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Autumnal Rambles about New Quay, County Clare

“Echo in other's words her silence breaks,
Speechless herself, but when another speaks—
She can't begin, but waits for the rebound,
To catch his voice, and to return the sound.”

South view of Oughtmama
South view of Oughtmama
Click on image for larger view

Oughtmama is a rectory in the diocese of Kilfenora, and is situate in the barony of Burrin, county of Clare. The ruin we are now about to visit is that of the ancient parish church. It stands in a valley opposite to, and about half a mile distant from, Corcomroe Abbey, for which latter place the reader may turn to our last number. Oughtmama Church was a low and unassuming building, in the form of a parallellogram. A plain semi-circular arch divided the nave and choir. The outer doorway was comparatively small and low, and its jambs inclined somewhat towards each other, the door-way being by some inches narrower at top than at bottom. The nave, of which the walls are still entire, was lighted from the south side, by two long, narrow, and round-headed windows. Opposite to the entrance the ancient baptismal font lies upon the ground, prostrate and neglected. It is of rude workmanship; but, nevertheless, when one contemplates the religious use to which it was formerly dedicated, it excites some surprise that it is thus left here, instead of being removed to the present parish chapel. Opposite the same doorway, and at the distance of about a dozen yards, a cut semi-circular stone, apparently once the heading of some window or other like aperture, also occupies a place upon the ground. The neighbouring peasantry believe, or pretend so to do, that this last-mentioned stone possesses the useful property of relieving from head-ache such of the afflicted with that painful malady as undergo the prescribed form of exorcism, by placing their heads three times beneath this supposed extraordinary talisman. This superstitious belief seems to be a vestige of the Celtic creed, to which were indebted for their virtues the celebrated Lia Fail, (on which the Irish monarch was formerly crowned) as also the Druidic stones in yet more remote times.

Stoup for Holy Water at Oughtmama

In the southwest interior angle of the church, a small stoup of stone projects from the wall. It was once used as a font for holding holy water, and the front of it is curiously ornamented with carving, representing in relief some fanciful fabulous animals, covered with scales, and entwined together by the necks. One of them appears to have no less than six feet, two of which the people of the neighbourhood denominate tails. From this circumstance, the whole tank has acquired the appellation, Cathastaurable, or the cat with two tails, derived from Cat, a cat, Da, two, and Earbull, a tail.

Eastward of the church, are the ruins of two little chapels: and, on the north side of it, at the distance of about one hundred yards, is the base of a cross, elevated on stone steps. The cross itself is not now forthcoming.

Oughtmama seems to mean ‘The Eight Paps,’ but why it was so called it is not now easy to learn. There are neither tombs nor epitaphs to be seen here. Their absence, however, is compensated for by the presence of the very best echo in this part of Clare. When the tourist stations himself outside, and to the south of the church fronting Knockocallaghan mountain, a single shout is, in favourable weather, so loudly and oft repeated, that it resembles the loud burst of a pack of fox-hounds in full ory; A bugle blast is magnified into a complete band; and the discharge of a fowling-piece, into the continued roar of many pieces of ordnance. No person visiting this part of the country should leave it without provoking Echo from her slumbers here. Like another Narcissus, all your questions will meet a ready response from the invisible voice:—

“‘Ecquis adest?` et ‘Adest,` responderat Echo.”

The limestone rocks which on every side meet the eye in this district serve also to remind the classic rambler of those petrifactions into which the poet fabled Echo's bones to have been transformed:—
___________________ “Vox tantum atque ossa supersunt.
“Vox manet. Ossa ferunt lapidis traxisse firuram.”

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