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

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 7. Corcomroe

Diocese of Kilfenora—List of its Bishops, Catholic and Protestant

We proceed here to give a list of the Bishops of the diocese of Kilfenora, together with such notices of their lives as are preserved to our times. The catalogue is, as Ware states, very imperfect, but that imperfection arises from a cause with which he appears to have been unacquainted, namely, that until the Council of Rathbreasil the bishops of Ireland were not so much bishops of particular districts as of particular clans. [16] Kilfenora, in the distribution of the bishoprics of Ireland made by Cardinal Paparo at that Council in 1152, was made suffragan to the Archbishopric of Cashel, and with the Catholics has remained so ever since. The Protestant diocese was annexed, in the reign of Charles II., to Tuam.

It comprises the baronies of Corcomroe and Burren, the patrimony of the Clan Modruadh Ninnis. There is no valuation of the see in the king’s books, nor is it so much as mentioned in them.

A.D. 1254. Christian, bishop of Kilfenora, died this year, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans at Limerick. [17]
A.D. 1265. Maurice was elected this year by the Canons, who obtained a congè d’élire, and his election was confirmed and consecration performed by his metropolitan, although no information had been previously given to the king, or no warrant obtained from him. He pardoned the omission however, and issued his writ to the escheator to restore the bishop to the temporalities. This prelate died in 1273. [18]
A.D. 1273. In September of this year Florence O’Tigernach, Abbot of Kilshanny, of the Cistertian Order, was elected bishop, and obtained the royal assent. The congè d’élire had issued at the petition of the Dean and Chapter on the 14th of July previously, and on the 8th of October following a mandate went to the Archbishop of Cashel to consecrate this prelate: presently after a writ issued for his restoration to the temporalities, but clogged with the condition that he should send his proctor to England to swear fealty in his name. He died in 1281. [19]
A.D. 1281. Charles, Dean of Kilfenora, had his election confirmed by the king, on the 8th of September, 1281, and on the same day a writ of restitution to the temporalities issued. [20]
A.D. 1300. Congal O’Loghlen, called bishop of Corcomroe in the Annals of Lough Ree, died. [21]

A.D. 1303. Simon O’Currin died this year, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans at Limerick. [22]
A.D. 1321. Maurice (Murtogh?) O’Brien, Dean of Kilfenora, was O’Currin’s successor, and his appointment was confirmed by King Edward I. on the 8th of October, 1303. He sat for eighteen years, and was buried in the church of the Dominicans at Limerick, in the year 1321. [23]
A.D. 1359. Richard O’Loghlen died this year. [24]
A.D. 1394. One Patrick was bishop. He took the oath of fealty to King Richard II. in the Dominican convent at Drogheda, on the 16th of March, 1394. [25]
A.D. 1421. On the 25th of January of this year, the election made, in the church of Kilfenora, of Felim, son of Mahone O’Loghlen, as bishop, was confirmed at Rome. He died in 1434. [26]
A.D. 1435. Donogh O’Cahane. On the 26th of December, 1435, O’Cahane was consecrated bishop of this diocese in the chapel of St. Paul, in the hospital of Santa Maria Novella at Florence, by the bishop of Megara in partibus.
A.D. 1491. O’Cahane resigned the see this year, and the Pope appointed Murtagh O’Brien, [27] “Othey,” as his successor. The appointment bears date 12th December, 1491, and the bulls of consecration are dated the 26th of August, 1492. Previous to his appointment he had been canon of Killaloe. During his incumbency he sent to Rome a gift of 33 gold florins. He was bishop in 1523, according to Ware, but the Four Masters say that his death occurred in 1510. They must be mistaken. [28]
A.D. 1541. John O’Neylan succeeded on the 24th of November of this year, the date of the death of Murtagh O’Brien. He was a canon of St. Augustine, and abbot of the monastery of the Blessed Virgin at Ciltz. His death, in 1572, is thus set down by the Four Masters:—“John Oge, son of John, son of Auliffe O’Neallain, teacher of the word of God, and bishop of Kilfenora, died and was buried in Kilfenora itself.” [29]

From 1572 to 1647 the see was under Vicars. In the Deed of Composition of the newly-formed county of Clare, the signatories include the name of Daniel bishop “elect,” of Kilfenora. This was in 1585, but in reality Daniel O’Griffy (called Gryphaeus), was Vicar-general of the diocese, and continued to fill that office till 1634, when he was appointed Vicar apostolic. [30]
A.D. 1647. Andrew Lynch was nominated bishop on the 11th of March of this year, on the recommendation of Rinuccini, the Papal Nuncio, who speaks of him in the highest terms. He fled with the Nuncio to France to escape from the English soldiers. There he officiated as assistant to the bishop of Rouen till 1673, in which year he died. [31] From 1673 to 1732 the see was under vicars or administrators. [32]

August 7th, 1732, James Augustine O’Daly, who had been cannon and treasurer of the cathedral of Tournay, in Belgium, was appointed bishop of Kilfenora. He had been suffragan of the bishop of Tournay. It was thought in 1736, that O’Daly would resign, and Laurence Slyne, a Friar Minor, was recommended to supply his place, but on further consideration O’Daly determined to retain his see, deputing the diocese to Dr. Lacy bishop of Limerick as administrator, and he died as its bishop at Tournay, in 1750. [33] On his death Kilfenora was united to the diocese of Kilmacduagh, and an arrangement made by which the succeeding prelates should be bishops of each alternately, and at the same time administrators of the other one. Thus, in 1751, Peter Kilkelly, a Dominican, was named bishop of Kilmacduagh and administrator of Kilfenora. At his death, in 1783, both were united, and Laurence Nihill, D.D., a native of Tulla, was selected to govern them. He had been a Jesuit, and on the suppression of that Order he had come to the diocese of Limerick and had been appointed parish priest of Rathkeale. He resigned his parish and came to reside in the city of Limerick as a place more convenient for study. There he received intimation from the Propaganda that he had been chosen bishop of Kilfenora and Kilmacduagh. He died in June, 1795, in the 69th year of his age, as is recorded on his tomb in the epitaph given above.

A.D. 1795. On the death of Dr. Nihill, Edward Dillon succeeded to the two dioceses, as coadjutor bishop. He got the parish of Kinvarra in commendam. He was translated to Tuam in 1798, and Richard Luke Concannon, a Dominican and agent for the Irish clergy at Rome, was by brief appointed in his stead. Concannon not wishing to accept the office, Nicholas Joseph Archdeacon, dean of Kilfenora was promoted to the united sees. He was a native of Cork, born there in 1770. At the date of his selection his age being under thirty years, he had a dispensation.
A.D. 1824. On the death of Archdeacon, Nicholas Ffrench, a Dominican was appointed by the Propaganda. He was likewise Guardian of Galway. He died on the 14th of July, 1852, and he was succeeded by Patrick Fallon, who had already in the character of coadjutor been appointed to the episcopal seat by the Propaganda. [34] Subsequent to the demise of Dr. Fallon, Kilfenora was united to Galway.

We here give the succession of the Protestant bishops of Kilfenora up to the time it was merged in the Archdiocese of Tuam. [35]

A.D. 1617. Bernard Adams, consecrated bishop of Limerick in 1604, held Kilfenora likewise by dispensation, till 1617, in which year he resigned it.
A.D. 1622. John Sterne was consecrated in 1617, but promoted to Ardfert in 1622. In July 1618, he obtained a grant to him and his successors to hold at Kilfenora a Thursday market and two fairs, one on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Whitsunday, the other on St. Michael’s day and two days after, at twenty shillings rent.[36]
A.D. 1627. William Murray was consecrated in 1622 bishop of Kilfenora, but was promoted to Llandaff in 1627.
A.D. 1638. James Higate a native of Glasgow, was consecrated bishop in 1630 and died in 1638.
A.D. 1642. Robert Sibthorp was consecrated in 1638, and in 1642 was transferred to Limerick. [37]
A.D. 1660. Samuel Pullen, archbishop of Tuam, obtained the diocese of Kilfenora in commendam. From his time the see of Kilfenora has been united with the archbishopric of Tuam.
A.D. 1741. On the death of Edward Synge, archbishop of Tuam, the bishopric of Kilfenora was, by letters patent, given in commendam to John Whitcomb, bishop of Clonfert. Dr. Whitcomb being translated to Down and Connor in 1752, the see of Kilfenora was given in commendam to Nicholas Synge, bishop of Killaloe, [38] and with the bishops of Killaloe it remained till the disestablishment of the Irish Protestant Church in 1870.