Taylor's hill,
July 20th 1839

Dear Sir,

I suppose that Mr. Wakeman will not be able to join (me) before the first of August, he has so much to sketch on the three islands of Aran; I have however enough to do till then. I left him memoranda of all the places he is to sketch.


Situation. This parish is bounded on the south and west by the ocean; on the north by the parish of Omey, and on the east by the parish of Moyrus.

Name. The name Ballindoon is in Irish Baile an duin, which signifies the townland of the Doon or fort, and was originally so called from a pagan dun which stood on the summit of Knockadoon, over Bunowen Castle, at the foot of which the original parish church


was situated.

I shall here transcribe what Roderic O'Flaherty wrote on this parish in the year 1684.

Three miles from Irrosbeg is (are) the castle and mannor of Bunowan in Irrosmore. Westward of the castle is Knock-a-duin hill,(a) the third landmark descried by such as sail from the main. On the east side of the hill is a harbour for shipping, and the parish church just by at the hill's foot.(b) There is an old fortress of a Down(c) on the top of the hill, which gives name to Ballyndown, Ballyndown haven ({and}) Ballyndown Parish.

St. Flannan of the noble Tuamonian blood, consecrated by Pope John the 4th anno 640, first bishop


(a) This hill is immediately to the west of Bunowen modern castle, the residence of John Augustus Mageoghegan O'Neill.

(b) The old church of Ballindoon was situated immediately at the foot of this hill of Doon to the south east. Only a fragment of the south side wall now remains, about 7 feet high and 42 feet long. It was built of large stones and seems ancient, but no feature remains by which its antiquity could be satisfactorily tested.

(c) The foundations of this dun are now scarcely traceable. On its site Richard Geoghegan, the grandfather of the present John Augustus O'Neill erected an octagonal

[Note c is continued on page 98.]


of Killaloe, is Patron of this parish, and his festival day therein kept the 18th December. On the west side of the hill is a well in memory of the seven daughters.(d) About 2 miles hence is Kennlemy,(e) or the cape of Slime head, the furthest into the sea, and most western point in those parts. Here a great whale was cast in the last day of December 1650, and another about 40 years before.


[Note c is continued from page 97.] building, now called the Gazebo, in memorial of the liberation of Ireland in 1780, (on) which he caused this inscription to be written:


(d) This well is still shewn a short distance to the west of the hill of Doon. It is ca]led Tobar na seacht n-inghean, and (or) Tobar na seacht m-ban-naomh, i.e. the well of the seven daughters, or the well of the seven saintesses. The name is not set down in any of the name books of the parish of Ballindoon, but it should be marked on the map.

(e) Slime head is still universally called Ceann Léime i.e. leap-head, by all the natives of Connamara and Aran.


Western of this point is Olen Lachan or Duck island(f) where there is a chappell and well of St. Caillin, Bishop and disciple of St. Binign, and of the ancient Conmacny family, who is worshipped in his abbey of Fidnach ({now Fenagh}) in Conmacny Rein ({in Co. Leitrim}) the 13th of November. There is another miraculous well of St. Caillin in Slime Head on a little height within a stone which never overflows the stone nor becomes dry.(g)


(f) The ruins of this chapel are still to be seen on Oileán lachan or Duck island, which lies in the ocean opposite the townland of Ballynaleama of which it is a part. St. (Caillin's) well is near this little chapel.

(g) This well is situated in the townland of Keerhaunmore and though it is only rain water deposited in a stone it is believed that it cannot possibly ever run dry. Ní rachfaidh bulláinín beag beannuighthe Naoimh Cáillín a n-dítuisc (.i. n-dísc) go brath. The same is believed of several Bullauns on the islands of Aran, though I have seen several of them dried up. It is very little matter what any people believe so as they are virtuous and honest, and I firmly believe that the natives of Connamara are more so than those of Dublin or perhaps Paris, as the French traveller has stated.


Beyond Duck Island is Olen imiol,(h) or border(-ing) island as being the o [u]termost border of the west. Here they used to have a slaughter of seals in their due season.(i) Northward of Slimehead toward the east is Mannin(j) bay, over which is Knock-tuascert(k) towards Slimehead. In the same Bay is Irros Flannain,(l) and Ardberra haven,(m) wherein is an oyster bank; and the salmon fish come on Bel-athn-a-bay(n) river.


(h) Now called Oileán Imill i.e. border island. There are two light-houses on it now, the one revolving, the other stationary.

(i) Seals are now never slaughtered in any part of Connamara, or on the Aran islands.

(j) So called at this day. It is said to be named after Mananan, the son of the sea, a celebrated Navigator of the Tuatha de Dananns, who gave name (also) to the isle of Mann, which (he) is said to have made his principal depot after having left Ireland.

(k) This name still exists and should appear on the Ordnance Map, but it is not set down in the name books of this Parish.

(l) Still well known, but Anglicised Errislannaun.

(m) Now Ardbear at Clifden.

(n) Now Anglicised Ballinaboy, but in Irish Beal aith na baidhe. There had been a monthly market held here before it was removed to Clifden.


In Irros-flannan is St. Flannan's church,(o) which, they say was the parish church. This church admits no burial within the walls of it.(p)

Owanglinn river(q) falling from the mountains of Bennabeola(r) into Ardberra haven divides the North half Barony from the South.

p. 101.


(o) This is now called simply Kill, but it should be called Kilflannaun on the map. It lies in the townland of Kill, rectius Kilflannaun, in the north of the parish of Ballindoon, and near it there is a holy well called Tobar Flannáin ([Added in pencil: Tober Flannaun]), after this saint.

(p) That is, bodies are not interred within this church, and should any be buried inside (it) they would be found thrown over ground the next day! Sit sua fides antiquae traditioni.

(q) So called at this day; it flows under the Bridge of Clifden.

(r) Beanna Beóla is still the Irish name of a chain of mountains in Connamara, corruptly called at present "the twelve Pins", for "the twelve Bins". It is supposed that they took their name from a giant or great man who formerly ruled over these western parts, and who was interred at Tuaim Beóla near Ballynahinch to which also he gave name; for Tuaim Beóla signifies the tumulus of Beóla. Is there any record of this great man of ancient days in any of the compilations of Irish history?


The castle of Bunowen above mentioned by O'Flaherty was the residence of Sir Morogh O'Flaherty in the year 1660 when he died. Shortly after this period it was inhabited by a branch of the Mageoghegans of Kinel-Fiach who were transplanted hither in the year ?

The Mageoghegans dwelt in it for several years, but finally, it becoming unfashionable to dwell in military fortresses, they built a small house near it at the foot of the hill of Doon. The castle of Bunowen is said to have been a strong and extensive building, but there is no part of it now remaining but (except) a shapeless fragment of the south wall from which no correct idea can be formed of its original strength or extent. It was lately pulled down by the present John A. O'Neill, the head of the Mageoghegans, to obtain materials for enlarging the modern house of Bunowen.

The grandfather of the present Mr. O'Neill of Bunowen went to Holland to learn the mode of reclaiming (land) from the (sea) and after his return (he) succeeded in recovering a considerable extent of the lands of Ballyconneely. On a weir or dam which he opposed to the mighty element he caused the following inscription to be engraved:


The father of the present proprietor of Bunowen considering that the name Geoghegan, {as Feynes Moryson had considered some centuries before him} was too barbarous for a man of his dignity and protestant feelings, thought proper to change his (ugly) oulde name to (the more mellifluous but equally savage one of) O'Neill, and this he did by consent of his good monarch to whom he proved that he was lineally descended from Niall of the Nine hostages the plunderer of Gaul and tamer of the Britons. The monarch considering this (fact) proved, consented &c. that Mr. Gog-again of Bun-Owen Castle in Connamara, should reject the patronymic which he and his ancestors had, for eight centuries, received from their more modern ancestor Gog-again and called himself and his posterity, after (from) their more remote progenitor Niall Naoighiallach, and thus take (took) the tribe name (Nepotes Neill; the O'Neills of the north took their surname from Niall Glundubh not from Niall of the Nine Hostages, which should have proved to Mageoghegan that he had no title to the name of O'Neill in any historical point of view) instead of the surname which had been rendered respectable by the historical reminiscences of eight centuries. This is to my mind august fudge, and John Augustus O'Neill Mageoghegan is fully convinced of it. This Augustus O'Neill was for several years (one year?) member for Hull as one of the most distinguished Orangemen of his time, but


he is now at home at Bunowen, a very quiet and good natured papist, and one of the best landlords in Ireland. Oh! mind of man! once a proud persecutor of his race and now an humble believer!

On the island of Dun na bfál {i.e. Dun of the walls or enclosures} situated in the ocean opposite the townland of Ballynaleama to which it belongs, are the ruins of Belgic Caher[s], and several remains of stone-roofed houses similar to those on Aran and High island near Omey.


Duald Mac Firbis in giving (in the smaller version of his book) the pedigree of the O'Tooles of Hy-Muireadhaigh in Leinster, adds in a note that Dunlong, the son of Gilla-Kevin of Fahy, who was the son of Walter, was the progenitor of the O'Tooles of Omey-Fechin (Iomaidh Fhéichín) in Connamara in the west of Connaught, and in his larger work compiled in the College of St. Nicholas at Galway in 1645, he gives the pedigree of O'Toole of Omey in Conmaicne mara as follows


Family tree of O'Tuathail of Iomaidh in Conmaicne Mara in west Connaught.

I should suppose that Edmond O'Toole, the son of Tibbot, was living at Omey in Mac Firbis's time. We have no historical account of the time at which or the cause for which this branch of the O'Tooles removed from Leinster to Connamara. It appears from an entry in the annals of the Four Masters ? (1585?) year of the reign of Elizabeth (that an English army) made a predatory excursion into West Connaught and hanged Theobald O'Toole {of Omey?} a wise and good man, who kept a house of open hospitality.

From the manner in which Mac Firbis spells the name Iomaidh Fechin I incline to think that [what] it means is undoubtedly "St. Fechin's seat", and that the word Iomaidh, which is applied to the seats or benches in the Hall of Tara, is taken in a wider sense to mean seat or habitation. In like manner Errigal, which really (literally) means an apartment or chamber in a house, is applied to the ecclesiastical establishments of early Irish saints as Errigal Keeroge, Errigal-Onan. The Irish annals make mention of another church called Imaidh Chiarain, but I have not yet been able to discover its present name or situation.



The tradition about St. Ceannonach, the patron Saint of this parish, states that he was one of the first preachers of Christianity in these western parts, and that he was beheaded by the pagans at the eastern extremity of the present village of Cleggan where there is a heap of stones still to be seen erected on the spot where his head was out off. There is a church called after his name on the middle island (of Aran) from which it will appear certain that he lived at a very early period. See letter on (concerning) the Middle island of Aran in which more will be said on this subject.

Is it possible that there is no account of him in our Martyrologies?

Your obedient Servant,
John O'Donovan.