County Clare Antiquities

The remains of antiquity are numerous and diversified. There are cromlechs at Ballygannor, Lemenagh, Kilnaboy, Tullynaglashin, Mount Callan and Ballykishen: near the last-named are two smaller, and the remains of a cairn. Raths abound in every part, and many have been planted with fir trees. One occupies the spot near Killaloe, where formerly stood King Brien Boroihme's palace, or castle, called Kinkora. Pillar stones occur only in a few places: some may be seen on the road between Spancel Hill and Tulla. Of the ancient round towers, this county contains five, viz., those of Scattery Island, Drumcleeve, Dysert, Kilnaboy, and Inniscalthra, in Lough Derg. Near the cathedral of Killaloe is the oratory of St. Moluah, supposed to be one of the most ancient buildings in Ireland. Thirty religious houses were founded in this county, but at present there are remains only of those of Corcomroe, Ennis, Quinn, Inniscalthra, and Inniscattery.

At Kilfenora several ancient crosses of great curiosity are to be seen; a very remarkable one is fixed in a rock near the church of Kilnaboy; and near the church and round tower of Dysert a very curious one lies on the ground. The castles still existing entire or in ruins amount in number to 120, of which the family of Mac Namara, it is traditionally said, built 57. There are 25 in the barony of Bunratty, of which those of Bunratty and Knopoge are inhabited; 13 in Burren, of which those of Castletown and Glaninagh are inhabited, and Newtown castle is a round fortress on a square base; 8 in Clonderlaw, of which that of Donogrogue is inhabited; 14 in Corcomroe, of which that of Smithstown is inhabited; 6 in Ibrickane; 22 in Inchiquin, of which those of Mahre and Dysert are inhabited: 3 in Islands; 4 in Moyarta, of which that of Carrigaholt is inhabited; and 25 in Tulla. Many of them are insignificant places, built by the proprietors in times of lawless turbulence; others, small castellated houses erected by English settlers. Bunratty castle, however, is of considerable extent, and was once considered a place of great strength. The modern seats are described under the heads of the parishes in which they are respectively situated.

The better class of farmers and graziers have generally comfortable dwelling-houses and convenient offices, with roofs of slate or flags. The poorer classes are usually badly lodged in houses built of stone without mortar, the walls of which are consequently pervious to the wind and rain. The cottages are always thatched, either with straw, sedges, rushes, heath, or potatoe stalks: a want of cleanliness is universally prevalent. Few cottages are without sallow trees, for kishes or baskets, which many of the labourers know how to make; and almost all have small potatoe gardens. The Irish yet spoken in the remote parts of the county is chiefly a jargon of Irish with English intermixed, and is rapidly falling into disuse.

Hurling matches are a favourite sport of the peasantry, and chairs, or meetings of both sexes at night in some public-house, constitute another source of amusement. Mineral waters are found in many places, and are chiefly chalybeate: that at Lisdounvarna has long been celebrated for its efficacy in visceral complaints; at Scool and Kilkishen are others well known; and two more are situated near Cloneen, about a mile north-west of Lemenagh Castle, and at Cassino, near Miltown-Malbay. Many holy wells, remarkable naturally only for the purity of their waters, exist in different parts, but are little regarded, except by the peasantry. The great falls in the Shannon, near Killaloe, are worthy of especial notice. The title of Earl of Thomond, derived from this county, was raised to a Marquesate in 1800, in favour of the family of O'Brien, which also derives from the extensive territory of Inchiquin the titles of Earl and Baron, and from the district of Burren also that of Baron. The title of Earl of Clare is borne by the family of Fitzgibbon.

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