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The Burren: Dysert O'Dea Church

The ruined Church of Disert consists of nave and choir, the former measuring seventy one feet by twenty four, the latter twenty five feet six inches by twenty one feet three inches; the walls perfect, about fourteen feet high and three feet one inch thick. There is a window in the west gable but of what particular form I could not ascertain from the quantity of ivy with which it is covered within and without. Thirteen feet ten inches from west gable in the south side is a beautifully sculptured circular door, six feet ten inches high, three feet two wide, the front having four circles one over the other, resting the first or inner on the sides of the door. The second arch was supported by a slender column of stone at each side carved and surmounted by a human head; the column on the east has disappeared. The third arch is supported by the angles of the wall and the fourth by two slender columns like those already mentioned, with heads also. The stones of this arch are nineteen in number and project a little from the wall, presenting twelve human heads and seven heads of some animals, the head on the key-stone being smaller than any of the rest.


Romanesque Doorway, Dysert O'Dea
Romanesque Doorway, Dysert O'Dea

The choir arch is a beautiful circular one built with finely cut grit-stone, fourteen feet six and a half inches wide, and I should think the same in height. There is a double-headed curvilineal pointed belfry on this gable built with the very same kind of stone and workmanship. The wall around the choir arch appears to have been opening and threatening to fall out, but has been prevented by the timely interference of Mr. Synge, who some time ago, had it well plastered and staunched.

There is a pointed window in the north wall of nave near this gable, seven feet seven inches by three feet ten inside and six feet two by nine inches outside. There is a window in the south side of quire near the east gable, built up with the same sort of stones as the choir arch, pointed inside, where it is six feet seven inches high and four feet four inches wide, round outside, where it is five feet two high and six inches wide.

The window in the east gable is eleven feet two and a half inches wide and about fifteen feet high, divided into three compartments by two triangular pillars of masonry and lined all round with the same sort of cut stones as those in the choir arch, but looking somewhat fresher. These compartments are bluntly (flatly) pointed inside and circular in front. Tradition says that this choir was added to the Church by O'Dea, and the people here always call it O'Dea's Chapel. Indeed, this tradition is favoured by the appearance of the walls and its being built up against, not part of, the middle gable, nor would I be able to discover any material difference between the masonry of this gable and the rest of the choir.
There is a monumental stone inserted in the north wall of the choir, having the following inscription in plain letters:-

This thombe was erected by Michael O'Dea of Dishert, son of Connor Crone O'Dea, the second day of May in the year of our Lord 1684. Wherein was interred Joan Dea alias Butler, wife of the said Michael O'Dea, the eleventh of December following. Est coumne mori mors nulli parcit honori debiliset fortis veniunt ad funera mortis.

There is a tombstone near the east gable with the following inscription on it:'"Here lies the body of Honora Mc Namara, the wife of William Neylan, Esquire, and the body of Celia O'Brien the wife of Capt. Daniel Neylan. Celia died the 5th day of April, Anno Xti. 1728.' Those Neylans were located at Knock-na-Graige in the neighbouring Parish of Rath, but are now extinct or dispersed.

Eugene Curry, 1839.

Extract taken from John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 'The antiquities of County Clare': letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the County of Clare collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1839. Ennis, Clasp Press, 1997.

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