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Churches with Round Towers in Northern Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp



1. In Clare alone I have compiled a list of 118 churches (24 being now mere sites), 152 castles (22 sites), 14 monasteries, 3 cathedrals, 4 round towers—in all some 300 ruins of the historic period.

2. ‘Bohernamicrigh’: see Cathreim Thoirdhealbhaigh, ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ and ‘Life of Red Hugh O’Donnell,’ pp. 191, 193.

3. There is a picturesque but fanciful description of Inchiquin and ‘Killnabuie’ in ‘The Monks of Kilcrea.’ Lord Dunraven describes the place in his ‘Memorials of Adare.’

4. Torlough O’Brien, King of Thomond, had built a residence or fort at Inchiquin ante 1306, which, in 1317, was held by Mahon O’Brien. The O’Quins are a mere tradition during that stirring period, in which nearly every tribe in Thomond bears an active part. Several are named as living in this barony about 1650, but Lord Dunraven, in ‘Memorials of Adare,’ was unable to fill in the blank before his first recorded ancestor, Thady Quin, at Adare. The other name of the tribe, ‘Heffernan,’ is still represented.

5. Not ‘richly pointed,’ as in ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 493.

6. A somewhat similar window, but without the cross-bar, occurs at Kilshanny Church. The Ordnance Survey sketch of the Kilnaboy window is wrong in the number of shafts, and shows most improbable tracery. Canon Dwyer describes from this drawing.

7. Not ‘The Atchievements of Fonella Ne,’ as in ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 493.

8. Not ‘Pro salute Deo,’ as in ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 493.

9. Andrew Curtin, 1740, in a poem on the holiness of Scattery, gives a long colloquy between Inghinê and Senan, who (in the light of the eighteenth century) treats her with more civility than he did her sister-saint, Cannara. Inghinê’s wells are—1, Kilnaboy; 2, Inchiquin Lake; 3, Kiltachymore; 4, Quakerstown; 5, Kilshanny; 6, Ballyeighter Lake; 7, Moy; 8, Magowna; 9, Crusheen; 10, Quin; 11 and 12, at Ballycoree, near Ennis.

10. ‘Cromwell’ is said (of course) to have cannonaded the churches and tower, as also those of Dysert. I presume Ludlow is intended.

11. ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 362.

12. Hely Dutton’s ‘Statistical Survey of Co. Clare, 1808,’ p. 353. ‘Ordnance Survey Letters of Clare,’ pp. 45 and 46. ‘Towers and Temples,’ p. 373. Nobody, in 1839, had heard of the legend invented by (or for) Dutton, except as found by an English gentleman in an ‘ould book.’ The anonymous stranger visited the place about thirty years before (1809) to see if it was true, ‘when, behould you! he found it as true as the nose on his face.’ Dutton says it was reputed to be older than the round tower and church. By a strange irony of fate his description was only preserved from ridicule and contradiction for so long by that very lack of curiosity among the natives of Clare which he so severely censures in connexion with this very cross.

13. ‘Life of St. Maccreiche.’

14. ‘Life of St. Senan’ in Colgan. The banshee legend prevailed about thirty years ago, says Professor O’Looney, with several more or less authentic legends of the battle with ‘Claragh more’ in 1318. Magrath, however, makes the apparition before the battle happen at the Ford of the Fergus. The episode appears in an almost identical form in Sir S. Ferguson’s ‘Congal.’ ‘The Washer of the Ford’ in the ‘Cathreim’ is not the beautiful and queenly Aibhell, but the loathsome ‘Bronach of Burren,’ who also appears at Lough Rask the year before (1317). The fact of lakes and streams turning red from clay or iron scum is still attributed to banshees, as at Caherminane, or to a wounded mermaid, as at Newhall.

15. July 9—’A splendid declaring of Onchu,’ &c., and Leabhar Breac.—Transactions, R.I.A.

16. See Proceedings, R.I.A., vol. v., p. 86 (Meeting, March 16, 1851).

17. The space across outer rolls is 2 feet 8 inches, and with the Sheela na gig 3 feet 4 inches. Its east end is 16 feet 4 inches from the east gable of nave. My drawing is from a rubbing, a full-sized sketch, and a photograph.

18. Not ‘double,’ as in ‘Towers and Temples,’ p. 274; however, the illustration (though not absolutely correct) gives a very good idea of the carving (p. 271). The view of the south window and sill in this work is very poor.

19. An almost identical design from the church door of Osstad, in Sœtersdall, Norway, is given in M. Du Chaillu’s ‘Viking Age,’ vol. ii., fig. 1089, and succeeding pages. In the same work (vol. i., fig. 775; vol. ii., fig. 952) appear heads very similar to the large one on the Rath sill; nor is the figure with its ears held by two beasts unrepresented in Scandinavia (Ibid., vol. ii., fig. 1153). As for the foliage, very similar designs occur in the ‘Benedictional of Aethelgar’ (tenth century) at Rouen, and the ‘Arundel Psalter’ in the British Museum, 155. One is shown above view of Rath Slab.
I may here thank my relatives, Mr. Richard Stacpoole and Capt. G. O’C. Westropp, Member, for their constant help, especially in the planning and sketching of these churches. Some excellent photographs (by the former) were of great use in verifying my sketches here given of the Rath slab and the Dysert cross and door.

20. My sketch is reduced from the actual rubbing.

21. I almost hesitate to include Rath Round Tower in this Paper, since neither Hely Dutton (1807), Lewis (1837), nor the Argus-eyed O’Donovan and O’Curry, in 1839, say anything about it. Mr. Keane, however, positively asserts that the stump was taken down in 1838, so the latter antiquaries could not have seen it, while the former could have easily passed it over. Moreover, the absurd popular legend of the removal of Dysert Tower from Rath presupposes another tower at the latter place.

22. Dysert Castle seems to date from middle of fifteenth century. In 1556 Donnell, native Prince of Thomond, defeated Teige Mac Murrough O’Brien under its walls. It was held by Donnell Mael O’Dea in 1584, and five years later Dermot Oge O’Dea died there. It was preserved for a Cromwellian garrison in 1653. It is still inhabited as in Dalton’s time, has three vaulted rooms, the top storey open to the sky, fireplaces of well-cut stone, and a spiral stairs of ninety-six steps, the door facing north. There is a view of it in our Journal for 1890, p. 292.

23. Not ‘In the Nave,’ as in ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 496.

24. Not ‘pointed,’ as stated by Brash, ‘Eccles. Archit. of Ireland,’ p. 58; by Lord Dunraven, ‘Notes on Irish Archit.,’ vol. ii., p. 111; and by Canon Dwyer, ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 495. One can wish, with Scott’s ‘Antiquary,’ that ‘they’d taken the pains to satisfy their own eyes instead of following each other’s blind lead.’

25. Repaired by Mr. Synge before 1839.

26. Not 50 feet 9 inches, as by Brash and Dwyer, ut supra, and Sir T. N. Deane, ‘Board of Works Reports,’ 1879, 1880. It is given correctly in Ordnance Survey Letters, R.I.A., October 23, 1839. Brash gives a defective view of south door; nor are those of Grose and the Dublin Penny Journal of any value. There are excellent views of the arch (not of the piers) in ‘Towers and Temples’ and Sir T. N. Deane’s ‘Report.’

27. Probably of same period as south door, and, perhaps, as the Rath sill (supra).

28. The upper blocks are plain, probably inserted by Mr. Synge. As attention has been called in our Journal to similarity between churches of Western Asia and our pre-Norman structures, I may here refer readers to De Vogue’s ‘Les Eglises de la Terre Sainte,’ p. 260, Plate xvii., for two heads and a rose (strikingly like those at Dysert), in the Romanesque north door of the twelfth century church of ‘Ste. Marie la Grande’ at Jerusalem.

29. As at Inchiguile (10 heads) and Ballysadare (13).

30. Rev. Dr. Healy notices the moustached heads at Monasterboice in our Journal, 1893, p. 6. Interlaced moustaches occur in several other churches.

31. This comparative table of the sizes of our principal towers may prove interesting: 38 ft. Ardrahan O; 40ft. Ram’s Island U; 42 ft. Meelick S; 44½ ft. Island Mahee U; 46 ft. Iniskeltra D, O; 46½ ft. Kilkenny G; 47 ft. Rattoo A; Castledermot A; Kilcullen K; Oughterard K; Armoy U; Clondalkin P; Roscam O; 49 ft. Devenish A; Temple Finan D; 49½ ft. Arran N; 50 ft. Antrim D; Cashel D; Kells G; Roscrea D; Kilbenan O; 50½ ft. Kilree S.; Dromcliff (Clare) A; Tullaherin A; 51 ft. Monasterboice D; Killala D; Clones U; Inniskeane U; Taghadoe K; Aghaviller A; Balla; 51½ ft. Tory Island U; Drombo U; 52 ft. Ardmore O; Dromlane U; Aghadoe A; Cloyne A; Glendalough D; Rathmichael A; Kilnaboy A; 52½ ft. Scattery O; Kilcoona W; Kinneigh A; 53 ft. Lusk O’N; 53½ ft. Kildare A; 54 ft. Carrigeen A; 56½ ft. Dromiskin N; Donaghmore W; O’Rorke’s Tower B; 57 ft. Timahoe B; Kilmacduach D; Turlough D; 61 ft. Dysertodea A; 63½ ft. Oran.

A = R. S. A. I. Journal; B = Brash; D = Dunraven; G = Graves and Prim; K = Kildare Arch. Soc. Journal; N = Du Noyer; O’N = O’Neill; O = Ord. Survey Letters; P = Petrie; S = Miss Stokes; U = Ulster Jour. Arch.

32. The view published in a recent History is very incorrect.

33. Hely Dutton in his ‘Statistical Survey of Co. Clare,’ p. 352. He is wrong in the date 1689.

34. ‘Seventh Life of St. Patrick’ by Colgan—(Notes).

35. ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ and ‘Annals of Clonmacnoise,’ 737.

36. In the 1302 Taxation ‘Rayth’ is valued 4 marks; ‘Kellinbynech,’ 6; ‘Drumleb,’ 7; and ‘Disert’ 11 marks, one of the highest values in the diocese. In 1615 the churches and chancels of Dromcliff and Kilnaboy were ‘down’ (values 40 marks and £8). Dromcliff was to be annexed to Innish. Rath, ‘church and chancel repayred,’ val. £10. Disert, ‘chancell up church down,’ val. £10. In the 1622 ‘list of Popish priests,’ Donnell O’Gowen officiated at Rath and Disert; Donnell O’Broodin at Kilnaboy and Kilkeedy; and Teige O’Gilpatrick at Dromcliff, Clare Abbey, and Killone. In 1693 Protestant service was held at Dysert and Kilnaboy, but both were out of repair.

37. So slightly pointed that Canon Dwyer and Mr. Keane describe it as round, the latter claiming it as the gate of a ‘Cuthite Temple’!

38. Since date of this Paper it has been scheduled as a national monument.

39. A favourite error of Dutton’s.

40. ‘Statistical Survey of Clare,’ p. 307.

41. The darkest shading represents pre-Norman masonry, the next (cross-hatched) is pre-Reformation. The plain hatched walls are 16th and 17th century, and the outlines show foundations.

42. Perhaps in one of these raids the church bells were thrown, as the legend says, into Poulnaclug, not far from the ruins.

43. See Brian Boru’s address to his brother in ‘Wars G. and G.’ Possibly the legend of Aed the Dalcassian, 571, in the alleged poem of Brendan of Birr, and the account of St. Flannan and his father, King Torlough, 650-700, are reliable. The O’Brien pedigree of the period is at least defective.

44. The Clare portion of Iniscatha was joined to Killaloe on the death of its last Bishop, Aed O’Beaghain, in 1188, forming the Deanery of Corcovaskin. For an attempt to revive the Bishopric of ‘Cathay,’ see Theiner’s ‘Monumenta Scotor. et Hibernor.,’ May, 1359, July, 1361, and July, 1363. The Rev. Sylvester Malone, in a Paper on this subject in our Journal, 1874-75, p. 257, boldly asserts that the Bishopric of Limerick had no claim to the island, that the documents in the ‘Black Book of Limerick’ are ‘neither authentic or true,’ and that this claim was never heard of till (at earliest) the end of the fifteenth century. The fact of ‘Ynisketty’ being assigned to Limerick in the 1302 Taxation relentlessly breaks down a most erudite chain of argument.

45. See Colgan’s ‘Lives of the Saints’ (borne out by the absence of any church known to be dedicated to Patrick, yet the ‘Colloquy of the Ancients’ (Silva Gadelica), ii. p. 126, states that the saint passed through Cratloe and the hills up to Lough na bo girr, or Lough Greine.

46. ‘Durynierekin’ in Charter of Forgy Abbey (Clare), 1189. ‘Rikin’ is also the traditional patron of the next parish, Clooney. ‘Duran’ refers to the marshes of the Fergus. It is, however, ‘Dubdery’ in 1302-6.

47. ‘Vita S. Senani’ (Colgan).

48. The Abbots of Tomgraney were ‘Coarbs of Cronan.’ His identity seems doubtful, but his name appears with ‘Colan of Tomgraney,’ and as the latter (whose well is near that place) died in the plague (551) the foundation at least belongs to the early sixth century.

49. ‘Vita S. Maccreiche,’ quoted in last edition of Archdall’s ‘Monasticon.’ Luchdaighern, and a Cronan of Tomfinlough, are recorded in Leabar Breac.

50. ‘Kildalua’ Annals, ‘Killugifioun and Killugida’ Taxation, 1302-6.

51. Bruodin states that the beautiful shrine of Lacteen’s arm was preserved at Kilnamona before its removal to Lislacten Abbey, Kerry. The well Tober Lachteen preserves the founder’s name at the former church.

52. ‘The church in Iniscaltra, a great church, which had been built by Caiman in Columcille’s honour’ (Silva Gadelica, ii. p. 436).

53. Proc. R.I.A., 1864, pp. 41, 216. Dwyer’s ‘Diocese of Killaloe,’ p. 538.

54. ‘Wars of G. and G.’— ‘They drowned its relics and shrines.’

55. Depositions quoted at length in ‘A Memorial of the Dalcassian Race.’—MSS., R.I.A. 24 D. 17. p. 45.