Clare, County of

CLARE (County of), a maritime county of the province of MUNSTER, bounded on the east and south by Lough Derg and the river Shannon, which successively separate it from the counties of Tipperary, Limerick, and Kerry; on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the north-west by Galway bay; while on the north and north-east an imaginary boundary separates it from the county of Galway. It extends from 52° 30' to 53° (N. Lat.), and from 8° 15' to 9° 30' (W. Lon.); and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 802,352 statute acres, of which 524,113 are cultivated land, 259,584 unimproved mountain and bog, and 18,655 are occupied by rivers and lakes. The population, in 1821, was 208,089; and in 1831, 258,262.

The inhabitants of this tract, in the time of Ptolemy, are designated by him Gangani, and represented as inhabiting also some of the southern parts of the present county of Galway: in the Irish language their appellation was Siol Gangain, and they are stated, both by Camden and Dr. Charles O'Conor, to have been descended from the Concani of Spain. The present county formed from a very early period a native principality, designated Tuath-Mumhan, or Thomond, signifying "North Munster;" and contained the six cantreds of Hy Lochlean, Corcumruadh, Ibh Caisin, Hy Garman, Clan Cuilean, and Dal Gaes. In Hy Lochlean, or Bhurrin, the present barony of Burren, the O'Loghlins or O'Laghlins were chiefs; in Corcumruadh, the modern Corcomroe, the O'Garbhs, although that portion is stated by Ware to have been occupied by the septs of O'Connor and O'Loghlin; in Ibh Caisin, the present Ibrickane, the Cumhead-mor O'Briens, this being the hereditary patrimony of the O'Briens or O'Bricheans.; in Hy Garman, the modern Moyarta, the O'Briens Arta; and in Clan Cuilean, the present Clonderlaw, the Mac Namaras; Dal Gaes comprised the more extensive districts included in the baronies of Inchiquin, Bunratty, and Tulla, forming the entire eastern half of the present county, and was ruled by the O'Briens, who exercised a supreme authority over the whole, and who preserved their ascendancy here from the date of the earliest records to a late period.

Few have more honourably distinguished themselves in the annals of their country than these chiefs and their brave Dalcassian followers, especially in the wars against the Danes, who long oppressed this country with their devastations, and formed permanent stations on the Shannon, at Limerick and Inniscattery. From these and from the entire district they were, however, finally expelled, early in the 11th century, by the well-directed efforts of the great Brien Boroihme, the head of this sept, and monarch of all Ireland, whose residence, and that of his immediate successors, was at Kinkora, near Killaloe. About the year 1290, the Anglo-Norman invaders penetrated into the very heart of Thomond, and in their progress inflicted the most barbarous cruelties, especially upon the family of O'Brien; but they were compelled to make a precipitate retreat on the advance of Cathal, prince of Connaught.

De Burgo, in the year 1200, also harrassed this province from Limerick; and William de Braos received from King John extensive grants here, from which, however, he derived but little advantage. Donald O'Brien, amid the storms of war and rapine which laid waste the surrounding parts of Ireland, was solicitous for the security of his own territories, and, as the most effectual method, petitioned for, and obtained from Henry III., a grant of the kingdom of Thomond, as it was called, to be held of the king during his minority, at a yearly rent of £100, and a fine of 1000 marks. Nevertheless, Edward I., by letters patent dated Jan. 26th, 1275, granted the whole land of Thomond to Thomas de Clare, son of the Earl of Gloucester, who placed himself at the head of a formidable force to support his claim. The O'Briens protested loudly against the encroachments of this new colony of invaders, and in a contest which speedily ensued, the natives were defeated, and the chief of the O'Briens slain; but with such fury was the war maintained by his two sons, that the new settlers were totally overthrown, with the loss of many of their bravest knights: De Clare and his father-in-law were compelled to surrender, after first taking shelter in the fastnesses of an inaccessible mountain; and the O'Briens were acknowledged sovereigns of Thomond, and acquired various other advantages.

De Clare afterwards attempted with some success, to profit by the internal dissensions of the native septs. He died in 1287, at Bunratty, seized, according to the English law, of the province of Thomond, which descended to his son and heir, Gilbert de Clare, and, on the death of the latter without issue, to his brother, Richard de Clare. The O'Briens being subdued by Piers Gaveston, the latter greatly extended his power in this province, where, in 1311, he defeated the Earl of Ulster, who had commenced hostilities against him. Shortly after, the English again received a defeat from the O'Briens, and Richard de Clare, who died in 1317, had no English successor in these territories. Of the settlements made by these leaders, the principal were Bunratty and Clare, long the chief towns of the district; and the English colonists still maintained a separate political existence here; for so late as 1445, we find the O'Briens making war upon those not yet expelled. All of them, however, were eventually put to the sword, driven out, or compelled to adopt the manners of the country; the entire authority reverting to the ancient septs, among whom the Mac Mahons rose into some consideration.

In the reign of Henry VIII., Murchard or Murrough O'Brien was created Earl of Thomond for life, with remainder to his nephew Donogh, whose rights he had usurped, and who was at the same time elevated to the dignity of Baron Ibrakin. Murrough was also created Baron Inchiquin, with remainder to the heirs of his body, and from him the present Marquess of Thomond traces his descent. On the division of Connaught into six counties by Sir Henry Sidney, then lord-deputy, in 1565, Thomond, sometimes called O'Brien's country, was also made shire ground, and called Clare, after its chief town and its ancient Anglo-Norman possessors. In 1599 and 1600, Hugh O'Donell plundered and laid waste the whole county: Teg O'Brien entered into rebellion, but was shortly after slain. In accordance with its natural position, the county, on its first erection, was added to Connaught; but subsequently, in 1602, it was re-annexed to Munster, on petition of the Earl of Thomond.

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