A History of Tuamgraney and Scariff since Earliest Times

February 7 1633 is an important date in the history of Scariff. On that day ten quarters of land north of the Graney river with the castle and ironworks of Scariff were purchased from the Bradys of Raheen, by Richard Boyle the Earl of Cork, for £1,500. These lands along with the old parish of Moynoe became the ‘new’ parish of Scariff, which in time outgrew Tuamgraney in importance. Moynoe, the plain of the yew tree is first mentioned in the Annals in 1084. At that time it was called Magh n-Eó n-Orbraighe. Orbach seems to have been the name of some pagan Princess in whose honour the yew trees were planted. Who the lovely Orbach was we have no idea. The sacred holy well of St. Mochunna at Moynoe predates Christianity but was incorporated into a Christian context at an early stage. Tuamgraney is undoubtedly one of the most notable, ecclesiastical and historical places in Ireland. It is mentioned in the Annals no fewer than thirty two times between the years 735 A.D and 1582 A.D. Its pagan past is recorded in its townland names, in pillar stones and holy wells. The name Tuamgraney, the tomb of Grían, comes from a folktale in the Book of Lismore. Grían was a sun goddess for Grían is the Irish for sun. This Celtic deity has the unenviable fame of being the first recorded suicide in Ireland. She was drowned in Lough Graney, her body floated down the Graney river, was found at Derrygraney and was buried at Tuamgraney. Moynoe and Tuamgraney became important monastic centres .The recorded history of the monastery at Tuamgraney begins in 735 AD. with the death of Maenchine the abbot.

The Vikings came and plundered it twice. Cormac Uá Cillín built St Cronan’s church prior to 960 A.D. Built in the first millennium it is still used for worship. Moynoe was a sister foundation of Holy Island on Lough Derg. It became famous for its hospitality but this was abused in 1307. The MacNamaras coming back from a cattle raid in Portumna assaulted their hosts and the alarm was raised. A foster son of MacNamara was slain and in revenge every habitation in Moynoe was burned. The east Clare tribes sought revenge and a bitter civil war followed which did not end until 1318. The O’Grady tribe ruled Whitegate, Mountshannon, Scariff and Tuamgraney. They built castles at Whitegate, Moynoe and Tuamgraney. The castle at Tuamgraney is still in good preservation and crying out for restoration. In the 14th century the O’Grady’s were Ireland’s leading ecclesiastical family. Three related O’Gradys became Archbishops and numerous others held high office. The 16th century saw the demise of the old Gaelic order and the subjugation of the O’Grady tribe. For the next three hundred years the Bradys were to be the dominant family in those parts. They were descended from the first Protestant bishop of Meath, Hugh Brady, who was supposedly a son of Sir Denis O’Grady of Fossamore, Scariff. The Bradys got a patent for the Manor of Tuamgraney in 1582 and set up an iron working industry in east Clare, which was to have a huge impact on the environment. In 1632 they got a license to hold markets and fairs in Tuamgraney. Richard Boyle, the Great Earl of Cork now arrived. He was related to the Bradys through marriage and acquired the church lands for his own use. He took over the ironworks in East Clare and the book contains much original research into this forgotten industry. The demand for charcoal was so great that he destroyed the great oak wood of Suidane, which covered the whole of east Clare and sheltered many a rebel. A remnant of this great wood partially survived this environmental disaster. The wood at Raheen is arguably richer in plant species, acre for acre, than the celebrated Killarney Oak woods. The Brian Boru oak, reputed to be over 1,000 years old, still stands proud and defiant. It is Ireland’s most magnificent living specimen.

In the 18th century, landlord, families like Ringrose, Drew, Bowerman, Read and Sampson appeared. The first Ringrose to settle in Ireland was Col. Richard, who was repudedly 124 years old when he died in 1707 at Moynoe. His heir Col. John had two daughters and one son. The son was accidently poisoned with a dirty plaster in 1746. One daughter married John Bowerman and the other Francis Drew of Drewscourt , Co. Limerick. The Drews, an old Norman family changed the name of Scariff townland to Drewsborough and established milling and markets in the town. They incurred the wrath of the Brady family and a night of terror in 1813 became known as the ‘Battle of Scariff.’ Sir William Read married into the Bradys and his life is full of intrigue and doubt. His son left in the 1840’3 and the Sampsons arrived. They were a powerful Catholic, land-owning family in the 19th century. The great hunger came and an infamous workhouse was built at Scariff. A contemporary report in 1847 states ‘The Workhouse of Scariff is so overcrowded with paupers that a disease almost amounting to a plague has broken out amongst its inmates – the deaths averaging from four to twelve daily. It is horrifying to behold a donkey cart laden with five and six bodies going to be interred and not a person attending the wretched cortege except the driver’. A unique memorial park has now been created to commemorate them. The famine also destroyed the landlord families of Brady and Drew. The Brady estate of 6,695 acres was sold in 1852 for £20,400 and the Drew estate including Scariff was sold in 1854.

Murder on the Bridge of Killaloe, house burnings, harassment, and horse whipping were all associated with a dark period in our history known as the ‘Troubles’. Robert Hibbert of Woodpark, Mountshannon wrote of Unionist fears in 1920 and makes some interesting and little known observations such as ‘owing to the withdrawal of police all regulations are disregarded, and the public houses remain open night and day. Consequently, as may be imagined, the state of drunkenness and robbery is appalling. Even the farmer’s crops are stolen out of the ground to buy drink’. Internment without trial was used for every suspect. Original letters from Oranmore and Gormanstown are included. Michael Gleeson, Bodyke was interned at Oranmore. A letter to his brother Willie has survived and brilliantly illustrates the barbarous character of their captors. No history of a parish would be complete without a chapter on some of its famous sons and daughters. The late Dr. Edward MacLysaght, Ireland’s foremost family historian resided here for most of his life. The great novelist Edna O’Brien was born in Drewsborough house, which was the setting for her famous novel ‘The Country Girls’. The Kirby brothers were born within shouting distance of a ball ally, which was to be their springboard to fame. As centers of learning, Tuamgraney and Scariff have 1,500 years of experience. Traces of centuries of degrading service and obedience to foreign domination are still seen however. Nowhere is this more remarkable than on the gable of the national school. A plaque there reads ‘Tomgraney National School 1898.’

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For further information, Email Gerard Madden at secretary@eastclareheritage.com