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

Parish of Tomfinlough (a)

The Parish of Tomfinlough, in the Barony of Upper Bunratty and Co. of Clare, is bounded on the north by the Parish of Quin, on the east by Fynagh and Kilmurry Parishes, on the south by Dromline and Clonlohan and on the west by Kilnasoola and Doory Parishes. See Name Book.

The proper Irish name of this Parish is Tuaim-Fionnlocha, as may be seen from the following notice of it in the Annals of the Four Masters:-

A.D. 944. Scannlán Abb Tuama Fionnlocha decc, i.e., Scannlan Abbot of Tuaim Fionnlocha, died.

The meaning of this name, as far as I can understand it, is the Tomb or Tumulus of the Fair Lake, a name well borne out by the locality, as the Church stands at the northern extremity of a handsome, fair lake.

The following notices are from the same authority:-

A.D. 1049. Tuathal O’Muirgheasa, Lecturer of Tuain-Fiondlocha, died.
A.D. 1054. Torlogh O’Brien with the Connacians went into Thomond, committed great depredations, killed Hugh, the son of Kennedy, and plundered Tuaimfionlocha.

There is no Patron Saint remembered in the Parish tho’ there is a Holy Well near the Church at which Stations still continue to be performed, but it has no name of a Saint on it.

The old Church of Tuaimfinlough measures seventy one feet in length and twenty five feet in breadth, the walls to the full height, side walls fifteen feet high and two feet ten inches thick.

There is a pointed doorway in the west gable, nearer to the north than to the south side, measuring four feet nine inches in height and three feet six inches in breadth, the wall broken a little over it, and at its sides.

There was a quadrangular window nearly over it which is now closed up with mason work. About four feet in height of the lower part of this gable appears to be much older than the other parts of it, and the little doorway does not appear to be of the same age with it. There is a broken pointed doorway in the south side twelve feet nine inches from the west gable. There is a quadrangular window at the distance of twenty five feet from this, measuring about two feet in height and ten inches in breadth in front, partly stopped up and covered with ivy, and a vault inside. At the distance of seven feet from this is another window, semicircular within and measuring eight feet three inches in height and three feet two and a half inches in breadth, pointed outside and measuring five feet two inches in height, five and a half inches in breadth at top and seven inches at bottom, built up all through of handsome brown grit cut stone, channelled or rabitted in front. Within six feet six inches of the east gable is a window divided into two pointed divisions by a little pillar of masonry in front, and a handsome hexagonal column of grit within, with a passage between the column and pillar, each division measuring ten feet six inches in height within and seven feet in height in front, but all the stones in front here have been taken away or have fallen out, except the arch of the one next the gable. It measures five feet five inches in breadth on the inside, the whole built up of the same kind of stone with the last mentioned window, and ornamented at the springing of the arches (within) with sculptured human heads, now very much mouldered by the action of the weather. There is a vault under this window in the foundation, but whether it was for sculpture or passage, nobody knows.

The window in the east gable is round at top inside, measuring nine feet six inches in height and four feet one inch in breadth, divided in front into two shamrock headed divisions by a mullion six and a half inches in breadth, each division nine and a half inches wide. This window which does not appear to be many centuries old, is inserted in another window, twelve feet one inch wide; the top, which reaches high up in the gable, covered with ivy, so that its form cannot be ascertained. The sides of this window appear on the outside of the wall, all built up of the same sort of grit as that already mentioned. There is a square headed window in the north side five feet from west gable, about six feet high and four feet wide.

About thirty feet in length and about nine feet in height of the south wall extending from the door eastward and including the little quadrangular window, appears to me to be as old, at least, as the early part of the 10th century.

About sixty yards south east from the south east angle of the Church and included in a kitchen garden wall, is a piece of a wall nine feet high and twelve feet three inches long, finished at the extremities with large cut stones, like the angles of the gable of a house, and having a quadrangular doorway in the centre measuring four feet ten in height from the present level of the ground, one foot nine and a half inches in breadth at top and two feet two inches at bottom, covered by a lintel stone five feet long and ten inches thick, but what the condition or appearance of this piece of wall may be on the other side I was not able to ascertain as it forms part of the wall of a gentleman’s kitchen garden, to which I could not at the time gain access.

There can be little doubt that this was the west gable or end of a very ancient Church, of the existence of which no traditional account remains in the district.

Over the doorway are placed three heads (human) sculptured in stone.

Of these heads the middle one is very much defaced, all its features having given way to the action of the weather, while the other heads retain their features in a good state of preservation.

Doorway in Ancient Church S.E. of the Old Church of Tomfinlough
Doorway in Ancient Church S.E. of the Old Church of Tomfinlough