[Hand of J. O'Donovan:]

Loughrea October 10th 1838.

Dear Sir,

As the season is drawing to a close I think O'Keeffe should join us at once, for the extracts from Colgan can be copied by any one. I observe that the account of O'Flaherty's country given by Mac Firbis differs from that given in the College MS. {H. 2. 17. p. 188.} the former giving Dealbhna Cuile Fabhuir, of which the latter makes no mention. Let me have the account of Muinter Murchadha as given in the books of Lecan and Ballymote.

I now come to settle, if possible, the situation of all the Delvins, and I want all the references to them in the Books of Lecan, Ballymote, McFirbis, O'Flaherty &c. How many of them do they place in Connaught, and how many in Meath? The following Delvins have been already examined.

  1. Dealbhna mor, now the Barony of Delvin in the east of West Meath.
  1. Dealbhna beag, conjectured to be the Barony of Demifore in Meath.
  2. Dealbhna Eathra, now the barony of Garrycastle in ancient Meath, now in the King's County. N.B. A parish of O'Madden's country viz. Lusmagh, is included in the barony of Garrycastle, which was never in the ancient territory of Dealbhna Eathra.
  3. Dealbhna Nuadhat, now the Baronies of Athlone, and Moycarnan in the Co. of Roscommon.

There were besides these Dealbhna (Cuile) Fábhair, Dealbhna Feadha called also Dealbhna tire da loch (so called as lying between Lough Orbsen and Loch Lurgan or the Bay of Galway) and Dealbhna Teanmuighe, of which Dealbhna Feádha was exactly coextensive with the present barony of Moycullen, west of Galway, comprizing Gnó-beag and Gnó-mor, but the situation of the other two remains to be shewn.

I want therefore the variae lectiones (given in the Books above referred to) of the account of


the Delvins in Meath and Connaught. I was always under the impression that Dealbhna Cuile Fabhair was in Meath, but if (Duald) Mac Firbis be right in placing it in (within) the principality of the Munter-Moroghow of Iar-Connaught, I must, of course, alter my account of the Delvins of Westmeath; but before I do so, I wish to see whether all our ancient MSS. agree on the subject. Is Dealbhna Teanmaith or its chiefs mentioned by any of the annalists.


Name. This parish lying between those of Moneyvea and Killeeneen, derives its name from the town in which the parish church is situated. The name is not of ecclesiastical origin, and, before the year 1211 when, it is said, King John built a city here, Athenry was only a ford on the western boundary of Hy-Many, and the point at which the principalities of


Aidhne the Hy-Briuin, and Hy-Many met. This ford was called Áth na Ríogh, the ford of the Kings, probably from its being so situated. (It is now called by the peasantry Bleáth an Rígh, which is a contraction of Baile Atha an Righ, the Town of the ford of the King, and it is believed that it took its name from King John.) Camden, however, and other commentators on Ptolemy's map of Ireland, conjectured that Athenri, was the Auteri of the Geographer; but as Auteri was the name of a people it is not (even) likely that it would be preserved in that of a ford, which Ath na riogh certainly was, and we need not wonder that the learned O'Flaherty scoffs at such a mode of deriving words, in his Ogygia {Vol. I. p. 24 Translat.}. Besides it will be seen that the Auteri of Ptolemy could not be in Connaught at all, and that we should (rather) look for their name among those of the primitive Irish tribes or territories rather than among those of fords or modern towns. Indeed I have often laid (down) it (to myself) as a true antiquarian rule that if we can ever reconcile Ptolemy's tribes and Cities with the old Irish topographers, we must apply ourselves to compare


(our) Atticoti and other Belgic tribes conquered by Tuathal, who were certainly here in Ptolemy's time, and our old hill fortresses, which were undoubtedly the Irish cities at the time with his tribes and cities.

To attempt to give any sketch of the history of Athenry in this letter, would be [a] complete waste of my time, for it would take months to consider the materials before one could begin. It seems to have been built by King John in the year 1211 to put down the Hy-Briuin, Hy-Many and Hy-Fiachrach Aidhne, three most ferocious Conacian tribes. It (Athenry) was surrounded with a wall of considerable strength enclosing an area of 25 Irish acres {3 acres (it is said) more than Galway} and this wall was originally surrounded with a ditch into which the river was conducted. This ditch is (still) traceable on the east and south sides and (where) water still flows through it. The wall was defended with towers and


six gates which are called Sparra's, viz 1. Briton's Gate. 2. Castle Gate, called in Irish Sparra an Chaisleáin. 3. Spiddle Gate Sparrra an Spidéil, the gate of the hospital. 4. Lara Gate. 5. Nicholroe Gate, Sparra Niocóil Ruaidh, and 6. Templegate Sparra an Teampuill. All these gates are now destroyed excepting the north (i.e. Britons) gate and a part of Sparra an Chaisleáin which are much injured. It does not appear that they (ever) had any ornamental work like the Gates of Derry. One tower remains in tolerable preservation on the South East side.

The "noble Abbey" which was erected here in 1241 by Meyler de Bermingham at the request of St. Dominic, is still standing in good preservation, and should be shewn on the map.

The Castle of Athenry called by some King John's Castle, and by others Bermingham's Court, is also in good preservation, and a very conspicuous object in the town.


The site of the Franciscan monastery which was founded here in the year 1464 by the Earl of Kildare, is said to be occupied by the church of Athenry.

For the history of Athenry see Cambrensis on the fortresses erected by King John in Ireland, De Burgo's account of the Dominican Abbeys, Archdall's Monasticon, and the Annals of the Four Masters at the years 1249, 1266, 1316, 1322, 1375, 1473, 1504, 1544, 1572, 1583, 1596, 1599 and 1601.

In the parish of Athenry are situated, according to the natives, 6 castles, but I saw only some of them, viz. 1. Derrydonnell, 2. Moyweela, 3. Carnaor, 4. Ballydavid, 5. Castle Ellen, 6. Castle Lambert ({not ancient}). Derrydonnell is mentioned by the Four Masters at the years (1213-)14 (1598), as having derived its name from the circumstance of O'Donnell having encamped at it for a night when he persecuted the poet Muireadhach O'Daly of Lissadill, and at the year 1598 as the residence


of the son of Tibbot Mac Davuck Burke, and in an Inquisition taken at Galway in the year 1608 (??), as one of the Castles of Clanrickard.

Moyweela (Moyveela) is mentioned by O'Flaherty {Ogygia part. 3. c. 11} as near a brook called Turlach Airt in Aidhne, where the monarch Art the son of Con of the Hundred battles was killed after the battle of Moy-Mucroimhe.


This plain is celebrated in all the Irish histories and authentic annals as the site of a bloody battle between Looee Mac Con and Art, the solitary, kings of Ireland, in which Art was defeated, and after wch. (wards) pursued to a brook in Aidhne situated between Moyweela and Kilcornan, where he was killed.

The account of this battle forms one of the popular stories of the (ancient) Irish. I have an


extract from a very rude copy (of it) now before me but I find nothing in it to identify (point out) the situation of Magh Mucroimhe. O'Flaherty who lived at a period when old Irish traditions were very vivid, and (who had) many excellent Irish MSS. in his possession, writes in part III, c. 11. of Ogygia, that Moy Mucroimhe was situated near Athenry 8 miles from Galway, and in his account of Iar-Connaught he states that Looee Mac Con defeated the monarch Art at Athenry within 8 miles of Galway. (Athenry is actually eleven miles from Galway but they reckoned very long miles in O'Flaherty's time.)

Where did O'Flaherty find, or from what did he infer that Athenry was in Moy-Mucroimhe, or Moy-Mucroimhe near Athenry? Try the Annals and all the copies of the account of the battle. Where did he find that King Art was slain at the little river of Turlach Airt in Aidhne? I made every enquiry in the parish of Athenry to see if the name Moy-Mucroimhe were still (in existence) but found that no such is remembered; and


what I am more surprised at, the name Turlach Airt, {situated between Moyweela and Kilcornan} which was generally known in O'Flaherty's time, is now blotted from the memory of the people. Does any such name occur in the Connaught Inquisitions?

That Magh Mucrimha was a well-known plain in ancient times appears from a legend concerning it in the Dinnseanchus in which its name is derived from a magical herd of swine which was dis-enchanted there by Queen Meave. From the manner in which this plain is mentioned in the Dinnseanchus, it would appear to have been rather the name of a fertile district than of a small field or townland.

Magh Mucrima molor cách
Magh a ragam co ro gnáth
&c. &c.
The plain of Mucrima which all have praised,
A plain which I have oft with joy traversed
A plain of houses, ploughmen and of herds
Which Eochy Fin's great tribe have long possessed,
A land so smooth (résd), so rugged (aimhreidh!) and so tilled (ro-ár),
Extensive (fairsing), wide (ro-leathan) and splendid (ró-ghlan), grassy-green,
A plain (clár) in which bright swords (cloidhinhi creasa) & belts abound,
A plain in which large oaks (dairdhibh) and nuts (dair-mheasa) are found
Comes next to be examined. Whence its name
No bard has sung; no ollav has removed
The brooding (murky) cloud which the old hand of time
Has drawn o'er its history (upon its face); no fiery lay
Nor Ecstacy divine(a), nor teinim laeghdha
Has yet dispelled this sable murky gloom.
From Cruachain' s cave (a huaimh Chruacháin) a magic herd of swine
Of blackest hue, once issued forth, when Meave
And Ellill, ruled the men of Olnegmact.
This herd of hogs (pigs) was wonderful indeed
For should an hundred men ascend one hill
To count their number, and continue so
To reckon them for ever, they would fail
To calculate the number in this herd
Which demons sent from Cruachain's gloomy cave
They spoiled the grass, and withered the green corn
Throughout Connactia's province of fair men (cendfind)
In which soon thirst and dreadful dearth prevailed
At length queen Mab and Ellill, King, set out
To hunt this herd, and count them one by one
{For this once done, their power to hurt was o'er}
And found them on Froechmagh, auspicious plain.
They chased them westwards to the pass of Fert (Bealach Fheart)
Where Meave in close pursuit took hold of one
Of these huge boars (conus gob Medhbh ar mor cóis) by his hind leg(b) - great feat!
But he could not be held; he dragged his leg
From her strong grasp, and left the skin behind (cos fhácaibh a leathar ina leath-láimh).
And fled away, but whither, no one knows.
Now Meave did count their number as they passed
Across the plain of Froechmhagh; and from this
That plain has since been called Magh Muc-rimha, whch. means
The plain of reckoning the pigs (muc-rimhadh!), and this
Is sealed (re relaibh) its true and everlasting name.

(a)Whenever a poet was asked any question about ancient history or any thing else, which could (not) be known, he would throw himself into a sleep, during which he was sure to dream of the truth of it. This is as good a humbug an the animal magnetism of the French Academy, who have thrown so much light upon the phenomena of the nervous system.

(b)A queen taking hold of a pig by the hind leg is very pastoral and truly poetical. Byron has nothing like it.


This story was evidently got up at a period when the Irish were as silly as men could possibly be; but still even though not a single word can be believed about reckoning the magical pigs that got out of the cave of Croghan to plague the Connaughtmen, still we may belief [sic] the writer that in his own time Moy-Mucrimha was the name of what he considered a beautiful plain. The district west of Athenry (which was Magh Mucrimha if we believe O'Flaherty) could scarcely be called "a plain of houses & ploughmen (treabhthach)" even at this day (notwithstanding all the efforts of cultivation), but still we must receive the Bard's testimony that he considered it such in his time, although perhaps it was but partially cultivated, and very thinly castellated or cashelled (or rated).


There is an old church called Teampull geal (Templegal) or White church near the not far from the castle of Derrydonnell, the name of which I do not find set down in the name books. It should be shewn on the plan, as it is shewn even on the engraved County Map of the Down Survey as Templegal.


I have been on the look out for this Esker during my walks from Mááréé to Athenry, & from Athenry to Loughrea, but have not found it so decidedly developed any where as it is at Moy Lena near Tullamore. I do not believe that the hill of Seefin 3 miles N.W. of Loughrea is a part of it ({as I was told at Clarinbridge}) but it may be traced from Clarinbridge to Caherfin-Esker in the townland of that name, in the parish and barony of Athenry, and about 3 miles to the south of Athenry town, and from thence to the Dominican College


of Esker, (in the parish of Kiltullagh) north East of the old castle of Rath-Gorgin. The Esker, which develops itself near this Dominican Establishment, is certainly a part of the boundary line between the northern and southern Irish, but I have no clue (as yet) to trace it any further to the east. It will (however) be found to run (extend) thence East and by north across the barony of Clonmacnow till it strikes the Suck near Ballinasloe, where we lost sight of it in the County of Roscommon. I hope the Ordnance Surveyors will shew this Esker on their Map. It is not near so decided a feature in the County of Galway as in Roscommon and Leinster, especially in the parishes of Moor, Clonmacnoise, & Clonard where I have observed it most conspicuously developed.



This parish lying south of that of Athenry and east of Lickerrig, is called in Irish Cill Con larainn, the meaning of which is not locally known, but it is probable that Con Iarainn or Cu Iarainn was the name of the patron saint. I know however nothing about such a saint. Does his name appear in our Calendars inter divos?

The old church of Kilconieran is all destroyed with the exception of one gable containing a Gothic window of good workmanship. It was 18 feet in breadth, but its length cannot now be ascertained. In the church yard are to be seen on the tombstones the names of the families of the Hy-Fiachrach Aidhne such as the Hynes {O'Heyne} the Kilkellys &c, which suggests that their Country was not far distant. This parish however was never included in Aidhne, but in Hy-Many


In this parish is situated the castle of Rath Goirgin mentioned in the annals of the Four Masters at the year

A.D. 1597 O'Donnell {Red Hugh} made an irruption into Clanrickard and laid siege to Athenry. The warders of this town attempted to defend it, but their efforts were useless, for O'Donnell's people applied fires and torches to the strong gates of the town, and carried with them large ladders by means of which they ascended to the parapets of the walls. From the tops of the walls some leaped into the streets of the town and opened the gates for those who were outside. They all then proceeded to demolish the stone houses and the houses of defence which they stripped (robbed?) of all their goods and valuables.


They remained that night in the town. It would be difficult to enumerate on the next day, the quantity of copper, iron, clothes and vesture they carried from this town on the following day.

From this town also O'Donnell sent forth marauding parties to plunder Clanrickard on both sides of the River {i.e. the River which flows from Athenry to Clarin-Bridge} these pillaged and ravaged the entire tract of Country lying between Leath-raith {in the parish of Abbey (Killimor Daly)} and Seanchomhladh. The remaining part of his army burned and ravaged the territory (from Athenry to Rath Goirgin) westwards to Rinn Mhil {Ringville} and Máárëe, and to the very gates of Galway, and also burned Teach Brighde at the gate of Spairri {at the East gate}.


The Castle of Rath Goirgin still retains that name uncorrupted, excepting that that [sic] in the anglicized form it is called by the more terrific name of Rath-Gorgon. It was a square Castle of considerable extent, but now (so) much ruined that no definite idea can be formed of its original architectural characteristics. A part of the square tower remains which is 42 feet in breadth, and about 35 feet high. Its bawn, which was not very large can still be traced, but its walls are nearly destroyed. Before the hand of cultivation had improved the land, this Castle was situated in the midst of a


morass which was as great a natural fastness as the castle was a fortress.

The moat of Rath Goirgin which was the primitive military station from which the townland derived its name, still exists in good preservation, (a) short distance to the south of the Castle. This is now a green moat, but it was certainly originally surrounded with a Rath, named from a Goirgin, or fierce (little) man or Gorgon.

Not far from this old Castle of Rath-Gorgin, is situated in a town to which it gives name, the Castle of Badhbhun-


mor, large Bawn, of the history of which I know nothing.

In this parish is situated Moy ode (Magh Fhósd) a gentleman's house and demesne which is worthy of antiquarian attention as being mentioned in the Dinnseanchus in connection with Loch Riach {Loughrea}. See my account of Loch Riach.

In this parish is also situated the Castle of Baile na gCaorach, Ballynageeragh, which is a very conspicuous object in the Country, but of the history of which I know nothing,

A townland called Caher Kin-moonwee is set down in the name book of


this parish in its South west extremity but I could meet no one who ever heard such a name! It seems to signify the Caher or Cyclopean fort at the head or extremity of Moinmoy, but as I could not find it in the Country I cant say a word about it. Who furnished this name, and on what authority?

The name books of this part of the County are very imperfect, worse in fact than any I have yet seen but your engravers are treading too much on the heels of the Surveyors which makes (creates) much confusion, as far as


I am concerned.

I want the name books of the parishes around this town of Loughrea as soon as possible, and also the books of the Barony of Kiltartan. I hope they will not be so imperfect as those of Athenry.

I think if all the officers would imitate Mr. Beatty that those name books could be prepared long before the plans are drawn. He has employed a man to walk into every townland to ascertain the name of every feature to be marked on the map, by which means he has all the names and their exact situations before the plans are


drawn. To employ men who have a smattering barbaric knowledge of the Irish language to guess at the names in an Office in a country town is truly ridiculous, and must finally lead to error, or be of no use whatever.

Your obedient Servant,
John O'Donovan