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Counties and Baronies

The counties were created by the English, mainly, as Dr. Eoin Mac Neill once colourfully phrased it, “for the purposes of the courts, the sheriff and the hangman”.  None of them is older than the thirteenth century.  According to Thomas Larcom twelve of the thirty-two counties now existing were created by King John in 1210.  The others were of longer gestation due to the re-emergence of liberties and counties palatinate in the fourteenth century.  The western parts of the country were not shired into counties until the final years of the sixteenth century.  Clare as a county is first mentioned in 1570 although a sheriff of Thomond had already existed for some years.  The last county to be declared was Wicklow, which was separated from Dublin and shired in 1605. 

(1574 AD) “The division of Connaught and Thomond as it is now bounded, viz., the east and south parts, with the river of Shenon, on the west side with the great ocean sea, on the north with the great Lough Earne; which all are divided into several shires or counties as followeth:

Baronies of Clare
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Thomond in the one county to be named the county of Clare . . . . . . . . the county of Clare containeth the whole of Thomond, being in length from Leymeconcollen [Loop Head] to Killalowe 45 miles, and in breadth from Limerick to Beallaleynee [Ballyline] 25 miles; which of ancient time was divided into nine roghkyeds or hundreds, and is now appointed to be contained in eight baronies”. 

The nine triocha Céts were Ó mBloid, Ó gCaisin, Tradaree, Cineal Fearmaic, Uí Cormaic, East Corcabaiscinn, West Corcabaiscinn, Corcomroe and Burren.  Originally, as we have seen, it was planned to apportion the county into eight baronies, but it would seem that from the beginning nine were, in fact, created viz.  Tullaghynaspull (Tulla, or ‘Mac Namara countrie by East’), Danganyvyggen (‘Mac Namara countrie by West’), Clonroad (otherwise called The Islands), Clonderlaw (East Corcabaiscinn), Moyarta (West Corcabaiscinn), Ibrickane, Corcomroe, Burren (or Gragans) and Tullyodea.  In the modern arrangement Danganyvyggen and Tulla have been superseded by the baronies of Bunratty (Upper and Lower) and Tulla (Upper and Lower) while Corcabaiscinn West and Tullyodea are subsumed in the present baronies of Moyarta and Inchiquin respectively. 

Even though the baronies are the largest sub-divisions of the county - the average number for each county is ten - they no longer have any function as public administrative units.  Like the counties, they, too, were devised by the English; but, since their boundaries to a large extent were based on those of the old Triocha Céts, they are amongst the oldest topographical divisions we have.  From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries the baronies were important units of reference for land surveys, plantations, population censuses etc.  They are, therefore, of great interest to the genealogist and historian.  There are in all three hundred and fifty baronies in Ireland. 

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