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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

Oughtmama Parish; Ancient churches at Oughtmama; Curious legend of St. Colman MacDuach; Finavarra, the residence of the O’Dalys

In this parish is situated the townland of the same name. The three churches which stand upon it take their name from the district “Ucht mama” or “the breast of the high pass,” and the name conveys a true idea of their situation, for they lie at a considerable height, in the very bosom of one of the hills forming the amphitheatre which encloses the valley of Corcomroe. They consist of three buildings, two of which, lying together in a straight line, are in an almost perfect state of preservation, while the third, about three hundred yards off, is a mere ruin.
Churches at Oughtmama
Churches at Oughtmama

In the splendid work of the late Earl of Dunraven, photographs and a description are given of them. [19] Little is known of this place, but it may be safely inferred that the churches now standing at Oughtmama are the original buildings and that they were constructed to commemorate three saints, all of whom were named Colman. In the Sanctilogium Genealogicum preserved in the Leabhar Breac, we read (p. 21, col. 2, 3), “Three saints in the one townland, i.e., in Uchtmama. Colman was the name of each saint, and Lugaid was the father of each Colman: viz., Colman, son of Lugaid, son of Loegaire, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages; Colman, son of Lugaid, son of Ængus, son of Naitfraich, son of Corc, son of Lugaid; Colman, son of Lugaid, son of Conall, son of Brian, son of Eochaid Muidmedon.” In the litany of Ængus, the seven holy bishops of Uchtmama in Corcomroe, are invoked. [20] Whether St. Colman MacDuach was one of these bishops we do not know; but a holy well dedicated to a St. Colman lies a little to the north-east of the churches. It is related that St. Colman MacDuach lived just before the year 620, as a hermit in a wild rocky valley surrounded by woods, in the parish of Carron, about three miles to the south of Oughtmama, where the remains of his little oratory, the cave in which he slept, and two altars may yet be seen. The place is still visited by pilgrims on the Saint’s day, February 3rd. He resided there with one companion for seven years. On a certain Easter Sunday, while the saint and the disciple were about to sit down to a very frugal dinner, the latter remarked that such fare was very different from that which probably at that very moment smoked on the board of Guaire, king of South Connaught, at his palace of Dúrlus, a few miles off. Some signs of discontent appeared to have manifested themselves on the face of St. MacDuach’s companion, for the holy man remarked that he would soon provide a better dinner. Thereupon, he prayed to heaven that his cousin’s meal should be transported to the hermitage. Suddenly Guaire and his friends saw the dishes containing their food rise up into the sky and fly away. They instantly mounted their horses and pursued the victuals. Gradually the dishes were seen to come to the ground. When the king and his companions arrived at the spot, they found the disciple of St. Colman busily engaged in the duty of appeasing the pangs of hunger. [21] At this day the road by which Guaire pursued his viands is called Bothar na mias (the road of the dishes). In the parish of Oughtmama there are only two castles, namely Turlough and Finvarra, now almost level with the ground; these also belonged in 1580 to members of the family of O’Loghlen. Various cairns, cahers, and caves exist in this parish, mostly in a state of ruin. On the top of the hill of Knockycallanan is a remarkable cairn, for which O’Donovan could find no name. The valley district comprised in this parish and in that of the adjoining parish of Abbey, is the Duv Gleann referred to in the Wars of Thomond. Archdall in his work on the Abbeys of Ireland [22] refers to an abbey called Beagh, situate in the barony of Burren, and belonging to the third order of Franciscan Friars. The townland of Beagh in this parish must be the place where this abbey stood, but no trace of its site or tradition of its existence remains in the neighbourhood. Finnavarra, in this parish, was long the residence of the family of O’Daly, who were hereditary poets of the O’Loghlens. In the latter part of the fifteenth century they migrated to Galway in company with Ranailt O’Brien, wife of Teige O’Kelly, of Callon. There they became the ancestors of the O’Dalys of that county, one of whom is Lord Dunsandle. [23]