Loughrea, Novr. 1st 1838.

Dear Sir,

O'Keeffe has not arrived here yet; I hope he is not knocked up at Eyrecourt. O'Conor is at Mountshannon whence I expect him back to-day. The extent of this County is extraordinary!


This parish which extends from near Loughrea to the boundary of the County of Clare, is called in Irish Cillín a' (.i. dha) Díoma, which is understood by the natives to signify the little church of St. Dima. The church so called is situated about 2½ miles to the south of Loughrea, but now all destroyed with the exception of a small portion of the south side wall, from which it appears that it was not a very ancient church. A holy well dedicated to St. Dima lies not far from the old church in the townland


of Killeenadeema East, at which stations were performed some time back, but now it is very seldom visited except by some old people who are laughed at for their credulity. So much for the march of intellect! St. Dioma's day (La'l Díoma) was celebrated in the parish less than half a century since. It was in spring, but my informants could not tell the exact day of the month. It was, however, when the people used to be in a hurry sowing the potatoes.

This Saint seems to be the Dima about whose book Sir William Betham has written in his Irish Antiquarian researches. In what territory do our Ecclesiastical documents place the church of this Saint? Moenmoy?

In the townland of Killeenadeema East is shewn the site of a castle called Baile an teampuill {Churchtown}


from its contiguity to the old church of St. Dioma, but all the walls are destroyed. There is another ruin of a castle in the townland of Ballycoony.

The celebrated mountainous territory of Sliabh Echtghe begins in this parish at the townland of Coppanagh, but it is so extensive that my informants could not attempt to define it. They think however that it is all included in the County of Galway, which, I believe, is not the fact, at least Beaufort shews Sliabh Baughta on his Ecclesiastical map as extending to Tomegrany in the County of Clare. The name of this mountain is pronounced in this parish as if it were written Slia Bacht-te, which is a remarkable corruption for in all the Irish MSS. of authority it is written (either) simply Echtghe or with the word sliabh prefixed Sliabh n-Echtghe, and sometimes Sliabh Eachtaídhe, which is, I believe the pronunciation that prevails in


the county of Clare.

The following derivation is given of the name of this mountain in the Dinnseanchus, Lib. Lec, fol. 240, b.b.


Ninn - (From) Echtge uathach, the daughter of Ursothach, the son of Tinde, one of the Tuatha de Dananns. She was fostered at Cuil Echtair by the side of Sith neanta by Moch Maelgeann. The cup-bearer of Gann and Sengann asked her in marriage {or wooed her}; his name was Fergus Lusca Mac Ruidi, and he was also called Lusca Péiste as having been nursed by a serpent in his lusca, i.e. in his infancy or cradle. The daughter (girl) consented to his desire in consequence of the lands which he held (had in his hands) (Ro faemh in inghean fes les fo dáidh fearann euchuiri & Deoghbhaire bha] 'na láimh) by (in) right of his office of cook and cup-bearer, from the King of Olnegmact, viz, that tract extending from Moen {Moenmoy} to the ocean. He had no stock of wealth but the land, and she had wealth but had no land (Ní baí don inmus laissin & bhaí fearand; bhai don inmhus leisí & ní bhaí forbai). She came to


him with her cows as a "slabhra fui thir fosadh", and he gave up the mountain to her. Unde Sliabh n-Echtge dicitur. Two cows were brought hither on this occasion and {though they were equally productive at the period of their being transplanted} the cow placed at the north side of the mountain did not yield one third as much milk as the one placed at the south side.

There is still in this mountain in the townlands of Darrybreen a river still bearing the name of Abhainn dá Loilgheach, or the river of the two milch cows, which seems to have received that odd name from this old story about the two milch cows of the Lady Echtge. q? was this river so called from its dividing the northern from the southern part of the mountain? Notwithstanding this reference to the fertility of the southern part of Slieve Echtghe it is now


believed that the northern part is by far the more fertile.

In a MS. in the library of Trinity College, Clas H.2.16, p. 916, the following story is told of the poet Mac Liag, which though a pure fabrication still preserves the names of several ancient places in this mountainous territory.

The three Ollavs of Connaught were Mac Liag, Mac Coisi, and Flann Mac Lonan, who were called the son of God, the son of man, and the son of the Devil. Flann Mac Lonan was called the son of the Devil from his bitterness and satirical virulence, for he never went into a house without composing some lampoon in it. Mac Liag was called the son of Man, for the goodness of his house-establishment, and for his goodness towards man; and Mac Coisi was called the son of God, for his great charity, and for his having died on a pilgrimage. Illrechtach was the name of Mac Liag's tympanist, and


he had been tympanist to Mac Lonan until his death, when he was employed by Mac Liag. One time Mac Liag set out accompanied by Illrechtach to visit Brian {Boru} to converse with him. He was in the habit of going often from Loch Riach {Loughrea} across Echtgi southwards to Limerick taking with them twelve vessels, and the necessary quantity of food; for there are twelve prospects commanded by Echtgi and he used to drink a putric {vessel, q? bottle} at evesy eminence (prospect). On one occasion when they were going southwards across this mountain they sat upon a certain hill in it (called Ceann-Crochain), and Mac Liag said, "Many a hill, and lake, and Dingna {remarkable feature} now before us, and to know them (all) were great knowledge". Illrechtach observed "were Mac Lonan here, he would know the Dinnseanchus of every place here". Mac Liag, {enraged at this} said {to his attendants} take that fellow and hang him. Illrechtach requested a respite till morning, and he obtained his/p>


request. He then fasted that night that the soul of Mac Lonan might come to his assistance; and early on the following (morning) they saw Mac Lonan coming to them, and he said to them release the prisoner (cimrú) and I will tell you the history of every Dingna here in the Echtghe. The tympanist was thus saved from (being) hanged by Mac Liag. Mac Lonan then composed this poem.

Delightful, delightful, the lofty Echtge
Habitation of the Fians of sharp blades
Land ... which the sons of Erc used to frequent,
On dark mornings about Dergderc {L: Derg}
The digna of Eachtga, meeting place of Finn
To me in a poem Finn told.
There was not before me, there was not after me,
One more skilled in the narration (description)
Illustrious were the two women who loved (liked) it
And who frequented this rough mountain
Echtga, the daughter of the robust Deaghaidh
And Echtgha, the daughter of Lodan,
&c. &c.

The Spirit of Mac Lonan mentions the following places in this mountain,


1. Ceann Crochain, a hill commanding a varied prospect, called from the head of Crochan, which was cut off by Dolv Mac Dal and carried to this hill. Both were Tuatha de Dananns.

2. Cailli Candan, 3. Clochar nguill, 4. Ros dá chorr, 5. Druim dicuill, 6. Druim carn, 7. Druim Crochain, 8. Druim cais, 9. Druim bainbh, 10. Druim Lochan lighlais, 11. Loch Greine from Grian the daughter of Finn. This lake is in the County of Clare near Tomgreany, 12. Loch Ibhrach in the valley of Ibharghlinn {Glen of yews) a fruitful lake on which cranes screech, 13. Loch Cip, 14. Loch Cori, 15. Loch Cno, 16. Loch Bric, 17. Loch Bairchi, 18. Loch-bo, 19. Loch na mboc, east at Boinn, 20. Loch neadig, 21. Loch nead Lodain, 22. Loch-in-neich, 23. Loch in naigi, 24. Loch na ndruadh, 25. Loch-na daimhe, 26. Loch Laig, 27. Loch na fear fuinig, 28. Loch Neachtain, 29. Loch nathghuinig,


30. Ath na heigmi, 31. Ath na nog, 32. Ath na raiti, between two roads, 33. Ath rubha, 34. Ath rois (Murchoin), 35. Ath-nidma mic-Eidneacail, 36. Ath na hairgni, 37. Ath na nos, 38. Ath na ndamh-dorus , 39. Ath ndearg mona, 40. Ath ndeaga, 41. Ath Aithleasa annfeinneadha, 42. Ath Eascra, 43. Ath nuidhir, 44. Ath-mor, 45. Ath mothar, 46. Ath Indil, 47. Ath-in-meirgi, 48. Ath luingi, 49. Ath leith deirgi, 50. Ath na leici, 51. Ath-an- luain-creachach north of Innis, 52. Ath feádha, 53. Ath fearta (indaill), 54. Ath leathan, at Leacht Chonaill, and East of it Cailli Conrai, 55. Ath neart na nog, 56. Ath c& (ceathra) Conacht.

After this the spirit of Mac Lonan goes on to lavish floods of praise on the Dalcassians, and ends by the following most extraordinary lines in praise of himself and Saint Kieran, the patron of Clonmacnoise

Ro bo mé Flann fili féigh
Do nídís righ mo ro-réir
I was Flann, the keen poet
Kings were obedient to my will
Cér bam treórach, nir bam tim
Ro bo mé in t-eólach Aibhind
Ciarán ceand cach naímh nimh
Acht mór athair na muintir.
Ba misi ceand (ceann) na mbárd mbind
Dar ghiall écsi árd aibhind.
Though I was active I was not proud (tinn)
I was the delightful learned poet!
Kieran was the head of every saint under heaven
Except the great father of the people (Patrick?)
And I was the head of the harmonious bards
To whom the great delightful bards submitted.

Though it must be acknowledged at once that this poem is a fabrication still it is certain that it preserves a list of the names of curious places in the mountainous territory of Sliabh Echtghe.

This story affords a specimen of the kind of tricks resorted to by Irish poets to impose their fabrications on the world. It was believed at this period


that an Irish poet had the power of raising the ghost of any dead man of any age to consult him about disputed historical events, or to learn events not known at all. Thus Amhergin, the author of the Dinseanchus, fasted for three days and three nights at Tara to compel the ghost of the ante-diluvian Fintan to appear to him to tell him the derivations of the names of hills, Duns, loughs and other dingna's in Ireland. This he pretended to have done in order to add authority to his collection of traditional stories; for no one could suppose them false or at all tainted with fable, when they were penned down by a chief poet from the dictation of the ghost of Fintan, who lived in Ireland from before the deluge until the period of St. Patrick and St. Fineen of Movilla. According to the


notions of the philosophic investigators of the present century this detracts from instead of adding to the authenticity of the Dinnseanchus, but six centuries back, it was as firmly believed in Ireland that the Dinnseanchus was penned from the mouth of the Ghost of Fintan, as it is now that Moses received the ten Commandments from God himself.

I cannot find (any of) these names mentioned in Mac Lonan's poem, in the parish of Killeenadeema wch. comprises a part of the mountain Echtghe, and am of opinion that the greater part of them lies in the County of Clare between Darrybreen and Limerick. Many of them are now in all probability lost, at least it would appear so from the manner in which they are spoken of in the above little story, and if it was necessary to call up the


spirit of Mac Lonan to point them out in the time of Brian Boru it will be difficult enough, to find in Sliabh Echtghe at present a sage so skilled in topography as to be able to point them out. I shall however be on the look out for them in Kinel Aodha na h-Echtghe, where some of them may yet be preserved.

This poem is in all probability as old as the time of Brian Boru, and seems to have been written by Mac Liag to impose upon him at the time that he was aspiring to the monarchy, for it is stated towards the end of it that the spirit of Mac Lonan told the Minstrel that Brian would become monarch of Ireland:

Éirigh is tachair ri Brian
Cid focus, gid gar, cidh cian
Ní fil a thotim can chath
No co tair a saegal rath
Bidh Árd-Rí ar erind fheachtaigh
(erit monarchus Hiberniae)
Ná ceil air, a ilreachtaigh!


This parish lying between thos of Loughrea and Isertkelly, is caled by the Irish Cill Chríost, wch. means Christ's church. This is the first church of this name I have yet met in any part of Ireland. The old church so-called is situated in a small village of the (same name) lying about three miles to the west of the town of (Loughrea), and is a small neat ruin in the pointed style, probably built by the Clanrickards about four or five hundred years ago. One thing I am pretty certain of [is] that the primitive Irish Christians never dedicated their churches to


Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Michael, the Arch-angel, or any other angel or saint but their own Country saints; for all the churches now bearing the names of those divi have been erected since the arrival of the Anglo Normans, who were sent hither by the Pope to establish pure Christianity.

I find no (other) ancient remains in this small [parish] except the site of an old Castle in the Townland of Ballingarry called Clogh Ballingarry, and a burying place in the townland of Baile na manach called Ceall Iubhrach (Ceallurach) {Calluragh} or the (old) church of the yew (yard or Burial ground).

There is in the northern part of the townland of Ballingarry a holy well dedicated to and called after St. Colman Mac Duach, at which turrises are sometimes performed.



This parish lying between those of Kilchreest, and Kilthomas, is called by the Irish in their old language Cill Fhíonáin, which signifies the church of St. Fionán. The old church so called lies within the demesne of Castleboy near Persse house, but no idea can be formed of its age from what remains.

Within the same demesne and immediately to the west of the same house is situated the remains of the old Castle of Castleboy from which the modern house and demesne have taken name. What remains of it is in a very rude style. I have no historical reference to it.

There is another small but well built castle in the townland of Cloghaun to the right of the road as one goes from


Kilchreest to Castleboy.

I find nothing else in this parish of antiquarian interest.


This small parish lying to the west of that of Meelick is called in Irish Faithche, a name which is understood in every part of Connaught to signify "a Green", a level field. The word is written Fathuidh in Cormac's Glossary and translated by the Latin platea, a plat. In the County of Kilkenny it is applied to a fair-green, a hurling green or any field of exercise. The Connaught family of Fahy a branch of the Hy-Briuin Seóla, are now beginning to translate their name "Green", which though certainly wrong as a translation of O'Fathaidh, shews that they look upon the topographical word Fathuidh or Faithche to mean "a green".


The old church of Fahy is situated in a townland of that name to the left of the road as you go from Eyrecourt to Portumna about 2½ miles from the former. It is a small rude church with all its features destroyed and presenting nothing of interest to the antiquarian. Judging from the character of the masonry of the part remain[ing] I would judge it to be four hundred years old. The door was in the south side wall.

There is a holy well with some bushes growing over it a short distance to the north of this old church in which they used to dip delicate children. It is called Tobar os or Tobar Ros, a name which I do not understand.

There is nothing else, and I may say nothing at all of interest of interest in this parish, but I have thought proper to say something about it, as I always visit the old churches in all the parishes.



This small parish lying between Fahy and Kilnamanoge is called by the Irish Tír an Eascrach, which means the country, land, or district of the Esker or ridge. It is so called from a (remarkable) Esker or ridge of sand hills wch. extends across it from a place called Cinn Eiscreach to the old Castle of Longford and thence in a strongly developed line across the parish of Killymer. This however is no part of the Esker Riada.

The old church of this parish stands on this Esker to the left of the road as you go from Eyrecourt to Portumna about five miles from the latter, and about ½ a mile from the road. All the architectural features of it are destroyed, but the part of the walls remaining prove it to be of comparatively modern times.

I could find nothing curious about it but


an ash tree extending its arms over the old walls in a picturesque manner.

A family of the ancient Siol-Anmchadhas (.i. O'Maddens) the former aristocrats of the district have enclosed a part of this church as a burial place for themselves.

On a low part of the same Esker stands the Castle of Longford from which the barony takes its name. It was the head castle of O'Madden, chief of Siol-Anmchadha (and a branch of the Hy-Many), who held his property (and in a great measure his rank) down to the year 1691. It was a castle of considerable size and importance and its (ruins are) still in very good preservation. It is situated about five miles to the north of Portumna. This castle is referred to in the annals of the Four Masters at the year ? as Longphort-O'Madden, but I can not find it in the extracts from those annals now before me.


In the townland of Longford not far from this castle to the south lies a holy well called Toberpatrick or St. Patrick's well, but it is fast losing its sanctity.

In this parish is situated the townland of Machaire an Iarla, the Earl's plain mentioned by Philip O'Sullevan Beare as having been passed through by O'Sullevan Beare Earle of Beare-haven, on his march from the castle of Dunboy to O'Rourke's castle of Drumahaire. See my letter on the parish of Aughrim in which the words of O'Sullevan are quoted at full length.

There is nothing else of antiquarian or historical interest in this small parish.


Is the castle of Longford or any other of O'Madden's castles or mansions mentioned in any of the Connaught Inquisitions? Are the lands forfeited by O'Madden, chief of Siol-Anmchadha, detailed (particularly specified) in the book of Survey and distribution.

Are the lands forfeited by O'Heyne and O'Shaughnessy mentioned in the same record? What churches are placed in Siol-Anmchadha by Colgan an[d] the other writers of Irish Hagiology?


O'Keeffe returned hither from Eyrecourt on Thursday evening, but O'Conor is still somewhere between this and Inis Cealtra.

We shall never be done!

Your obedient Servant,
John O'Donovan
Loughrea, Novembr. 2, 1838