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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Parish of Bunratty (a)

This Parish belonging to the Barony of Bunratty Lower is bounded on the west by the Parish of Drumline, on the north-east by the Parish of Feenagh; on the east for a short distance by the River Ogarney before it falls into the Shannon, and on the south by the River Shannon.

The name of this Parish is written in the Irish language Bun Raite, which means the Mouth of the Ratty, that having been the name of the river now called Owenogarney, (Abhainn O’gCeárnaigh) which means the River of the Territory of O’Kearney. Bunratty was originally the name of the Ballybetagh or ancient Irish Townland lying at both sides of this River at its mouth, on which a Castle was erected in the 13th century, which bore the name of the Townland.

The old Church of Bunratty, situated in the Townland of the same name, measures sixty six feet in length and twenty six feet in breadth. The west gable is perfect but featureless; the south wall contains a quadrangular window placed at the distance of seven feet six inches from the west gable and placed at the height of four feet from the ground. It is disfigured on the inside, but on the outside in tolerable preservation, where it measures three feet six inches in height and four feet four inches in width. It is divided into three divisions by stone mullions (term). At the distance of nine feet to the east of this window is the doorway, which is round headed inside and pointed on the outside, and measures on the inside seven feet two inches in height and four feet five inches in width, and on the outside six feet two inches in height and three feet six inches in width. At the distance of thirteen feet six inches to the east of the doorway there is another window placed at the height of four feet from the ground on the outside and measuring on the inside five feet in height, three feet in breadth (width) and on the outside four feet two inches in height and seven inches in width; it is rectangular at the head on the inside and pointed on the outside, and constructed of chiselled lime stones. There is another window in the same wall placed at the distance of three feet from the east gable and at the height of four feet from the ground, and measuring on the inside five feet six inches in height and three feet six inches in width and on the outside four feet three inches in height and eight inches in width.

The east gable contained a large window round-headed inside and rectangular outside, where it measures eight feet in height and two feet eight inches in breadth. It is built up with mason work to the height of three feet.

The north wall is featureless. The side walls are built of small lime stones laid in regular courses and well cemented and measuring twelve feet in height and three feet three inches in thickness. The corner stones are chiselled. There is a large graveyard attached to this Church, but contains no ancient or remarkable inscription. It is probable that this Church is coeval with the Castle of Bunratty which was erected by the great Sir Richard de Clare in the year 1277 as we learn from the Wars of Turlogh:-

A.D. 1277. Dála an Chlaraigh do rinne caisleán cumhdaigh caisiol tiugh, agus daingion díonta díothoghluighthe, agus foirghneamha fairsionga, fionn aolta a mBún réidh oiriorach Raite, agus do áitigh féin ann, etc.

A.D. 1277. As for De Clare, he erected a strong thick walled castle, a sheltered impregnable fortress and extensive white washed buildings (foirghneamha) in the smooth harboured Bunratty where he resided, etc, etc.

For the history of Bunratty see Wars of Turlogh (Ordnance Survey Copy) pp. 21, 51, 55, 91, 111, 135, 183, 185, 201, 205, 207, 295, 297, 301, 343, 391, 583, 585 and 587.

This castle is a fine specimen of the fortresses built in Ireland by the early English adventurers to secure their conquests. Parts of it are now fitted up for a Police Barrack. Please to write to Mr. Wakeman to remind him of making a sketch and ground plan of this castle when in the neighbourhood.

Cluain Mhuineach, a Castle erected by Fineen, the son of Cumara, stands in this Parish.

In the list of Castles of Thomond preserved in Trinity College the Castle of Bunratty is set down as belonging to “Th’ Erle of Thomond.”

There are two holy wells in this Parish, one in the Townland of Cloonmunny West called Tobar na Macamh, the Well of the Youths and the other in Coolack Glebe called Tobar Iosa, the Well of Jesus. Both are resorted for the cure of sore eyes.

                                                                                                 Your obedient servant,
                                                                                                              John O’Donovan.