Clare County Library
Clare History
Home | Library Catalogue | Forums | Foto | Maps | Archaeology | Folklore | Genealogy | Museum | Search this Website | Copyright Notice | Visitors' Book | What's New

The West Clann Chuiléin Lordship in 1586: Evidence from a Forgotten Inquisition
By Luke McInerney

Nomenclature Evidence from the 1586 Inquisition

The inquisition abounds with references to now forgotten names of plough-lands and land-quarters. Some of these have been identified, while many are subject to conjecture. Nomenclature evidence provides information on the lineage-based society that prevailed up to the early seventeenth century in Clare. Naming conventions in Gaelic Ireland placed a priority on genealogical relationships, not least because this served to differentiate land between septs and define property and lineage rights.

The usefulness of the 1586 inquisition in providing a ‘window’ on such naming practices is apparent. The inquisition mentions numerous genealogically-inspired territorial divisions that include: ‘Mowghan McGyllemoyle’ which may have located near Quin parish, ‘Ballysallagh McEnerhine’ which was East Ballysallagh in Kilnasoolagh parish, ‘Mowgehane McTeige’ in Quin parish, ‘Sleight Teige Dalle’ probably in Bunratty or Drumline parish, ‘Slieght donyell backaghe’ in Kilfintinan parish, and ‘Moyntervalowne’ in Clareabby parish. An intriguing reference also exists in the form of ‘Clonyskribberre’, which was located in the vicinity of Tomfinlough parish.

If we take the first land denomination by way of example it is reminiscent of a formerly important sept in West Clann Chuiléin. The McGyllemoyle featured as allies in the fourteenth century saga, Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh.[105] Only one freeholder of the name was recorded in 1641 and that was at Carronaglogh in Doora parish, presumably the remnant of their ancestral patrimony in former times.[106]In this respect the McGyllemoyle demonstrate the fate of lesser septs in a lordship where expanding successful lineages squeezed out formerly important septs. Other names for land denominations such as ‘Mowgehane McTeige’[107] and ‘Sleight Teige Dalle’ possibly refer to more recent patrimonies of individuals. In the case of ‘Sleight Teige Dalle’ this refers to the descendants of ‘Teige Dall’ (the blind), and ‘Slieght donyell backaghe’ refers to the descendents of ‘Donal Bacach’ (the lame).[108]

The presence of ‘Clandonyllbwy’ in Clonloghan parish points to a two quarter landholding division there, at the leathbaile level, which historically was the patrimony of the descendents of Donal Buidhe (the yellow-haired).[109] It is not known what the hereditary surnames were of these lineage groups; it could be supposed that some were local McNamara lineages. The stamping of their names on territorial divisions indicates the reverence that Gaelic society had for kinship and its association with land and patrimony.

The second type of land division indicates a more settled presence of a lineage group. For example Ballysallagh McEnerhine’, which occupied two quarters, tallies exactly with the reference in 1641 to Ballysallagh East which was two quarters totaling 264 Irish acres.[110] This division was the sept-land of the McEnerhiny lineage in Kilnasoolagh parish and was where Mahowne McEnerhin, juror in the inquisition, resided.[111] The division is notable because it differentiated the second (western) part of Ballysallagh which comprised the estate of the brehon McClancy clan who held their principal residence nearby at Urlan Mor towerhouse.[112]

The inquisition also notes another division based on lineage proprietorship though its antiquity is not known. The reference to ‘Moyntervalowne’ suggests the presence of the Muinntear Mhaol Domhnaigh or the household of the O’Moloney clan in Clareabby parish and probably constituted termon land. The nomenclature of Gaelic surnames shows that prefixes with ‘Muinntear’ attached emerged after the eleventh century.[113] While this does not definitively date this territorial division, it suggests that this territory may have adopted the prefix during the Middle Ages as it became attached to a leading lineage of the Uí Mhaol Domhnaigh. The land denomination known as ‘Clonyskribberre’ in the vicinity of Tomfinlough parish refers to the scribe’s meadow (Cluain a Scribhire) and could have a possible medieval ecclesiastical connection. The reference offers a glimpse into medieval society and the presence of scribes – the literai of the day – drawing their living from agricultural lands.

The third type of naming convention used is that which refers to the ancestral septland of a local lineage. Such names are frequently incorporated in townland names of septs at the baile level. It is likely that most of these names are derived from the late middles ages when septs themselves became more established and independent from their parental clan lineage. Examples that are found in the inquisition, but which have not survived in the name of modern townlands, include Carrownaballyheynan, Fahyallorane and Knockslattre. Knockslattre (hill of Uí Slatraigh) was known as Knocklatter in 1641 and situated in Doora parish and belonged to a leading branch of the McEnerhiny sept.[114] Carrownaballyheynan was possibly located in Clooney parish and referred to one quarter of a baile (ceathramha) of the homestead of Uí hÉanáin, while Fahyallorane (field of Uí hAllmhurán) probably located in the vicinity of Clooney parish. Nomenclature evidence can expose hitherto unknown territorial divisions below the baile level and reflect the link between kinship and territoriality in late medieval Clare.

Back Arrow
Structure of the West Clann Chuiléin
Lordship in 1586
Up Arrow
Forward Arrow
Concluding Remarks