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The ancient territory of Fermoy (Author: Unknown)


The Ancient Territory of Fermoy

The Irish topographical document which follows is taken from two manuscripts:

  1. L. Book of Lismore, Fo. 140a, 2.
  2. E. Egerton 92, Fo. 13b.

In the case of L, I transcribed the text from the partial copy of the Book of Lismore in the Royal Irish Academy, and afterwards collated it with the original manuscript in Lismore Castle. The text here printed is, with one or two exceptions indicated in the footnotes, that of L. In the case of E, I have given only the more important variants. The text throughout in E is very difficult to decipher (it is quite illegible in parts) and I am therefore all the more indebted to Mr. Robin Flower for the careful collation which he has been kind enough to make for me.

Both MSS. date from the second half of the fifteenth century, but in my judgement are immediately independent of each other. The evidence afforded by the personal and place names indicates that the text could not have been written before the twelfth century. The surname (which began to appear in the ninth and was well established by the twelfth century) is found throughout. In connection with place names, I think it will be found on examination of early Irish documents that the word baile as the first element in place names does not occur with any frequency before the close of the twelfth century.1


Documents of this kind are not common in Irish. It is quite a matter-of-fact record, and, judged from the personal and place names that survive in the district to the present day, it must have been a fairly exact one. The occasion for the record may have been some fundamental change in the political organization of the district. (The character of the ‘survey’ does not point to change in the ecclesiastical organization, in as much church matters are only touched upon from the civil standpoint). There must have been some good reason for placing on record the hereditary owners and, with as much precision as possible, the limits of their several ownerships. Soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion the power of the native chieftains began to wane. The Fermoy territory came under the dominion of the Roches and Flemings in the thirteenth century. The Roches appear to have been firmly planted at Castletown Roche by the close of that century. It is possible that the ‘survey’ was put on record in consequence of the new overlordship.

From the foregoing indications I conclude that the family organization outlined in this document was in existence in the thirteenth century, if not earlier. It is possible indeed that it reflects pretty accurately the family organization of the particular district during the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The territory described forms a rough parallelogram some 22 miles long (east and west) and 12 wide. Glanworth is near the centre, and Mallow, Doneraile, Mitchelstown and Clondulane are a little within the angles. It is hemmed in on the north by the Ballyhowra and Galtee mountains, and on the south by the Nagles mountains, extending eastward to Corrin. In the whole territory of some 260 square miles there are 163 places mentioned and 135 families. Of the 163 places some were probably full townlands, the others portions, of varying size, of townlands. More than half of both sets of names are found in three of the fourteen tuatha, Eoghanacht of Glennomain, Hí Chuáin and Magh Finne.

The dividing line between the two original cantreds was not quite the line which to-day separates the Barony of Condons and Clangibbon on the east from that of Fermoy on the west. The early boundary, following the indications in the document, ran due north from a point on the Blackwater a little to the west of Convamore to the vicinity of rockmills, that is, parallel to the Awbeg, and a little to the east of it; then either north along the Funshion


and Sheep rivers, or north-west along the Farahy river. (In view of the position of Ahacross, that is, in the first cantred, and therefore east of the dividing line, I incline to the latter). The present baronial boundary lies for the most part some miles to the east.