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

Part II. History of Thomond
Chapter 13. History of Thomond before it was formed into an English county: From the Death of De Clare in 1318 to the Formation of Thomond into an English County in 1580

Conor O’Brien, third Earl, supported by the English, drives out Donald, and promises obedience to English laws

Hitherto all went favourably for Donald, and for two or three years longer he was suffered to rule supreme over Thomond, and to regulate its affairs by the law of Tanistry. He was the last native prince of Ireland who governed according to the ancient usages of the people, and in whose territory the Brehon laws were latest administered. But a change was soon to come over his affairs. By the death of his brother Turlough, in 1557, he lost a valuable auxiliary, and his nephew Conor, having claimed the aid of the Lord Deputy, received that nobleman’s promise of support in his endeavour to assert the rights and property of an eldest son and of an English earl. Sussex accordingly repaired to Thomond with a strong army, took the castles of Bunratty, Clare, and Clonroad, placed them in the hands of Conor, and re-established him in all the privileges and lands appertaining to the earldom of Thomond. Donald was proclaimed a traitor, and with his son, Teige an Tsusain, (of the uncombed hair), was obliged to fly to Maguire of Fermanagh. There, before a year had passed, Teige died, but Donald lived to return to his native country and to give much additional trouble to the Earl. [21]

Conor O’Brien, thus restored to his rights, testified his gratitude by solemnly relinquishing the title of the O’Brien, and promising on his own behalf, and on the part of his kindred, to be for ever obedient to the Government of England, and to live according to its laws. His act of renunciation was performed in the Cathedral of Limerick, and it was soon afterwards followed by a solemn engagement, entered into by the principal chieftains of Thomond, to be faithful subjects of the English Crown.

Conor now proceeded to bring into subjection his rebellious relatives, Teige and Donogh, the sons of Murrogh. The latter named of these resided in the castle of Inchiquin, and the Earl resolved to dispossess him. He laid siege to the place, but he had to abandon it soon afterwards, because of the intelligence he received, that the Earl of Desmond was coming to support his kinsman. Desmond hearing that the Earl was at Ballyallia, marched to that place and reached it late in the evening. On the following morning, at break of day, he gave battle, at Spancilhill, to the forces of the Earl of Thomond and to those of the Earl of Clanrickard, who had joined him, and routed them completely. [22] He restored Donogh and Teige to the quiet possession of Inchiquin and the other places which had belonged to them and then departed to his own country. [23] Notwithstanding the defeat suffered by Conor at Spancilhill, he soon plucked up courage to attack other enemies. His first enterprise was against O’Flaherty, of West Connaught; his next was to aid the Earl of Essex in an expedition against the chieftain of Tyrone. Again, he invaded the country of O’Conor Kerry, and Glenn Carbraighe (Glin, county of Limerick.) [24] But he was soon called back to defend himself from his own kinsfolk at home. Donald, who had been driven out of the country in 1558, came back from Fermanagh to assert his position as elected king of Thomond. He was immediately joined by the brothers Teige of Smithstown, and Donogh of Leamaneh. Their first act was to force and plunder the stronghold of Baile-mac-Riagain (Ballymacrogan). They were pursued by the people of the place and overtaken at Cathair-meg-Gormain (Cahermagorman, in the townland of Soheen, parish of Dysert). At first they fled from their enemies to Cnoc-an-Scamhail (Scool-hill); suddenly they turned and routed the Earl and his followers.

Two years afterwards (1564), another coalition was made between the Earl’s enemies, and they prepared to plunder the lands he possessed in the eastern parts of the county. They ranged along the river O’Cearnaigh, in Clan Culein, (Sixmile-bridge), and attacked the castle of Rossroe, where he happened to be at that time. They burned the town, and killed nearly one hundred of his followers whom they found there. Their proceedings alarmed the whole country, and the Annalists relate that every man from Sliabh Oidhcadha-an-Righ (Cratloe mountains), to Luchat (Lughid Bridge), and from Rinn Eanaigh (Rinanha), to Scairbh (Scariff), rose to pursue them. They escaped across the Fergus, bringing off their booty safely. To sustain themselves in their efforts against the Earl, they brought from beyond the Shannon “Bonnaghtmen” (mercenaries), of the Clan Sweeney and Clan Sheehy, whom they employed in helping to devastate their own unfortunate country. [25]