|Clare County Library||
in County Clare 1534 - 1911
Observations made by Sir John Davies, Attorney of Ireland, 4 May 1606.
Sir John Davies, Irish attorney general and author of Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland was Never Entirely Subdued until the Beginning of His Majesty’s Reign, was assize judge of the Munster circuit in 1606. Unusually the assizes were not held in the county town of Ennis, but, for convenience, on the Clare side of the river Shannon opposite Limerick city. Although the Anglicization process was well under way by the early seventeenth century, Davies, nevertheless, was struck at how Gaelic the inhabitants of Thomond still were in manner and custom.
At our entry into the town [of Limerick] we were met by the earl of Thomond, the Lord Burke and others; the earl having for our great ease prepared a commodious house, to sit in the county of Clare on the other side of the Shannon, which divides the county of Clare and Thomond from the county of Limerick; so that we still kept our residence and lodging in Limerick and yet performed the services of both counties. In the county of Clare which contains all Thomond, when I beheld the appearance and fashion of the people, I would I had been in Ulster again, for these are as mere Irish as they, and in their outward form not much unlike them, but when we came to despatch the business we found that many of them spake good English and understood the course of our proceedings well. For the justices of Munster were wont ever to visit this county, both before my Lord Thomond had the particular government thereof and since then. After the despatch of the gaol, which contained no extraordinary malefactor, our principal labours did consist in establishing sundry possessions of freeholders in that county, which had been disturbed in the time of rebellion, and had not been settled since then. The best freeholders next to the O’Briens are the McNamaras and the O’Laneyes. The chief of which families appeared in civil habit and fashion, the rest are not so reformed as the people of Munster. But it is hoped that the example of the earl, whose education and carriage your Lordship knows, and who indeed is served and waited upon very civilly and honourably, will within a few years alter the manner of this people and draw them to civility and religion both. We ended our business of the county of Clare somewhat sooner than we expected, and therefore we began the session of the county of Limerick, a day or two before my lord president arrived there.
Taken from Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1603-06 (London 1872), p. 470.