Places of Interest
ST. FINGHIN'S CHURCH was built between 1278 and
1285. This long, rectangular ruin is on the far side of the River
Rine from Quin Abbey. Its main features are the remains of
a richly moulded window in the south wall and a thirteen-foot-wide
opening in the east-gable window. A square tower about fifty-six
feet in height was later built at the south-eastern angle with the
door opening into the church. According to tradition, the
church was dedicated to St. Finghin, but by 1839, John
O'Donovan was unable to discover which St. Finghin it commemorated
or even which holy day had been kept in his honour. No part
of the church appeared older than the fifteenth century to him.
QUIN CASTLE was built in 1280 by Thomas de Clare
in an attempt to subdue the MacNamaras. This was a massive
Norman castle with large rounded towers at each corner. This
strong-walled keep was reduced to a hideous blackened ruin six years
later when Cuvea MacNamara avenged the death of an O'Liddy chieftain
who had been killed by the Norman garrison. He attacked, ransacked
and burned the castle, slaying most of the defenders. Parts
of the castle towers still remain at the south-east, south-west
and north-east corners of the abbey. Part of the vanished
north-west tower, or at least its site, can still be discovered.
Much of the remaining castle walls were incorporated into the abbey's
south and east walls. A fragment to the north-east, close
to the tower base, shows how sturdily built the thirteenth-century
castle had been. From the fourteenth century onward the MacNamaras
were the most powerful family in the baronies of Upper and Lower
Bunratty and Upper and Lower Tulla. By 1578 they owned forty
two castles scattered over the entire area of those baronies.
QUIN ABBEY was founded by the MacNamaras around 1350.
Using the solid south curtain-wall of the old castle, they
built a church from east to west. North of the church they erected
a residence for the clergy and a small sacristy. Sioda Cam MacNamara
built the cloisters in 1402. The bell-tower and Lady Chapel
were erected by Mahon MacNamara in 1430. Three years later he
sponsored the Franciscan friars and allowed them to establish their
friary in Quin. The abbey was officially suppressed in 1541
and became O'Brien property in 1547. The O'Briens, however,
allowed the friars to continue living there. By 1548 it had
fallen into disrepair and was described as "one great church,
now ruinous, covered with slate, and a steeple greatly decayed".
In 1584 Sir John Perrot had Donough Beg O'Brien half-hanged from a
cart, his bones broken with the back of an axe, and hung, still alive,
on the steeple of Quin Abbey. The English forces maintained
a barracks in the abbey until a namesake of Donough's burned it over
their heads. The MacNamaras, with some help from other families
in the district, repaired the church. The walls had suffered
very little damage due to their firmness. By 1604 the choir
and Lady Chapel had been roofed over and the ground-floor apartments
made habitable. In 1617 the Irish Franciscan Provincial, Fr
Donough Mooney, noted the repairs and commented on the two or three
friars then in possession as being "old, helpless men with scarcely
a memory of the pre-suppression friary". They told him
that the altar plate of gold and silver had been given to one of the
MacNamaras of Knappogue for safekeeping. Unfortunately, MacNamara
died before he could divulge the whereabouts of the abbey's altar
plate. The Cromwellians broke into the friary and desecrated
it in 1651. They shot and beheaded Fr. Rory MacNamara and hanged
Fr. Donald Mac Clancy and Br. Dermot MacInerney. By 1667 the
Franciscans had returned. Fr. Moriarty O'Griffin was named as
the guardian in 1670. A few years later, in 1681, the abbey
was reported empty, but the friars had returned again by 1691 when
the cavalry of the defeated Irish army camped around the walls.
The friars were expelled again by Colonels William and Henry Stamer
some time before 1760 but remained in the townland of Drim, a few
miles away. One friar, however, continued to live in the abbey
ruins. Other friars succeeded him. The last friar of
Quin was Fr. John Hogan of Drim. He died in 1820. His
tombstone lies at the north-east corner of the cloister walk.
Sixty years after his death the Board of Public Works took over the
abbey as a national monument.
THE LADY CHAPEL is the last resting place of John "Fireball" MacNamara.
He was the last of the MacNamara chieftains, a direct descendant
of the men who built this abbey. They too were buried here.
The best preserved of the MacNamara tombs is the one north-east
of the choir. The Latin inscription along the edge of the
covering slab beneath the carved stone canopy may be translated
as follows: "Here lie Hugh, who was the son of Laurence, who
was the son of Matthew MacNamara, and Couleen MacNamara his wife,
who caused me to be made". This tomb was built around
1450. Inserted under the canopy is another slab which states
that Captain Teigue MacNamara repaired the tomb in 1714.
THE TOWER can be reached by following the gulley
walk that leads from the west wall of the dormitory. The view
from the top of the tower is most impressive and well worth the
climb up the narrow spiral staircase. The cloister is one
of the abbey's finest features. The most unusual feature is
the lavabo, or medieval toilet. It is located in a tower to
the north of the main complex. This, in turn, is linked to
the old dormitory by a connecting passage over an archway which
joins the two structures. There is an opening in the lower
part of the tower from which material for compost may have been
taken in olden times.
DAINGEAN UI BHIGIN CASTLE should not be confused
with the nearby tower house of Dangan Breac. It is situated
in the grounds of Dangan House three miles east-north-east of the
village. This may be a mid-fourteenth century tower house
as it contains few of the space saving innovations found in fifteenth-century
buildings. Both keep and banquet hall were built in fine limestone
blocks, split rather than dressed, but very little cut stone is
visible. On December 20th, 1542, Sioda MacNamara
surrendered his castles and lands in the baronies of Dangan, Bunratty
and Tulla to Henry VIII in order to have them regranted to him and
his heirs under English civil law. John MacNamara owned this
castle and Dangan Breac castle in 1584 according to the Trinity
College list. The castle was demolished in the closing days
of the Cromwellian wars. The MacNamaras lost some of their
holdings to two transplanted Catholic families, the Creaghs and
KNAPPOGUE CASTLE derives its name from "Caislean
na Cnapoige", the castle of the place abounding in little hills.
The castle was built by Sean Mac Con, the son of Sioda MacNamara,
in 1467. This was the man who built the great transept of
Quin Abbey and completed the construction of Bunratty Castle which
his father Sioda had started. The Four Masters referred to
him as "the chief protector of the men of Ireland and renowned
for his hospitality". Knappogue became a Cromwellian
garrison during that era as the MacNamaras had supported the royalist
cause. Arthur Smith was granted tenancy of Knappogue by the
Cromwellians and occupied the building from 1659 to 1661.
After the restoration of the English monarchy, the MacNamaras regained
it. Francis MacNamara sold it to the Scott family in 1800.
They spent a considerable amount of money renovating it.
Theobold Fitzwalter Butler, 14th Baron Dunboyne, bought
it in 1855 and turned it into the new family seat of the Dunboyne
family. They continued the restoration work started by the
Scotts. They added a drawing-room, the long room and a west
wing, which included the clock tower and the gateway. During the
Troubles the Clare County Council met here, guarded by the East
Clare Flying Column of the I.R.A., whose commanding officer, General
Michael Brennan, used this historic building as his headquarters.
In 1927 the Knappogue demesne was purchased by the Land Commission
and the castle became the possession of the Quinn family.
Mark Edwin Andrews of Houston, Texas, former Assistant Secretary
of the United States Navy, bought it in 1966. With his wife
Lavonne, a prominent architect in the U.S., and in co-operation
with the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and Bord Failte
Eireann, he carried out an extensive restoration before leasing
part of the castle to the Irish Government as a cultural and tourist
amenity. There was merely a nominal rent. The castle
is now a medieval banquet venue and guided tours are arranged daily
during the tourist season.
BALLYKILTY MANOR may take its name from "Baile
Ua Choiltedh", O'Kilty's home, but it may also be a derivation
of "Baile Coilteach", the wooded home or the home in the
woodlands. The original house on this site may have been the property
of John MacNamara in 1614. An inscription on the kitchen mantlepiece
dating from that year states that John and his wife, Honora Clancy,
built the chimneys. Most of the present house dates from the eighteenth
century and the rest from the nineteenth. The present front is a
replacement of the original three-story front, which burned down
in the nineteenth century. William Creagh occupied the property
as a tenant of the Earl of Thomond in 1661. The manor was occupied
by Thomas MacMahon in 1732. Francis Davoren was in possession in
1780. John Blood purchased the lease of Ballykilty in 1785. It remained
in the Blood family until 1968, when it was purchased by Clareman
John O’Gorman and operated as a hotel until the mid to late
1990s after which it was sold to a man from New York.
ARDSOLUS supposedly took its name from a practice
established by the friars of Quin Abbey in medieval times.
Each evening before darkness fell, some friars travelled to this
river ford and lit a beacon for the guidance of travellers.
The place became known as "Ardsolus", the mound of light.
James Frost, however, believed that the correct name of this ford
was "Ath sollas" or "Ath Solas", the ford of
light. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Ardsolus
was a busy place. Fairs and Courts of law were held on a regular
basis. The renowned Races of Ardsolus were run on the great
Hill overlooking Quin village. Ardsolus was a "Toll
Bridge" and close by was a Malthouse with a large stone outside
with the inscription "entertainment for man and horse".
This was the halfway stop for horse drawn transport from Galway
DANGAN BREAC: This tower house can be viewed to
the north-east of the Abbey. According to the Trinity College
list John MacNamara owned it in 1584.