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Ring-Forts in the Barony of Moyarta, Co. Clare, and Their Legends
by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part II.—Kilkee to Carrigaholt


Dunmechair.—We have only found one fairly early mention of a fort in the Irrus, and it, unfortunately, cannot be identified with certainty, for the name has been forgotten on the ground, though the site can be approximately fixed.

The early Latin “Life of St. Senanus” [1] tells us how that saint, early in the sixth century, was conducting a herd of cattle belonging to his father, Gerrchind, one of the lesser gentry of the district. He was driving them from “a place called Irros, lying towards the west, to Maghlacha,” his father’s residence, at Moylough, to the east of Kilrush, [2] where the remnants of two early oratories bear witness to the honour in which “the Apostle of Corcovaskin” was held at his birthplace. The place in Irros seems to have been named Tracht Termuinn, and is probably the townland of Termon near Moyasta. Senan drove the cattle home eastward, till he came to the place where “the ocean tide separated the two places” (Irros and Maghlacha). Evening was coming on, and the tide was full, so, unable to cross the creek, he was compelled to return “to a neighbouring castle” at a place called Dun-mechair, or Dunmaghair, to ask shelter for the night. Macharius, the owner, being absent, the servants roughly refused the sainted youth his request. Senan returned wearily to the creek, and found that the water had ebbed. Preceded by the oxen, he crossed to the other shore, when the tide once again rose to its former height. Senan, thereupon, vowed to be a solider of Christ, and, marking a cross on his spear, planted the weapon in the ground, and ratified his oath upon the symbol. We are told that the Castle of Macharius, later on, was attacked by enemies, his son killed, and his wife and all his valuables carried away, though, as Macharius was guiltless of inhospitable conduct to the saint, the retributive “justice” is not convincing to modern minds. This much, however, is clear that, when the Life was written, possibly in the later twelfth century (the earlier metrical Life gives no name for the “castle,” though it mentions it), a fort, to which this legend was attached, stood near the ford at a little distance westward. The ford was evidently at the Black Weir of Moyasta, though the name Clarefield, near the mouth of the Creek of Poulnishery, suggests a second crossing of planks, as at Clare Castle (clar atha da coradh) and Clarisford. The foreshore of the two Termons on the western side of the inlet is evidently the Tracht Termuinn of the Life, and the “Tragh” (Strand) from which the compiler of the “1380” Rental of the O’Briens commences the survey of West Corcovaskin. [3] Senan, we are told, dedicated his lands to the church, and both Termon and Moylough were parts of the property of Iniscatha Monastery at the Dissolution, a thousand years after the founder’s death. In the creek below Termon Point is still a Senan’s well, and up the stream, a little westward from the latter, is a large, nameless fort, on the highest point of the townland, three quarters of a mile from the creek and ford. All we venture to say is that the site tallies well with the indications of the legend, and that the liss, or some lost fort near it, was, probably, once known as Dun Mechair. Indeed, some relic of it may be found at Moyasta, in the name of Carrowenlongford, or “fort quarter,” in use about 1622-1675, for “longport” usually implies a fortress of some consequence. The other forts beyond the Moyasta creek are small and nameless, with the exception of Rahaniska, “the fort of the water.”

Some have supposed Moyasta to be a corruption of Moyarta, but this is not so; we find Moyhassie, with Killygileagh (or Kilnacally churchyard), in the Inquisition of 1604; Moyhasta and Kearowenlongfort in Moyartie Manor, in the Patent of 1622; and Moyhasta in the “Book of Distribution” (vol. ii., p. 385). It was, evidently, the arm of the sea forded by General Ludlow and his troops on their march to reduce Carrigaholt Castle in 1651.