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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part I. Topography of Thomond Chapter 11. Tradraighe; Tuath Echtghe

Tradraighe. Bunratty parish; The castle of Bunratty long the residence of the Earls of Thomond

Bunratty is derived from its situation at the confluence of the river O’Garney, anciently called the Raitté, with the Shannon.
No saint is known as the patron of the parish. Its church is in excellent preservation, but without anything in its architecture or surroundings worthy of attention. From its size it seems to have served as a place of worship for the Earls of Thomond and their numerous retainers from the castle, as well as for the people of the parish generally. No other church existed in the parish; two holy wells are found, that of Tobar Iosa, in the grounds belonging to the Glebe at Coerlack, and Tobar na Macaiv, that is, the well of the young men, near the Roman Catholic chapel. Who these young men were cannot be ascertained.

In the parish stands the castle of Bunratty, for a long time one of the principal residences of the Earls of Thomond, and occupying what must be regarded as a strong position before the improvements made in artillery. The officers’ and servants’ buildings, at one time surrounding the main edifice, no longer exist, these having been removed by the late Mr. Studdert, to supply materials for his house; enough still remains to show the importance and extent of the home of a great noble of the olden time. Bunratty appears to have been at one time a market town.[7]
Bunratty Castle
Bunratty Castle
The first castle of Bunratty was built by Robert de Mucegros, whose daughter and heir married Sir William Mortimer. It was surrendered to king Edward I. in 1275, and in the year following Geoffrey de Gyamul took for the king the “castle of Bawred, with the cantred of Tradery.” It was then granted to Thomas de Clare, and in 1277, he established himself in Thomond. That building was burned by the widow of Richard de Clare, immediately after the death of her husband in 1318. From an inscription on the top it is ascertained that the existing building was erected in 1397, by the O’Brien, who was then king of Thomond. It continued to be his residence and that of his descendants until 1646, at which date it was taken by the army of the Confederation of Kilkenny. Ever since it has ceased to be occupied by any member of the family. Several of the apartments remain in a good state of preservation, and give ample proof of the splendour of the former proprietors. The castle of Bunratty was the scene of many of the most important transactions connected with the history of Thomond; these will be referred to in the course of the present work. After the departure of Earl Barnabas, the castle became the habitation of his tenants and their successors. In our time, it was the home of Mr. Studdert, father of the present tenant, who holds in fee-farm from the representative of the Earls of Thomond, and it is much to be regretted that he ever changed it for the modern, although commodious, residence he got erected in the neighbouring park. In the townland of Clonmoney stood a castle also belonging to the Earls of Thomond, but no trace of it now remains. Before O’Brien became owner of Bunratty, there is reason to believe that it belonged, together with the surrounding district, to a branch of the family of Macnamara.[8]