History from Ancient Times to Penal Laws

Old Church and part of Graveyard
15th Century Kilnamona Church
detail of the old church window
Detail of the Old Church Window

The most ancient recorded tribe to inhabit Kilnamona were Cineal Baith. They are said to have migrated to Kilnamona in the 9th century. They had a special veneration for St. Lachtain, likely a native of Cork. His monastery was located at Bealach Feabrath on the Limerick-Cork border. Cineal Baith were obliged to abandon this stronghold and parts of the tribe moved to Limerick, Kerry and Clare. On arrival in Kilnamona, they erected a church and monastery in honour of Lachtain.

The monastery may have been located where the old graveyard is now. It is likely that the church they built was located below the hillside of the medieval church in a marshy field which gives Kilnamona its name. They also built a well dedicated to him, called Tobar Lachtin. His feast day was observed on the 19th of March, the same day that the people of Freshford, Co. Kilkenny honoured the saint [1]. Such was the veneration the tribe had for the saint that his name was still being given in baptism to children after the lapse of eight centuries. For instance, Gillalachtayn O'Brassil was vicar of Kilnamona c. 1425 [2]. Cineal Baith occupied Kilnamona for at least five or six centuries.

Holy Wells and other Ancient Sites

Tobar Lachtin
Tobar Lachtin
Chiselled Crucifixion on Stone of Tobar na Taise
Chiselled Crucifixion, Tobar na Taise

The two holy wells closeby to the medieval church, Tobar Lachtin (Lachtain's Well) and Tobar na Taise (Well of the Relic), were surveyed for the 1840 Ordnance Survey Map. Tobar Lachtin was frequented for the cure of diver's disease. Pilgrimages would also take place on the 19th of March to the well. A standing stone was incorporated into the devotions. It became customary in doing "the Rounds" to insert the head through a hole which had been bored in an ancient slab near the stone.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, a "weak minded" lad disliked this procedure so much, he smashed the stone with a sledge. A replacement standing stone was used as a substitute, with a basin like-cavity on the top. Parishioners used this cavity to insert their head in, thus continuing the tradition [3]. The well went dry in the late 19th century.

Tobar na Taise is located to the southeast of Tobar Lachtin. This well is shaped like a coffin. Delicate children were laid on their back, as if in a coffin, in the hope it would restore their health [4]. There is a chiselled crucifixion on the stone of the well, which can be seen on the right.

There are two holy wells in the townland of Croaghaun. Both of them are ascribed to Iníon Bhaoith. Holy wells dedicated to Iníon Bhaoith are found all over central Clare [5]. She may well have been venerated as a fertility goddess in pre-Christian times and later transformed by the people into St. Brigid. The most well known of the two wells is known locally as "St. Winifred's Well", "The Well of the Three Golden Friday's" and "Toberinneen". It is a traditional place to go for a cure for diseases of the eyes and lameness. About 60 years ago, a shrine was built for the statues and candles left in thanksgiving [6].

Other archaelogical sites from ancient times still to be seen include: a fulachta fia in Shallee, comprising a large kidney-shaped mound with charred limestones; a cashel in Caherbannagh; megalithic tombs in Caherbannagh and Lickaun; a cairn in Ballyneillan, in which two human remains were dated to the Bronze Age; a horizontal mill in Clongowna, dated to the 9th century and the only example of its type in Clare; and enclosures in Clongowna, Lickaun, Ballynabinnia as well as 2 in Ballyknock (one of which is a ring fort used as part of the Pitch and Putt course) [7].

15th and 16th Century Kilnamona

By 1443, the O'Griffeys held both the rectorship and curacy of Kilnamona. They built a castle at Magowna, from which they dominated Kilnamona. They may well have built the medieval church. This church dates from the mid to late 15th century and was likely in use until the middle of the 17th century. The church was described in a Commissioners of Public Works as "built in squared limestone of excellent appearance but set in mortar of poor quality...its principal feature is a single ogee-headed window widely splayed internally" [8]. The 1840 Ordnance Survey Map shows the 15th century church. The 1840 Ordnance Survey Map also shows the site of "Aitin Lachtin" (Little Abode of St. Lachtain), the site roughly at the location of the modern day church. Whether they built the medieval church or not, the O'Griffey's reign was quite short; the O'Deas took over Magowna Castle by 1580 and the king of Thomond, Conor na Sróna O'Brien built Shallee castle at the end of the 15th century. The O'Briens also began to acquire estates in Kilnamona. By 1641, the O'Griffey's only had one registered land owner, Andrew of Ballymongaun [9]. A full list of the proprietors of townlands in Kilnamona can be found here. The O'Briens ultimately were to be dispossessed by Queen Elizabeth the 1st. Shallee Castle was forfeited after Turlogh O'Brien, owner of Shallee Castle, was executed in 1592 after he rose in rebellion against the queen [10].

Penal Laws

The Penal Laws were a series of discriminatory measures directed against the practise of Catholic worship. This had ramifications for the religion in Kilnamona. By the early 17th century, a Protestant parson held the rectory of Kilnamona. As the church had fallen into Protestant hands, the reliquary which contained St. Lachtain's hand was removed for safekeeping to Kerry. Following the Cromwellian conquest of the mid 17th century, the prominent landholders of the parish lost their estates and the 15th century was "nailed up" and allowed to fall into decay. Although Kilnamona was no longer listed as a Protestant parish by 1693, efforts were made to enforce the paying of Protestant church rates as N. Power, Pat Cullinan, Ri. Griffin and T. Barry were summoned as defaulters in 1723 [11]. As part of the Penal Laws, the 1704 Registration Act required Catholic priests to register with the authorities. Fr. Teige Kerin is registered as being parish priest of Ruan and Kilnamona at this time after voluntarily surrendering [12]. A strong tradition exists that Kilcurrish, just outside Kilnamona, in Dysert was used as the place of worship during the Penal Times. This location was a convenient one for a priest having to serve Ruan and Kilnamona. This union of the two parishes was due to priests being scarce during this period, and on the appointment of Daniel O'Sullivan, a native of Inagh, as Parish Priest there, Kilnamona was united with Inagh parish and Fr. Kerin took over Dysert along with Ruan [13]. Details of later church history are also available on this site, while an account of the Great Famine, 19th and early 20th century political movements as well as useful genealogical sources are also available.

References
  1. Curry, E. and O'Donovan, J. (1839) Ordnance Survey Letters. Available at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/osl/killnamona1_situation.htm
  2. Gaynor, P. (Rev.) (1941) '"Kilnamona, called Kinelbuith" (Cineal Baoith, Cineal Baith, Cineal in Baith).' Molua: Irisleabhar Cuallachta Griogóir. N. Organ of the Association of St. Gregory. 9-23
  3. Murphy, Ignatius. (1991) The diocese of Killaloe in the nineteenth century. Dublin: Four Court Press.
  4. Curry, E. and O'Donovan, J. (1839) Ordnance Survey Letters. Available at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/osl/killnamona1_situation.htm
  5. MacMahon, Michael (2000) "The Cult of Iníon Bhaoith and the Church at Killinaboy". The Other Clare. Vol. xxiv
  6. Breen, Eileen An Archaelogical Survey of Kilnamona, Co. Clare.
  7. Breen, Eileen An Archaelogical Survey of Kilnamona, Co. Clare.
  8. MacMathúna, Séamus. (1966) History of the parish of Inagh and Kilnamona. Ennis: Clare Champion.
  9. Gaynor, P. (Rev.) (1941) '"Kilnamona, called Kinelbuith" (Cineal Baoith, Cineal Baith, Cineal in Baith).' Molua: Irisleabhar Cuallachta Griogóir. N. Organ of the Association of St. Gregory. 9-23
  10. Frost, J. (Rev.) (1893) The history and topography of the county of Clare. Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker.
  11. Gaynor, P. (Rev.) (1941) '"Kilnamona, called Kinelbuith" (Cineal Baoith, Cineal Baith, Cineal in Baith).' Molua: Irisleabhar Cuallachta Griogóir. N. Organ of the Association of St. Gregory. 9-23
  12. A list of the names of the Popish Parish Priests, Anno 1704. Available at http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/popish_parish_priests_1704_list.htm
  13. Gaynor, P. (Rev.) (1941) '"Kilnamona, called Kinelbuith" (Cineal Baoith, Cineal Baith, Cineal in Baith).' Molua: Irisleabhar Cuallachta Griogóir. N. Organ of the Association of St. Gregory. 9-23