Mason's Parochial Survey, 1814-19
Clare County Library
Union of Kilrush, Killard, Kilfieragh, Moyferta, and Kilballyhone
IV. Ancient Buildings, &c.
These buildings are:—1st, The five Parish churches; 2nd, The ruined churches of Kilcarrol, Mologha, Kildimo, Kilnagallagh, Kilcrony, Kilcredane, and Ross; 3rd, The round tower, abbey, and churches of Inniscattery; 4th, The Castles of Carrigaholt, Clahansevan, Dunlicky, Dunmore, Dunbeg, and Inniscattery.
As a specimen of the effects of lay impropriations and non cures on the Protestant religion in Ireland, it may be stated here, that three Protestant families of the name Austin, Gibson, and Brew, lapsed into Popery in this parish, within the last half century. This may in a great degree be ascribed to the want of a church and a resident clergyman, in a parish, regularly attended by a Romish priest. It is but just, however, to observe here, that the decline of the Protestant religion, in this instance, cannot be laid to the charge of the present incumbent; the effects of whose active and examplary zeal, are at this day visible in his large and respectable congregation at Kilrush. But Kilrush is at least twelve miles distant from the ruined church of Killballyhone; the rectorial tythes of which are divided between a lay impropriator and the Prebendary of Tomgraney, near Killaloe, sixty miles distant from it. It is much to be regretted, that so many parishes in the south of Ireland, are situated in this way, with respect to Killballyhone.
Jesuit ever yet was found
In most places, however, as well as in Kilcarrol, early cultivation has made good ground; and monks have often converted barren and wild spots into fruitful gardens and luxuriant meadows. In this old church are the remains of a worm-eaten wooden image, held in the greatest veneration by the peasantry; and near the church is a circular mound of earth and stones, from the top of which, tradition says, St. Carrol preached. This is a popular burial place.
The people of the name of Scales are settled round the Danish fort of Rathaninky, in the parish of Kilfieragh: they are descended from a family of that name, on Lough-Erne side, in the county of Fermanagh. Their ancestor, who removed to this farm, had been educated for the Presbyterian ministry; but being interrupted in his pursuits by the troubled state of Ireland, under the despotism of James the second, he was glad to accept of a lease renewable for ever, of sixty acres of ground here, from Mr. Hickman. This little property he divided between his two sons, each of whom again sub-divided it between their children; and it is now occupied by almost as many Scales, as it contains acres. Having, however, turned their attention to the linen manufacture, and learned the arts of boat building, and forging anchors, &c. this interesting colony has not fallen into that state of indigence, which might have been expected from the increase of their numbers, and the subdivisions of their farms.
A gentleman of a neighbouring barony, who holds this farm, under Mr. Westby, leaves a long cable at Ross House, (an ancient residence of the Kanes) for the purpose of saving the timber of various kinds, which is often cast in here after a storm. Balk beams, and fine planks of mahogany, with fragments of masts, &c. are often thrown up in a considerable quantity, after a continuance of stormy weather. Some years ago a pipe of wine, supposed to be port, floated gently into one of the deep bays, between two high cliffs, near this place. The vigilant watchman and his assistants prepared the rope; one of them descended with it, and had just time to fasten it on the object of their enterprize, and be drawn back again, when a sudden swell of the sea raised the vessel half way to the top, and then descending as suddenly, dashed it to pieces on the rocks, at the base of the cliff.
The round tower, cathedral, and other churches in the island of Inniscathay, or Inniscattery.
Senanus, and the monks of his abbey, at Inniscathay, were so strict, as to make it a matter of conscience, not so much as to look at a woman, and much less to suffer one to land on the island?.
An ancient bell, said by O’Halloran and many others, to belong to St. Senanus’s altar, is still preserved by the descendants of the family of O’Kane, in “The West;” and the spot on which it is averred that it fell from heaven for the Saint’s use, is shewn at the cross, between Kildimo and Farrihy, where an altar has been erected to commemorate the event. This relic antiquity is covered by a strong coat of silver, firmly fastened to it, and ornamented by raised figures: it is in general use for the discovery of petty thefts, and the clearance of characters. Many of the country people would not swear falsely on the “Golden Bell?,” as it is called, for they are taught from their infancy, that the consequence of such an act would be instant death.
The remains of the monument of Senanus, which was defaced by the Danes, in 816, are still to be seen in Scattery Island, with the ruins of eleven churches, and several cells. In the stone that closes the top of the altar window of the cathedral church, is the head of the saint, with his mitre, boldly executed, and but little defaced. This is one of the most popular burial places in the county; but as it is not very easy of access in stormy weather, the inconvenience is remedied by a burial place called Shanakill, (the old church) on the town lands of Leadmore, near Kilrush. The country people believe that all the bodies buried in this latter place, are miraculously conveyed under the bed of the river into the holy ground of Inniscatterry.
The sea is making great inroads on this island, and consequently taking away its soil. An ancient graveyard, on one of the cliffs near the castle, is mouldering away in this manner; and layers of human bones, a few feet from the surface, are washed off gradually by the action of the tide.
The last proprietor of this Castle, and the adjoining estate of the MacMahon family, was Teig Keigh, who lived in the reign of queen Elizabeth. His sister Una had been married to Edward Fitz-Maurice the tenth Lord of Kerry, who died in 1543, leaving issue by Una MacMahon, four sons and five daughters. The daughter of Teig Keigh, (the one eyed Lord, as he was called) married Maurice the second son of Patrick Fitz-Thomas, Fitz-Maurice, Lord of Lixnaw, an obstinate rebel, who, hearing of the arrival of the English army, under Sir George Carew, at Carrigafoyle, from Kilrush, on the 28th of July, 1600, demolished his castle of Beauliew, and died of grief. Thus connected in the neighbouring county of Kerry, the unfortunate Teig became deeply implicated in the rebellion against queen Elizabeth; and spending most of his time in arms with the rebel army on the other side of the river, left his wife and unmarried daughter in the castle of Carrigaholt. Some outrages having being committed by MacMahon, on persons who had been sent into West Corkavaskin, to collect certain chief rents, or taxes due to the crown, a complaint was made to the celebrated Earl of Thomond, who sent his brother, Henry O’Brien of Trummera castle, to remonstrate with his relative MacMahon, on the impropriety of such conduct, not knowing that the unfortunate chieftain waited only for an opportunity to break out into rebellion. O’Brien arrived at the castle of Carrigaholt in the absence of the proprietor, who was with his friends in Kerry, making arrangements for their intended operations. During a stay of three weeks here, an attachment was formed between this young gentleman and the beautiful daughter of MacMahon, who, knowing her father’s savage disposition, and rooted hostility to the Thomond family, not only despaired of obtaining his consent to an union with O’Brien, but even dreaded he would assassinate him on his return. The young lover sometimes spent his mornings in the enjoyment of the pleasures of the chase; and it was agreed on between him and his mistress, that in case the Lord of the castle should return in his absence, and manifest a spirit of hostility towards him, a black handkerchief should be hoisted by the lady on the flag staff, on the western pinacle of the castle.
The castle of Carrigaholt was then, and is still, inclosed by a court yard, secured by high walls on one side, and the cliffs and bay on the other, from which, to the white strand, on the Moyarta side of the creek, there is a passage of considerable depth for several hundred yards. Returning from the chase one evening, O’Brien was so absorbed in thought, that he neglected as usual to look towards the top of the castle, till the closing of the great gate behind him, and the shouts of the guard approaching to seize him, interrupted his reverie, and directed his eyes to the black flag which waved in melancholy undulation from the top of the castle. His followers, except one, were instantly secured, when, to the astonishment of MacMahon, the intrepid O’Brien and his faithful servant plunged with their horses into the foaming tide, from the black rock near the castle, and under an heavy fire from the assassins, arrived safely on the white strand of Moyarta. In the mean time, a detachment of MacMahon’s men had hurried round to a narrow pass through a cliff, between the white strand and the road to Kilrush, and firing on the devoted fugitives, killed O’Brien’s servant, and wounded himself severely in one of his hands. He made his escape however; and his noble father sent him to queen Elizabeth’s court with his arm in a sling, and an account of the unparalleled ingratitude and treachery of his savage relative. The queen instantly, without hesitation, declared MacMahon an outlaw, and made a grant of his entire estate to the injured O’Brien, who returned to subdue him and take possession of it.
The work was however done before his arrival, for we find in Sir George Carew’s Pacata Hibernia, “That Tirlogh, son of Teig Keugh MacMahon of Thomond, slew his father, while the castle of Dunbay was besieged;” and the historian adds, that “the queen gave his lands to the Earl of Thomond’s brother.” As the wretched Tirlough fled to Spain in the month of December, 1601, no obstacle remained to O’Brien’s entering peaceably on the fortified estate of West Corkavaskin; and the triumphant return was crowned by an union with the fair and faithful object of his wishes. This founder of the Clare branch of the Thomond family was the second son of Helen, youngest daughter of Pierce Earl of Ormond. Lodge calls him Teig, and says, “His residence was at Moyartie and Carrhychoulta.” His third son, Daniel O’Brien, repaired the castle of Carrigaholt, as appears by an inscription on a large limestone chimney piece in the upper room. He represented the county of Clare in parliament, early in the seventeenth century, and was knighted for his services to the crown. He was afterwards a member of the General Assembly of Kilkenny; and on the 14th of November, 1642, was appointed to the supreme Council of that assembly; the other commissioners for the province of Munster being Viscount Roche, Edmond Fitz-Maurice, Doctor Fennel, Robert Lambert, and George Comyn.
Upon the restoration, Sir Daniel O’Brien, in consideration of his own and his children’s eminent services, was created Baron of Moyferta, or Moyarta, and Viscount Clare, and had an entire restitution of his estate by the “Act of Explanation, in 1662.” He married Catherine, daughter of Gerald, sixteenth Earl of Desmond, and had issue four sons; 1st, Donogh, his heir, who died in Limerick in 1638, and was buried in St. Mary’s Church, in the tomb of his illustrious Ancestors; 2nd, Connor, who succeeded his father; 3rd, Murrogh, who married Eleanor, daughter of Richard Wingfield, Esq.; and, 4th, Teig, who married Mary, daughter of Gerald Fitz-Gerald of Ballighane, Esq. Connor, the second Viscount, died about the year 1670, and by his wife Honora, daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Duagh, had Daniel, the third viscount, who married Philadelphia, eldest daughter of Francis Leonard, Lord Dacre of the south, and sister to Thomas, Earl of Sussex. This Lady died in 1662, and left her Lord two sons, Daniel and Charles, the fourth and fifth Viscounts. Daniel (the third Viscount) took a decided part at the revolution, being one of the most able and active supporters of king James II. of whose privy council he was sworn a member on the 28th of February, 1684. He was one of the lords who sat in the pretended parliament at Dublin, held the 7th of May, 1689. He was also Lord Lieutenant of the County of Clare, and Colonel of a regiment of horse, which he raised at Carrigaholt, and which, from the facing of their uniform, were called the “Dragoon Buoys,” (Yellow Dragoons.) John MacNamara was first, and James Phillips second Lieutenant Colonel, and Browne Major of this regiment.
In 1689, Lord Clare’s dragoons were considered the flower of king James’ army; and when they were sent into Ulster in the summer of this year, with a numerous and well appointed army, under the conduct of Lord Mount Cashel, the command of them was given to Sir James Cotter.
On the 26th of July, in this year, they were encountered near Lisnaskea, in the county of Fermanagh, by Captain Martin Armstrong, with two troops of horse and two companies of foot, who making a feint to attack with his horse, retired as if in disorder, till he drew the enemy into the ambuscade of his foot, who, by an unexpected volley, caused a great slaughter; the horse at the same instant, facing about, fell on with incredible force, and cut this brave regiment almost to pieces, very few escaping by flight; the terror and swiftness of which, gave rise to an irony, to this day used among the Muster Irish, and well known at Kilrush, “Cos, cos, a dragoon buoy;” that is, “Stop, stop, yellow dragoon;” to which, the dragoon replies, “not till we come to the bridge of Clare;” and another, “no, not till we come to the ford of Moyarte.” They who escaped to the main army of the Irish, struck an unusual panic through it. The gallant Enniskilleners, animated by this first success, followed up by the blow, and engaging the enemy at Wattle Bridge, near Castlesaunderson, gave them a signal defeat, so that the enemy’s loss, in the pursuit, in the battle, and in the defeat of Lord Clare’s regiment, was computed to amount to four thousand men.
On the 11th of May 1691, Lord Clare was outlawed for his adherence to king James; and dying soon afterwards, his son Daniel, the fourth Viscount, went into France with the unfortunate monarch and died there. His brother Charles, the fifth Viscount, married the eldest daughter of Henry Buckley, Esq., Master of the household to king James the second; and fighting for the French, at the battle of Ramellies, on the 11th of May, 1706, received nine wounds, whereof he died, leaving several children, the eldest of whom was colonel of one of the Irish regiments in the French service, bore the title of Lord Clare, and died on the 20th of May, 1742, N.S. at Prague in Bohemia.
The present proprietor of the castle and estate of Carrigaholt, is the Honourable Francis Nathaniel Burton of Buncraggy.