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Letters on the Antiquities of County Clare, 1835 by Eugene O’Curry
transcribed and edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh

These seven letters of Eugene O’Curry, transcribed and edited by Brían Ó Dálaigh, were written while O’Curry was working in the Limerick Lunatic Asylum. He was employed by the Ordnance Survey shortly afterwards. Previously unpublished – apart from letter V, which was published in the Ordnance Survey Letters – the originals are held in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin and in the National Library of Ireland. Clare County Library is grateful to Brían Ó Dálaigh for donating these letters and to the RIA and NLI for permission to publish them.

Letter I: Castles near Limerick, Sixmilebridge, and Newmarket-on-Fergus

Letter II: Castles near Sixmilebridge; Castles near Miltown Malbay and Doonbeg

Letter III: Castles between Kilkee and Carrigaholt; Carrick Island, Co. Kerry

Letter IV: Naming of Forts; Forts near Kilkee; Forts and Legends of Loop Head

Letter V: Forts of Loop Head along the Shannon

Letter VI: Quin Abbey; The Gobán Saor

Letter VII: Origins of the Triúch-céid; Bailte; Ploughlands, Townlands; discussion of Doonaha West


In the summer and autumn of 1835 Eugene O’Curry engaged in an extensive correspondence with George Smith, book seller and manuscript collector of College Green, Dublin. O’Curry had been employed in the Limerick mental asylum from 1826 and devoted much of his spare time to the study of Gaelic manuscripts and Irish antiquities. He had a logical and enquiring mind and was an acute observer of the landscape. It is evident from these seven letters that while resident in Limerick O’Curry had visited the castles and tower houses in the vicinity of the city. He was most familiar with the antiquities in the Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus districts. However, the area about which he was best informed was the landscape of the Loop Head peninsula, where he had grown up in west Clare. George Smith first made contact with Eugene O’Curry in September of 1833 and sought his help in procuring Irish Language manuscripts. Through George Smith, O’Curry made contact with John O’Donovan and it was Smith, who informed O’Curry in October of 1834 that he was to be offered employment by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. George Smith maintained a lifelong interest in Irish antiquities and it was he who provided the finance for the publication of the Annals of the Four Masters in 1855.

Brian Ó Dálaigh,
January 2015