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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. Feenagh Parish; School of the Maoelconerys at Ardkyle

Feenagh signifies a plain overgrown with brushwood, and it gave name to this parish and its church. The building is in a good state of preservation, and is of comparatively modern date. One holy well, dedicated to St. Mochuille, and situated at Rathmore, is found in the parish, and only one castle, owned in 1580 by the Earl of Thomond, that of Rosmanagher. It was inhabited until the middle of the present century by the tenants of the Earl’s representatives.

The townland of Ardkyle in this parish was long the residence of the learned family of the O’Maoelconerys, to whom frequent reference is made by the writers of the literary history of Ireland. Here they kept a school of jurisprudence and of general literature, largely attended by the youth of the surrounding districts, and by strangers from remote parts of the country. Literary families like that of the O’Maoelconerys were settled in other localities of Thomond, and the beneficent influence exercised by such people on the youth of the country may be easily conceived. To enable these families to exercise the office of hereditary teachers, they had lands allotted to them free of tribute, while at the same time, the owners were exempt from every species of military or other service that might divert them from the great business of imparting instruction to youth. From the repeated references to members of this family, either as scribes or witnesses of the ancient Irish Deeds that have come down to us, it would appear they exercised the duty of deputy-brehons under the principal brehon family of Thomond, namely, the MacClancys. Their name was derived from Saint Conaire, patroness of Kilconry, the same who was forbidden by St. Senán to come upon his island of Iniscathy, and of whom Moore wrote the song, “Oh! haste and leave this sacred isle,” &c. The following references to the writings of two of them are given here:—“The most valuable manuscript copy of Keating’s History of Ireland is that in the Library of Trinity College (H. 5, 26). It is in the handwriting of John, son of Torna O’Maoelconery, of the Ardkyle family, [11] a most profound Irish scholar, and a contemporary of Keating. It was purchased at London by the late Dr. Todd.” [12] In the preface to the Glossary of difficult Irish words, Brother Michael O’Clery, the chief of the Four Masters, thus writes of John O’Maoelconery:—“We have been acquainted with able professors of the science of interpreting difficult words in ancient Irish, such as the late John O’Maoelconery, the chief teacher in history of all the men of Erin in his own time.” [13] He was Ard Ollamh, or laureate of Ireland, and among other productions was the author of an Ode to Brian-na-Murtha O’Rourke, Prince of Breifney, written about the year 1566. [14]