Clare County Library
Clare Places: Towns & Villages
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Newmarket-on-Fergus Newmarket-on-Fergus
Historical Background

County Clare: A History and Topography 1837 by Samuel Lewis
Parliamentary Gazeteer of Ireland 1845
Guy's Directory 1893
Lloyd's Tour of Clare 1780
Poverty Before the Famine, County Clare 1835
ITA Survey 1942/3

Curses on the McInerney family of Co Clare: A folktale from Sixmilebridge

Newmarket-on-Fergus is a thriving village on the main Limerick-Ennis road. The old name is CORA CAITLIN, the weir of Cathleen, a holy woman, who according to tradition lived in the area. There are two possible explanations of the name NEWMARKET. The most widely accepted is that Sir Edward O'Brien, who was interested in horse racing, had ideas of creating a centre to rival Newmarket in England. It was Edward who built the belvedere on Dromoland Hill, from which he could observe the racing in comfort. The alternative explanation of the place-name is that the new village became a market place, and took much business from the older established markets, thus earning the name "the new market".

TRADAREE or TRADRAIGH: The ancient parish of Tradaree was associated with the extensive parish of Newmarket which stretches from Bunratty bridge to Latoon bridge. Tradition has it that a Milesian leader called Cormac Cas married the daughter of Oisin, the son of Finn MacCumhaill. It was a descendant of Cormac, Lughaidh Meann, who expelled the Fir Bolg from Clare and he was succeeded by his son, Conal Eachluaith. Conal Eachluaith had a son called Cas from whom the Dal gCais later descended. The eldest son of Cas was Blod from whom descended Brian Boru some centuries later. The twelfth son of Cas was Lughaidh Delbaeth whose daughter married Trad, the son of Tossach. Tossach was a chieftain and a druid. Trad being the father of a large family was given the large tract of land later to be known as Tradaree.

The Parish of Newmarket -on- Fergus is a union of seven ancient parishes: Bunratty, Fenloe, Kilnasoolagh, Drumline, Clonloghan, Kilconry and Kilmaleery.

  1. BUNRATTY: Due to the Norman influence Bunratty had a large population throughout the thirteenth century and it is likely that all the other churches began as mission or succursal chapels. The exception to this is Fenloe, which predates Bunratty and became a parish church about the twelfth century.
  2. FENLOE: or, as it used to be known, TUAIMFINLOUGH, is the oldest recorded settlement in the Newmarket area. The name is said to mean tomb or tumulus of the fair lake. The graveyard and church ruin of Fenloe are situated beside the Newmarket/Kilkishan road, overlooking Fenloe lake.
    Fenloe was the site of a monastic foundation in the early sixth century. Although accounts of this area are sparse, some references to happenings here are contained in the ANNALS of THE FOUR MASTERS, the MARTYROLOGY OF DONEGAL and the LIFE OF MACCREICHE. In the early sixth century St. Luchtigern presided over the monastery and school here. The annals tell us that Scanlan, abbot of Tuamfinlough, died in 944 and that Tuathal O'Muirgheasa, lecturer, died in 1049. Five years later the monastery was plundered by Turlough O'Brien. The existing church ruin dates from the tenth or eleventh century but much rebuilding and renovating occured throughout the later centuries. A legend connected with Fenloe tells of a mysterious plague which was ravaging the country. The abbot of Fenloe cured the first local person to contract the disease. The abbot banished the plague into a large stone which became known thereafter as the plague stone. This stone is now in the outside of the boundary wall near the south-west corner. On its face it has two circular shapes, one like an inverted saucer and the other with a simple cross cut into it. Near the south-east corner of the graveyard there are three stone heads on the boundary wall and their story is connected with that of the plague stone. The story goes that there were three on lookers at the incident of the miraculous cure and one of them was very sceptical. The abbot had three heads carved and mounted over the church door. He placed the head representing the unbeliever in the middle, saying it would gradually yield to the elements while the other two heads would forever remain unaffected by weather or time.
  3. KILNASOOLAGH: became an independent parish in 1463 by order of a papal mandate. Nothing remains of the old parish church. The present Church of Ireland church contains a fine baroque monument to Sir Donat O' Brien, the work of William Kendall, dating from 1717.
  4. DRUMLINE: The church site dates back to the eight century or earlier. Very little remains of the church building and the foundations can now be just barely identified. The founder is reputed to be Sanctain.
  5. CLONLOGHAN or CLUAINLOCHAIN, the "river meadow of the withered grass". The church here may have been built as early as the tenth century. The eastern wall survives. No saints name has been positively linked with this church. However, it may have been founded by St. Enda who is associated with the Aran Islands.
  6. KILCONRY, or CILL CHONAIRE is a church ruin and graveyard situated approximately two miles due west of Shannon town centre. The church is of fifteenth century origin. However, the name is derived from a sixth-century female saint called Conaire. Folk tradition associates her with St. Senan of Scattery, who is reputed to have banned women from his island. Conaire is supposed to be the occupant of the "Lady's Grave" at low-tide mark at Scattery.
  7. KILMALEERY has no recorded patron saint. The church there possibly took its name from the territory of the local chieftain. TOBAR MALOIGHRE, a holy well, is situated beside the road.

All seven of these churches were closed during the Penal Law period. In 1744 the High Sheriff for Clare, John Westropp, wrote to the authorities in Dublin Castle as follows "I have according to your instructions made strict search in Ennis and in several other places where we had the least suspicion of priests and had the army from Clarecastle to assist me - but could find none. We have locked and nailed up all the Mass houses." After the relaxation of the Penal Laws the present boundaries were established.