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The O'Davorens of Cahermacnaughten, Burren, Co. Clare by Dr. George U. Macnamara

Part I: Historical: MSS of Cosnui O’Davoren; The MacBrodys

Not very long ago, among old papers belonging to my father, stowed away for years in a desk, and almost forgotten, were found the following MSS:

(1) A copy on paper of the Rev. Dr. Keating’s History of Ireland, in a good but to me unknown hand. It is in fair condition except that the ink has somewhat faded, the edges of the volume are frayed, and one corner is mouse-eaten. The first six pages are in a later and commoner hand, and were added, as we shall see, by one Muircheartach O'Briain to supply pages that were lost, shewing the copy was an old one when the book was restored. At the end of the Keating, and bound up with it, are four leaves containing a genealogical poem in Irish on the O'Davorens of Burren, at the end of which is the following: -

‘Written by Muircheartach O'Briain, son of the daughter of Baothghalach, son of Maghnus, son of Aodh, son of Giollananaomh óg [O’Dabhoireann] who copied the aforesaid poem, as we found it before us by Tadgh, son of Daire Mac Bruaideagha, the 5th day of the month, September, the year of our Lord, viz.: 1754. Then follows a genealogy of the O'Davorens and a further entry by the same scribe, who also was the man who mended the Keating: ‘Written by Muircheartach O'Briain for the use of Cosnamhach O’Dabhoireann, priest of the parishes of Kilnaboy and Rath, a gentle, pious, and charitable gentleman, and God I implore to give him a long life in the grace of God.’

(2) A paper copy made from the original of a law deed in the Irish language. It is a settlement between Aodh and Cosnui, sons of Giollananaomh óg O'Davoren, regarding certain lands and houses in the Barony of Burren, left them by their father, and dated at Cahermacnaughten 11th April, 1606. The document consist of three closely-written pages in an affectedly archaeic style of penmanship, being a mass of curious contractions. Writer unknown.

(3) A few loose leaves in Irish, Latin and English, the contents being of a miscellaneous
character, partly historical, partly homiletic, and of no great interest.
(4) Another and a more elaborate pedigree of the O'Davorens also in the handwriting of
Muircheartach O'Brien. As far as my inquiries have gone, these are the only pedigrees of the family in existence. Ulster office contains none, and there is nothing about them in Mac Firbhisigh’s great work, which is rather surprising, for he is said to have spent some time as a pupil at Cahermacnaughten. A translation of the second pedigree is given in Part II of this paper, with the earlier descent in chart form. In it Muircheartach O’Brien gives three generations of his own paternal descent. He was the son of Domhnall son of Diarmaid, son of Murchadh O'Brien, of Ballyportry, a townland with fine old castle about an Irish mile east of Corofin. His mother was Cáitlin, daughter of Baothghalach, son of Maghnus, O'Davoren, and grand-daughter of Aodh, one of the signatories of the deed of 1606. I know nothing more about him, but his descent proves him to be a man of gentle blood, and he was of fair education for his time although rather weak in his Irish spelling. He was probably the grandson or great-grandson of one of the gentry evicted soon after the fall of Limerick to the forces of the Parliament, and, clinging like many others of his class to the old home, it became his lot to settle down and live the simple life at Ballyportry, there to chew the cud of sweet and bitter fancies - mostly bitter I should say - his chief solace being the recollection of the former greatness of his family[7].

All of these MSS. belonged to the Rev. Cosnamhach or Cosnui O'Davoren (alias ‘Constance Davoren fitz Hugh’) formerly Parish Priest of Kilnaboy and Rath. According to the pedigree, he was the son Aodh, son of Baothghalach buidhe, son of Aodh (1606) and, if we are to believe his kinsman, Muircheartach O'Brien, he was a credit to his cloth at a time when the life of a Catholic clergyman must have been a very trying one. He died, probably at a good round age, some time between July, 1757, when he made his will[8], and February, 1760, at which date he was dead[9]. In some way quite unknown to me, these papers came into the possession of the late Mr. Peter Owen, of Inchiquin (a man of culture and scholarly attainments), as his name is written on one of the pages of the Keating. After his death they came to my father who put them carefully by.

The genealogical poem, written for Giollananaomh óg O'Davoren by Tadhg mac Daire, is a most elaborate composition in seadna metre. As it was altogether beyond my powers, my good friend, Dr. Douglas Hyde, kindly offered to translate it for me. He tells me that it consists of most exquisite rhymes and elaborate and ingenious wordspinning, and that it is so full of difficult and obsolete terms that his translation must be considered only tentative. The author, Tadhg mac Daire, was an accomplished poet, and a most voluminous writer. A great deal of his poetry still survives, but although he was a well-known man in his day, very little of his personal history has come down to us, and is practically confined to a notice of him in a work by Theophilus O’Flanagan[10]. As this publication is rather rare, I give the extract here:

‘The author [Tadhg mac Daire] of this ‘Advice to a Prince’ was born about thirty years before the close of the sixteenth and lived until about the middle of the seventeenth century, [1570-1650]. He possessed a fine appanage as the hereditary philosophic Bard of Thomond (even in the decline of such establishments) - the castle of Dunogan[11] and its appurtenances in the Barony of Ibrikan in the west of the County of Clare, but for this he was assassinated by a marauding soldier of Cromwell's army, who must himself have been a native Irishman[12] as in the act of treacherously hurling him down a precipice, which caused his destruction, he with savage exultation exclaimed abair do rainn anois Fhir bhig, ‘say your verses now little man’[13].

For generations the Mac Brodys were scholars and poets in Thomond. We learn from the Four Masters that Diarmaid Mac Brody (son of Conchobar, son of Diarmaid, son of Séaghan was ‘ollamh of Ui mBracain and Ui bhFearmaic’ (Ibrickan and Inchiquin baronies), and died in 1563. His brother, Maoilin son of Conchobhar ‘ollamh to O'Brien in history,’ succeeded him and died 1582. Another brother (brathair), Giollabhrighde, succeeded Maoilin. The next of the family we read of is Maoilin óg, son of Maoilin, son of Conchobhar, who died in 1602, and ‘there was not in Eire in one personality a better historian poet and versifier than he.’ Conchobar, son of Maoilin óg, was one of the learned men to whom the Four Masters submitted their great work for approbation, at which time, 11th Nov. 1636, his address is given as Cill Caoide, i.e. Kilkeedy, Barony of Inchiquin. This, I have not the slightest doubt, is a misreading of either the Four Masters or Dr. John O’Donovan, for Cill Caoidhe or Cill Caoidh i.e. Kilkee, par. of Dysart, for this place was Conor McBrody's property in 1641, and Maoilin McBrody, seemingly his son, still held it as tenant to the Earl of Inchiquin as late as 1664[14].

It is but fair to state, however, that Dr. O'Donovan had no autograph text before him of the letters of approbation prefixed to the first part of the Annals of the Four Masters when he edited that gigantic work, and had to depend altogether on a copy in the Library of T.C.D., made 1734-5, from an autograph copy belonging to Dr. Charles O'Connor of Belandgare, by one Hugh Molloy, for Dr. John O'Fergusa of Dublin, the original autograph of these letters being in the College of St. Isidore, Rome. (A. F. M. p. lxviii). It is quite easy to understand how the mark of aspiration may have been omitted by a scribe who was probably ignorant of Clare topography. O'Curry spells the name correctly, Cill Chaidhe (MS. Mat. p. 151). However the mistake occured, Kilkee, Parish of Dysart, not Kilkeedy, was the residence of Conor Mac Brody in 1636-41. The station of Ruan, West Clare Railway, is built on the southern verge of this townland, and Ballybrody, adjoining, seems to have been the early home of the MacBrodys.

Another member of the MacBrody family was Father Anthony MacBrody, author of Propugnaculum Catholica Veritatis (1668) a copy of which is in the Franciscan Library, Dublin. I have never seen the work, but it must be one full of interest to natives of Clare, as it gives many details, I understand, of the Cromwellian regime in that county not obtainable elsewhere. He was the son of one Maoilin MacBrody, of Balloygan, parish of Kilraghtis, and Margaret, sister of John O'Molony, Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. This Maoilin, the father of Father Anthony, owned Gortnafinch, a sub-denomination of Ballyogan, parish of Kilraghtis, in 1641. He was evicted by the Cromwellians, but held part of his ancient patrimony as tenant in 1659-61, and one Constance MacBrody, probably his son, got back a small portion. Maoilin, of Ballyogan, was 81 years old in 1668, and was not the same individual as Maoilin, of Kilkee, who was probably a son of Conor, and grandson of Maoilin óg, who died in 1602. Conor, of Kilkee, owned also part of the townland of Formoyle, Parish of Inagh, in 1641, and ‘Conor Macdara MacBrody,’ a brother, I have no doubt, of Tadhg, the historian and poet, with others of the name, were part owners of this townland and of Cloonanaha in same parish. All were unceremoniously evicted, and their lands, though poor and unproductive, helped to fill the hungry maw of Morough the Burner.


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