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

Parish of Feakle (a)

                                                                                                              22nd November 1839.

Dear Sir,
The next Parish I have visited is the wild and extensive one called Feakle a name which is well known throughout Ireland through the facetious poem of Brian Merryman, of which I shall give some account presently. This Parish, which embraces a vast tract of the celebrated mountain of Sliabh Echtghe, is bounded on the northwest and north by the Co. Galway; on the east by the Parish of Tomegreany; on the south by the Parish of Killinoe and on the southwest by the Parish of Tulla.

The present Irish name of this Parish is Paraiste na Fiacaile, which would apparently mean the Parish of the Tooth, and a legend is told about the tooth of the Patron Saint having fallen out at the spot, on which he afterwards erected his Church. This legend is not unlike the written ones about the teeth of Saint gave name to Feakle in Tipperary and Armagh, but it is not remembered that the tooth of the Patron Saint of Feakle in Tuath Echtghe was preserved there as a relic, and it is possible that the name may be a corruption of Fiodhaiil [1] mentioned in the Wars of Thomond in pages 199 and 337 of the Ordnance Copy.

The names of the Patron Saints of Feakle and three other Parishes are preserved in the following Irish ryhme, which is in every one’s mouth in this neighbourhood : -

Mochuille Thulaighe Mochuille of Tulla,
Mochonna ‘sa bhFiacail Mochonna at Feakle
Finghin Chuinche Fineen of Quincé
A’s Rícín Cluaine. Rickeen of Cloney.

The day on which St. Mochonna of Feakle was venerated in the Parish is not now remembered and I do not find his name mentioned in the Irish Calendar of the O’Clery’s, but as I often remarked, that Calendar is far from being complete. The only Holy Well in the Parish bearing the name of a Saint is, strange to say, called after the Patron of Tulla. This is in the Townland of Flagmount and called Tobar Mochuille, and there is no monument in the Parish with which the name of St. Mochonna is connected. His old Church, which stood in the Village (Townland) of Feakle in 1780 when Merryman wrote his poem, was destroyed to build the modern Protestant Church which occupies its site.

I find no record of the existence of a castle in this Parish and still it would appear from the name of a hill in the Townland of Lecarrow Lower, situated about three quarters of a mile to the east of the Village of Feakle, that there was one there at some period. This hill is called Cnoc a Chaisleáin, and tradition says that there was a Castle to be seen on it in the memory of old men not long dead, but no trace of it remains at present. The name of the hill should appear on the Ordnance Map.

In the Townland of Ballycroum in this Parish is a well called Tobar Ghrainé, i.e., Grania’s Well, which is perhaps the most curious in Ireland, as resembling almost in every instance (particular) the Well called the King of the Waters in the Book of Armagh. It is situated in the centre of a bog about three miles from the Village of Feakle. It is a square well measuring five feet every way, and constructed of stones placed on their edges, and covered at top with a large flag laid horizontally, and measuring eight feet from north to south and seven feet six inches from east to west, and eighteen inches in thickness. This flag is of grit and covers the whole well except a small hole on the west end, in which particular it perfectly agrees with the “King of the Waters” which was completely covered over head with a large square flag excepting in one place where there was a split through which people were wont to drop into the well offerings of gold and silver!

Tobar Grania, though not named after any Saint, is much resorted to for the cure of sore eyes. There can be little doubt that this was a Pagan Well worshipped by the Hydrolators of ancient Ireland, and it is strange to find it so near Loch Greine, which seems to have derived its name from Heliolatry. The Irish Pagans as well as the present Christians were divided into two classes, as we learn from Patrick’s Lives, the one worshipping fire as the first cause, the enlivener and life of things, and the other holding fire and heat in abhorrence as being the destroyer of all things, and worshipping water and moisture as the first cause and life of things. I hope they did not hate (heat) each other like the two great classes of Christians descended from them. If I were out at the time I would recommend the union of both systems and would attempt to prove that fire and heat would destroy life of things without water and moisture and that the latter without the former would produce no life and I would mount a degree higher to look for a first cause, but I would not make this electricity, oxygen or motion. It is probable, however, that by proposing any innovation in the belief of either party I might have been murdered like Cormac Mac Art, by a Sheevra from the mountains.