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

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 4. Ui Caisin

Quin Parish; Quin Abbey; Irish Deeds relating to lands in Quin parish

In O’Donovan’s edition of the Annals of the Four Masters he states in a note [17] that St. Finghin was the patron of this parish.
In the same work [18] we read that in 1005 died St. Finghin, Abbot of Roscrea. In O’Hanlon’s Lives of the Irish Saints, at the fifth of February, the life of St. Finghin, Bishop of Metz, is given, and Father O’Hanlon hazards a conjecture that the Abbot of Roscrea and the Bishop of Metz are one and the same person. Only one saint named Finghin is mentioned in the Irish calendars.[19] St. Finghin’s original church at Quin, it need scarcely be said was several centuries older than the great Franciscan Monastery of the same place. It is situated on the other side of the little river Rine, and its remains are in a tolerable state of prese[r]vation. From its size, it is evident that it was the church of a large and very thickly populated parish in former days. The derivation of the word Quin, pronounced in Irish Cuinché, is from the arbutus—which in Irish is Cuinche—and it signifies arbutus producing land.[20] In Quin parish there is another church and graveyard, called Shankill, situated near Dangan. The parish abounds in holy wells, no less then six being within its ambit. Their names are as follows:—Tubber-na-neeve, Toberbrassil, Toberagee, Toberfineen, Toberandillane, and Toberceeghan. It likewise includes in its limits the remains of seven castles, two of them namely, Creganeowen and Knoppogue being in perfect repair and inhabited, but the others either wholly ruined or in various stages of decay. I subjoin a list of them, with the names of their owners in 1580. Dangan and Danganbrack, owned by John MacNamara, chief of West Clanculein and head of the Fionn branch of his family; Knoppogue, by Turlogh O’Brien; Quin, by Cumeadha MacNamara; Creganeowen, by Cumeadha, son of John MacNamara; Cullane, by the same owner; and Ballymarkahan, by John MacNamara.

It is much to be regretted that the materials for the history of the ancient Franciscan Abbey at Quin are so scanty. It stands just by the little stream, and is in such excellent preservation that it requires only a roof and other renovations to make the structure fit for the reception of the Friars once more. When it existed in a complete state, it must have been a very fine building. Its beautiful tower, cloisters, and great east and south windows, show that it was constructed in accordance with the best principles of Irish church architecture.


Quin Abbey
Quin Abbey

It was founded in 1402 by Sheda Cam MacNamara, lord of Clanculein.[21] In 1433, Pope Eugenius IV. granted to Mahone Dall MacNamara, the then chief of the family, a licence to place friars of the Strict Observance in the monastery. Quin was thus the first convent in Ireland in which that reformation of the Franciscan Order was admitted.[22] MacNamara, in the course of the same year added to the building, and in succeeding generations votive altars were built by other members of the same ancient family.[23] In truth the whole edifice forms a monument of the munificence and piety of that once powerful race. Previously to the foundation of the Abbey of Quin, their place of sepulture was at Ennis. Their bounty was not confined to the mere building, because they endowed the friars with lands, fisheries, and other kinds of property.[24] When the monasteries of Clare were suppressed in the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth the brethren were expelled, and Quin Abbey was converted into a barrack by the English garrison. The building was soon burned over their heads by Donogh O’Brien.[25] By the munificence of the MacNamaras and of the other families of the district, it was soon roofed over again, the walls, by their firmness, having remained uninjured.[26] In 1626 it was again occupied, under the authority of Father Francis Matthew the then Provincial of the Franciscan Order in Ireland, and Father Teige (called Bonaventure) MacGorman, a preacher of the Order, was placed over it as superior. In the previous years the friars had often visited the place, and accorded their ministrations to the people of the surrounding country. One of them was Rory MacNamara son of Donald and Mary MacMahon. He was taken and shot by Cromwell’s followers near Clare Castle in 1651. Daniel Clancy of a respectable family of Tradraigh was a lay-brother. He shared the same fate in that year. Jeremiah M‘Inerney the son of wealthy parents was also a lay-brother. He entered the Order in 1640 while Father Teige MacGorman was still guardian, and suffered death at the hands of the English in 1651.[27] Bishop Pocock thus describes it as it stood in his time (1740): “Quin is one of the finest and most entire monasteries in Ireland. It has an ascent of several steps to the church. At the entrance one is surprised with the view of the high altar. On each side of the arch of the chancel is a chapel, that at the south containing three or four altars and a Gothic figure of some saint in relief. The other on the north contains a monument of the family of MacNamara of Ranna. On a stone by the high altar appears the name of Kennedy in large letters.” At the north side of the high altar is a handsome tomb, with an inscription round the edge in these words: “Hic jacent Oidh filius Laurentii filii Mathei MacConmara, et Constina ni MacNamara, uxor ejus, qui me fieri fecerunt.” Above this inscription on the same tomb is a coat of arms, a lion rampant, crest a hand with a javelin, the motto “Firmitas in Cœlo,” and this inscription: “This monument was erected by Mahon Dall MacNamara, and repaired by Captain Teige MacNamara, of Ranna, A.D. 1714.”[28] In the south chapel of the abbey is a tomb with the following epitaph: “I.H.S. This tomb was erected by Mathew Macnamara of Moohane, in ye year 1500, and repaired by his great grandson, Mathew Macnamara, of Summerhill, in the year 1768, in memory of his father Teige, and his brother James Rowe M‘Namara. R.I.P.” Another tomb in the same chapel has this inscription: “Here lies the body of Edmond Macnamara grandson to Hugh Macnamara, of Corbally, deceased this life May the 17th, 1761, aged 21 years.” Under the tower in a recess, is found a broken flag stone part which is wanting and upon which can be traced the following words: “Hic jacet Johannes Capi[ta]nus MacNemara [Ju]nii 1601. More ni M[ac-n]amara me fieri fe[c]it.” On a tomb partly buried in the wall of the sacristy are these words, the rest being covered by the mason work:

“Here lies the I . . . .
McNamara, of . . . Dyed the 18th of . . . .
Cap. Teige Mc . . . . Ranna, aged 82 . . . . .
ye 27 July, 1741 . . . . McNamara of Ba . . . . .
who died in ye . . . . his age ye 10th . . . .”

In another part of the abbey is found a tomb thus inscribed: “Here lyeth the body of Mary Creagh, otherwise MacNamara, wife of Andrew Creagh of the city of Limerick merchant and eldest daughter of Daniel MacNamara of Ardcluny in the county of Clare, Esq. and Mary MacNamara, otherwise O’Callaghan his wife, daughter and heiress of Thady O’Callaghan of Mountallon in said county, deceased, who died the 23rd of June, 1756.”

In the course of the excavations made by the Irish Board of Works in 1882, it was found that the abbey had been built on the site of a Norman castle. The castle had round towers at the four angles forming a square, with curtain walls of the thickness of ten feet connecting them. In the construction of the church the builders utilized two of these curtain walls, forming of them the south and east walls of the chancel.

We give here translations of some Irish Deeds relating to lands situate in Quin. “Partition of Land, 1543: The effect of this writing is as follows: A partition is made by Donogh O’Brien, and by Conor son of Donogh MacGluin, between Mahone son of Morogh MacGluin and his brother Donogh to wit, to Donogh the quartermeer of the half quarter nearest to the fort of the half quarter of Cullenagh in Ballymacloon, and the half quartermeer of Derreen in Carrowgar, the half quartermeer of Lisduff in Creevagh, and the half quartermeer Clonmore in Creevagh, comprising five half quartermeers. All the lands possessed by the said MacGluins over and and above those heretofore mentioned are to be divided share and share alike between them. Written at Cuincé (Quin), the 11th of July, 1542. The witnesses present are God in the first place, Donogh O’Brien, Teige MacConmeadh MacNamara, Donogh son of John (M‘Namara), of Kilkishen; Teige Ultagh, of Ballymacashel; Conor MacGluin, Richard Roe MacMaoilin, Conor Balv (the stammerer), O’Rodan the steward of O’Brien. I. Mahone MacGluin.[29]

Purchase of Land, A.D. 1545.

“This is the amount of the mortgage which Murrogh, son of Donogh M‘Gluin, paid for the half quarter of the Liss of Carnmallow for Donogh, the son of Conor O’Brien, [30] and also for Murrogh himself, viz. twenty milch cows with her calves, twenty in-calf cows, a dozen of heifers, and two strippers. This mortgage was given to John son of Loghlen MacNamara of Ballymarkahan, for the half quarter of Lisheennabunnia, and for the half quartermeer of Ballyanerball. It is by the consent of Teige son of Loghlen his brother, that Mahone mortgaged the half quarter of the Liss and Knock in the first-mentioned lands. All other lands which the aforesaid race of MacGluin should acquire to be enjoyed, share and share alike, between themselves and their foster brother said Donogh O’Brien and their heirs. At the expiration of five years afterwards Murrogh MacGluin gave sixty marks to said Mahone and Teige son of Loghlen, for the fee-simple of that land for ever, according to the form and covenant before mentioned. Anno Domini, 1545. In witness whereof we, Mahone, son of Loghlen of Ballymarkahan, and Teige son of Loghlen of the same place, do set our hands to this deed in presence of witnesses here present.—Mahone MacLoghlan, Teige MacLoghlen. Murrogh O’Brien is the O’Brien at this time.[31] (Murchad O’Brian, na O’Brian an tan so). These are the witnesses present, viz., Teige MacNamara and John MacNamara of Danganbrack; Donald M‘Rory of Caherscooby; Flaherty O’Liddy of Shandangan; Teige O’Brien of Quin; Thomas Duff, son of Miler of Kilnahow; Teige, son of Donogh, son of John, of Cloonlissan; and many others not mentioned here.”