St. Senan's Bell Shrine
It will be remembered
that the Life of St. Senan (13th or 14th century) tells how a bell descended
from Heaven, ringing loudly, and reached St. Senan at a place marked by
the mound, or altar, on the ridge beside Kiltinnaun. The tongue then flew
away. It was called Clog na neal (the bell of the clouds) and Clog an
oir, probably from former gold ornaments of its shrine. It was, of course,
most reverentially preserved by the comharbs of St. Senan. The last recognized
lay comharb was Calvagh, son of Siacus O'Cahan, or O'Keane, who died in
1581; he had the courage to oppose the assumption of the 'converbship'
by Donald O'Brien, who was supported by the Elizabethan Government; the
latter, however, did not care to cause discontent in the district. Nicholas
O'Cahane was 'Coroner' of Co. Clare at the time of the destruction of
the Spanish Armada, in 1588. Charles Cahane held Lisdeen near Kilkee and
Teige Cahane held Ballyowen, in 1641. Even after all the confiscations
of the Commonwealth, Brian Cahane, in 1690, was 'one of the chief gentry
and ablest persons' near Kilrush. The bell shrine was in the keeping of
the direct line of the family till 1730, when it passed by marriage to
Robert Cahane of Ballyvoe, said to derive from the Ulster O'Cahans. In
this line it descended to its present owner, Mr. Marcus Keane of Beechpark
Canon Dwyer gives an elaborate description, but, strange to say, from the lithographs rather than from the bell, which he must have had every opportunity of studying through his friendship with the late Mr. Marcus Keane, author of 'Towers and Temples.
Bell Shrine of St Senan
He makes some quaint mistakes; supposes the crowned monster to be dying; the dragons to be waltzing, and the rampant leopard to be springing at the neck of a man, who (or rather whose head) really forms no part of the 'leopard' panel., being part of the older work. He attaches a symbolic meaning, 'Sin militant, but Grace triumphant,' based on these imaginary devices.
The older shrine, popularly supposed to be the bell, is a strong case of bronze, more like a book shrine; the faces are beaten out from the inside to form a cross and four panels. A thin silver band is fused into the main lines of the pattern. The jewel once set in the centre is gone. The D-shaped sockets at the ends of the arms were set with green glass; one bit remains. There is no trace of gold work. The panels are filled with curious and quaint interlacing of serpents of unusual irregularity, and I think not older than the 11th century; there are no traces of the trumpet pattern, and the serpents are like those on the late 11th century doorway of Killaloe Cathedral and other buildings and crosses. The whole pattern, indeed, is rather crude and uncouth. The whole is enshrined in a case of thin silver plates, the pattern lined out with black enamel on the end panels. Enamel also occurs in the early work on the crown of the shrine; one of the side plates is lost; the other has two-winged dragons; the left has the 'collapsed' (really crawling) crowned monster, and the right end-panel the leopard.
T J Westropp,