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

Parish of Killaloe (a)

This Parish is bounded on the north by the Parishes of Ogonnello and Kilno, and on the west by that of Killokennedy, on the south by Kiltinnáánlea and on the east by the Shannon, which separates it from the Co. of Tipperary.

The name of this Parish is in all the ancient Irish authorities written Cill-Da-Lua, which means the Church of St. Dalua, Molua or Luanus, a famous Saint who flourished towards the end of the 6th century. Ledwich indeed contends that Cill-Le-Lua is the true name and that it means “the Church upon or near the Water”. In this, however, he opposes the whole stream of Irish history, for every authority states that Kill-Dalua means the Church of St. Molua, the leper. On this subject a few observations are here called for. Was Ledwich certain that Killaloe means the Church near the Water? He could not have been, because he was not master of the Irish language, and even if he were he could not be certain that his interpretation was correct, for Lua, though given in the Irish vocabularies “without authority” as one of the primitive words for water, is not to be found in composition in any Irish Book or MS., or entering into the names of places in any part of Ireland, and even if Lua were found in the names of places as signifying water, it could not be certain that it meant water when placed after the term Cill, a Church. I should like to converse with the old Doctor (the son of a cobbler) in Dublin (he was not the worse antiquary for that - the son of a cobbler, reared in Dublin could have but a slight knowledge of the Irish language) to see how he would explain in a similar manner the names Kill-Patrick, Kill-Columb, Kill-Bride, Kill-Kevin, Kill-Kieran, Kill-Fineen, Kill-Athract, Kill-Mo-Laise, etc., etc. I know he could very easily explain them in a new way by inventing meanings for words which they never had, as I could myself at my dead ease were I rogue enough to be guilty of forgery; but he could not ensure to himself the satisfaction that posterity would believe him. Nothing but the truth can, with impunity, enter the crucible of examination, and Ledwich will be regarded by posterity as a knave and a liar.

St. Molua was succeeded by St. Flannan, who was consecrated Bishop of the place about the year 639, and from that period Killaloe is mentioned in Irish History as the seat of a Bishop. For the history of Killaloe, see Harris’s Ware and Annals of the Four Masters transcribed into the first volume of the Clare Extracts, pp. 335, 336, 338, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345 and 346.

The Well of St. Flanan, who became the Patron of the Diocese (Molua never having had the dignity of Bishop) is situated in the east corner of Killaloe Town and northwest of the Cathedral. His memory was formerly celebrated at it on the 18th of December, but now it is visited on any day the pilgrims think proper.