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

Part I: Historical: Páirc na Léacht & Cabhal Tighe Breac

About 20 yards west of the fort, in a field called Páirc na léacht ‘field of the stone heaps,’ is an ancient looking well, which dries up during the summer. This may be the well referred to in the deed, but it is quite possible that a well also was sunk inside, for immediately outside the fort wall on the south the land is spewy and soft at one spot. The late Mr. Frost looked upon the rough stone heaps in Páirc na léacht as being the remains of huts occupied by the students attending the school of Cahermacnaughten[4]. This, however, is not the case. They are simply stones gathered off the land to improve it in the ‘bad times;’ and the herd, John Conole, tells me he knew an old man who told him that he helped to make them. The name is therefore a modern one of no archaeological interest whatever.

Plan of Cabhal Tighe Breac
Plan of Cabhal Tighe Breac

A very curious and puzzling building in ruins is to be seen in the crag, about three-quarters of a mile south-west of Cahermacnaughten. It measures 59 feet by 31 on the outside, and is orientated east-north east. It consists of two rooms, the western being much the larger, and tile walls inside shew that there was an upper story or attic. The doorway is in the north wall and enters the smaller or eastern room. It is now completely destroyed, but the stones on the ground prove that it had a well cut pointed arch. On entering the building, the first idea to strike one is that here is an ancient church, and that the cross wall dividing the two compartments is the remains of a chancel arch. On closer observation, however, it becomes evident that the gap in the cross wall is only a recess, probably for a fireplace, and the theory that the building was a church, becomes quite untenable. The place is marked wrongly ‘church in ruins’ on the new O.S maps, which ought to be corrected.

From certain remarks of Dr. J. O'Donovan[5] , I think this must be the place he refers to as ‘O’Loghlen’s Castle’ which he complains should have been shown on the old O.S. Map in the townland of Cahermacnaughten as well as the caher of that name. Whatever misunderstanding occurred between him and the officials, the curious blunder was made of marking the fort ‘site of O'Loughlen's Castle’ on the old survey sheet. Whether the building above referred to was ever an O'Loghlen Castle of which there is no evidence whatever, it is now known as Cabhal tighe breac ‘the ruins of the speckled house,’ a very appropriate name on account of its lichen-covered condition, and must be identified as the place called ‘Kilbrack’ in the land-holders’ list of 1641[6]. I think also it is probably the building called ‘the churchyard house,’ referred to in the deed of partition as being the property of Aodh O'Davoren in 1606, and may have been so called because it was built on the site of a prehistoric graveyard or killeen. It belongs, I believe, to the same period as the first establishment of the school at Cahermacnaughten, ie. circa A.D. 1500 and I make the suggestion that it was built by the O’Davorens as a hostel for the accommodation of their pupils. Either this, or it was the schoolhouse itself; the family using the caher as a residence only.

A school of native learning in Ireland, it must be remembered, was rather a dangerous possession in the days of good King Jamie, and it is quite possible, nay very probable, that the cautious minds of the parties concerned may have intentionally given it a harmless pseudonym, so as not to draw upon themselves the attention of the minions of the Government.




MSS of Cosnui O’Davoren; The MacBrodys