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Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part III: Northern Burren: Black Head; Other Remains; Caherdoonteigusha; Caherbannagh

Other Remains
Eastward, along the higher plateau, are other traces of occupation. A small cairn called Doughbranneen, 1040 feet above the sea; on a lower shoulder is another cairn nearly levelled, and called Seefin, Finn’s seat, no uncommon name for prominent brows in Ireland; below is a fine range of land cliffs. Farther eastward, on the next summit, in Aghaglinny townland, 1045 feet above the sea, is a long, oval caher; its wall is much overthrown, and measures about 230 feet from east to west, and 100 feet across; a path leads past it from Feenagh to Gleninagh. Down this path, to the south-east, lies a caher in Gleninagh south; it is about 150 feet in diameter, with rather flat curves in the wall to the north and west; the rest much defaced and overthrown.

Among these hills lies also a beautiful natural amphitheatre, its regular curving seats capable of seating some thousands of spectators, the arena covered with rich green sward.

A small circular fort is marked on the 1839 map down the steep slope to the north of Dooneerish. I believe I have been close to the site, without finding any trace, but a ruined modern house near it may have abolished its ancient neighbour, which must have been as small as the little ring walls at Glensleade and Poulcaragharush.

Caherdoonteigusha (O.S. 1)
Stands on a ridge south from the Head and near an old road; it is greatly gapped, but some large reaches of the wall are standing.

Caherbannagh (O.S. 2)
Up the Caher river, after passing the great sandhills of the Murroughs and Fanore, in which flint scrapers, pottery, and hut sites have been discovered, with heaps of shells, and (it is said) deer bones,[10] were a group of forts. Two circular cahers and two ‘mohers’ or straight-walled enclosures lie on the rocky hillside, just within the bold gorge known as the Khyber Pass, between the nearly defunct village of Caher and the high fort of Caheranardurrish (the western of the name) above Feenagh.

The ‘mohers’ have nearly vanished since 1839, and the cahers were even then broken down and greatly dilapidated. In that year Caherbannagh, ‘the fort of the pinnacles,’ gave no proof of the fitness of its name. Caher ought probably to be called ‘Caheragh,’ as it appears as ‘Cathrach’ in the rental of the O’Briens, in c. 1390, along with townlands Liss na h’Aba and For Maol. They reappear in 1624 as Formoyle and Cahera Lissyniagh in the Inquisition taken on the death of Donough, ‘the great Earl’ of Thomond. In 1317 Formoyle and Letterconan appear as the muster place of the army of Prince Donough O’Brien on its way to assail their rivals at Corcomroe Abbey. The places were then called Cil Litire and Maol Odhrain. Another fort which I was unable to visit lies in a rather inaccessible spot to the north of the Caher river, and not far from Fanore Bridge, and there are two others in Fanore, both nearly destroyed, and one having only part of the northern segment remaining.

With regard to Caherbannagh, it is noteworthy that Hugh MacCurtin wrote a pretty poem on some ‘pinnacled’ fort in O’Loughlin’s country: -

‘ Thou melancholy singing dove on yonder blackened ‘doon,’
Dismal and defenceless is the ruin on which you perch,
The ruin of the noble pinnacled house of the descendant of Roigh.’ [11]