all. [7] This settlement is to exist between the brothers and between their heirs for ever after them. Should any dispute or law happen about these lands, the brothers are bound to observe strict justice with regard to each other. Should one of them sell or mortgage to the other, that other person is not at liberty to part with what he has so acquired, but to give it back to the original owner upon receiving back his money. Should one of them die without a legitimate heir of his body, the other and his heirs shall be his heirs in these lands. Moreover, whatever part of said Hugh’s share he will not occupy himself, if Cosny be able to occupy it, Hugh shall not hinder him, so as that Cosny takes upon himself a part of the burden of Slany O’Grady’s ‘freedom,’ that is, grass for a cow or a mare for every quarter of land that shall be occupied. As evidence that everything above written is for ever settled between ourselves and our heirs, I, the said Hugh, am putting my hand and seal to the copy of this writing, which belongs to Cosny by my own free will and assent; and I, Cosny, by my own will and consent, am putting my hand and seal to the copy of it belonging to Hugh.

“The 3rd day of April, 1675.
“Gilla-na-naev Oge O’Davoren.

“James FitzGerald.
“Francis Sarsfield.

“The will of Gilla-na-naev Oge O’Davoren in the year 1675, the 4th day of the month of April.” [8]