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|Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839|
Part II. Letters and Extracts relative to Ancient Territories of Thomond, 1841
Every Irish authority - Beauford, if indeed, he deserve the name of authority - places Corco-Bhaiscinn in the west of Thomond, and its exact extent is given in a description of the County of Clare preserved in a MS. in Trin. Col. E.2.14, namely, from Inishmore in the mouth of the Fergus to Loophead, and from the Shannon to the boundary of Hy-Brickan.
The original chiefs of the territory of East Corco-Vaskin were the O’Donnells, but they sunk under the Mac Mahons, the descendants of Brian Boru, in the 11th Century. They have however, retained some property in the Territory to this day, and are far from being extinct. The following pedigree of O’Donnell of Corca-Vaskin as given (copied) by Duald Mac Firbis from ancient MSS. will show that his line has flourished in this territory from a very remote period.
Conor O’Donnell, the Bishop, son of
The Pedigree of O’Baskin, Chief of West Corco-Vaskin, is thus given by Mac Firbis:-
Colgan describes the situation of Corco-Bhaiscinn as follows in a note on the Life of Saint Senan, Acta SS. p.539 (recte 535):-
Corca-Bhaschind. Est regio maritima Tumoniae seu Comitatus de Clare, illud nomen sortita a Carbreo Baschaoin, cujus posteri ad multo tempora rerum ibi potiebantur ut nostri passim tradunt antiquarii.
The account of the County of Clare preserved in the College Library
(E.2.14.) places the following Parishes and Castles in the Territory
of Corca-Vaskin East:-
The list of Parishes is unquestionably defective. See list given in Book of Regal Visitation. - J.O’D.
“The Baronie of Moyartha which conteyneth West Corkewasken, and is ploughlands after like rate XXV. Tirlagh Mac Mahown Chiefe in the same.”
Vicar of Moyartha.
From this list it is evident that Corca-Vaskin West was more extensive than the present Barony of Moyarta for it contained the Parish of Killard (in which the Castles of Dunbeg and Dunmore are situated) which is now considered to be (and is actually made to be) a part of the Barony of Ibrickan. We have as yet discovered no document to prove when this Parish was added to the Barony of Ibrickan.
It is necessary to remark that before the Mac Gormans settled in the Territory of Ibrickan that Territory was a part of Corca-Vaskin, for it appears from all the ancient Irish documents that the western part of the County of Clare, from Blackhead and Galway Bay to the Shannon, belonged to two great tribes, the Corcomroe and Corco-Vaskin, the former possessing, as I have already stated, the entire of the Diocese of Kilfenora, comprising the present Baronies of Burren and Corcomroe; and the latter, the present Baronies of Ibrickan, Moyarta and Clonderalaw. But when the Mac Gormans were settled by O’Brien in the Barony of Ibricken (which occurred in the 12th Century, as has been already shewn) the Territory of the Corca-Vaskin was limited to the Baronies of Clonderalaw and Moyarta and the Parish of Killard in the south of the Barony of Ibrickan. We have no document to prove how the Barony of Ibricken was divided between the East and West Corco-Vaskin but we may conjecture with considerable safety that it was divided equally, or nearly so, between them. The great St Senanus of Scattery Island was a native of this Territory and of the people of Corco-Bhaiscinn, being descended from Bolc, the son of Dece, who was Baptized by St. Patrick.
His life throws great light upon the original topography of Corco-Vaskin, but it contains one error which has caused great confusion and which neither Colgan, nor the more ingenious Lanigan was able to detect, namely, that the Island of Inis Cathaigh, now Scattery Island in the Shannon opposite the Town of Kilrush, belonged to Mac Tail, King of the Hy-Figinte. This is a glaring error for it appears from the Annals and Pedigrees of these tribes that this Mic Tail was King of the Corca-Vaskin, not of the Hy-Figinte, and consequently that this island was a part of the Territory of the Corca-Vaskin. This error led Colgan into another very great one, viz., that the Territory of the Hy-Figinte was situated in the present County of Kerry, and that it extended from the south side of the Shannon, opposite the Island of Inis-Cathy, to the summit of Slieve Luachra. This last inference, if admitted as truth, would confuse all the ancient topography of this part of Munster; but we are now able to detect the error at once from our acquaintance with the real situation of the Country of the Hy-Figeinte. Keating, who was far better acquainted with the ancient topography of Munster than Colgan, states that the Country of the Hy-Figeinte was the Plain of the County of Limerick and this is demonstrated to be the fact by the Topographical Poem of O’Heerin, which places all the families descended from Fiacha Figeinte, the Progenitor of the Hy-Figeinte, within the limits of the present County of Limerick. But this and a few other errors being corrected, the life of Saint Senan is a very important topographical document. It shews that the western point of the County of Clare extending from Traigh an Iarla (recte Traigh an Earlamha) a short distance to the west of Kilrush, to Loophead, was originally called Iorras Iarthair, i.e., the Western Erris. This is the district now called the West by the inhabitants of Clare and Limerick especially those bordering on the Shannon.
The following Annals of this Territory will shew when the O’Donnells ceased to have sway in it and when the Mac Mahons succeeded them. And here it may not be out of place to correct another error in the Irish Life of Saint Senan, which tends in no small degree to confuse the history of the ancient tribes of Thomond. I shall first translate the passage in which this error is expressed, and next go on to shew how it was originally committed or invented, and how it is to be corrected:-
When Saint Patrick was preaching to the Hy-Figeinte, and Baptizing them at Donaghmore, the Corca-Bhaiscinn with their King, Bolc Mac Dece, came to him in a fleet from the north across the Luimneach, and they entreated Patrick to preach to them on that day, and to Baptize. Patrick told them to wait till morning for that he was fatigued. The Corca-Bhaiscinn replied: ‘We cannot for our country is naked (desolate) after us without youths to defend it and our fleet is also without youths, and it is necessary for us to hasten (back) to our country.’ Patrick afterwards went into his chariot, so that all might see him and hear his voice, and preaching the word of God out of the chariot, they believed in God and in him (Patrick). Then Patrick Baptized in a neighbouring river all the hosts, who gave great presents to him. Patrick blessed them and said that Corca-Bhaiscinn would abound in wealth and riches for ever. After which the Corca-Bhaiscinn entreated of Saint Patrick to come with them to bless their country and to Baptize their wives, children and servants, whom they had left after them. Patrick replied: ‘I cannot go with you on this occasion for I have not the power to ferry my people across the river.’ The Corca-Bhaiscinn replied: ‘We have a large fleet with us in which we will ferry yourself and all your people across the river in safety and back again.’ Patrick refused again saying: ‘I cannot leave the country in which I am until it is all consecrated and blessed,’ and he pronounced a blessing on the Corca-Bhaiscinn, and left them the victory (gift) of fleets. And moreover, he said to the Corca-Bhaiscinn: ‘Is there near at hand a place from which I could obtain a view of your country, that I might view it and bless it from my seat in that place.’ ‘There is, indeed’ replied they: ‘Yonder hill’ (viz., Findine) and Patrick proceeded with them to the top of the hill called Findine, and said: ‘Is this your country to the north of Luimneach as far as the ocean to the west?’ ‘It is’ replied they: ‘Does it extend’ said Patrick, ‘to yonder mountain to the north?’ (that is, Sliabh Eilbhe in the Country of the Corcomroe-Innindois). ‘It does not’ said they. ‘It will before the end of time’ said Patrick. ‘Does your country extend as far as yonder mountain, to the east?’ (that is, Echtgi in the land of O’Neasa). ‘It does not’ said they. ‘It will after a lapse of time’ said Patrick.
In this life the writer transfers to the Corco-Bhaiscinn what the original lives of Saint Patrick say of the Dal-Cais, but this is a gross error, for the limits of the Country of the Corca-Bhaiscinn were never extended to the mountains of Sliabh Eilbhe and Sliabh Echtgi, nor beyond what they were in Saint Patrick’s time, but on the contrary they were circumscribed and encroached upon by the Dal-Cais. But this prophecy, which was evidently fabricated - as indeed all such post original prophecies were - after the events had occurred, may with great propriety be applied to the descendants of Carthenn Fionn, who was the head of the Dal-Cais in Saint Patrick’s time, for his descendants extended their territory not only to the Mountains of Elbhe and Echtge but after a lapse of time deprived the Corca-Bhascinn of their territory and established Chiefs of their own race over it. The writer of the Life of Saint Senan made this transfer in order to raise the fame of the Corca-Bhaiscinn, of whom his favourite Saint was one, but he was not sufficiently acquainted with the topography and history of Thomond to put this fabrication in such a form as to impose on posterity for ever.
This writer also errs egregiously in stating that the mountains of Elbhe and Echtgi could be seen by Saint Patrick from any hill near Donoghmore in the present County of Limerick. It is now generally believed that the hill from the summit of which Saint Patrick viewed and blessed Thomond is the hill of Cnoc Phadruig, situated about four miles to the west of the Town of Askeaton; but even from this lofty hill he could not obtain a view of the Mountains of Elbhe and Echtgi. It must be therefore acknowledged that this life of Saint Senan was not written by a native of Thomond or Hy-Figeinte for such blunders in topography could not have been committed by any native of these districts. The Irish Life of Saint Senan, which was translated and published by Colgan, was written by William O’Deoran, a Leinsterman.
CORCA-BAISCINN. - (Ann. 4 Mast.)
The original extent of the Country of the Corca-Bhaiscinn is still preserved in the ecclesiastical division, which is the best guide to follow in ascertaining the original limits of the Country of this great tribe, which was circumscribed from time to time by the encroachment of the O’Briens and their corelatives. The Liber Regalis Visitationis places the following Parishes in the Deanery of Corca-Vaskin
There can be no doubt that the original Country of the Corca-Bhaiscin comprised these sixteen Parishes, and this fact being discovered the extent of the next Territory adjoining it to the east becomes as clear as daylight, though it has puzzled me these two years to such a degree as often to have made me give it up as impossible to be now determined. Quae nunc latent in lucem proferentur ulterioris aevi diligentia.