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A 1570 List of Castles in County Clare by Martin Breen

A list of Clare castles made in 1570 is published and analysed here by Martin Breen and compared with a list made four year later. Martin also gives the present name, condition and location of each castle. This article originally appeared in the North Munster Antiquarian Journal vol. xxxvi (1995) pp.130-138. Clare County Library is grateful to Martin Breen for donating this article.

A list made in 1570 of 125 castles in Co. Clare is published here. It is checked against a list made in 1574 which gives 170 castles, and the unlikelihood of the 45 extra castles having been built in the intervening four years is discussed. (In 1899 Westropp listed 214 castles in the county, most of which are at present known.)

While researching source material for a book on the history of the castles of Co. Clare a notice of a State Paper containing a list of 125 castles in Thomond in 1570 A.D. was found in The Calendar of the State Papers of Ireland.[1] Through the good offices of Professor Etienne Rynne I was allowed access to the microfilm section of the library in U.C.G. where a copy of the manuscript of the State Paper (S.P.I. Elizabeth, Vol. XXX no. 68/1) was obtained. After some research into the handwriting of the sixteenth century, particularly the Elizabethan style known as "the secretary script", the subject matter for this paper was deciphered and transcribed. I must acknowledge at this stage the help given to me by Brian Ó Dálaigh who is no stranger to deciphering the manuscripts of the sixteenth century.

The list can serve as a tool in dating these 125 castles to at least pre-1570. It also gives the owners, some of their occupations, and a few other interesting notes on the castles themselves. A similar list of castles in Thomond in 1574 was published by R.W.Twigge in the precursor of this journal in 1910.[2] This list gives 170 castles of which 114 are common to both lists. The 1574 list gives no information about the castles other than the actual owners. It can be said that those castles appearing on the 1574 list date to at least that date. It is difficult to explain the 45 extra castles on the later list. It is possible that some had been built in the intervening four years; of course some castles could have been accidentally omitted from the 1570 list. The situation in Thomond in the years 1570 to 1574 would not have allowed such resources as would have been necessary to undertake an extensive campaign of castle-building. The English were attempting to show authority in their newly-acquired lands in Thomond. Conor O'Brien, third Earl of Thomond, had shown his disdain for the English by refusing to attend the assizes held by the President of Connaught, Sir Edward Fitton, in the monastery of Ennis in 1570. When summoned to attend he made prisoners of the messengers and caused Fitton to flee to Gort for safety. The Earl's kinsman, the Earl of Ormond, was sent to calm the situation. O'Brien submitted, fled to France and a year later went to London to ask the Queen Elizabeth's forgiveness. He was restored to his property and pledged not to rebel against her authority again. However, by 1573 the O'Briens were again up in arms. This time it was a quarrel that broke out among themselves, the reason for which we are not aquainted. Suffice to say that a general plunder of the countryside was the consequence.[3] Castle-building therefore during these years would not have been a priority. It is more likely that the English officials being unfamiliar with the territory in 1570 did not make a very thorough job of the first list. The compiler of the second list, Edward White, was better qualified for the job. According to Sir Edward Fitton, he was born in Limerick and was familiar with the Irish, English, French and Spanish languages, and "is indifferent ready with his penne."[4]

There are approximately 220 known castles and castle-sites in Co. Clare. T.J. Westropp named 195 of these in 1899.[5] To his list he added 19 castles from the 1574 list which he could not identify, and he omitted at least 5. Using both lists we can say that the majority of castles in Co. Clare were built before 1574. It is also possible to say that by 1534 there were more than 100 castles in Co. Clare. Conor O'Brien (died 1539), last King of Thomond, wrote in 1534 to King Charles V of Spain, asking him to help rid his country of the English conquerors. O'Brien promised to give to the Spanish King 17,000 armed soldiers and the use of "more than 100 castles" to accomplish the mission.[6] Unfortunately we do not have a list of these 100 castles.

Two other copies of the 1574 list were made and many errors appear in them. One copy is now among the Carew MSS. (611, p. 234); the other copy is known as the Trinity College List, (MS. E. 2, 14,).[7] This is the list which appears in Fr. White's History of Clare.[8] It was mistakenly dated 1584 in the appendix (he correctly dates it 1574 in the text on p. 207). The origin of this list is explained by Twigge as coming from MS. E. 2, 14, of Trinity College Dublin.[9] He also quotes Hogan's Description of Co. Clare in 1598 in which the same errors are noted.[10] If one compares the original state paper[11] with the Trinity College list or with Hogan's list, it will become obvious that an error occurred in aligning the columns of the castles with the columns of their owners when the copies were made. When Twigge's list is checked against a copy of the original 1574 State Paper it is essentially correct.

The following transcription of the 1570 list is given as accurately as possible. Very few details have been changed. Punctuation has been omitted as it is not possible to be entirely accurate due to the condition of the copy of the original State Paper. Some spelling has been regularised where the scribe had different spellings for the same word. Contractions have been silently expanded in all cases. Capitals are unaltered. Letters and words within square brackets have been inserted for the sake of clarity.

In order to make the 1570 castle list useful to students of local history, the present name, condition and location of each castle is given in the right-hand column below.

State Papers Ireland - Elizabeth, Vol. XXX, 68/1

The names of all the Castles in Thomond with the persons in whose hands the same are [rep]putly detained and the names who are to answer for them in an[n]o 1570.

  1570 List Present name, condition and location
  Clancullan Clancullen
1 Ballyally with James neylan a phisician Ballyalla - some of the ground floor vault remains - north of Ballyalla Lake.
2 Ballycastlen with Bryen mac mahon upon Donogh o bryenes pledge Castletown - almost perfect, unroofed; of unusual design compared to other castles and towerhouses in Co. Clare - 1/2 mile south of Spancilhill on main road to Tulla from Ennis.
3 Ballymaslen with william neylan a quiet man Castletown (Doora) - site only, mound and some masonry - east of Moyreisk (Quin).
4 Belahinnin with Covia riogh Ballyhannon (also called Castlefergus) - perfect, inhabited periodically - 1/2 mile northwest of Latoon.
5 Danginbracke that in the erle of Thomonds hands Danganbrack - four walls standing, unusual high gables - 1 mile east of Quin.
6 Moughan with Mahowne mac covare Mooghaun - perfect; inhabited periodically - in Dromoland Wood.
7 Crappog with John mac Teig mac nemara servant to the sherif Knappogue - perfect; used as a tourist centre - 3 miles south of Quin.
8 Rosseroe with ffynyn mac Loghlin Rossroe - almost perfect - close to the northeast shore of Rossroe Lake.
9 Kaylkissine with Donogh mac shanes sonnes uppon Tirrelagh O bryen Kilkishen - was perfect until 1989 when south west section collapsed - south of Kilkishen village.
10 Karthwanywir with shane rioghes sonnes uppon the sherif Cloonmore - (also called Carrowmeer) - site only - close to Jasper's Bridge, 2 miles west of Quin.
11 Danginibigin with Teig mac ne mara est mortmer Danganiviggan - almost perfect; large bawn and banquet hall - in the grounds of Dangan House, north of Quin.
12 Clwonye Mac gilleriogh Clooney - four walls standing, small low towerhouse - beside Clooney graveyard.
13 Corbaly with Rory mac Donogh Corbally - site only - 2 miles north of Quin.
14 ffomorly with Tirrelagh o bryene Fomerla - one angle of the castle remains - 3 miles southwest of Tulla.
15 Lisseafyn the old Countes of Thomond viz Ellan butler Lissofin - one wall standing - 1 mile south of Tulla.
16 Tiresiadagh with Tirrelagh o bryen Tyredagh - 3 walls; one wall almost to full height - 2 miles northwest of Tulla.
17 Garrowagh with Donill riogh Garruragh - in tolerable state of preservation - 1 mile east of Tulla
18 ffertan with Conoghar mac Rory a pore man Fortane - 2 walls remain - 2 miles east of Tulla.
19 Lisemighan with Teig mac loghlin upon Donill riogh Lissmeehan - some low walls remain; built on earlier site - 2 miles east of Tulla.
20 Ballinmolyn with Tirrelagh o bryene Milltown - was perfect until 1981 when the north section colapsed - 1 1/2 miles west of Tulla.
21 Bealenefirbarny with Tirrelagh mac Teig upon Tirrelagh o bryene O'Briens Castle - almost perfect - 3 miles southeast of Crusheen.
22 Dwne with Tirrelaghe o bryne Doonmulvihil - site only - 3 1/2 miles northeast of Crusheen.
  Ombloyd Ui mBloid*
23 Moinetallon with west mortmer viz John mac nemara Mountalon - site only - 2 miles northeast of Kilkishen
24 Downe with west mortmer viz John mac nemara Doon - site only, close to Doon lake - 2 miles northwest of Broadford.
25 Moyneoghenagh garded to the quenes use by the erle of ormond Drimmeen - site only, some cut stone on mound - 4 miles south of Bodyke.
26 Ballynehinshy Donogh mac sida Ballinahinch - part of ground floor chamber survives - 3 miles west of Bodyke
27 Cowleriogh with Mahowne oig Coolreagh - site unknown, possibly at Coolreagh House - 1 mile northeast of Bodyke.
28 Cahir wrthily with John mac ne mara west mortmer Caherhurley - site only, some masonry - 1/2 mile east of Bodyke.
29 Cowleriogh with Donill mac sida Coolreagh beg - part of one wall survives with garderobe - 1 mile north of Bodyke.
30 Skarif with John ogradie a pore man Scarriff - site unknown.
31 Castlenelogh with John mac ne mara west mortmer Castlelough (also called Caislean Ban) - four walls standing; purchased recently with a view to renovation - on an island close to the south shore of Lough Derg.
32 Drohid with the barron of Inchiquin O'Briensbridge - site unknown
33 Enagh with Donill mac mahon upon Tirrelagh o bryen Enagh - some low walls remain - 1 1/2 miles south of Kilkishen.
34 Ballycwlynen with Donogh mac Donill upon Tirrelagh o bryen Ballycullen - in tolerable state of preservation, later barracks added on - 2 miles north of Sixmilebridge.
35 Downeassy kept by the erle of Ormond Doonasse (also called Elmhill or St. Johns) - three walls remain -1 mile south of Clonlara.
36 Cwylistaig with Donill mac Loghlin uppon tirrelagh o bryene Coollisteige - almost perfect - 1 mile north of Clonlara.
37 Madmoro with Covea mac shain Newtown - three walls remain almost to full height - 1 mile south of Clonlara.
38 Ballimulcasshin Teig ultagh Ballymulcashel - perfect, inhabited - 2 miles north of Sixmilebridge.
39 Ballyntley with Teig mac Donill upon the sherif Ballintlea - parts of 3 walls remain - 1 mile north of Cratloe woods.
40 Cretallagh with Teig mac ne mara est mortmer Cratloemore (also called Castle Donnell) - some fragments of walls remaining - close to the banks of the River Shannon, south of Cratloe.
41 Caslen meale with John mac ne mara mac Teig upon the sherif Cratloe (also called Cratloemoyle) - almost perfect - on the dual carriageway west of Limerick
42 Keapagh with Donogh mac ne mara Cappagh - site only - 1 1/2 miles southwest of Sixmilebridge.
    *According to Frost, Ui M'Bloid was a generic name for the districts of Ui Floinn, Gleann Omra, and Ui Toirdhealbhaigh, an area which corresponds with the present Barony of Tula Lower.
  Tradry Tradaree
43 Bunratie garded by the erle of Ormond to the quenes use Bunratty - restored and in use as a tourist centre - Bunratty.
44 Rossemonegher John O mulconry Rossmanagher - 4 walls standing - 1 1/2 miles north of Bunratty.
45 Cloynemoynegh [be] longing to Bunratie held by parcell from the erle of Thomond Clonmoney - site only - 1 mile west of Bunratty.
46 Drwymlein melaghlin mac gorman Drumline - 4 walls in good condition - 3 miles southeast of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
47 Rathlahin with Donill mac sida manta Rathlaheen - 4 walls in good condition - 3 miles west of Sixmilebridge.
48 Ballyinegowin with Teig mac shain Smithstown - poor condition, one wall - close to Shannon Industrial Estate.
49 Urlon with Conoghor oig mac Clanchie a brehon Urlan (also called Urlanmore) - good condition, later hall attached - 2 miles southwest of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
50 Ballineclohie with Donill mac Clanchie a prest Stonehall - site only, mound of rubble and masonry - 4 miles south of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
51 Ballisallagh conoghor oig mac Clanchie a brehon Ballysalagh - site only - 1 1/2 miles west of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
52 Ballinecraggie Ballinacragga - site only - 1 mile north of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
53 Dromeolyn with Donogh mac moregh o bryene Dromoland - old towerhouse was taken down before present castle was built - Dromoland.
54 Rathmolan with Teig mac nemara est mortemer Rathfolan - large amounts of masonry on site - 1 mile northeast of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
55 Ballycary with Donogh o bryene mac moregh Ballycar - site only; some carved stone in walls, one round window head - 1 1/2 miles east of Newmarket-on-Fergus.
  The Ilands troghkiade The Islands Barony
56 Cloynerawd garded to the quenes use by the erle of ormond Clonroad - site only - close to Knox's Bridge, Ennis.
57 The Clare garded to the quenes use by the erle of ormond Clarecastle - remaining tower in good condition - Clarecastle.
58 Craigbryene mac gilleriogh Cragbrien - site only - 6 miles southwest of Ennis.
59 Ballymecowde with Teig oig bakagh Ballymacooda - site only - 4 miles west of Ennis.
60 ffinis with Bryene neforigne Feenish - site only - on an island in the Shannon estuary.
  Corkewaskin Corkabaskin
61 Dangin with Teig mac conor o bryene Dangan (also called Dangan MacMahon), 4 walls, good condition - 1/2 mile north of Ballynacally.
62 Crovreghan with Teig mac conor o bryene Crovraghan - site only - 2 1/2 miles south of Ballynacally.
63 Innish with Teig mac conor o bryene Inish - not identified, possible an island castle in the Shannon.
64 Innishmicowny with Teig mac conor o bryene Inishmacowney - site only; some cut stone, part of carved ogee-headed window - on the island of Inishmacowney, east of Killadysert.
65 Cahirdacon with Teig mac conor o bryene Cahircon - site only - 3 1/2 miles south of Killadysert.
66 Cloynedirgala with mac mahon up[on] Teig Clonderlaw - site only, mound - 2 1/2 miles north of Labasheeda.
67 Dirrecrossan with Bryen mac mahon upon Teig mac mahon Derrycrossan - site only, mound - 2 1/2 miles south of Kilmihil.
68 Ballykitt with Tirrelagh mac mahon Ballykett - site only, mound - 2 miles north of Kilrush.
69 Carrigcowle with Tirrelagh mac mahon Carrigaholt - good condition - Carrigaholt.
70 Downesawan with Tirrelagh mac mahon Cloghansavaun - site only - 2 1/2 miles north of Kilbaha
71 Downebeky with Tirrelagh mac mahon Doonlicka - site only, mound and some masonry - 3 1/2 miles southwest of Kilkee.
72 Downebeig with Tirrelagh mac mahon Doonbeg - one wall standing - Doonbeg village.
73 Kilkeyne with Colle mac swyne chief capten of the galloglas of the country Kilkee - site only, mound - 1/2 mile northwest of Kilkee town.
74 Downemore nobody undertakes Doonmore - 4 walls, tolerable state, base partly undermined by the sea - 1 mile north of Doonbeg.
75 Cahir muroghowe Teig o bryene the sherif Cahermurphy - site entirely overgrown, one wall standing in earthworks - 1 1/2 miles north of Kilmihil
  Ibrekan Ibreckan
76 Downeogan with macorman upon Tirrelagh o bryen Doonogan - site only - 2 miles east of Mullagh.
77 Tromere with Teig o bryene the sherif Tromroe - 4 walls, reasonable condition, base of walls removed for building material - 2 1/2 miles west of Mullagh.
78 Cahirrush with Tirrelagh o bryen Caherrush - site only, mound - 2 1/2 miles southwest of Miltown.
79 May o brecan promised by the ward to be delivered to the erle of ormond Moy - one wall standing - 2 miles south of Lahinch.
80 Cahirvicfyne with Bryene o bryene an outlawe Cahirvicfyne - not identified.
  Kinnalarrowe Tullyodea
81 Inchiqin with Teig o bryene the sherif Inchiquin - an angle of towerhouse standing; later banquet hall standing - 1 mile north west of Corofin - on shore of Lake Inchiquin.
82 Ballycruteriogh with mahon o bryen upon the sherif Ballyportry - perfect, inhabitable - 1 mile northeast of Corofin.
83 Tire mic bran with Donogh mac conoghor o bryen upon the sherif Tirvicbran - 3 walls standing - 1 1/2 miles west of Corofin.
84 Kearowe duf with Ricard oig upon Donogh mac morogh Carrowduff - site only; some stone from castle on site - 3 miles west of Corofin.
85 Tilenowe with morogh mac Conor o bryen Tilenowe - not identified.
86 Cahircrokran with moriertagh garrif upon sir Donill o bryen Cahercorcaun - site only - 1 1/2 miles southwest of Corofin.
87 Dromefinglase Sir Donill obryens castell Cragmoher - part of ground floor remains and also a small turret in an angle of the bawn wall - 1 1/2 miles south of Corofin.
88 Rath with Dermot Ro upon the sherif teig o bryenes pledge Rath - one wall remains to full height on east shore of Rath Lake - 2 miles south west of Corofin.
89 Disert taken by the erle of Ormond from the bishop of Kilaloes sones and delivered to the bishop o Da inheritor therof Dysert - perfect; now houses archaeological centre and museum - 3 miles south of Corofin.
90 Modowna with Teig mac Donogh upon Tirrelagh o bryen Magowna - part of one wall remains - 4 miles northwest of Ennis.
91 Shalie kept per force from bryen Duf inheritor therof won by the erle of Ormond and restored unto him. Shallee - one wall and part of vaulted ceiling remain - 3 miles west of Ennis.
92 Ballygrifie with Donogh o bryene mac morogh Ballygriffey - almost perfect - 3 1/2 miles northwest of Ennis.
93 Ballyshareghan the barron of Inchiqin Portlecka - one low wall remains - in grounds of Port House, Ruan.
  Corkemorowe Corcomroe
94 Liskanor with Sir Donill o bryen Liscannor - some walls remaining; much of this castle fell in winter of 1995 - Liscannor.
95 Inistiman with Sir Donill o bryen Ennistymon - castle was incorporated into later house now 'The Falls Hotel' - Ennistymon.
96 Glaine with Sir Donill o bryen Glen - part of one wall standing - 1 mile south of Ennistymon.
97 Incheovehie with Sir Donill o bryen Inchovea - one wall and some vaults remain - 4 1/2 miles west of Corofin.
98 Tullegh with Sir Donill o bryen Tullagha - part of an angle of the castle remains - 5 miles northwest of Corofin.
99 Ballyonegowin with Teig o bryen the sherif Smithstown - perfect; being renovated in the summer of 1996 - 2 miles west of Kilfenora.
100 Tullaghomor with Covea mac corman upon Teig o bryen the sherif Tullamore - site only - 3 miles north of Ennistymon.
101 Cahirmenan with Morogh o bryen mac conor Caherminnaun - site only, mound and some cut stone - 1 mile east of Kilfenora.
102 Downgore with Sir Donill o bryen Doonnagore - perfect, recently restored. Inhabited periodically, round castle - Doolin.
103 Downevicfelim with Tirrelagh o bryen Doonmacfelim - ground floor remains, vaulted ceiling, secret lock-up chamber within south wall - Doolin.
104 Tomeleny with hugh mac clanchy upon Sir Donill o bryen Toomullin - site not known, corbels and cut stone in field-walls at Toomullin Doolin.
105 Cnockfine with mac clanchy a brehon Knockfin - possible site at Knockfin Cross, 2 corbels on site - Doolin.
106 Ballinelakin with Sir Donill o bryen Ballinalackan - almost perfect - 2 1/2 miles northwest of Lisdoonvarna.
107 ffante Teig o bryen sherifs castell Fanta - site only, cut stone windows etc. on site - 2 miles northwest of Kilfenora.
108 Bellagh with morogh mac conoghor Ballagh - site only, on south shore of Lickeen Lake - 3 1/2 miles northeast of Ennistymon.
109 Lemeynnegh with Donogh mac moregh o bryen Lemeneagh - almost perfect; dated c.1460; Elizabethan house added in 1648 - 3 1/2 miles east of Kilfenora.
  Burryn Burren
110 Bawnero with Tirrelagh Riogh upon Tirrelagh o bryen Binroe - site only, some cut stone remains - 4 miles east of Lisdoonvarna.
111 Gragan o Loghins castle Gragans - almost perfect; being renovated in 1996 - 3 miles south of Ballyvaughan.
112 Glainesled Turrelagh boyes sonnes castle upon no mans pledge Glenslade - part of one wall and part of bawn wall remain - 3 1/2 miles northwest of Carron
113 Cahirclogan with Tirrelagh o bryen Cahercloghan - built in a ringfort; part of ground floor chamber and stairs remain - 2 miles northeast of Lisdoonvarna.
114 Turlagh O Loghlins castell Turlough - site only, mound - 2 1/2 miles south of Bellharbour.
115 Glainenagh with James Lench of Galway Gleninagh - perfect, unroofed - 3 miles west of Ballyvaughan.
116 Ballyveghan with the barron of Inchiqin* Ballyvaughan - site only, beside pier - Ballyvaughan.
117 Ballymoreghowe with melaghlin cam upon Tirrelagh o bryen Ballymurhpy - site only, land has been cleared - 3 1/2 miles north of Kilfenora.
118 Ballycashe with Rosse o loghlin upon the sherif Castletown - part of 2 walls remain - 1 mile south of Carron.
119 Glainecolumkilly o Loghlins castles Glencolumbkille - There were 2 castles called Glencolumbkille. One is only a site and the other has the remains of one chamber of the castle and a later hall - 2 1/2 miles and 3 miles east of Carron respectively.
120 Kepaghe o Loghlins castles Cappagh - 2 walls and ground floor vault remain; part of bawn also remains - 3 miles northeast of Carron.
  * Crossed out after no. 116 is: with melaghlin cam upon Tirrelagh o bryen Inserted is : with the baron of Inchiquin. In a later hand is written : Inclosure in 4 july 1570  
  Oflanchie Inchiquin (Ui Fearmaic)
121 Morihe with Tirrelagh o bryen Moyree - almost perfect; much of bawn remains - 2 1/2 miles northwest of Crusheen.
122 Dirreowin with barron of Inchiqin Derryowen - part of 2 walls remain; quite a lot of this castle collapsed in 1990 during a storm - 1 mile northwest of Tubber.
123 Kearowe negowill the abbot sonnes Skaghard - 2 walls remain - 5 miles east of Carron.
124 Castle Caly garded by the erle of ormond to the quenes use. Castlebank - site only - 2 1/2 miles north of Limerick.
125 The Inch garded by the erle of ormond to the quenes use. This could be Inch castle of which part of one wall and a few steps of the spiral stairs remain - 2 1/2 miles southwest of Ennis. It could also be a castle which once stood in Ennis where the Old Ground Hotel now stands.