Tuam Septr. 22nd 1838.

Dear Sir,

O'Conor has returned from the barony of Tiaquin. After we have settled the names and letters (written) about the parishes of that Barony we shall move to Galway and then work our way to Ballinasloe. Can O'Keeffe come to assist us at all?


This parish which lies between Headford and the parish of Donaghpatrick is called by the native Irish Cill Cílbhire, which signifies the church of Kilvry (Caoilbhre) a saint of whose history I know nothing. Is he mentioned in any of the Calendars or lists of the early Irish Ecclesiastics? No trace of his church is now visible, its site being occupied by Ross lodge, at the erection of which a great quantity of bones were dug up (out) of the grave yard which was, as usual, attached to this church.


I do not find any antiquities in this parish but some stone forts or Cahers, which are much effaced and of no interest. They are set down in the name book, and therefore on the map.

The town of Headford is partly situated in this parish and partly in the parishes of Kill-ursa, Cargeen, and Killeny. It is not a very ugly little town though one will be a good deal annoyed by the fleas (flays) at the Head Inn, which looks a clean house. This town is not shewn on Petty's (engraved) map of the County of Mayo from which one must infer that it was not then in existence. Tradition states that it received its name of Ath Cinn or Head-ford from a number of heads which were cut off here and thrown into the ford after the bloody battle of Sruth-fuil or Sruille. Is this Ath-Cind mentioned in the annals or (any) another of our old historical books?



This small parish which lies between those of Belclare and Donaghpatrick is called by the native Irish Cill Odhair, the meaning of which they do not understand, nor can I pronounce with any certainty upon its signification unless it be Ecclesia Fusci or Cill Lobhair, Ecclesia Leprosi.

The present old church is decidedly not many centuries old. It was 18 feet in breadth and about 63 in length, but all its doorways and windows are destroyed, so that one has no clue to its age but the appearance of the small fragment which remains of the west gable.

Near this church is a large and very ancient ash tree, at the foot of which there is an irregular circle of stones called Leabaidh Phadhruig, Lectus Patricii or St. Patrick's bed,


from which it may, perhaps, be safely inferred that the original church of the place was erected by Saint Patrick for one of his disciples who might have been a Lover or leper, but there is no tradition in the parish to support this conjecture.

There is nothing else in this parish of interest to the antiquarian, but the small castle called Castle Hackett lying in Major Kirwan's demesne at the foot of the celebrated Knock Máá (Meádha). It is said to have belonged to the family of Hackett, of whose history I know nothing. Have we any document to shew when the Hacketts lost this place and when and by what means the Kirwans obtained possession of it?



This parish, which is (one of) the most southern in the barony of Clare, is now called in Irish Baile Chláir but by the Irish annalists Baile an Chláir, i.e. the bally or town of the clar or flat.

The ruins at present to be seen at this place are 1. Those of a square castle in good preservation. This is was formerly the residence of Mac William Oughter de Burgo as we learn from the Four Masters at the year 1469. 2. Ruins of an abbey in the Gothic style, erected according to Ware in (or about) the year 1290 for Franciscan friars by John de Cogan. 3. Ruins of a church, which seems to have been erected at the same period with the abbey. These lie close together (not far asunder) in the townland of Clare Galway, about 5½ miles from the town of Galway to the North.

Reference is made to several places of the name Baile an chlair, and Beol an chlair


in the Irish Annals, and (as) it is not easy to distinguish them without an intimate acquaintance with the topography of the Province of Connaught, I shall here quote all the passages and point out which is which that future investigators may not have to say that I had all the power and opportunity but neglected my duty from carelessness or inanition, two prominent characteristics of the Milesian mind when left to itself.

It will be remarked that Bel cláir Tuama is not refer[r]ed to in any of these passages though it contained a castle and a monastery. Can any historical reference to Bel clare Tuam be found in any of our (mere) Irish or Anglo-Irish documents?


[Hand of a scrivener:]


1461 - In the beginning of this year Felim Fionn O'Conor was taken prisoner by his own kinsmen viz the sons of Brian Ballach and Roderic O'Conor Don. After this capture, war and confusion prevailed in Siol-Muireadhaigh, and Teige O'Conor himself was captured by his kinsmen. Mac William Burke and his kinsmen marched with an army into Machaire Chonnacht to rescue Felim Finn from the son of Brian Ballach, and gave him his own demand for his ransom, and the chiefs of Connaught as guarantees for the payment of it upon which Felim was liberated. He took those


chieftains with him to Carn-fraoigh mhic Fiodhaigh-foltruaidh and Mac Dermot put on his shoe after purchasing him and they obtained the hostages of the descendants of Ona the son of Aengus ({the Mac Branons}) and those of the Hy Briuin Mac William, having left these hostages with the son of Brian Ballach returned home. As soon as the sons of O'Conor Roe had heard this they ransomed Teige O'Conor from O'Conor Don by giving the half Townland of Baile an Chlair* for him, and they afterwards went over to Conor Mac Branain.


1469 - O'Donnell {Hugh Roe} and the chiefs of Tirconnell mustered a great army which was joined by the forces of Lower Connaught and they proceeded forthwith to the territory of Mac William Burke {Richard the son of Edmond}. Mac William came to O'Donnell and made submission to him. They all then held council and agreed upon marching against Mac William of Clanrickard {Ulick the son of Ulick an fhiona} to wreak upon him the enmity they bore him on account of the defeat of Cros moighe Croin which Mac William Burke had some time before sustained from Mac William of Clanrickard. O'Donnell having assented, they set out for Clanrickard and in the first place


burned and destroyed Machaire riabhach and remained for some time encamped at Baile an Chlair the mansion seat of Mac William which they afterwards burned and they continued for some time destroying and laying waste the country on every side. Mac William {Ulick} however brought and assembled to his assistance, the sons of O'Brien, Gilduff, the son of Teige and Mortogh Garbh the son of Teige and countless numbers of the Dalcassian nobles along with them. Mac William with his own troops and all his muster overtook O'Donnell as he was leaving the country and Mac William's cavalry and the O'Briens made their first attack upon the rear of O'Donnell's


army at Bail an Duibh ({Ballinduff in Clare Bar}), this was vigorously responded to by O'Donnell's cavalry and in particular by Egnechan the son of Naghtan O'Donnell who was in the rear of O'Donnell's army so that the cavalry of Mac William and of the O'Briens were finally defeated. During this skirmish Donall the son of O'Conor of Corcomroe and many others not enumerated were slain. Mac William and the O'Briens however rallied their forces and placing themselves in battle array pursued with one accord the army of O'Donnell, But this was of no advantage to them for O'Donnell's army wheeled round on Mac William's and the O'Brien's


cavalry at the river called Glanog and there defeated them again; they left many men, horses and valuable things behind and disgracefully fled. This battle was called the defeat of Glanog.

1487 - The peace of Siol-Muireadhaigh was again ratified and the Lordship of the descendants of Cormac O'Beirne the half townland of Baile-an-chlair, and the five townlands of Cinn-Coradh being part of the share allotted to Cormac oge to Felim O'Conor.



1512 - A great war broke out between O'Donnell and O'Neill {Art the son of Hugh} and another war was kindled between O'Donnell and Mac William Burke {Edmond the son of Richard} O'Donnell procured fifteen (hundred) soldiers bearing battle axes, in Tirconnell, Fermanagh and the Province of Connaught and hired them and afterwards accompanied by Magnus his son he marched with his forces from Derry until they arrived in Lower Connaught and from thence into Gaileang where they besieged the castle of Beol an Chlair {Ballyclare} which castle O'Donnell


also took and left his wardens in. His forces then returned over Sliabh Gamh into Tireragh where they remained for some time. As soon as Mac William Burke had heard of this occurrence he marched with all his troops and surrounded the castle of Beol an Chlair in which O'Donnell had left his wardens, but when O'Donnell had received intelligence that Mac William had blockaded the castle he returned with vigour and expedition over Sliabh Gamh Mac William being surprized (apprized? JO'D) of O'Donnell's approach left the place.

compd. NOP[?]


[Hand of I. O'Donovan resumed:] The Baile an chlair above mentioned at the years 1461 and 1487 lies in the County of Roscommon, and seems to have been a mere townland. The Baile an chlair mentioned at the year 1469 is unquestionably the present Baile Chláir or Clare Galway, the mansion seat of Mac William of Clanrickard or Mac William Oughter or Upper; but the Beol an chlair referred to at the year 1512 is the name of a place in the Barony of Gallen Co. of Mayo (Leyny Co. Sligo) where there were formerly a castle and an abbey. I have not been in that part of the County of Mayo, nor has Mr. O'Conor who traversed the Barony of Gallen, any recollection of having met (there) a castle or abbey of that name. A correct idea may be formed of the situation of this place from Sir Henry Docwra's account of Services done in Ireland (?Connaught) by Sir Richard Bingham in which I read

When the moone gave


light Sir Richard {who was at the abbey of Benneda} arose and addressinge (i.e. dressing?) himselfe and (to?) his companye Marched towardes Belcleare vii (7) myles ffrom the abbeye in the highwaye towardes the enemye {who were encamped at Ardnarea}. Here one of the espyalls (i.e. spies) came in, bringinge newes that the Scotts laye still encamped at Ardnarye which was xii (12) myles ffrom the fforesaide Abbye of Banneda and viii (8) Myles ffrom the Abbye of Belclare.

Has this abbey or Castle of Belclare(?), Clare(?) or Ballyclare(?) been shewn on the Ordnance Map of Mayo in the Barony of Gallen 8 long Irish miles southwards of Ballina or Ardnarea in the direction of the Abbey of Bannada in the County of Sligo? Try the parish of Killasser. It is shameful if we have all omitted a place so famous in history.


In this parish and about 8 Irish miles North and by East of Galway is situated the hill of Knock Tuagh - now generally anglicized Knockdoe - famous for a bloody battle fought there in the year 1504 between the Lord Deputy and the Earl of Clanrickard. The Four Masters give the following account of this murderous conflict, which was as famous among genealogists as the battle of Down.

1504, Three castles belonging to O'Kelly, viz Garbhdhoire, Muine-an-mheadha ({Moneyvea}) and Gallach were demolished by Mac William de Burgo {Ulick III.} O'Kelly {Melaghlin} repaired to the Lord chief Justice and complained to him of the injury done him. Whereupon a great army was mustered by the chief Justice {Garrett, the son of Thomas, Earl of Kildare} being joined by the nobles of Leath chuinn, viz O'Donnell {Hugh Roe} and his son together with the principal chiefs of the Kinel-Connell; also a party of the Connacians viz O'Conor Roe and Mac Dermot, Lord of Moylurg. He was also joined by all the chiefs of Ulster excepting


O'Neill, viz by Art, the son of Hugh O'Neill Tanist of Tirone, Donnell, the son of Magennis, Mac Mahon and O'Hanlon; also by O'Kelly and O'Farrell surnamed the Bishop, by O'Conor Faly and the O'Kellys and also by the sons of Mac William de Burgo {Lower? } and by the forces of almost all the northern half of Ireland. These numerous forces made no delay until they arrived in Clanrickard, where Mac William de Burgo {upper?} had mustered a great army to give them battle viz Turlogh, the son of Teige O'Brien, Lord of Thomond and his brothers with all their forces; the Siol-Aodha {i.e. the Mac Namaras}, and Mulrony O'Carroll, lord of Ely with all his clans and chieftains, who were joined by the nobles of Ormond and Ara. After all these had assembled Mac William & O'Brien held council, in which they, with the assent of all their chiefs came to a spirited and brave resolution, that they would neither


submit nor give hostages to the enemy but would come to a pitched battle at Cnoc Tuagh. A fierce engagement accordingly took place between them there such as had not been known of in latter times.

Far from the field of action were heard the violent onset of the martial chiefs, the vehement efforts of the champions, the desperate charge of the royal heroes, the tumult of the nobles, the clamor of the troops when thrown in confusion, the shouts and exultations of the youths, the noise made by the brave men as they fell, and the routing of the inferior soldiery by the nobility. In short the battle ended with the defeat of Mac William O'Brien, and the chiefs of Leath Mogha, and a great slaughter of their forces in general. Among the slain was Morogh Mac-O'Brien Ara together with many others of the nobility.


A countless number of the Lord Deputy's forces were also slain, though victory favoured his side; in fact it would be impossible to enumerate or describe all the slain both horse and foot soldiers in the engagement for the plain on which they fought was impassable by reason of the several prodigious and uncommon (strages) that lay slaughtered on it. It was strewed all over with shivered spears, cloven shields, shattered swords, mangled and disfigured bodies stretched dead at full length and beardless youths lying lifeless confusedly on the plain.

After having gained this signal victory, the Lord chief Justice proposed to O'Donnell that they should march straight to Galway to which O'Donnell replied as follows: A considerable number said he of our forces have been slain and overpowered, and more of them separated from us, wherefore, what I think most adviseable is that we take our repose


to-night at this place, and pitch a camp in token of victory, for our soldiers and attendants now scattered, then recognizing our standards and colors, will rally and join us. This was accordingly done, and on the following day the Lord Deputy and O'Donnell marched to Galway, the Lord Deputy carrying with him as captives, the two sons and the daughter of Mac William. They remained for some time together in this town chearful and merry, and well pleased with their late victory, and from thence they marched to Athenry which town surrendered to them. After which O'Donnell and the other chiefs took their leave of the Lord Deputy, and departed to their respective places of abode.

Tradition says that this battle was fought


between the summit of Knockdoe hill and Turloughmore, and that some musquet balls and one cannon ball were found on the side of the hill.

The local interpretation of the name Cnoc tuagh is hill of hatchets, and it is believed that it received this name from this battle fought in 1504 with tuagha or battle axes; but it is my opinion that the name is as old as Cnoc Meadha and Cnoc Muidh. Is it mentioned in the Dinnseanchus? It is said that there is a townland in this parish called Lissarulla in which there is a castle, but I have not such a name in the name book of Clare Galway. This should be looked to.



I have not yet sufficiently examined the antiquities of this parish, having only passed through a few townlands of it on my way from Clare Galway to Tuam. I met one old church in the townland of Cill Chathail which bears the same name with the townland or rather which originally gave its name of Cill Chathail or Church of St. Cathaldus to the townland. It lies (in a field) to the left of the road as you go from Clare Galway to Tuam about 8 miles from the latter.

This church is 45 feet in length [inside) and 20 feet in breadth. The side walls are built of large stones in a rude style. All the windows are (totally) destroyed except one (in the east gable) which is still (however) so injured that I could [not] ascertain its height or original breadth. The


west gable is also built of large stones in a very rude style and contains a doorway of this form.

West doorway in Cill Chathail old church
West doorway in Cill Chathail old church

Is there any mention of this St. Cathaldus in any of the Irish ecclesiastical documents. There is another church dedicated to him in the County of Westmeath near Rathowen.

From this old church you have a view of three famous hills in Connaught, viz. Knock-Tuagh (to the) S.E. with a remarkable high farm house on its summit. Knockmoy to the (North) East, and Knock-Meádha to the N.W. (North). Charles O'Conor of Belanagare in (a) note to the Battle of Cnock Tua in the O'Gorman copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, states that Knock Toe is within 5 miles of Galway and that the battle was fought on the 19th of August 1504. The summit of Knock Doe is however 8 Irish miles from Galway. It is by far the lowest of the three Knocks above mentioned.

From this old church you also see peeping over the Partry range of mountains, the (blue) summit of the Reek of St. Patrick.

There are some traces of the foundations of houses in the field adjoining this church at the south. Its grave yard is just effaced.

Your obedt. Servt.
John O'Donovan

*Now Ballyclare, a Townland in the Parish of Clontooskert in the Barony and County of Roscommon.

Kincora, O'Beirne's Country, called Tir Briuin, lies between Elphin and Jamestown, in the Co. of Roscommon, and comprizes the Parishes of Aughrim, Clooncraff and Kilmore. J.O'D.

Now Garbh-bhaile in the parish of Moylough. This is another striking instance of the corruption of final r into l