Antiquities Near Miltown Malbay

Thomas Johnson Westropp
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Clare County Library

Kilmacduan Church
(O.S. Map 47)

Though to some degree lying outside of the Miltown district, still as within reach of the centre I may describe two churches in adjoining parishes-Kilmacduan and Kilmihil. The first is the Cil mhic an dubhain of the fourteenth century “Life of St. Senan.” One of the many foundations attributed to him after his return to Thomond in the sixth century.

Kilmacduan Church (With the east and south windows) - T.J. Westropp 1903

Kilmacduan Church (With the east and south windows) - T.J. Westropp 1903

Territorial bishopricks did not exist till after the Synod of Rathbreasail, 1112; but we may conclude that the “Bishoprick” of Iniscatha, or Scattery, extended to this parish and Kilmurry, and perhaps up to the Lake of Doulough, if not to the bounds of the bishoprick of Kilfenora or the Corcomroes. The Papal Taxation calls Kilmacduan, Kilmadayn in 1302. The remains show us that a church of the eleventh or early twelfth century was remodelled or even rebuilt about 1480, when an unrecorded, but well-marked outburst of church restoration spread over Limerick and Clare in the vast majority of the parishes. The place has otherwise no history, being incidentally called Cil mic an dubain and Cil Mhic dubhain in 1591 by the Four Masters.

When I visited it in 1893 it was very much the same state as when described in the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839. It stood on a little hillock rising in a green valley, among low, green shale hills, over a little rivulet. It presents a very picturesque appearance from the village of vaults round the hillock and the dark and shattered little ruin.

Only the east gable and about 21 feet of the sides remain (25 feet in 1839), the church is 23 feet 7 inches wide, and the walls have that typical cornice with neat angular corbels at intervals so often seen in Clare churches. There are two windows, the eastern is of the late fifteenth century, with an ogee head, and neatly moulded outside, and a plain flat arch and splay inside. The splay is 7 feet 4 inches wide, the light 9 inches wide with holes for sash-bars. The south windows is far older, probably dating before 1080, of well cut sandstone blocks with inclined jambs, decorated by a simple recess and chamfer; the head is not original, but though semicircular, is only rudely chipped out of a flagstone. The splay is 5 feet 3 inches wide, and the light 11 inches wide at the base and perhaps 7 or 8 inches at the top, as I could not reach it there, it is 13 feet distant from the east gable. The coign stones at the church angles are removed, it is said they were taken for the angels of Cooraclare chapel. West of the church is a village of 32 vaults forming a square and a street.

An ancient Life of St. Senan (published in Colgan’s “Lives”) gives a curious legend of Cil mic an dubhain church?“Theodrick son of Tatheus” prince of Thomond (better known as Torlough Mór O’Brien who defeated Thomas de Clare (being enraged at the monks of Iniscathaigh for permitting a husbandman to take sanctuary invaded the termon of St. Senan. The second night of the raid St. Senan appeared to the Prior of Iniscathaigh and told him that he the (the saint) was setting out to punish the prince. That same night he appeared in a vision to Theodorick and struck him on the leg with his crozier. He rebuked the prince for his sacrilegious violence and disappeared. No doctor could cure the wound inflicted by Senan till Theodorick died of its effects (in 1306).

The only record of later days is that Margaret, daughter of Donall O’Brien and wife of Torlough Mac Mahon, died at Cill mac dubhain, and was buried at Iniscatiagh.

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