Quin (Co. Clare / East)
Quin is a rapidly growing village on the River Rine.
Quin Abbey is a well-preserved ruin is of a mainly C15th Franciscan friary built by the MacNamara clan to replace a far earlier monastery that had been burned down in 1278. (Photo – John Armagh)
Quin Castle was erected on the site in 1280 by Sir Thomas de Clare in an attempt to subdue the MacNamaras. The strong-walled keep was destroyed six years later when Cuvea MacNamara, avenging the death of an O’Liddy chieftain killed by the Anglo-Norman garrison, attacked, ransacked and burned the castle, slaying most of the defenders. The foundations of the enormous corner towers can still be seen.
The remains of the castle were used to establish a new monastery c. 1350, and the curtain walls were incorporated into the south and east walls of the new abbey when Sioda Cam MacNamara built the cloisters in 1402. The bell-tower and Lady Chapel were erected by Mahon MacNamara in 1430. Three years later he allowed the Franciscan friars Fathers Purcell and Mooney to establish their friary in Quin. The great transept of the Abbey was completed c.1460 by Sean Mac Con, who also completed Bunratty Castle.
The abbey was officially suppressed in 1541, and in 1547 passed into the hands of Conor O’Brien, Earl of Thomond, who permitted the friars to continue living there. By 1548 it was described as “one great church, now ruinous, covered with slate, and a steeple greatly decayed“.
In 1584 the insurgent Donough Beg O’Brien was hanged alive on the steeple of Quin Abbey after having his bones broken with the back of an axe and being half-hanged from a cart on the orders of Sir John Perrot. Crown forces maintained a barracks here until a namesake of Donough’s burned it over their heads in 1590.
The MacNamaras repaired the church with some help from other families in the district. In 1617 the Irish Franciscan Provincial, Fr Donough Mooney, commented on the few friars then in residence as “old, helpless men with scarcely a memory of the pre-suppression friary“. In about 1640 the building became a college, alleged to have had 800 students.
Cromwellian troops broke into the friary in 1653; they shot and beheaded Fr Rory MacNamara and hanged Fr Donald Mac Clancy and Br Dermot MacInerney. The Franciscans returned sporadically; the last friar of Quin remained until his death in 1820.
Although mostly roofless, the structure of the abbey is relatively well preserved. The cloister is one of the abbey’s finest features. The Lady Chapel is the resting place of the last of the MacNamara chieftains, John “Fireball” MacNamara, a direct descendant of the men who built this abbey, also buried here. The most unusual feature is the lavabo, or medieval toilet. The view from the top of the tower is most impressive and well worth the climb up the narrow spiral staircase. The graveyard surrounding the abbey is still in use.
A Visitors Centre is located nearby the abbey and the structure and grounds can be visited free of charge. A caretaker is permanently based at the abbey. Floodlighting has recently been installed which produces a spectacular sight at night.
Ardsolus (“the mound of light”) supposedly derives its name from the medieval practice of the friars of Quin Abbey in lighting a beacon for the guidance of travellers crossing this river ford, perhaps more correctly named Ath Solas (“the ford of light”). Long the halfway stop for horse drawn transport from Galway to Limerick, the “Toll Bridge” was a busy place between about 1760 and 1830, when fairs and Courts of law were held on a regular basis. Close by was a Malthouse with a large inscribed stone outside reading “entertainment for man and horse“. The renowned Races of Ardsolus were run on the great Hill overlooking Quin village.
St. Finghin’s church, on the far side of the River Rine from Quin Abbey, was built between 1278 and 1285; a square tower was later added. This long, rectangular ruin features the remains of a richly moulded window in the south wall. by 1839 John O’Donovan was unable to discover which Saint Finghin it commemorated or even which holy day had been kept in his honour. To the south of the church is a mausoleum to Captain William Spaight, who died in 1801.
Knappogue Castle & Garden
Knappogue Castle (Caislean na Cnapoige – “castle of the place abounding in little hills”) was built in 1467 by Sioda Cam MacNamara’s son Sean Mac Con, referred to in the Annals of the Four Masters as “the chief protector of the men of Ireland and renowned for his hospitality“. (Artist – Avril Brand)
As the MacNamaras supported the royalist cause in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Cromwellian soldiers turned Knappogue into a garrison. Arthur Smith occupied the building from 1659 to 1661, but the MacNamaras regained it after the Restoration.
Francis MacNamara sold Knappogue in 1800 to the Scott family, who spent a considerable amount of money renovating it. Theobold Fitzwalter Butler, 14th Baron Dunboyne, purchased the castle in 1855 as a new family seat for the Dunboyne dynasty, who continued the restoration work and added the west wing, clock tower and gateway.
Clare County Council met here during the Troubles, guarded by the local IRA “Flying Column”, whose commanding officer, Michael Brennan, used the building as his headquarters.
In 1927 the Knappogue demesne was acquired by the Land Commission and the castle came into the possession of the Quinn family.
Mark Edwin Andrews of Houston, Texas, former Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy, and his wife Lavonne, a prominent architect in the US, bought the property in 1966. In coöperation with the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and Bord Failte Eireann, they carried out an extensive restoration before leasing part of the building at a nominal rent to the Irish Government as a cultural and tourist amenity. The castle is now a Medieval Banquet venue from April to October, and guided tours are arranged daily.
Knappogue Walled Garden is a jewel dating from 1817, restored in the Victorian style. The 4.26m walls are adorned with climbing roses, grapevines and fig trees. Pathways lined with herbaceous borders pass shrubberies, a pergola, a rockery with fernery, a tranquil gazebo, and box-hedged rectangles planted with roses, sweet peas and lavender. Many are heritage varieties, including Lathyrus Cupani, the original sweet pea imported from Sicily in 1699, Lathyrus Painted Lady, another early sweet pea grown in Ireland in the 1700s, and the C16th Rosa moschata. The garden supplies the Castle with fresh herbs for daily use in the preparation of the mediaeval banquet. (Photo – www.tripadvisor.com)
Dangan Breac, a Tower House northeast of the Abbey, and Daingean Ui Bhigin Castle, three miles east-north-east of the village, were owned by John MacNamara in 1584. The ruins of the latter building, “slighted” in the closing days of the Cromwellian war, can be seen in the grounds of Dangan House. The MacNamaras, who owned 42 castles in County Clare, lost some of their holdings to two transplanted Roman Catholic families, the Creaghs and the Whites.
Ballykilty Manor, an elegant riverside country house, has a kitchen mantelpiece inscription stating that John MacNamara and his wife, Honora Clancy, built the chimneys in 1614. Most of the present house dates from the C18th. The original three-story front burned down in the C19th. The property was leased by the Earl of Thomond in 1661 to William Creagh, in 1732 to Thomas MacMahon, and in 1780 to Francis Davoren. The lease was purchased in 1785 by John Blood, whose descendants remained in possession until recently. The Conroy family now operate the Manor as a hotel / wedding venue, set in c.50 acres of mature parklands.
Craggaunowen– The Living Past is a 50-acre woodland “Celtic” park. Highlights include the Brendan, the leather-hulled boat that Tim Severin and his crew sailed across the North Atlantic in the 1970s, plus a reconstructed crannóg, a Ringfort, a togher (an Iron Age road), and a fulacht fia.
Craggaunowen Castle (from Creagán Eoghain – “Eoghan’s little rocky hill”), a mid-C16th MacNamara Tower House on a crag overlooking the lake in the grounds of Craggaunowen Park, was “slighted” and left uninhabitable by Cromwellian soldiers c.1653. In the 1820s the property was inherited by a confederate of Daniel O’Connell’s known as ‘Honest’ Tom Steele, who rebuilt the castle and the turret on the hill opposite for use as places of recreation.
Craggaunowen was restored and extended by historian, antiquarian and collector John Hunt in the 1960s.
Quin is not far from Hell Bridge on ByRoute 11.
Clare Abbey / Clareabbey was founded in 1189 by Donal Mór O’Brien for the Canons Regular of St Augustine. (Photo – www.clarelibrary.ie)
Harbison mentions that the abbey was the scene of a great slaughter in 1278 between various factions of the O’Briens.
King Henry VIII granted the abbey to Donough O’Brien, 1st Baron of Ibrickan in 1543, and his descendant Donogh O’Brien, 4th Earl of Thomond, was confirmed as owner in 1620. The Augustinians remained in the abbey until 1650, but by 1703 the abbey was a ruin.
Parts of the single-aisled church date from the late C12th but most of the buildings are C15th work. These include a well-preserved east window, the tower and the domestic buildings with their unusual floral window at the southeastern corner.