Clare County Library
Clare History
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

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

Parish of Kilballyowen (d)

In an Irish poem written on the Shannon in the year 1794, by Michael Brennan of the Co. Roscommon, it is asserted that the tradition in the western part of Clare was that Leap-Head was so called from Cuculan’s having leaped across the Shannon from that to the opposite coast of Kerry and Theophilus mO’Flanagan makes the same assertion in a note to the Tale of Deirdre published in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society in Dublin in the year 1808. (I believe O’Flanagan says that it was in pursuit of Conry Mac Daire Cuchulain took this leap.) I never heard this version of the tradition, though I have been acquainted with the place from my earliest boyhood and from my father, who died in the year 1825 at the age of eighty one years, and who was a good English and Irish scholar and who knew more of the traditional history of the Barony of Moyarta in particular, than any person I ever knew; from him I say, as well as from the other oral historians of my own time, I always heard that Cuchulan’s Leap was from the end of the land of Clare to the little island which stands about fifty feet distant out from it, and which is even to this day called Bullan-na-Leime by all the inhabitants in the district, and thus we see Mr. Brennan and Mr. O’Flanagan both assuming that Cuchulann’s Leap was across the Shannon, because neither of them examined the locality, nor knew that there was any other land for him to light upon nearer than the Kerry coast, but although the real ould stock of Carrigahoult could have no difficulty in believing that Finn Mac Coole could pitch a fingerstone of a ton weight from Cnoc-an-air on the Kerry side of the Shannon to Carrigaholt on the north side, still they never had that opinion of Cuchulann that he could pitch himself to the same distance.

Michael Brennan, in the poem on the Shannon above referred to, has the following very judicious observation on the difficulty there would be in discovering the true derivation of Loop-Head if the Irish Language had become extinct before this tradition was committed in writing:-

Is Leap-Head, no Ceann Léime gairm
As ainm ceart na háite a deirim
An ionad Loop-Head, tearma breagach
Tlachtghrafairighe sgríobh go déighionach
Da ccallfidh an Ghaodhailge leir-bhinn mhilis
Cá bfhuighidh an teanga na an fear eolais
A gheabhadh amach le grinneas céille
Gurab ionann Loop-Head is Ceann-Leime.

Leaphead or Ceann-Leime is the title
Or right name of the place, I say
Instead of Loophead a flying (false) term
Of topographers who lately wrote
If the smooth melodious sweet Irish was (had been) lost,
Where would be found the language through
Which or the learned man by whom
Could be discovered by depth of wisdom
That Loop-Head is the same as Ceann-Leime.