Below are two letters by John O’Donovan concerning the Parish of Annaghdown, part of his Letters containing information relative to the Antiquities of the County of Galway collected during the progress of the Ordnanace Survey in 1838 Vol. I. Links to each volume of O’Donovan’s Letters are available on the Ask About Ireland website.

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Of the Parish of Annaghdown

I have not yet sufficiently examined the antiquities of this parish having only passed through a few townlands of it on my way from Clare Galway to Tuam. I met one old church in the townland of Cill Chathail which bears the same name with the townland or rather which originally gave its name of Cill Chathail or Church of St. Cathaldus to the townland. It lies in a fieldto the left of the road as you go from Clare Galway to Tuam about 8 miles from the latter.

This church is 45 feet in length (inside) and 20 feet in breadth. The side walls are built of large stones in a rude style. All the windows are destroyed except one in the east gable which is however so injured that I could ascertain its height or original breadth. The west gable is also built of large stones in a very rude style and containing a dooryway of this form.

Is there any mention of this St Cathaldus in any of the Irish ecclesiastical documents. There is another church dedicated to him in the county of Westmeath near Rathowen.

From this old church you hav ea view of three famous hills in Connaught, viz. Knock-Tuagh to the S. with a remarkable high farm house on its summit, Knockmoy to the North East, and Knock Meádha to the North. Charles O’Conor of Belanagare in a note to the Battle of Cnock Tua in the O’Gorman copy of the Annals of the Four Masters states that Knock Toe is within 5 miles of Galway and taht the battle was fought on the 19th of August 1504. The summit of Knock Doe is however 8 Irish miles from Galway. It is by far the lowest of the three Knocks above mentioned.

From this old church you also see peeping over the Partry range of mountains, the blue summit of the Reek of St Patrick.

There are some traces of the foundations of houses in the field adjoining this church at the south. Its graveyard is just effaced.

Your obedt servt

John O’Donovan.

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Galway Septr 27th 1838

Dear Sir,

Ever since I wrote last I have been travelling through the parishes of Annaghdown, Lackagh and Kilmoylan. I am now heartily tired of walking and must sit down to put my notes in some form. This county is a province in itself.

Of the Parish of Annaghdown

Situation

This parish of bounded on the west by Lough Oirb, on the N.W. by the parish of Kill Cuana; on the north by the parishes of Killower and Cummer, on the East by Kilmoylan and on the south by the parishes of LAckagh and Claregalway.

Name

This parish is at present corruptly called Eanach Cuan by the peasantry when they speak Irish (which is the only language they wish to speak) but when they mention it in the English way they call it any down. In the ancient Irish Annals and ecclesiastical documents, however, it is called Eanach Dhúin, which signified the Annagh or bog of the Doon or fort. This is an instance of a name being corrupted in Irish while it is preserved pure enough in the anglicised form.

O’Flaherty states in his statistical account of Iar Connaught that Annaghdown was the Cathedral Church of that principality of his ancestors. His words are as follows:

“The territory of West Connaught, the ancient seigniory of the O’Flaherties, was extended of old beyond Lough Orbsen, and the River and town of Galway i.e. into the Baronies of Kilmaine, Clare, and Dunkellan. Its Cathedral (as every Irish seignory had its own, whose diocese runned with the seignory bounds) was Ennagh-dun dedicated to St. Brendan* the 16th May Anno Apte 577 then deceased, in the barony of Clare on the banks of Lough Orbsen, which besides the Cathedral had an abby of chanon regulars and a nunnery.

But since the year of Christ 1238, wherein the baronies of Clare, Kilmain and Kera were planted with castles by the English, the same (West Connaught) is confined to the limits of Moycullen and Ballynahinchy baronies, and the half baronies of Ross and Arran; and, in the line of Malachie Mac Aodha of West Connaught extraction, Archbishop of Tuam, after a long debate for many years before, and in his time the Cathedral of Ennagh Dun was Anno 1321 united to the See of Tuam by the final decision of Pope John 22nd.

*St. Brendan’s well corruptly called by the peasantry Tobar Breanail, is near the old castle of Annadown. JO’D.

On looking over the Extracts from the Annals, I find I have no reference to the Castle of Eanach Duin, though, if I remember rightly, it is called a very strong castle. Is there any reference in the same annals to Cluain Dubhain.

The Castle of Eanach Duin which stands on the margin of Loch Oirb is not large, being only forty feet long and about thirty six broad, but it is very well built of lime stone, the walls being eight feet thick.

Besides this castle in the townland of Annadown, there are four others throughout the parish, which are said to have been built by the Burkes of Clanrickard. Of these one is situated in the townland of Cloonboo*, which seems to have been originally extensive, but is now almost totally destroyed, a second in Castle Creevy, a square tower in tolerably good preservation; a third in Corbally and the fourth is Mr. Blake’s house of Cregg, which is said to be an old Irish castle built originally by the Kirwans, and remodelled into its present form in the 17th century.

*Some say that the Skerretts created some of these castles. Is there any written record of them?

Besides the churches in the townland of Annadown already mentioned, there are three others in the parish viz. one in Kilcahill, which I have described in a former letter; one in Grange, said to be very ancience but so ruined that one could form no idea of its age or style, and the third in the townland of Cregg, no far from Mr. Blake’s house or Castle.

O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey Letters

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