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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 11. Tradraighe; Tuath Echtghe

Tradraighe. Tomfinlough Parish; Ruins of Great Caher at Mooghaun; Deed of Mortgage of lands situate in this parish

At the date of the 28th of April, The Martyrology of Donegal has the following entry: “Luichtighern mac Ua Trato. It is he that is at Tuaim-fionnlocha, in Tratraighe. Brigh, daughter of Forannan, son of Conall, son of Tochtan, son of Amhalgaidh, sister of Maelaithghin, was his mother.” The Life of Mac Creiche states, chap. 12, that “it was there at (Tomfinlough) Luightighern was.” Not only was he there, but at Ennistymon also, of which parish he was patron before he resigned the rule of the church of that place to St. Manchín. In addition to the fact of Tomfinlough being the church of Luightighern, the twelfth chapter of The Life of Mac Creiche relates other interesting particulars touching the career of the saint. It mentions that the district of Corcomroe being over-run and plundered by the Connaughtmen, the inhabitants sent a deputation to Emly, to request of St. Ailbhe to persuade their kinsman, MacCreiche, who was then staying there, to come home and intercede with the ruler of Connaught, upon their behalf. MacCreiche immediately complied, and coming with his disciple Manchín, they made Tomfinlough one of the halting places of their journey. There they met Luightighern, and they persuaded him to bear them company the following Tuesday, on their errand of peace. They arrived at Cairn-mic-Tail, near Ennistymon, and found the tribes of Corcomroe waiting to receive them. Other particulars of the life of this holy man are related in the same place. The period at which he lived may be inferred from the date of the death of St. Ailbhe, of Emly in the year 541.[20] Parts of the walls of the old church of Tomfinlough appear to be of great antiquity, while other portions of the building are of comparatively modern construction. The mason work has been pulled down in various places to enable successive generations of occupants to insert windows in the walls. An addition seems to have been made to the length of the structure long after its original foundation. Judging from the appearance of the surrounding ruins, it is evident that some conventual buildings existed in former days. A large graveyard surrounds the church, containing nothing requiring particular notice, except a tomb belonging to the family of Hewitt.[21]

On the towland of Mooghaun are the remains, now almost obliterated, of a cahir of great dimensions, and from its appearance, the residence, evidently, of a principal chief in ancient times. Three circular walls of stone surrounded it, like Dun Aengus in Arran, and like other important fortresses found scattered through Ireland. Who were its owners it is impossible now to say, no record of their existence having come down to us. That they were great and powerful is manifest from the size and strength of their stronghold. In the immediate vicinity, when the railway between Limerick and Ennis was being constructed, an immense find of ancient gold ornaments was discovered. Various castles stood in the parish, and we proceed to give a list of them, with their owners, in 1580. Ballycar, no trace of which now remains, having been pulled down about a century ago, by the family who then owned the place, to supply materials for other buildings. It belonged to Donagh O’Brien. Granaghan, in a tolerably good state of preservation, owned by Donald, son of Sheeda Mantagh (toothless), MacNamara. Mooghaun, which yet stands in perfect preservation, was the property of Matthew MacNamara.[22] Rathlaheen castle belonged to Donald, son of Sheeda Mac Namara.

Only one holy well is found in the parish of Tomfinlough. It is situated in the vicinity of the church, and is not dedicated to any particular saint.

The following Deed, translated from the Irish, relates to lands belonging to this parish. They form a subdenomination of the townland of Rathlaheen:—

“Be it known to all who shall hear this writing, that I, Conor O’Brien, Earl of Thomond,[23] have given the half quarter of Gurtfinn, in Tuaimfinlogh, unto John Mac Namara in mortgage for twelve in-calf cows; and I the said Conor O’Brien, do declare, that I and my descendants are bound to secure and maintain the said half quarter unto MacNamara and his descendants until the time of its redemption, and I acknowledge that same is not redeemable at Michaelmas, by one day’s impounding (Dho gobhan en laoi), and in acknowledgement of my receiving the said consideration, and giving said land for same, I, Conor O’Brien, do set my hand unto this Indenture. The witnesses are Anthony O’Loghlen, that is The O’Loghlen; Conor Mac Gilla Riaba; Rory, son of Donogh; and Sheeda, son of Rory (MacNamara). In the year of our Lord 1562. Conor Thomond (in English characters).”

In the Annals of the Four Masters the following references are made to the monastery of Tomfinlough:—

A.D. 944. Scanlon Abbot of Tomfinlough died.
A.D. 1049. Tuathal O’Muirgheasa, lecturer of Tomfinlough died.
A.D. 1054. Turlough O’Brien, with the Connaughtmen, went into Thomond, committed great depredations, killed Hugh, the son of Kennedy, and plundered Tomfinlough.