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

Part II: Genealogical: More on Location of Páirc; Tuamard; Lettermoylan

Since Part I of this Paper saw the light, I have made a diligent search for Park, the particular place of that name where Domhnall O’Davoren kept his famous school. Many suggestions were made to me as to its exact location. Mr. James G. Barry, whose opinion on any question of Irish archaeology should carry weight, suggested that it might be identical with Park in Moycullen Co. Galway, on the northern shore of Galway Bay, where the venerable Irish scholar, Roderick O'Flaherty (1628-1718) lived and died in undeserved poverty, having been most unjustly deprived of his ancestral patrimony in favour of one Martin, yclept ‘nimble Dick.’ This surmise looked probable enough, because Moycullen is only a few hours journey by boat from Cahermacnaughten, which is not far from the opposite shore; but on mature consideration the theory became untenable. Happily, by the help of Dr. Costelloe of Tuam, and Mr. Martin Blake, both veteran archaeologists, having a great knowledge of Connacht topography, (through my friend, Mr. P. J. Lynch, to all and each of whom I feel much indebted), the interesting question has, I think, been set finally at rest. Of the many places of the name of Park in Connacht, one alone fits in with all the facts as we know them, viz., the two townlands of Park, East and West, (sheet 18, O.S. 6 inch map) in the Parish of Clonbern, half-barony of Ballymoe and County of Galway.

In this townland of Park-West stands the ruins of Park Castle, about 11 statute miles E. N. E. of the archiepiscopal town of Tuam, and 5 miles W. S. W. of Glenamaddy. In the list of castles of Co. Galway drawn up by Edward White, Clerk of the Council, and sent to Lord Burghley on 27th March 1574, by the President of Connacht, Sir Edward Fitton[50], the Castle of ‘Park’ is said to be in the Barony of ‘Doughshghty Kelly and Corkomoe’[51], now the Barony of Tiaquin and parish of Kilkerrin (alias Corkamoe) barony of Killian, respectively, although it is at present situate in the Barony of Ballymoe[52]. This apparent discrepancy is, however, easily explained by the fact that the said castle is only about 90 yards west of the public road, which now divides these two baronies. It also marks the boundary between Clonbern and Kilkerrin (alias Corkamoe), although at present these two parishes are united. There is, moreover, no castle called Park as far as I am aware, in Tiaquin, and it is easy to understand how the barony boundary may have been altered (probably to correspond with the line of the public road) since White made his list in 1574.

In that particular year the Castle of ‘Parke’ belonged to John McEgan (Seaghan macAodhagain), a member of the noted family of brehons and scholars, whose chief at the time was Tadhg O'Kelly[53].

The castle is at present in a very dilapidated state. There is only one corner standing, 42 feet high, with walls 6 feet thick, from which many of the quoins are torn away. The most convincing evidence of the identity of this place with the Páirc of Egerton 88 is supplied by the following extracts from the Patent Rolls of Chancery, Ireland, (p. 414), 16 James I., 28th November, 1618; for which important clue I am indebted to Mr. Martin Blake.

County Galway, half-barony of Ballymoe:
‘To Teige oge McKegan and Teige McFergananim McKegan of Parke: ½ of the Castle of Parke, and 1/3 of the quarter of the Parke: ? of the ½ quarter of Tuamard.
To said Teige oge Mc Kegan ? of the Castle of Parke: ? of the ½ quarter of ½ quarter of Tuamaduan.
To Cormack McKeegan of Parke: ? of the Castle of Parke : 1/5th of the ½ quarter of Tuamard.
To Donald Revagh [riabhach, i.e. the swarthy] McKegan of Parke: ? of the Castle of Parke: 1/5th of the ½ quarter of Tuamard.
To Flahell McKegan of Parke: 1/9th of 1 quarter of Parke: 1/9th of ½ quarter of Tuamard, and a stone house within the bawn of Parke Castle.
To Honor ny Kegan, widow: 1/12th of the quarter of Parke, and 1/12th of the half of the ½ quarter of Tuamard.
To Ferdoragh McKegan of Parke: 1/12 of a quarter of Parke, and 1/12th of the ½ quarter of Tuamard.’

The townland of ‘Tuamard,’ so frequently mentioned in the foregoing document in such close connection with ‘Parke’ and the castle of same name, is also referred to by one of the scribes of Egerton 88 in a quartrain, which is translated thus:

‘Were I every day to go to Park, there I should find Tadhg and the noble Conn, that never would desist from running after the women. At Tuamard is my place of refuge.’ (fol. 61 b.)

Now, ‘Tuamard’ has been identified by Dr. Costelloe and Mr. Martin Blake with the present townland of Timard, parish of Clonbern. It immediately adjoins Park West on the south, and is not more than half a mile from the ruins of the old Castle of Park. Another townland, ‘Tuamaduan,’ also to be found in the above extracts from the Chancery Rolls, is, without any possible doubt, the present townland of Timaduane, just half a mile west of Park, and separated from it only by the townland of Gortcarron. The proofs, therefore, of Park in Clonbern being identical with the place of that name where Domnall O’Davoren kept his school in the latter half of the 16th century, and where most of Egerton 88 was written, are now, I think, complete, and the question may be considered as set finally at rest. All the conditions deducible from the foregoing document are completely satisfied. The crossing of the Shannon ‘on the morrow’[54] could have been easily accomplished in less than a day from Park by any good horseman, making for Athlone or other suitable pass over the river. Domhnall's ‘trip to Tuam to-day’ (ibid) was no great feat, only a short journey of a few miles. The mere fact of the townlands of Timard and Timaduane being in such close proximity to it, clearly identifies the place with the ‘Parke’ of the Patent Rolls, as well as with the ‘Parke’ of Egerton 88[55].

I have not been able to gather a particle of evidence to shew what induced the O'Davorens to open school in this part of Co. Galway; nor is it known the exact time they settled there, or when their academy was broken up. Until some further information bearing on the subject comes to hand all must be conjecture on these points. The Mac Aodhagains, I have no doubt, were owners of Park at the time and for many generations before. There may, for ought we know, have been some connection by marriage between the two families of brehons which, together with simillarity of tastes and profession, may have induced some of the Burren family to seek a new home in Connacht. The mention (supra) of the ‘stone house within the bawn of the castle,’ part of the possession of Flahel Mac Aodhagain in 1618, but now gone, reminds one forcibly of Cabhal tighe breac, the supposed school-house of the O'Davorens, near Cahermacnaughten, and suggests the idea that this may have been the very house where Domhnall and his facetious pupils lived and worked[56].

I also made a search for Lettermoylan, the place owned by Conor (son of Maoilin óg) MacBrody in 1636, and found it, or all that is left of it, in the townland of Knockalassa (not Glenageer), in the extreme west of the parish of Inagh. I have heard it said that at one time it embraced nearly the whole of Mount Callan, including Knockalassa and Glenageer. The Rev. T. Meehan, C.C., Inagh, however, tells me that in the parochial book of the parish only one family is given as living in Lettermoylan, viz. Mr. Patrick Scullane. The farm of the latter is not far west of the lake called Loughboolynagreina and the Callan ogam stone. When I saw this stone recently for the first time it was practically undecipherable owing to weathering, and it seemed to me to have been once the topstone of a rude sepulchral cist, the other parts of which were lying about. As this ogam is considered by experts to be the work of an amateur, and not very old, the thought, at once suggested itself that the inscription may have been really cut by one of these Mac Brodys when in a sportive mood[57].


Translation of O’Davoren Deed


Irish Pedigree-making