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Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part V: Corofin District: Dysert, Rath and Kilnamona Parishes:
Caherclancy; Lisnanowle; Cahercorcane; Kilcurrish; Tirmicbrain

I examined three stone forts in this townland. The actual Caherclancy is greatly defaced, a laneway runs through it, and the road to Ballygriffy Castle has encroached upon its base. Much of the wall of large blocks, with a slight batter, and about 5 feet to 5 feet 6 inches high, remains, but calls for no remark.

The other forts lie south of the road; passing across the thyme-tufted crags, we see on a low knoll, half-way between the road and the eastern fort, a large slab with a cave dug under it. The fort is greatly injured; only part of its walls is standing, 5 to 6 feet high, coarsely built with bad stones, and probably late. There are no foundations in the garth, which is about 100 feet north and south, by 80 feet east and west; it may be a bawn or cattle-pen of its neighbour fort.

The western cathair, on the contrary, is one of the finest pieces of masonry in this district of nobly built forts. It stands 68 feet to the west of the last, on a low grassy knoll, above a depression. It is from 6 to 7 feet high, and 10 to 12 feet thick, the last of the western side, with two faces of beautiful poly-gonal masonry of large blocks, but rather wide joints, and is fairly perfect all round. The batter is regular, 1 to 1 ½ in 4. The garth is level, and is raised 5 feet above the field; it is 90 feet across, and large, old hawthorns grow round the edge. The fort measures 110 ft. to 120 feet over all.

There are over thirty forts of earth and stone round Ballygriffy, and nearly sixty from Ruan to Dysert; none call for any special notice, being commonplace and featureless; a few deserve slight mention.

In Rath is nearly levelled to build the wall and back gate of Cragmoher House beside it. The records [14] give Cahernemoher and Caher-greenane in Cragmoher, alias Dromfinglas, 1655. It may be the ‘stone fort of Dromfinglas’ (if the castle is not intended) in the Inquisition on the death of Donald O’Brien of Inistymon in 1588.[15] It is named in the will of Matthew Sweeney of Lisnanoule, yeoman, Feb. 3rd, 1695; the testator orders his burial in ‘the church of Coude (Coad).’ There are curious outspoken directions about the mares and cattle; and two cows were named ‘Dufheane’ and ‘Cronedovagha.’ The fort seems to have had two ring; considerable foundations of the inner one remain.[16]

Cahercorcane in Rath is a nearly levelled ring-wall. A coin of King John was recently found in its gateway. Conor (son of Mortagh) O’Brien owned Cahircorkeane, and was pardoned in 1591.[17] I could hear of no stone fort in the adjoining Cahernamona. There are three typical earthern ring-forts between it and Corofin railway station. Liscullaun has a rath with a conjoined larger annexe to the north-west, about 150 feet over both rings. Of other forts I may name - Rath Blamaic (an ordinary low earthen fort, and near it the base of a tumulus or cairn of earth and large blocks). Cahervickaun and Caher Macgorman (utterly defaced when the adjoining houses were built); they lie in a detatched part of Kilnamona on a hillside.[18] Thence a steep road crosses the low part of Cappanakilla Ridge, close beside Liskillaculloo. The latter is a large low earthwork, pear-shaped in plan, about 250 feet east and west, and 200 feet across, and only a few feet high. Ratharella is an earthen fort, and Caherbannagh [19] is a much-gapped, featureless ring-wall on a high spur; a sheepfold has been built out of the ruin; both lie in Kilnamona. The two largest forts are only of slight interest, being as usual low and featureless. That in Kilkee West is 200 feet across, while Kylemore fort in Killeen, near Lough Atedaun, opposite Corofin, is 300 feet across east and west, and but little less north and south. In it is a killeen graveyard for children. There are many traces of cairns usually nearly removed. One gives its name to Knockacarnaun. One on a low crag near Shallee Castle in Ballyneillan is 74 feet across, and has a polygonal chamber about 5 feet every way. It was explored in 1874-6; it yielded a skull and the bones of two bodies.[20]

An interesting group lies close to the curious church of Cill Croise, or Kilcurrish, in Kilnamona and Dysert. A cairn of large blocks stands on a spur about 300 feet above the sea on the edge of Caherbannagh. It is 57 feet across, and at present only 8 feet high, being hollowed out in the middle by treasure-seekers, but no cist is visible.

Down the eastward slope is a cathair, a ring of filling 7 to 9 feet high, with portions of the outer face of well-fitted, large blocks, with a batter of 1 in 4; the interior face is well preserved. The garth has been tilled, and is 102 feet across north and south, and 111 feet east and west.

Farther to the east in Dysert Parish is a huge natural block which some ignorant visitor has taught the local people to call ‘the Cromlech’; the mistake, however, led to my discovery of two real dolmens near it [21] ; one has collapsed, and is embedded in the roots of a venerable hawthorn 130 feet from the fort. The sides are 7 feet 3 inches north, 6 feet 10 inches south; the cover is 6 feet 3 inches, by 5 feet. North from the last, in the bottom of a valley among thickets of tall hazel, is another unmarked dolmen. It is 9 feet 10 inches by 4 feet over all, with two very rude blocks to each side and one to each end; it is not tapering, but rectangular. The cover has been tilted off, but rests on the side; it is 6 feet 8 inches long, and 5 feet wide like the last, and did not slope. We explored the open fields back towards Magowna Castle, but found no antiquities.

A remarkable little rock fort in Rath Parish. It is greatly defaced, standing on a knob of limestone [22] on a steep, high ridge covered with brushwood and overlooking the lake and marshy valley of Tirmicbrain on the edge of Rath Parish. Local tradition connects the name with Bran the famous hound of Finn Mac Cumhail,[23] which, pursuing a magic stag, sprang from the top of Keentlea (Ceann Sliabh) or Inchiquin Hill into the lake, where it and its quarry disappeared for ever. The fort faces the richly wooded hill, the tall ivied castle, and the picturesque old terraced garden and villa of the Burtons. Reached with difficulty through thorny brakes, little is found. Two rings of large blocks rudely built, the walls rarely 6 feet high, crown the knoll, clinging irregularly to its edges. The upper ring is a little over 40 feet across; the annexe is over 50 feet, but is almost impossible to measure on account of thorn bushes.

The forts of Kilnaboy have, for the most part, been fully described; but a few extra notes on them and certain other antiquities seem desirable. The misleading statement in the Ordnance Survey Letters of Co. Clare [24] that ‘there are several cahers in this parish, but the most remarkable is Cahermore,’ ignores all the really remarkable examples in which Kilnaboy parish is so very rich.