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Survey of the McInerney Sept of Thomond by Luke McInerney, M.A.
Land and Lordship of Clann Chuiléin: 1200-1550

Genealogy of Clann McInerney

The McInerney demesne at Ballykilty in the parish of Quin may have formed part of the original patrimony of the clann as it was occupied exclusively by the ceannfine – or sept-head – of the McInerneys in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ballykilty was located on the southern boundary of the original Uí Caisin lands and was near Danganbrack, the residence of the McNamara Fionn chiefs of west Clann Chuiléin. Collateral McInerney land in the parishes of Kilnasoolagh and Clonloghan may have come into the family after 1318 because before this date they were the patrimony of the Uí Bloid clanns. This section will review the extant historical evidence on the McInerney clann and their involvement in the wars of Thomond. The section argues that the McInerneys gained status because of their alliance with the McNamaras during the wars of Thomond (1276-1318) and because of their position as McNamara urriagh. These reasons made possible their expansion into the Newmarket-on-Fergus area (ancient Tradaree) and the building of tower-houses to consolidate control over their estates.

The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries saw much change in east Clare as the McNamaras expanded into neighbouring Uí Bloid tuatha and sidelined their Uí Gráda (O’Grady) rivals. By allying with clann Taidhg Uí Bhriain during the wars of Thomond the McNamaras defeated the Norman colonisation of Tradaree.[23] The climate was right for Donnchadha Mac Con Mara’s airchinneach line to flourish. During this time the McInerneys are first mentioned as a distinct clann, suggesting that they had grown in influence and were prominent enough to be mentioned as a McNamara sept in their own right. The importance of the McInerneys is shown by the several pedigrees that were later drawn up to support the claims of the leading branch of the McInerneys to the ownership of Ballysallagh, Ballykilty and Carrigoran. This also showed that the McInerneys held some importance (at the local level) in the Gaelic social system to warrant several pedigrees outlining patrilineal descent of the clann from its twelfth century origins.

According to a pedigree dated c1588 and entitled Mac an Oirchinnigh Chloinne Cuilein, Donnchadha Mac Con Mara was the progenitor of the McInerney clann (Donnchadha .i. an Hoirchinneach agus Clann an Oirchinnigh)[24] 4 and had a son named Connchobhair.[25] This pedigree probably supported the land claims of the dominant faction of the McInerney sept in 1560s-1570s, a point that we will turn to later.[26] The three seventeenth century pedigrees of the family such as the O’Clery Book of Genealogies[27], an anonymous genealogical manuscript lodged at the Royal Irish Academy[28] and a genealogical tract compiled by the O’Duigenan family[29] refer to the McInerneys as the Mac an Oirchindig and Mac an Oirchindh and attribute their origins to Donnchadha Mac Con Mara. All McInerney pedigrees broadly agree on the line of genealogical descent of the dominant McInerney lineage and the connection to the ruling McNamaras[30] (see Appendix II).

Given the accuracy of the genealogies in detailing the descendents of Donnchadha Mac Con Mara it would appear likely that some of the genealogies were copied from an initial source. The fact that the pedigree compiled by Seán Ó Cathain in the eighteenth century divides the Mac in Oirchinn Cloine Culein genealogy into two branches to reflect the splintering of the sept into a senior and junior branch suggests that it was copied from the c1588 pedigree which used the same tact.[31] The division of the family into two genealogical branches was probably done to support the land claims of the dominant family branch who were vying for control over the clann lands of Ballykilty, Ballysallagh and Carrigoran during the 1560s and 1570s.

McInerneys and the Wars of Thomond

The status of the McInerneys, like that of the McNamaras after they defeated their Uí Bloid rivals, grew during the thirteenth century. Along with the increase in their status the McInerneys were possibly granted additional lands from the short-lived Norman settlement in Tradaree. The Norman settlement in Thomond began in the 1248 when Robert de Musegros was granted the fertile district of Tradaree lying between Latoon and the Owennagarney river at Sixmilebridge.[32] Tradaree formed the mensal lands of the O’Brien kings who, as the Earls of Thomond, made their residence at Bunratty until 1642[33] and was an area that was closely associated with the McInerneys, McClancys and O’Mulconerys.[34] In 1276 the Anglo-Norman, Thomas de Clare, reached an agreement with Robert de Musegros and King Edward I that saw the title of Tradaree transfer to himself. The growing power of the Norman manor at Bunratty saw Welsh and English tenants occupying fiefs on the lands that the McInerneys were later to hold from their McNamara overlords. In the thirteenth century Ballysallagh was held by Nic. De Interby[35] and Henry White, while Clonloghan and Ballynacragga were held by Henry Fuke and Carrigoran was held by Patrick de Layndperun.[36]

The Norman colony of Tradaree posed a challenge to the Uí Caisin lands to the north and de Clare was granted further estates at Quin by Brian Ruadh Ó Bhriain. This resulted in the McNamaras supporting a faction of the O’Briens known as clann Taidhg Uí Bhriain and opposing Brian Ruadh Ó Bhriain.[37] The intervening period between 1276-1318 saw turmoil in Thomond as rival factions of O’Briens courted Norman support to assert local authority, while the McNamaras and their Uí Caisin allies were on the political ascent with de Clare’s death in 1287 and the defeat of the Uí Bloid clanns in 1318.

The McInerneys gained greater status during this period and it is possible that with the defeat of de Clare’s son Richard at Dysert O’Dea in 1318 the McInerneys came to occupy the lands of the Norman manor at Bunratty in Tradaree.[38] By the seventeenth century slightly more than half of the McInerney estate was in Tradaree with much of the estate concentrated in the parish of Kilnasoolagh.[39] The McInerneys featured several times in the near contemporary account of the Thomond wars, the Caithreim Thoirdhealbhaigh.[40] This text, which covered the battles and events of 1276-1318, demonstrates that the McInerneys were considered important enough to be singled out several times as an independent clann and a McNamara ally, a fact shown by the text’s citing of the McInerneys before other important McNamara urriagh such as the O’Hallorans and O’Moloneys. The Caithreim Thoirdhealbhaigh is the earliest text in which the McInerneys are mentioned as an independent clann. The text mentions the McInerneys as one of the urriagh of the McNamaras who joined them in routing the Uí Bloid clanns at Kilgorey in 1309.

The battle of Kilgorey is the first time that the McInerneys are mentioned as a sept in their own right, a fact made clear by the reference to them as part of the McNamara urriagh who answered the ‘hosting-call’ to battle.[41] When Donnchadha Mac Con Mara, the leader of the Clann Chuiléin at Kilgorey enumerated his allies he said of the McInerneys, “a clan of definite pronouncement, strong in families: warlike clan-inerheny”.[42] The McInerneys were mentioned ahead of the O’Hallorans and O’Moloneys and directly after the various Mac Con Mara factions were addressed. Later, when describing the outcome of the battle the McInerneys are again mentioned, roughly in the same order as before, with the Mac Con Maras first followed by the McInerneys and the O’Moloneys. Here the reference to the McInerneys formed part of the action of battle: “clan-Anerhiny slew them in becoming style”.[43] The only other reference to the family is in 1317 at the battle of Corcomroe where the McInerneys are referred to as “claninerheny watching their princely chief” and are again mentioned before the other septs of the Clann Chuiléin such as the O’Moloneys, O’Hallorans and O’Slatterys.[44] It is clear that the reference to the McInerneys in the Caithreim Thoirdhealbhaigh indicates their high status as an urriagh of the Mac Con Maras and that they must have reached a certain level of importance to be recorded in this text as it was written to legitimise the McNamara claim of suzerainty over the Uí Bloid clanns of east Clare.

With the defeat of the Uí Bloid clanns and the Normans in 1318, the McNamaras imposed a tax over the newly acquired lands of the Uí Bloid.[45] The McNamara ‘rental’ of c1318-1330 shows that they achieved the prominence of tigherna or undisputed lord. Over time the McNamaras displaced many Ui Bliod clanns through placing their own urriagh on their lands.[46] This period may have seen the McInerneys – as urriagh of the McNamaras – rewarded for their support with lands in Tradaree. In the wake of the wars of Thomond the McNamaras emerged as virtually independent in east Clare and capable of fielding military forces on par with the O’Briens.[47] It came to be that the over-lordship of the Uí Bloid passed to the McNamaras after 1318, making the McNamaras the strongest family in County Clare up until the sixteenth century.[48]

McInerney Tower-houses: Dromoland and Ballyconeely

The latter middle ages to the 1550s was a period of relative peace and contemporary records are silent regarding the McInerneys. It would appear likely that over time their status was eroded as the McNamaras consolidated their hold over east Clare through a tight set of client-patron linkages. These linkages were strengthened by the proliferation of collateral branches of the McNamara deirbhfhine on lands previously held by minor septs. We can speculate that after several generations the McInerney deirbhfhine became distant from their McNamara kinfolk and were reduced in status to that of landholding freemen (or óglaigh – the ‘gentlemen’ of sixteenth century English sources[49]) that held their own demesne but were important only at the local parish level. Nonetheless, their status was not eroded as much as the O’Quins or McClunes as the McInerney name was ranked seventh in Upper and Lower Bunratty in 1659.[50]

The McNamaras managed to consolidate their position as the principal urriagh in east Clare through building tower-houses that served the dual purpose of defense and residence. Tower-houses would have been the social centre for the family and extended kinfolk of a local chief or taoiseach.[51] The McInerneys are recorded as having built the original tower-houses of Dromoland and Ballyconeely. William O’Lionain, who compiled a list of the castle builders of County Clare in the eighteenth century, noted that “Thomas mac Seain Mac an Airchinigh” erected “Druim Olainn and Baile ui Conghaile”.[52] Both of these tower-houses appear in the fifteenth century map of Clann Chuiléin.[53] Richard Cronnelly gives the dates 1316 and 1342 for the erection of Dromoland and Ballyconeely and credits their erection to John McInerney and his son Thomas. While this partially agrees with O’Lionain it cannot by corroborated against the main McInerney pedigree and remains speculative.[54] “Shane MacInerheny” is credited with having built a fortified place at Treanahow and “Fineen MacInerheny” is said to have erected Ballynagowan.[55] It is doubtful that these two references are correct, however, as there does not seem to have been any substantial fortified dwelling in Treanahow, and Ballynagowan (Smithstown) was probably erected by “Shane mac Sioda” McNamara.[56] We do know for sure, however, that the McInerneys occupied the tower-house of Ballynacragga in 1574[57] and quite possibly the fortified house at Ballysallagh West during the 1560s and 1570s.[58]

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