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

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 7. Corcomroe

Extracts from Annals of the Four Masters relating to Corcomroe; MacClancys brehons of Thomond; MacClancy, first High Sheriff of Clare; Spanish Armada; Cruelty of MacClancy towards the mariners; Extracts from Annals of the Four Masters relating to the family of MacClancy

When the district of Corcomroe had been divided into two parts between the rival chiefs, O’Conor and O’Loghlen, the Eastern division obtained the name of Burren, and O’Loghlen who, previously to the fourteenth century had been styled Chief of Corcomroe, was thenceforth called Lord of Burren. O’Conor, who seems to be the senior of all the sept called Modruadh, retained the original name of the tribe for his sub-division of the territory. The extent of West Corcomroe is preserved in the modern barony of Corcomroe, that of East Corcomroe being included in the present barony of Burren. O’Loghlen retained all his portion of Corcomroe, i.e., Burren, till the time of Cromwell; but O’Conor’s inheritance, owing to the internecine feuds of that family, and to their contests between brother and brother, and between nephew and uncle, to decide the supremacy, passed away to O’Brien as the lord paramount. During these struggles nearly every member of the family of O’Conor who could aspire to the chieftancy was cut off, and after the year 1564 [1] the name ceases to be mentioned by the annalists of Ireland.

In the Annals of the Four Masters the following references are made to West Corcomroe:—

A.D. 1002. Conor, son of Maelseachlin, Lord of Corcomroe, was killed by the men of Umallia. [2]
A.D. 1027. Donogh, the son of Brian Boroimhe, marched with an army into Ossory, where his people were defeated, and Maelseachlin, son of Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, was killed.
A.D. 1104. Conor, son of Maelseachlin, Lord of Corcomroe, died.
A.D. 1113. Maelseachlin O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, died.
A.D. 1128. Finguirt, Confessor (Anmchara), of Corcomroe, died. [3]
A.D. 1135. Hugh O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, and Cumara MacNamara, son of Daniel, Lord of Ui Caisin were killed in the heat of battle by the men of Desmond.
A.D. 1168. Conor Lethderg, the son of Maelseachlin O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, was killed by his brother’s son.
A.D. 1171. The men of Iar Connaught and a party of Shiolmury set out on a predatory excursion, plundered West Corcomroe, and carried of a countless number of cattle.
A.D. 1175. The son of Conor Lethderg O’Conor Corcomroe was slain by Donald O’Brien.
A.D. 1300. Congalach O’Loghlen, Bishop of Corcomroe (Kilfenora), a man of erudition and hospitality, died.
A.D. 1365. Felim the Hospitable, son of Donald O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, illustrious for hospitality and military exercises, died. [4]
A.D. 1422. Rory, the son of Conor O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, was slain in his residence, at Dough Castle, by his own kinsmen, the sons of Felim O’Conor.
A.D. 1431. Murtagh O’Conor, of Corcomroe, was slain by the sons of his own brother.
A.D. 1471. Conor, son of Brian Oge O’Conor, of Corcomroe, was slain at Lahinch by the sons of Donogh O’Conor, his brother.
A.D. 1482. Donald, son of Rory O’Conor, Lord of Corcomroe, died, and his brother Dermot assumed his place.
A.D. 1482. Felim, son of Felim O’Conor, of Corcomroe, was treacherously slain by the sons of Conor O’Conor.
A.D. 1485. O’Conor of Corcomroe died.
A.D. 1490. Con, son of Donald O’Conor, of Corcomroe Ninais, was slain by Cathal, son of Conor O’Conor.
A.D. 1490. Joan, daughter of Murrogh, son of Tiege Glae, and wife of Donald MacGorman, died. [5]

A.D. 1564. The territory of West Corcomroe was granted to Donald O’Brien.

A.D. 1585. The revenues and mansion of West Corcomroe were granted to Turlogh, son of Donald, the son of Conor O’Brien.

In the townland of Ballydeely, parish of Kilshanny, stands an enormous heap of stones called Carn Connachtach. Its proper name is Carn Mac Tail, because it was the burial place of MacTail, son of Broc, chief of Corcomroe, an ancestor of the O’Conors and O’Loghlens. It is of conical shape, measuring in perpendicular height twenty-five feet, and its diameter at the base is three hundred feet. There is some reason to believe that it was the place of inauguration of the chieftains of Corcomroe before that district was divided into two little territories.

One part of the barony of Corcomroe was called Tuath Glae, an area conterminous with the present parish of Killilagh. It was possessed for some time [6] by a distinct branch of the O’Briens, called Glae, after the name of their lands. It was also the home of a family distinguished in the annals of Ireland for their accomplishments as lawyers and teachers of law. I allude to the MacClancys, whose seat was at Cahir mac Clancy, and whose school was at Knockfinn, where the present Catholic church of Tuath Glae stands. The MacClancys were hereditary Brehons of Thomond. The instances are not few in which they took part in the public affairs of their country, as appears by the fact that various treaties between its chieftains and many agreements between private individuals, were drawn up and signed as witnesses by members of their family. It would seem that an almost essential thing required to constitute the validity of a legal instrument in Thomond was the signature of a MacClancy. A large part of the modern parish of Killilagh constituted their patrimony, and these lands, amongst the most fertile in Ireland, were held free from any rent or imposition by virtue of their office of chief judges. Such is the inference to be deduced from a perusal of the rental of O’Brien, where their demesne is exempted from all taxation. The number of scholars who frequented the great school of Knockfinn appears to have been very large, and its renown was general throughout Ireland. For centuries it held its ground as a place of learning, and its owners were honoured and prosperous. But a change came towards the end of the sixteenth century. Boetius Clancy, the then representative of the family, forsook his faith and gave his adherence to the English. He was rewarded by his new masters with the office of sheriff of the newly-constituted county of Clare. It is a tradition amongst the peasantry of the neighbourhood that one of the ships of the Spanish Armada was cast ashore near Ballaghaline, and wrecked. [7] Most of the crew were drowned, and the survivors were brought before the sheriff and ordered by him to be hanged. A few years afterwards, when peace was restored between England and Spain, a requisition was made to the English Government for permission to exhume the body of the son of one of the first grandees of Spain who was on board the lost ship, and transport it for burial to his native country. The required consent was given, but when the Spaniards came to fetch away the remains of their countryman they could not be found, owing to the circumstance that all the bodies had been buried in one pit by order of MacClancy. He was severely brought to task for his presumption in arrogating to himself the power of life and death against enemies taken in war, and also for inhumanity in his subsequent treatment of them. At this day the place called Knockacrochaire, (the hangman’s hill) is pointed out where the strangers are said to have been executed in sight of Knockfinn, the residence of the cruel MacClancy. Not far away is shown the pit into which, as people say, the bodies of the Spaniards were cast. In fifty years afterwards, by the Cromwellian settlement, the MacClancys were deprived of every acre they possessed, and their descendents have sunk into obscurity.[8] In a contemporary work styled Descriptio Regni Hiberniœ, Sanctorum Insulæ, &c., Auctore Fr. Antonio MacBrody, printed at Prague, and now in the Franciscan library, Dublin, it is stated (page 101), that in the year 1651, Daniel MacClancy, a noble knight, and the Lord of Glenvane, opposed the Cromwellians, that he made conditions with them at last, and that they afterwards violated their agreement and put him to death. Reference is made to the family of MacClancy in various parts of the Annals of the Four Masters. These are given here:

A.D. 1483. Murtagh MacClancy, intended Ollav of Thomond, and Cosnamhach, son of Conor Oge MacClancy, died. The same Conor Oge, Ollav of Thomond, a man accomplished in literature and poetry, also died in this year, and Hugh MacClancy succeeded him.
A.D. 1492. Hugh MacClancy, chief Brehon and Professor of Law in Thomond, died.
A.D. 1575. Hugh, the son of Boetius MacClancy, Professor of the Feineachus (the Brehon law), and of Poetry, and a purchaser of wine, by no means the least distinguished of the lay Brehons of Ireland, died.
A.D. 1576. Boetius Oge, the son Boetius, son of Murtagh MacClancy, Ollav of Dal Cais in judicature, and a man who kept a house of general hospitality, died.
A.D. 1598. Boetius, the son of Hugh, son of Boetius, son of Murtagh MacClancy of Cnoc-Finn, died in the month of April. He was a man fluent in the Latin, Irish, and English languages. (This Boetius was the High Sheriff who murdered the Spaniards. In the Parliament convoked at Dublin in 1585 he was one of the representatives sent from the newly-formed county of Clare. He was brother-in-law of Conor O’Brien of Leamanegh, and to this gentleman he presented a curiously-carved oak table, taken from one of the ships of the Spanish Armada, and still preserved at Dromoland Castle.)