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in County Clare 1534 - 1911
William Goode, Account of County Clare taken from William Camden’s Britannia, 1586
William Camden, English antiquary and pioneer of the historical method, was the author of Britannia, the first comprehensive historical and topographical survey of England, Scotland and Ireland. Camden graduated from Oxford in 1571 and, with no regular employment, devoted himself entirely to his historical researches. He learned Anglo Saxon and Welsh and was among the first to realise the importance of ancient languages in the study of placenames. After years of arduous labour Britannia was finally published in 1586. The book was a great success and ran to several editions. The Irish section was not however written by Camden but attributed by him in the 1607 edition to J. Goode. The individual in question was most likely the English Jesuit William Goode, the headmaster of Well’s Grammar School during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary but who withdrew from England after the accession of Queen Elizabeth. In 1562 he was admitted to the Society of Jesus. Later he was sent to Ireland with Richard Creagh of Limerick, the newly appointed Archbishop of Armagh, to further the cause of the counter reformation. Dr Creagh was arrested soon after his arrival and Goode, finding no one sympathetic to his mission at Armagh, retreated to Limerick, where he was employed as a teacher in Dr Creagh’s former school. He taught for four years in Limerick before the school was compelled to close in 1568 following an attempt to impose the Protestant religion. Fr Goode was subsequently appointed confessor of the English college in Rome. His Irish narrative while accurate is unsympathetic. In outlook he was strongly pro-English and in favour of the reform of church and state in Ireland. It was Goode’s claim that the Irish had been civilised through their contact with the English that motivated the Clare Franciscan, Anthony MacBrody, to write his major work Propugnaculum Catholicae Veritatis in 1669. The fact that Goode never returned to Ireland is perhaps an indication that his superiors felt him unsuited to further work in the Irish field. Britannia was first translated from Latin into English in 1610 by Philemon Holland under the supervision of William Camden; it is the account of County Clare from the 1610 edition that appears here. Spelling has been modernised and punctuation introduced.
Twomon or Twomond, which Giraldus called Thuetmonia, the Irish Twowoun, that is, the North-Mounster (which although it lies beyond the river Shannon yet was counted in times past part of Mounster, until Sir Henry Sidny lord deputy laid it unto Conaught) shoots out into the sea with a very great promontory growing by little and little thin and narrow. On the east and south sides it is so enclosed with the winding course of the river Shannon, which waxes bigger and bigger, like as on the west part with the open main sea, and on the northside confines so close upon the county Gallway, that there is no coming unto it by land, but through the Clan Ricard’s territory. This is a country wherein a man would wish for nothing more, either from sea or soil; were but the industry of the inhabitants correspondent to the rest; which industry Sir Robert Muscegros an English nobleman, Richard Clare and Thomas Clare younger brethren of the stock of the Earls of Glocester (unto whom King Edward the first had granted this country) stirred up long since, by building towns and castles, and by alluring them to the fellowship of a civil conversation; of whose name the chief town Clare, now the dwelling place of the earl of Twomond, took denomination, as also the whole tract, of it called the county of Clare. The places of greater note and name than the rest, are Kilfennerag and Killaloe or Laon, the Bishop’s seat. This in the Roman province is termed Episcopatus Ladensis, where there stands a rock in the mid channel of the river Shannon, from which the water rushes down a main with a great fall and noise, and by standing thus in the way as a bar hinders the river that it can carry vessels no further, which if it were cut down or a drain made about it, the river were able to bring up vessels much higher, to the great commodity of all the neighbour inhabitants.
Not far from the bank of Shannon, is seated Bunraty for which Sir Robert Muscegros obtained from King Henry the third the liberty of a market and fair, and when he had fortified it with a castle, gave it at length unto King Edward the first, who granted both this town and the whole territory unto Richard Clare aforesaid. And seven miles from thence, appears Clare the principal town, at a creek (flowing up out of Shannon) full of islands: and these two are the only market towns here, and those but small ones. Most of the English who were in times past brought hither to inhabit, are either rooted out, or become degenerate and grown Irish: but they who carry the whole sway here at this day, be of the Irish blood as Mac Nemors, Mac Mahon, O’loughton, and the mightiest by far of all other, the O’Briens, descended from the ancient potentates or kings of Conaught, or as themselves give it forth, from the monarchs of Ireland. Of these, Morogh O’Brien was the first earl of Twomond created by King Henry the eight for the term of life and after him to Donough his brother’s son, and his heirs; who at the same time being made baron of Ibarcan, succeeded in the earldom and was slain by his brother Sir Donel, O’Brien. Connogher O’Brien, Donough’s son, was the third earl, and father to Donaugh now the fourth earl, who has showed singular good proof of his faithful loyalty and courageous valour unto his prince and country in most dangerous times to his singular commendation.
Taken from William Camden, Britannia sive . . . Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae chorographica descriptio (London 1586, translated by Philemon Holland, 1610), pp 98-9.