1920 – A bloody year in mid-Clare

1920 – Ennistymon, Lahinch and Miltown Malbay

On 4 August 1919, an RIC patrol was ambushed at Ballyvraneen, between Ennistymon and Inagh, and two officers were killed, a Constable Michael Murphy and Sergeant John O’Riordan.   Some days later, soldiers fired shots into a house in Glan, killing a 15 year old boy, Francis Murphy, a Sinn Fein Scout. At the inquest, the jury concluded that the murder was carried out by the military as revenge for the shooting of the policemen.

Over the next six months,  there were no war fatalities in this part of Clare until, on the 24 February 1920, an RIC patrol was ambushed at Crowe’s Bridge, near Connolly, by an IRA unit comprising Patrick and Martin Devitt, Ignatius O’Neill and Pakie Lehane. Martin Devitt, a leader of the Mid-Clare Brigade, was shot and killed – a large memorial cross today marks the spot where he died. Ignatius O’Neill was also wounded and was treated secretly by Dr Michael Hillery of Miltown Malbay (Dr Hillery’s son Patrick later became President of Ireland)

Memorial to Martin Devitt, near Crowe's Bridge, Connolly
Memorial to Martin Devitt, near Crowe’s Bridge, Connolly

Some two months later, on 14 April, celebrations were taking place in Miltown Malbay to mark the release of IRA hunger strikers from Kilmainham Gaol.  At about 10.45pm, a bonfire was blazing at Canada Cross and a group of adults and children were gathered around it singing nationalist songs.  The police and military arrived on the scene and without warning fired about a hundred shots at the crowd. Three men were killed: Patrick Hennessy from Church St, married with two children; Thomas O’Leary, Ballard Road, married with ten children; and John O’Loughlin, a 25-year-old tailor from the Ennistymon Road.  At the inquest in Ennis, a verdict was returned of “wilful murder without provocation”.

Memorial cross in Ballard cemetery to the three men killed at Canada Cross
Memorial cross in Ballard cemetery to the three men killed at Canada Cross

On July 21, two privates of the Royal Scots Regiment were crossing Ennistymon bridge when they were attacked by a number of unarmed men attempting to take their weapons.  The soldiers fired their revolvers and a 22-year old IRA volunteer, Michael Conway, was killed and Seamus MacMahon seriously wounded.  A priest was sent for to administer the last rights –  as it turned out, the priest was Fr John Conway, a brother of Michael, who was back in Ennistymon on holday.

Plaque on Ennistymon Bridge in memory of Michael Conway
Plaque on Ennistymon Bridge in memory of Michael Conway

Then, on 20 September 1920, an event of great national significance took place in Rineen, on the road from Miltown Malbay to Lahinch. A lorry carrying a detachment of five RIC men and one Black and Tan was ambushed by the IRA and all six were killed. As the Volunteers were collecting the rifles and ammunition, however, three more lorries appeared, each full of soldiers.  It so happened that earlier that day an IRA unit had set up a roadblock further south in the county, near Doonbeg. A local RM (resident magistrate), Alan Lendrum, was forced to stop and rather than surrender his car, he drew his pistol. He was shot and killed by the IRA and his body dumped in a nearby lake.  Lendrum’s disappearance was noticed fairly quickly and troops were sent from Ennistymon to conduct a search.

As these troops came upon the scene of the ambush at Rineen, they engaged the Volunteers and a three-hour gun battle ensued.  Although the soldiers were better armed – including several machine guns – the IRA manged to escape the scene with only a few injured.  The constables killed in the ambush were Constable Hodnett, Cork; Constable Harman, London; Constable Kell, Roscommon; Constable Maguire, Mayo; Constable Harte, Sligo; Sergeant Hynes, Athlone.

Memorial at Rineen
Memorial at Rineen

The reprisals against the civilian population began almost immediately.  On their way back to the barracks in Ennistymon, the soldiers shot dead two men, Charlie Lynch, who lived near Miltown Malbay, and Sean Keane, who happened to be passing near the scene of the ambush on his horse and cart. That night, a convoy of Black and Tans arrived in Miltown Malbay.  Houses and shops were looted and the premises of P.H. O’Neill, a hardware merchant, were set on fire; then those of Edward Roche, Michael Hayes, Messrs Collins, M. Marrinan, Michael Casey and Dr Hillery. Many of the inhabitants took shelter for several nights with friends and relatives in the surrounding countryside.

The military arrived in Lahinch about 2.30am and proceeded to set fire to houses, to the town hall, to Miss Flanagan’s Bar and grocery, Vaughan’s grocery, Miss O’Dwyers drapery shop, Halpins and Reynolds public houses, and Mr. Thomas Blackwells premises.   A visitor to Lahinch, Joe Sammon, was shot dead running from one house, while an IRA volunteer, Pakie Lehane, died in the fire in Flanagan’s Bar. Lehane’s house in Cregg, just south of Lahinch was also torched and Pakie’s father shot dead in front of his wife and daughter.  As in Miltown Malbay, many of the resident fled the town for safety and spent the following two nights in the sandhills where the present-day golf course is situated.

Ennistymon was also attacked, with the RIC and military again setting fire to houses and businesses.  The town hall was burned down first, then the home of Tom Connole, secretary of the local branch of the ITGWU. He was shot in front of his family and his body thrown into the burning building. Devitt’s drapery was next to be fired, and a youth, Patrick Linnane, was shot and killed while fetching water to try and prevent the adjoining buildings from catching fire. Whelan’s tailor shop was burned, P Clair’s grocery, Callinan’s pub, Hynes’ drapery, and the home of Joseph Conneally.

The reprisals were widely condemned, but were defended by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Hamar Greenwood.  The houses destroyed, he said, were those of “notorious Sinn Feiners”, adding that “the people of those two villages knew of this ambush”.

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“And long will be told of the brave and the bold,                                         In the ambush at Rineen”

Those who took part in the Rineen ambush were, from Ennistymon:  John Joe Neylon, Micko Nestor, Ned Hynes and Jimmy Gallagher; from Inagh: Paddy McGough, John Callinan, John Clune, John Donnellan, Jack Fitzgibbon, John Rynne, Martin Marrinan, James Meaney, Dan Callaghan and Martin Hehir; from Lahinch: Pakie Lehane, Donal Lehane, John Burke, Tom Burke, Mickey Reynolds, Mikie O’Dwyer, Marty Hynes, Paddy Queally, Paddy Foley and Mickey Hayes; from Moy:  Seamus Hennessy, Steve Gallagher, Joe Nagle, Pete Vaughan, Micklo Curtin and Tim O’Connell; from Glendine:  Anthony Malone, Pako Kerin, Dave Kennelly, Pat Frawley, Martin Frawley, Johnny Burke, Brian O’Loughlin and Dan McMahon; from Miltown Malbay: Ignatius O’Neill, Bobby O’Neill, Ned Lynch, John McMahon, Tommy Moroney, Joe D’Arcy, Michael O’Keeffe, John Fitzgerald, Thomas O’Connor and Jacko Hurley; and from Letterkelly:  John Crawford, Anthony O’Brien, Mort O’Connor, John Murray and James Ryan.

Inchicronan Abbey, Crusheen, Co Clare

Looking east along the old church
Looking east along the old church

Inchicronan Abbey was built in the twelfth century on the site of an earlier monastery. It is situated on the lake of the same name, at the tip of a long peninsula.

The east window
The east window

The abbey was sacked and burned by Cromwellian troops under General Ludlow in 1651. The treasures of the abbey were reportedly placed in a large urn and thrown into the lake, where even today they are supposed to be guarded by a huge eel. Conor O’Brien, husband of Maire Rua of Leameneh Castle, was mortally wounded in the battle against the Cromwellian army.

Looking south into the transept
Looking south into the transept

In centuries past when Crusheen had no priest, the monks of Inchicronan would go to Crusheen to perform the last rites for the dying. It happened that one stormy winter’s night a man arrived at the abbey and asked one of the friars to attend his dying mother. The friar, deterred by the wildness of the weather, decided to wait until the morning when the storm had abated. The woman, however, died in the night. When the monk passed away, he was buried in the Abbey graveyard. On several occasions since, when someone in the village was about to die, lights have reportedly been seen moving across the causeway and through the village, hovering over the home of the unfortunate before crossing over the lake and back to the abbe graveyard. The lights are said to be the spirit of the friar making the journey he had not made in his lifetime.

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14th-century sacristy doorway: note figure carved  on lower right
14th-century sacristy doorway: note figure carved on lower right

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Knockalassa, Miltown Malbay, Co clare

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Wedge tombs date from c2000 BC and are so called as they are generally wider and higher at the front (usually the western) end. Both unburnt and cremated human remains have been found, with cremation the more common. Wedge tombs were often covered by cairns but there is no trace of one here on side of Slieve Callan, although the tomb appears to sit on an island of green among the brown of the surrounding bog. Knockalassa has never been excavated.

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The Fianna were a large body of warriors who served as an elite army to the High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Art.  They were charged with protecting the kingdom from invasion and fought many battles with foreign armies as well as with otherworld foes.Diarmuid Ó Duibhne was a youthful hero of the Fianna, although cursed with a “ball seirce”, or “love-spot”, on his forehead. He was forced to wear a bandanna, for any woman sighting the ball-seirce would immediately fall in love with him.  After eloping with Grania, daughter of the king and fiancée of Fionn MaCumhaill himself, the young lovers were chased around Ireland by a furious Fionn and by Diarmuid’s former comrades of the Fianna.  After a long series of adventures, terms were finally agreed and Diarmuid and Grania lived happily in his native Kerry for many years. Diarmuid was killed while hunting the great boar of Benbulben, when a vengeful Fionn deliberately withheld the cure to the hero’s wounds.  Most counties contain a site associated with the pursuit of Diarmuid and Grania, and Clare is no different – Knockalassa is shown on the old maps as “Diarmuid and Grania’s Bed”.

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Grave of The Colleen Bawn

Ellen Hanley was born in Co Limerick in 1803, a friendly, pretty girl whose kindness and innocence led to her neighbours calling her the Colleen Bawn.

Memorial to the Colleen Bawn, Killimer, Co Clare
Memorial to the Colleen Bawn, Killimer, Co Clare

When she was not yet sixteen, she was seduced by a John Scanlan, scion of a prominent family who had just returned from service in the Napoeonic Wars. Scanlan caused her to elope, tricked her into a fake marriage and kept her hidden in the village of Glin for six weeks. Scanlan’s mother, unaware of his actions, then arranged a match for him that would bring a fine dowry.

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He decided to get rid of the young Ellen and conspired with his servant Stephen Sullivan, a fellow veteran of the Battle of Waterloo, to murder her. On July 15th, 1819, they persuaded her to join them on a boat trip across the Shannon. Some days later, her body was discovered by a Patrick O’Connell on the shore of his land at Moneypoint in Co Clare. It was obvious that she had been murdered.

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John Scanlan was arrested immediately, and, despite being defended by Daniel O’Connell, was found guilty of murder. The judge interestingly ordered an early execution, “lest the powerful interest of his family should procure a respite”. As it was, the family were able to have the reportage suppressed and the trial and execution was not reported in the newspapers.

The grave of the Colleen Bawn
The grave of the Colleen Bawn

Stephen Sullivan fled to the Tralee area of Kerry and there laboured for farmers under the pseudonym of Clifford. Twelve months later he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and brought to the police barracks. His real identity was discovered when he was recognised by a prisoner in custody who then informed the RIC. It was during the trial of Sullivan that Scanlon’s role in the brutal murder of Ellen Hanley was exposed to the public. Stephen Sullivan was also hanged.

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The Colleen Bawn was buried in Burrane graveyard, near Killimer, in a grave offered by Peter O’Connell, brother of Patrick. Peter, a hedgeschool master and a Celtic scholar, was laid to rest himself in the same grave some seven years later.

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Graves of the Leinstermen, Coolbaun, Tipperary

On the side of Tountinna mountain overlooking Lough Derg are the remains of a megalithic tomb dating from no later than the bronze age.

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It is a spectacular location and in legend is associated with a high-status Leinster king who was killed here with a small group of his men in the early eleventh-century. One story has it that the Leinster men were visiting Brian Boru in Kincora to pay tribute but became embroiled in a dispute ostensibly about a chess game. The Leinster men departed, but were caught up with by Brian’s men; a skirmish followed, and the Leinster men were killed.

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Another story says that the king was on his way to marry the daughter of Brian, but that Brian’s wife Gormfhlaith, who didn’t approve of the match, arranged to have the party ambushed on their way to Kincora. The reality, of course, is that the grave was here some 3000 years before the birth of Brian Boru. Very little is known of the tomb builders, their language, beliefs, or customs.

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Lahinch, Co Clare

Although little remains of Dough castle today, it is still among the most widely recognised landmarks in North Clare.  It was originally built by the O’Connors, the lords of Corcomroe, in 1306. It was sited at the strategically important mouth of the Inagh River, where it could control both land and water traffic. In 1471, the chieftain was murdered in the castle by his nephews and was buried at the end of what is now the main street of Lahinch. A cairn was erected in his memory, and this gave rise to the official Irish name for Lahinch, Leacht Ui Chonchuir, or O’Connor’s cairn.

Dough Castle, located beside the aptly-named Castle course, Lahinch Golf Club
Dough Castle, located beside the aptly-named Castle course, Lahinch Golf Club

The castle later passed to the O’Briens, one of whom, Daniel, gave “hospitable and humane” shelter to English settlers who were threatened by the Irish rebellion of 1641. In return for his actions, Dough castle was spared from being demolished or slighted by the Cromwellian army. By 1675 it was described as a tall battlemented tower with a large two-storey dwelling house attached to one side. Large windows with flat arches and slab lintels replaced the older slit windows.  The present ruin is the result of various collapses due to the castle having been built upon sandbanks. One wall had fallen before 1839, and a considerable mass, with the chimney, fell in 1883.  These sandbanks were reputedly the home of Donn Dumhach (Donn of the sandhills), a si prince who still haunts the scene, and the sandhill near the bridge is also supposed to be haunted. No trace has been found of a supposed underground passage, filled with valuables, leading from the castle to Liscannor.

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Eddie Lenihan in his book “In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway” relates the tale of another O’Brien, lord of the nearby Moy Castle. When going to the battle of Dough he locked his wife and children into a vault under the castle to keep them safe from attack in his absence. Unfortunately, he was killed in the battle and the door was never again opened. What became of those inside is unknown………………..

Chunks of the collapsed castle still lie beside the ruin
Chunks of the collapsed castle still lie beside the ruin
View of the bridge into Lahinch, from Dough Castle
View of the bridge into Lahinch, from Dough Castle

Howth Harbour, Dublin

On 26 July 1914, a white yacht, the Asgard, arrived in Howth with a cargo of 900 rifles and 29000 rounds of ammunition smuggled from Germany. Up to a thousand Irish Volunteers and Fianna scouts were there to unload the guns, while the harbourmaster, coastguards and police were ordered away from the vicinity. The Volunteers then marched with the arms to Dublin, and the “Old Howth Guns” were used in the Easter rising of 1916. The yacht, owned and sailed by Erskine and Molly Childers, is now preserved and on display at the National Museum in Dublin. The “Howth gun-running” was a pivotal event in Ireland’s long struggle for independence, and is commemorated every year at the site where the Asgard docked.

The quay in front of the lighthouse, where the Asgard landed the arms used in the 1916 Easter Rising
The quay in front of the lighthouse, where the Asgard landed the arms used in the 1916 Easter Rising

The harbour was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century, with much of the stone being quarried at nearby Kilrock.  In 1811, 300 of the workers rioted.  A detachment of soldiers was called in by Lord Howth to quell the riot and some of the labourers were so severely maimed that they did not survive, while six of the ringleaders received lengthy jail sentences. In all, over 600 labourers were employed in the building of the harbour and to accommodate them, over 150 houses were built in Howth.  A new church was built c.1814 by the labourers, and to honour their work, commemorative carvings were incorporated in the front of the building depicting the wagons used to haul stones for the harbour. The church later became the parochial hall.

The former Parochial Hall, now in private use
The former Parochial Hall, now in private use

On August 12th 1821, the nobility and gentry of Dublin turned out at Dun Laoghaire for the arrival of King George IV. Banners flew and bands played, and a crowd estimated at 200,000 awaited the British monarch. However, at a quarter past four, the steam packet Lightning moored instead in Howth, where a small crowd of onlookers witnessed the King, unattended by a single soldier, disembark and shake hands with several farmers and fishermen. The imprint of his footsteps were cut into the landing stone at the time and can still be seen at the end of the West Pier..

The arrival of George IV,  1821 (McCleary, 1821; from Nicholas K. Robinson Collection of Caricature; TCD)
The arrival of George IV, 1821 (McCleary, 1821; from Nicholas K. Robinson Collection of Caricature; TCD)

There had been previous quays at Howth and its use as a port is well documented in medieval times.  In 1323 food prices had risen dramatically in England and Europe due to famine, and with supplies already scarce in Ireland as a result of the invasion of Edward the Bruce of Scotland, ten guards were appointed by the government in order to prevent ships from leaving the port without permission and to prevent the exportation of food.

Despite the occasional presence of pirates (see previous post “Howth and pirates”), Howth was considered one of the most convenient ports for traffic from England, and notable people who disembarked here included Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York (father of the future king Richard III) in 1449, and Lord Mountjoy (the Lord Deputy who defeated Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell at the Battle of Kinsale) in 1600.

The footprints of King George IV of England, cut into the stone on the Wset Pier
The footprints of King George IV of England, cut into the stone on the West Pier

The most unwelcome arrival was probably in 1347, when the Black Death came to Ireland. It appeared first in Howth, where apparently it resulted from a visit by a Chinese ship.   By July the epidemic had reached Dublin and then it quickly spread throughout the country, killing up to a third of the population.   Similar to other European countries, the highest mortality appears to have been in the towns; and as most of the Anglo-Normans lived in towns with the native Irish spread throughout the countryside, the plague was perhaps one factor in the Gaelic resurgence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Howth harbour, of course, has always been home to a local fishing fleet, and the industry reached its apogee in the late-nineteenth century when the herring fishing drew boats from all of Ireland, England, Wales and especially from Scotland.  By 1878, almost 1000 boats congregated in Howth for the herring season.  A church was built for the mainly Scottish presbyterians, the Mariners Hall on the West Pier.  While the fishing industry has declined greatly, particularly since joining the EU, Howth is still a working harbour with a sizeable fishing fleet. In 1994, a memorial was erected on the harbour to all those lost at sea

The Mariners Hall, where, in the mid-19th century, Presbyterian services were held for the mainly Scottish "herring lasses" and fishermen
The Mariners Hall, where, in the mid-19th century, Presbyterian services were held for the mainly Scottish “herring lasses” and fishermen

Overlooked by the picturesque St Mary’s Abbey and Tower Hill, the harbour today is a major tourist attraction, with a large marina, cafes, bars, markets, promenade, and  playground, and is a good place to start a “Heritage tour” of Howth

St. Mary's Abbey, overlooking Howth Harbour
St. Mary’s Abbey, overlooking Howth Harbour

Aideen’s Grave, Howth Castle

The peninsula of Howth features in many of the mythological tales of ancient days, particularly those relating to the Fianna. The Fianna, under the leadership of Fionn Mac Cumhaill,  protected the kingdom of Ireland from invasion and fought many battles with foreign armies as well as with otherworld foes. They counted in their midst many of our greatest warriors including Fionn himself, his son Oisin, and his captain but sometime enemy Goll Mac Morna. Others included Caoilte Mac Ronan, who was renowned for the speed at which he ran. On one occasion, the king, Cormac Mac Art, asked to have a fistful of sand brought to him every morning from each of the four shores of Ireland, as he would know by smelling them whether the feet of a foe had landed on them during the night. Three of his men offered to perform this daily function. The first said he would have the sands collected as quickly as a leaf falls from a tree, but the king was not satisfied. The second man said he would have the sands collected as quickly as a cat sneaks between two houses, but again the king was not satisfied. Caoilte Mac Ronan, for he was the third man, said he would have the sands collected as quickly as a woman changes her mind. “Good”, said the king, “will you go now and collect the sands for me?” “I have already returned with them” replied Caoilte.

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Perhaps the strongest and bravest of the warriors was Oscar, a son of Oisin and grandson of Fionn.  He was always to the fore in battle and was the Fianna’s choice whenever single combat was called.  When Oisin  returned to Ireland from Tir na nOg  centuries after departing with the Otherworld nymph Niamh of the Golden Hair, he met St Patrick and spoke thus of his son: “If I saw Oscar and God fighting hand to hand on yonder hill, and if I saw Oscar laid low,  then would I admit that God was a strong man.” Oscar, along with many other heroes of the Fianna, died at the battle of Gabhra, near Skreen in Co Meath.  On hearing the news of his death, his wife Aideen, the daughter of Aengus of Howth, herself died of sorrow. She was buried in Howth and her resting place was marked by a giant dolmen still called “Aideens Grave.”

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The dolmen lies among the rhododendrons in the grounds of Howth castle. The capstone is estimated to weigh about 75 tons, the second-heaviest one in the country, and over the millennia it has slipped backward to the ground, splaying the portal stones and breaking the supporting stone. The tomb has never been excavated , but portal dolmens are  known to date from the Neolithic period, from c4000BC to c2500BC, thousands of years before the arrival of the Celts (and, of course, the Fianna!). They were usually covered with a mound of earth or small stones, although some such as Poulnabron in Clare are so spectacular that it has been suggested that they may never have been covered.

JA O'Connor's painting of Muck Rock, showing the dolmen at bottom right. The painting dates from c1820, before the rhododendron gardens were planted
JA O’Connor’s painting of Muck Rock, showing the dolmen at bottom left. The painting dates from c1820, before the rhododendron gardens were planted

 On arriving at Howth Castle, the visitor goes through a set of large gates. The gates (and a lodge which was knocked down some years ago) were built with the winnings of Peep o’Day Boy, a champion racehorse owned by Thomas St Lawrence, the 30th lord of Howth (1803-1874). Thomas was passionate about horse racing: in 1853 he opened Baldoyle race course and won the first race himself on a horse called ‘Lambay’. ‘St Lawrence’ was another of his successful stable, but the star was surely ‘Peep o’Day Boy’. Thomas bought him in 1848 and just days later the horse won £170 in a single race. Later that year he won the prestigious Chester Gold Cup and then finished second in the Great Metropolitan Stakes in Epsom. A few years later, the horse was sold to the Tsar of Russia for 1600 guineas and exported. (If the name seems vaguely familiar, it may be because of the “Peep o’ Day Boys”, a violent anti-Catholic agrarian association in Ulster in the eighteenth century. Lord Gosford at the time observed of the Peep o’ Day Boys that they were a “low set of fellows who with guns and bayonets, and other weapons break open the houses of the Roman Catholicks, and as I am informed treat many of them with cruelty”. The gates of the Castle are of course a testament to the horse, not the 18th century Ulster gang!)

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 Going on up by the castle itself, it is worth looking at the old gate tower. Dating from the fifteenth century, it is most likely the gate at which the pirate queen Granuaile was denied access in 1576, as a result of which she kidnapped the young heir.  The tower, along with the sunken gardens, feature in a 1963 B-movie made by a young Francis Ford Coppola, a horror movie called “Dementia 13” – you can check it out on Youtube

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Monaincha, Roscrea, Co Tipperary

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Mona Incha is situated on what was once an island in the now-drained Lough Cre. The twelfth-century church has a finely decorated Romanesque doorway and chancel arch. The head of the high cross dates from the twelfth-century, although the base is from the ninth-century.

Giraldus Cambrensis wrote of the island in the thirteenth century that “no woman can land on it without dropping down dead as soon as she touches the shore; and the same thing happens to the female of any of the lower animals. This has often been proved: for the females of dogs, cats, and other animals have been brought over to make trial: and they have always died the moment they reached the island”

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Loop Head

Remains of Doonlicka Castle
Remains of Doonlicka Castle

On the coast road from Kilkee to Loop Head lies Castle Point, the fabulously scenic promontory site of a 16th century castle built by the McMahons. While significant ruins were photographed in the mid 1850s, little remains today apart from a small grass-covered mound of stones and a slight embankment running along the clifftop.

The slight embankment along the cliff edge
The embankment along the cliff edge
The castle ruin in the 1890s, from the Lawrence Collection, in the National Library
The castle ruin in the 19th century, from the Lawrence Collection, in the National Library

In a nearby field is a monument to ocean-rowers lost at sea.

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Loop Head lighthouse
Loop Head lighthouse

The first lighthouse built at Loop Head was in 1670, consisting of a single-story cottage with a signal fire on the roof. The present tower was erected in 1854 and is now a museum, the operation of the light having been automated in 1991. Not far from the lighthouse was a WW2 look-out post but this now lies in ruins

Ruin of the WW2 look out post
Ruin of the WW2 look out post
The bay to the north of Loop Head
The bay to the north of Loop Head

There have been many shipwrecks along this stretch of coast over the centuries. Intrinsic Bay is named after a ship, “Intrinsic”, which, travelling from Liverpool to New Orleans, was dashed against the cliffs in January 1836, with the loss of all fourteen crew. Edmond Point is called after the “Edmond”, sailing from Limerick to New York which split in two and sank there in November 1850 with the loss of 98 lives.  In 1894, the ship “Inishtrahull”, going from Glasgow to Limerick, went missing without trace, until in 1985 a section of the bow was picked up and identified in  Kilkee.

The area was the subject of great controversy in the 1850s when a prominent land owner and agent Marcus Keane, was accused of proselytizing – he refused to allow a Catholic church to be built on the peninsula, and, at a time of great poverty and want,  provided food for the pupils of the Protestant school at Kilbaha only. Keane was notorious in Clare for enforcing the eviction of many hundreds of  poor families, with the result that he acquired the sobriquet the “Clare Exterminator”. After his death, his body was placed in a lead-lined coffin in a vault in the old cemetery in Kilmaley. It disappeared shortly thereafter, however, and despite many searches by the authorities, it was seven years before it was located, buried surreptitiously in another part of the graveyard, with the handles and nameplates removed from the coffin.

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Just off Loop Head is a large rock, some fifty feet in length and rising about two hundred feet in height. It is referred to as “Sampson’s Island” in a photo taken at the end of the 19th century, but I can find no further information on who Sampson was.  In olden times, Cuchulainn and some of his Ulster pals were on a hunting expedition in the midlands when he caught the eye of an old witch or hag named Mál. Brave and all as he was, Cuchulainn took to his heels for fear that the hag would enchant him. He fled to the West with the hag on his heels, until he finally reached Loop Head and ran out of land. With a mighty leap he jumped on to the rock, but Mál was determined to have her good-looking warrior and she followed him onto the rock.  Cuchulainn then leapt back onto the headland, Mál also made the leap but, unfortunately for her, she landed on an overhang.  The ground gave way and she plummeted the two hundred feet into the raging sea below. Three days later, her body washed up near Quilty, and to this day the bay is called Malbay. The scene of the jump became known as Ceann Leime, or Leap Head, and over the years this has changed to Loop Head…..

Nesting on the rock
Nesting on the rock
Sampson's Island c.1890, from the Lawrence Collection
Sampson’s Island c.1890, from the Lawrence Collection