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

Part I: Historical: The O’Davoren Sept; Location of their School at Páirc

The O'Davorens, like the O'Hehirs and some other septs west of the Shannon, belonged to the Eoghanacht stock claiming name and descent from Dubhdabhoireann, son of Aengus, King of Cashel, slain 957, and the family settled in Burren in mediaeval times, exact date unknown[19]. We first hear of them as hereditary ollamhs to the O'Loghlens of that district, who are of the race of Fergus mac Roigh, of Ulster. The earliest reference to them I can find in print is in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1364, where the death of ‘Giollananaomh Ua Duibhdabhoireann, ollamh of Corcomdhruadh in Brehon law,’ is recorded[20]. There is little reason to doubt but that members of the sept held this high and reponsible office continuously down to the general débâcle which followed the rising of 1641. They were scholars by descent and profession, and their glory was achieved by the pen, not by the sword. Who will dare to say they chose not the nobler weapon?

The sept was, I believe, at all times, a small one, and consequently did not hold much land. At any rate in 1641 they were confined to the parishes of Noughaval and Rathborney, with the exception of one townland, or part of townland, in Carran. They were all ruthlessly evicted by the Cromwellians, but after the Restoration the following seem to have got small grants as ‘transplanted papists.’ One Cyprian O’Davoren[21] got part of the lands out of which Finghin mac Giollaphadraig[22] was evicted in the parish of Kilmoon. Giollananaomh óg of a later generation got back some part of Cahermacnaughten, and Constance son of Hugh (i.e. Cosnamhach, son of Aodh, son of Cosnui of the deed) obtained by letters patent, dated February 29th, Charles II., a grant of Lislarheen, as we have stated above. Lislarheen was previously set out to his father, Hugh, by the Loughrea Commissioners, being land forfeited in the rising of 1641 by one Donough O'Brien[23].

Certain members of this learned family, Domhnall, son of Aodh O’Davoren, and his kinsmen Maghnus and Muircheartach, left Burren sometime in the 16th century and set up a school for themselves at a place called Páirc. Neither of these, strange to say are mentioned in the pedigrees here given, but it is just possible that Domhnall son of Aodh, was a younger brother of the Giollananaomh mór, who founded the high school at Cahermacnaughten. All the work of the Burren Academy, as far as I know, has perished -except we consider the composition written by Uilliam for Domhnall, Egerton 88, fol. 77, as such - but some at least of the MSS. written by Domhnall and Maghnus and their pupils at Páirc have come down to us and are now in the British Museum. They are catalogued Egerton 88, and the volume consists of 93 Folios, vellum. Eight leaves, once forming part of this codex, are now in the Royal Library at Copenhagen. Mr. S. H. O'Grady has written 57 closely-printed pages of a description of these valuable MSS. which are the only O'Davoren productions known to be in the British Museum. The collection at one time belonged to an Archdeacon Mahon whose sister sold the lot to James Hardiman, from whom the Museum authorities purchased them.

But where is Páirc, where Dohmnall and Maghnus held their school? There are several places called Park in Ireland, and one noted one in the Liberties of Limerick City, but, as far as I know, there is no place of the name in Co. Clare. Father Edmund Hogan, however, whose authority we must respect, states in his learned work, Onomasticon Goedelicum, that the Park in question is in that county. We have little to guide us in Egerton 88 except a few topographical allusions in the marginalia and colophons, which in themselves are most amusing and interesting, but do not help us much in locating Park. All that can be deduced from them is: that the place was somewhere near the River Shannon, and not far from Tuaim árd, which Mr. S. H. O'Grady considers to be Tuam in the County Galway. One of the scribes writes:

‘This to Domhnall from David, and his love accompanying all the contents. To-day is the feast of Aengus, we all being at Rossmuinchair (fol. 75, b.)’

by which is probably meant Rosmanagher, parish of Feenagh, Co. Clare. But this does not help us much, for David may have been on a visit to his friends in Thomond, sending on his work when finished to Park. It appears, moreover, from certain statements in the marginal notes that O'Davoren and his pupils occasionally moved about ‘through all Elga’, i.e. lreland, but Park was certainly their headquarters. The same reasoning applies to an extract from another scribe:

‘Here’s a sorry gloss on a profound composition from Uilliam for Domhnall, from the land of Fera arda’ (fol. 77),

this (Fera arda) being a poetical name for ancient Corcomroe, now the baronies of Burren and Corcomroe, Co. Clare; but perhaps it was not written in Corcomroe at all and only means that Domhnall was a native of that district.

The following extracts refer to some historical event to which I can find no allusion elsewhere, and plainly shew how little we know of the minor phases of our history. We only see the mountain tops, the secluded glens and homely vales are shrouded in mist:

‘The eve of Lady Day in Spring and I grieve that from the Earl of Ormond's son Donnchadh O'Briain goes in danger of death…. The Park is my, quarters. Magnus for Domhnall, who is himself travelling over all Ireland AD. 1567.’ (fol. 12, b.).

‘[I am] Giollananaomh, and of the Trinity I crave mercy…. But if it be true for David I must needs curse, . . . and let the prayers be for the soldiers that are mustering for the fight.’ (fol, 27, b.)

There are several allusions to Connaught, which inclines one to believe that Park was somewhere in that province. For instance, the scribe Saorbretach writes:

‘The lord of Clanriocard's soil is coming to this place to night.’ (fol. 28),
and Maghnus, who evidently is badly in love, lets off a little emotion steam:

‘I am scrivening while Domhnall and Gerailt dictate the cases of ‘Sarughadh.’ A worse [thing] Grainne! My mind is unstable because of one certain thing and wanders through all Elga zealously considering if for love or money can be procured for us the substance of a certain herb[24] in Medb’s province [i.e. Connaught]. Páirc is the place in which I scribble’ [fol. 29 b.]

‘The conflict rages in every district of Medb’s province, and I implore the King of both the hither and the yontide world to shield self and comrades from all harm both here and hereafter, and contrariwise to Uilliam na hAngaile[25]. This is Maghnus. The women are mighty jealous of a certain girl far down’ [i.e. far north of Park] (fol. 30, b).

‘An end made of the ‘Supernatural Chariot’ by Maghnus for his own kinsman, Domhnall, and there are many points in regard to which the Domnhall does not to me fully extend ‘Family Law,’ but specially in the matter of his trip to Tuaim to-day,. A.D. 1563, Páirc mo log’ (fol. 15).

In MS. H. 3. 18, p. 450 Trin. Coll., Dublin, which was written at this school, the writer adds the colophon:

‘To-day is the dies after Lady-day, and for myself, through Mary's intercession, I implore the mercy of God, for ‘I feel anyhow,’ and think still worse since ‘the one that makes us jump’[26] lies in fever, and I having to cross the Sináinn [Shannon] to-morrow. I am at Páirc, 1564.’

From the foregoing I think that Mr. S. H. O'Grady is right when he locates Park somewhere in Connaught but perhaps it is not quite so certain that Tuaim árd means the present town of that name. Judging by the examples in Father E. Hogan's ‘Onomasticon,’ names beginning with tuaim are more numerous in ancient Connaught than elsewhere in Ireland, and it is very easy to mistake one for another without some special mark to guide us.

[More on location of Páirc in Part II.]

 

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