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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
Chapter 45: Tomfinlough Parish


Nat. Grid Ref. R404707; ½” Sheet 17

Photo 1: Mooghaun Tower House
Photo 1: Mooghaun Tower House

R.C. Parish : Newmarket-on-Fergus
Townland : Mooghaun South
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 22.4 cm South; 44.6 cm East
Height (G.L.) : 110’ O.D.
1” O.S. Sheet number : 133 (Sixmilebridge)

For information on this restored site refer to:- a) site plan b) site description c) series of photographs.

Plan of Mooghaun Tower House
Plan of Mooghaun Tower House


An Irish-American family bought and restored this late fifteenth century site and now use it as a summer residence. However attempts at various times during 1978 and 1979 failed to meet this family to obtain permission to examine the site’s interior. Thus the following description is based on the site’s four walls as they exist to date, 1979.

South-West Wall: (Photos 1 and 2)
The entrance was from the south-west, via a stone cut pointed doorway. As the site plan shows this has a spy-hole to one side (south) which enabled the guard to see who was approaching the site. Nine cut-stones, in an arch arrangement, occur over the left hand side (west) of the door. However this arrangement is absent from the right (south) side, and here instead we have stones cemented in place to cover the opening. Such work presumably dated to the site’s period of recent restoration.
There are no ground floor windows. (Photo 1)

A close examination of Photo 1 will show some of the windows that exist, all in good condition, on the upper floors of this south-west wall. To the left (west) of the entrance and on different levels are four long narrow slitted windows. These average 1.50 metres in height and 8 cm in width. Three similar type windows, now 15 cm wide, occur in the area over the doorway, again on different floors. Towards the top central part of this south-west wall is a wide cut-stone ogee type window 2 metres high and 1 metre wide. Field examination suggested that this was originally of the central shaft type though no trace of this feature now remains.
A small rectangular window, 1 metre high and 12 cm wide, exists to the right (south) of the wide window (Photo 1).

However the most interesting feature along this south-west wall is the presence of a machicoulis, in a very good condition. Such features are uncommon in the various tower houses of south-east Clare. The two openings in the feature are very clearly seen when looking directly up from the doorway (Photo 2).
Part of the gable, used originally for roofing this site, still exists in from the upper part of the south-west wall. It is now used in the present roofing of the site.

South-East Wall: (Photo 3)
This wall also contains a number of narrow slitted windows, three in number, all at different levels. Their presence near the site’s south corner may suggest that the spiral stairway is (was?) here, and such openings provided light. Though 1.50 metres high these cut-stone windows are only 12 cm wide. A fourth window, similar originally to the above, existed on the ground floor area, also by the site’s south corner. This has been enlarged to an opening 56 cm wide by 76 cm high. A steel shutter covers this to safeguard the site from intruders.

To the top central part of this south-west wall is a cut-stone wide ogee-type window. Originally this had a central shaft, no trace of which now remains. The opening is some 2 metres high and 1 metre wide (Photo 3). Two further windows exist in the central part of this wall. The top one is only 7 cm wide but about 1 metre high. The lower opening is some 2 metres high and circa 60 cm wide.

As the site plan shows this wall also contains the guardrobe discharge shaft. However this 1.30 metre wide feature is now blocked up. The upper part of this opening has an arched arrangement of 13 stones.
The chimney stack occurs on the top central part of this wall.

North-East Wall:
This is the back, or rear, wall of the site. As the site plan shows the rectangular window on the ground floor has been closed by a heavy wooden frame and boards which makes an examination of the 2 metre high by 1.14 metre wide feature impossible.

Two other windows exist on this wall, one towards the centre and one near the top of the wall. The lower most of these two was originally of the central shaft type, though now survives as a 2 metre high by 1 metre wide opening.

The central window is quite plain in nature and consists of a 2 metre high by 1 metre wide opening also. However in the case of this window there is no evidence of it having had a central shaft. Field work did note some restoration work about this opening, dating presumably to the period when this tower house was reconstructed.

As the site plan shows a modern extension has been added to the site’s north-west wall. This made a proper examination of the area impossible. However field observation did note the presence of five long narrow slitted windows, all on different levels near the site’s west corner. Such windows averaged 1 metre in height and 8 cm in width.

The top central part of this wall contained a chimney.

What other features of interest exist at Mooghaun Tower House? According to Westropp (1899) this was one of the few sites in the Barony which had an outwork or bawn. Trace of this survives to the west/south-west of the Tower House though it is in a poor condition.

Unlike most sites in the area we can state that occupation at this site continued over a number of centuries down to the present time.

According to tradition, cited by O’Lionain (O.S. Letters, 1839) this Tower House was built by Donall, son of Rory (MacNamara). When? Fortunately Westropp (1899, page 351) provides further information here. He agrees with O’Lionain as to the sites builder and suggests a date of circa 1490 A.D. Such a late-fifteenth century date would correspond well with other tower houses in the area.

Was this site still occupied in 1580 A.D. according to the College List? Frost (1893, page 193) and Curry (1839, p. 79) both say it was then owned by one Matthew MacNamara who was later buried in Quin Abbey.

Westropp, (1899, page 357) when he visited the site at the end of the last century, noted the presence of an inscription on a fireplace which read:

“T.M. MºM. N. (Mac Namara) me fieri fecit A.D. 1610”.

This certainly shows early seventeenth century occupation. (Also see Westropp, pages 360 – 361).

Late nineteenth century occupation, of a sort, is shown by Westropp’s statement:
“ A game-keeper lived in Moghane not many years ago…” (1899, page 361).
As stated previously occupation still continues, seasonally at least, at this restored site. Thus here we have the site of a tower house built in the late fifteenth century and occupied, for periods at least, down through the centuries to the present date, 1979.


O.S. Letters (1839), Volume 2, page 79 (Also cites O’Lionain on page 138)
1893, page 193
1899, pages 351, 352, 353 (cross section of site) 357, 361

Photo 2: Machicoulis directly over main door, Mooghaun Tower House
Photo 2: Machicoulis directly over main door, Mooghaun Tower House

Photo 3: South-east face of Mooghaun Tower House
Photo 3: South-east face of Mooghaun Tower House