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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Disert (d)

There is a Holy Well a little southeast of the Church called Tobar Bhánála, at which Stations and a Patron were held formerly on the 30th March, St. Tola’s day, but the Patron has been discontinued for many years. The 30th of March is still held holy by many persons in the Parish, though it is no longer an obligation to do so. The same holy day was kept in the neighbouring Parish of Kilnamona.

I must correct an assertion made above, i.e., that everyone to whom I mentioned the progress of the corruption of the name, Bánála, believed it. Such was not the fact, for Jimmy Kishane, the nearest neighbour to the Church and Cross, would not believe a word of it for the following reason.

The Church of Rath, half a mile to the west, was built, he says, at the same time with the Church of Disert, the former by a stout saint of a man, who built a fine steeple (Cloghas) Cloccas near it, and the latter by poor Saint Bánála, who, though she was most anxious to have a Round Tower for herself, thought it would take her too long a time to build one, whereupon, she cogitated within herself on the best means of removing her anxiety on the matter, and after mature consideration resolved on stealing his Round Tower from her neighbour at Rath.

After praying fervently for strength and resolution to carry her determination into effect, she repaired cautiously at the dead hour of the night to Rath, took the steeple on her back, and ran with it at the top of her speed; but when she had arrived within about twenty perches of her church she heard the footsteps of the true owner of her burthen (burden) coming close on her rere, and finding it impossible to reach the Church before she should be overtaken, she flung the Tower off her back, forward, and fixed it just where it stands now, and by the violence of the effort she fell on a stone in which the impress of her bare knees was to be seen, until a few years ago a thieving road improver broke it up as it was in his way when widening a footpath, and there the steeple remains since to the present day, though it was not on this spot she intended to place it but in a little pit, something like a place that might receive it, lying a little more to the south, but which she missed in hurry of the throw.

O’Dea’s Castle of Disert stands a little to the northwest of the Church, twenty two feet three inches long and fifteen feet five inches wide in the clear; walls seven feet thick, containing twenty eight loop holes and small windows, with one large window with stone sashes on the east side high up, and a smaller one in the west side, high up also. Three of its vaulted floors remain perfect, some of them having good fireplaces of cut polished stone; these rooms are large and could be easily filled up for the reception of a family of some pretensions to decency. The door of the Castle is on the north, and the ascent to the top through the northeast angle by a flight of ninety six stone steps, eight inches in thickness each. The north gable of a house stands near it on the northwest, the wall about four feet thick and apparently as old as the castle; the whole built on an elevated rocky crag, which, with the strength of the Castle, must have rendered it a place of great security. The under part of the Castle is at present inhabited by a poor family. It was near this castle that the great De Clare and his son were killed by the O’Deas and their adherents and allies in the year of our Lord 1318, as appears from the Wars of Torlogh, Ordnance Survey Copy, page 611.

It appears from the aforesaid authority, page 587, that Mortogh, the son of Torlogh O’Brien, carried away a large prey from De Clare’s Territory of Bunratty in the above years and that the latter, to be revenged of him and his followers, invited Sir William Oge Burke and some of the disaffected Dalcassian tribes to join him in totally extirpating Mortogh and all his adherents from Thomond. Having assembled all their forces at Quin they marched to the northwest towards O’Dea’s country of Hy-Fearmaic, he being the most powerful and warm supporter of Mortogh and his father Torlogh, to plunder his territory and either extirpate or destroy himself and all his tribe and retainers. Having arrived at Ruadhan, within about three miles of Disert O’Dea, they encamped there for the night waiting for the daylight to carry their terrible design into execution.