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

Part I.—From Loop Head to Carrigaholt

Names of the Forts

As to the names—the prefix “liss” markedly predominates; this in itself is but little noteworthy, for some 1,400 names of townlands and villages in all parts of Ireland so commence; and they are merely a fraction, the majority of Liss-names being confined to forts; but the distribution in Clare is of some interest. They are most abundant in Moyarta (28), and fairly plentiful to the west of the Fergus; Clonderalaw and Ibrickan have 11 each; Islands, Inchiquin and Burren, 15 each; Corcomroe has only 8. To the east of the Fergus, hardly any are found, save about a dozen round Tulla and Bodyke villages in Tulla Upper. There are only 2 in Bunratty Upper, 3 in Bunratty Lower, and 1 in Tulla Lower. Their abundance in Burren is equally strange, as the stone fort predominates, and earthen forts are very rare. The prefix is found in Brittany, “Les” or “Leis” meaning “court,” and also, but rarely, in Scotland, Cornwall, and Wales; the English prefix, as Dr. D. Christison suggests, is more probably the Saxon “Leswe,” pasture.

Forts in the Irrus, County Clare
Forts in the Irrus, County Clare
(Click on the image above for a larger version)

The names in the “Irrus” are—in Killard—Lisroe, Lisconnell, Lisgerrine, and Lismeuse. In Kilfieragh—Lisnalegaun, Lislonaghan, Lisdeen, Lissyoolaghan, and Lisheenagreany. [33] In Moyarta—Lisfuadnaheirka, [34] Lisheenaheirka, Lisboy, Lisroe, Lisduff, Lismakadau, [35] Corlis, Lisheencrony, Liscrona, Liscroneen, Lisheen, Lisheenfurroor, Lismadine, Lismaguine, Lissanuala, Lisnagreeve, Lissagreenaun, and Lissaphunna. In Killyballyowen—Lisroe, Lissalappaun, Liscunnigan, Lissalougha, Lisguine, and Lissanooan, some 29 in all. The other fort prefixes are far rarer, there being 8 “Caher” names, 5 “Doon” names (exclusive of the 6 cliff fort, “Doons”), and 3 “Rath” names.

“Caher” is chiefly found in two groups—one at Loop Head, Cahercroghaun, Caheracoolia, Cahersaul, and Cahernaheanvna; the other near Bealaha, Caherduff, and Cahermoyle in Glascloon (the Caherduff and Cahergall of that townland in the 1623 grant), and Caherleane. There were also a Cahercuttine or Carriowenchotten (in Termon Senan), probably in Termon, near Moyasta, in 1590 and 1610, [36] and a “caghir” at Doonaghboy in 1655, possibly the existing double-ringed fort. “Doon” is found in Doonmore, Doonbeg (two names), Doonaghboy, and Doonaha. [37] Rath, now, apparently, only occurs at Rahona [38] and Rahaniska, [39] but in 1655 or 1675 the great fort in Reenmacderrig was also called “Rathmacdirrigg.”

These names (unlike so many of the Kerry fort-names) are at least over two or three centuries old. A few notes may be helpful to students of local history. [40] Lisluinaghan was held by Owen O’Cahane in 1615 and 1624, and by Charles Cahan in 1655 and 1675. The family were lay “coarbs” or successors of St. Senan, acting as “trustees” of the lands of his monastery of Iniscatha (Scattery Island) down to the reign of Elizabeth. They are represented in the female line by the Keanes of Beechpark and Dundahlin, who still preserve the “clog an oir” or bell reliquary of St. Senan. [41]

Lismeuse is given as an alias for Lisgerrine in 1675, but separately in the 1655 “Book of Distribution,” and the confirmation, under the Act of Settlement, to Daniel O’Brien. It was granted to Thomas Lucas by lease of Lord Clare in 1688.

Lisdeen is the Lis Duibhen of the “1390” rental; [42] Lisdeen in the Inquisitions of 1615 and 1621; Lisdweene in 1655; and Lisdeyne, 1675. Charles Cahane held Lishdubine in 1688 under Lord Clare; but T. Lucas occupied it in 1691. The old manorial court was held there till after 1836. Lisheen and Furroor were separate townlands when held by Daniel O’Cahane in 1688. A dwarf wood grew in the former, and one at Doonaha down to 1655. Indeed low thickets still exist on the moors between Doonaha and Kilkee.

We have already alluded briefly to the forts of Caherduff and Cahergall near Bealaha. Caherleane has been nearly levelled; a portion of the south segment is traceable in a high field towards the sea. It may be interesting to note that the present townland is the old Cahirleanemore, Cahirleanebeg having been absorbed into Dunmore. [43] The mears of Caherlane were undefined in 1655. [44]