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|A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan|
Part 4: Castles and
tower houses c.1500
FEENISH CASTLE (TOWER HOUSE?)
Nat. Grid Ref. R346622; ½” Sheet 17
For information on this site refer to: a) site plan b) site description c) series of photographs
Site Plan of Surviving Part of Feenish Castle:
On checking the reference for this site, see over, one will notice that the castle was built on an island, in the Fergus estuary.
In spite of being constructed on a now, uninhabited island and some distance off the coast (almost 1 ½ miles due west of Kilconry Church) field examination found this site to be in a very poor condition (see site plan above). To make matters worse what existed was covered, in part, by vegetation and collapse.
The main approach to this island site is from the small quay at Ballycally, on the mainland. One goes by boat along that narrow channel between Inishmacnaghtan (Island) and the mainland by Kilconry (see 1” O.S. Sheet; number 143) to reach the Fergus Estuary at Knockacurraun Point. This is opposite Feenish Island though it is necessary to continue by boat to the small sheltered bay in the north central part of the island.
Field examination suggested that people going to the castle would have landed to the west of the bay, at a point below (i.e. south-east) the castle. On landing it is necessary to first cross an area of seaweed covered rocks. These mark the high water line.
Beyond this is an 8 metre wide rising area of grass leading to outcropping rock. The castle was constructed on this outcrop, above the high water mark but with a commanding view over the Fergus estuary.
The site itself, as stated previously, is now in a very poor condition
(see Photo 1 and site plan). Field examination, beneath a fairly heavy
vegetation cover, found traces of the west wall, with short sections
of the north and south walls visible in areas (Photo 2). However most
interest was directed at this west wall as it contained traces of a window.
This averaged 1.70 m in width, 1 metre in depth and the top of it is
0.90 metres above present ground level. The whole feature was defined
by rough stone, all cut-stone having been removed, probably, to construct
the outhouse on the island as well as the farm house on nearby Deenish
Small traces of the north and south walls survive at this site (see site plan). These 2 – 3 metre long sections consist of uncut-stone the facing having been removed.
Associated Village Site? (Photo 3)
What were these? I feel, based on field examination, that here we have the site of a village, in all probability connected with the castle. There is no tradition, or map evidence, of a village here during the nineteenth or twentieth century. Nor does such tradition exist locally. Therefore this cluster of rectangular shaped houses may date to the fifteenth-sixteenth century, the probable time for the construction of this tower house. People in this village would have farmed the fertile drumlin to the east.
The College List, 1580, makes reference to this site. However there is some slight divergence of opinion as to what exactly it says. O’Donovan (1839, page 142, volume 2) says the site belonged to Brian na Foirry (from “Foraire” meaning of the ambushes). He suggests he may have been an O’Brien.
Frost, (1893, page 189) while agreeing he was known as Brian na Foraire says he belonged to the MacMahon and not the O’Brien family.
REFERENCES (As cited previously)