Antiquities Near Miltown Malbay

Thomas Johnson Westropp
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Clare County Library

Kilfarboy Church
(O.S. Map 31)

The nearest church to Miltown, in fact its ancient parish church, is Kilfarboy. The pseudo-tradition vendors long satisfied visitors as ignorant as themselves with legends of burials of “tawny men” (i.e., the drowned Spaniards) in the church, that from this circumstance took the name of Kilfearboy [1]. That this silly derivation should find any supporters in later days is indeed wonderful.

Kilfarboy Church
Kilfarboy Church from S.E. - T.J. Westropp, 1887

The place was probably founded by St. Lachtin or Laughteen, to whom its well is dedicated. He was either the friend of St. Senan in A.D. 550, or another of the name who died in A.D. 622, probably the first. It possibly got its name from the pass of Bealach Feabrath, where, in A.D. 740, was a monastery which was subsequently governed by a bishop named Cormac, who died in A.D. 837. The church appears in the Papal Taxation of 1302-7 as Kellinfearbreygy or Kellinfearbuygy. As in later days, in the sixteenth century we find such forms as Kilforbrick and Kilfearbaigh. In June, 1394, an important Papal letter licenses Cornelius O’Deayg, sub-deacon of Killaloe, despite his illegitimacy, to get the tonsure and the benefices of Killnafearwagy, Disert Molacala, and Kyllkady in the said diocese. The cure to be performed by vicars [2]. The parishes were Kilfarboy, Disert Tola (or manawla as locally pronounced) and Kilkeedy. O’Dea rose to be archdeacon of Killaloe and bishop of Limerick. He was a man of artistic taste, an antiquary and organiser. The splendid crosier and mitre preserved in Limerick attest the first, the compilation of the “Black Book of Limerick,” and the surveys of that diocese in 1418 to 1422 attest the latter qualities. His tomb is among us in his own cathedral until this day [3]. I had no trace of the restoration or usage of the church in Tudor times. In an important survey of Clare dating about 1675, and now at Edenvale, we find the Earl of Thomond holding all the parish of Kilfarboy, 3,228 acres profitable and 4,405 acres unprofitable, including Kildeemo, Cloghanebegg and more, Killcorkerane, Ghandeine, Poulemullin (Miltown), Doogh, Legarda and Breagha, also Carrookeile, Fintraghmore and begg, Freagh of the Castle, Freagh Falline, Ballyvaskin, Island, Kilfarboy, Lackamore, Moybegg and more, with its castle, a rude sketch of the latter and a conventional one of Freagh castle appearing on the margin. In 1712 Henry, Earl of Thomond, sold in this barony—Annagh to John Stackpoole, Carhuduff to William Stacpoole, Knockliscorane to Henry Widenham, Killards to Montifort Westropp, Kilfarboy and Moygh to William Fitzgearld, and Quiltie and Trumroe, with its castle, to William Fitzgearld.

The church, an interesting little 15th century building was (at least in 1887) in apparently the same condition as when described in the ordnance survey letters half a century before. It stands on the bank of a little rivulet among low rounded hills, with a distant view of the Atlantic, a peaceful nook well suited for monastic retirement. The ruin measures 66 feet by 17 feet internally; the west gable had fallen before 1839. It was most probably featureless like those of most of the Clare churches, for the better security of the building against the fierce western gales of the ocean. The south wall has a very neat pointed door, 14 feet from the west, a very pleasing effect is produced by the neatness of the arching [4], the whole walls being of thin gritstone slabs. In the inner angle of the right jamb is a quaint holy water stoup, with two round headed opes like those at Canon’s Island, Kiltinanlea, Rathborney and elsewhere in Clare; the inner door arch is flat. The east and south windows have single lights with ogee heads, and are nearly alike save that the former has neat little trefoils in the angular spandrels with delicate ribbing in the leaves. The east gable is shaken and mainly supported by the vault of the Fitzgearld family, 1778. The north wall is, as usual, featureless. The Fitzgearld arms are unusual, being shown as a chevron, with two lions counter passant reguardant above, a cross florette below. The crest being a knight on horseback [5].

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