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Clanawley - Land of the MacAuliffes
n the north-west corner of County Cork lies a vast area of land, mostly hill-country, stretching from the plain of the Blackwater River to the summits of the Mullaghareirk Mountains. This land was part of the famed Slieve Luachra of Ireland's mystical  past.

Long before Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland the pagan inhabitants of this place gathered to celebrate their religious festivals on Teamhar (Taur) Luachra, known now as Taur Hill. The myths and legends of this area included stories of Fionn and the Fianna, bands of legendary heroes and god-like men who hunted the stag and the fawn in the wooded slopes and  glens. In later times this area formed part of the barony of Duhallow and these same woods and hills provided refuge for people hunted by invading English forces, for this was Clanawley, the land of the MacAuliffes, known also as 'MacAuliffe's dark mountains.'

The words of the verse above were written by the Irish poet O'Heeran in about 1400 A.D.  In older times that  part of the Blackwater  between the Allow River and the town of Mallow was also known as the Eala or Allow; the surrounding country, roughly corresponding with the present barony of Duhallow, was called Eala. Glen Celsian is thought to have been the glen of the Dalua, where the MacAuliffes had a castle. The chieftain of the clan bore the title MacAmhlaoibh Eala or MacAuliffe of Duhallow.

The lands occupied by the MacAuliffes were known as Clanawley (in old references the name MacAuliffe is variously spelt, sometimes appearing as Awliff, Awly or Awley, with or without the 'Mac"). Literally, Clanawley means the tribe (clan) of Auliffe (Awley). More rarely,  it was also known as Clanauliffe.  In  Clanawley still linger many of the old customs and traditions and until relatively recent times  there could still be found here people from an older generation who could speak the Irish language. Here the people remained unaffected by foreign influences for longer than in most other parts of Ireland. In Clanawley the MacAuliffe chieftains ruled as princes until finally submerged by the English tide about the time of the battle of Kinsale.
Map showing position of Clanawley
Map of Munster province showing counties. The arrow points to Clanawley.
Clanawley extended roughly from the Allow River in the east to the Kerry border in the west and from the Limerick border to the Brogeen River in the south. While determining the actual boundaries is not easy, the Downe Survey, carried out about three hundred years ago, and the maps which accompany it, provide some guidance. Reference can also be made to another  document - an official inquiry into the lands of the MacAuliffes, dated 25th January, 1615. Using the information provided in these documents, D.H Allen described what is probably a fairly accurate outline of the MacAuliffe territory.

'Beginning at Guiney's Bridge, the boundary of Clanawley followed the Cork - Limerick border to the River Allow, along which it travelled to a point about a mile east of Ballinaguillia Bridge. From there it turned south toward Knockawillin, taking in Knockskehy and Toorard on the way. There it linked up with the Coolageela glasha, continuing southwards by the creamery at Grillough, to the west of Bawnmore.  Before reaching Coolageela the boundary turned west and crossed the ridge above Kilcorcoran graveyard to take in the townlands of Lisheeenowen and Gardeen. Underneath Rosline it joined the Owenarra River with which it ran to Ballydrohane where it turned, with the River Dalua, towards Kanturk. Within sight of the town it turned southwards, taking in Greenfield and Lismeelcunnin, to join the Brogeen River a mile and a half above the Old Court.

From there the boundary went west against the Brogeen, leaving it for a short distance to curve round the townland of Clongeel, which then belonged to MacDonagh MacCarthys of Kanturk. From the source it fell to the Araglin River in the neighbourhood of Dromskarragh.  From this point, according to the inquiry document, the boundary continued toward the west to the Blackwater, which it reached just south of Ballydesmond. Then it proceeded along the present Cork - Kerry border to the Braonagh River, along which it ran to join the Feale, and so returned to Guiney's Bridge.

On the other hand, the Downe Survey map shows that the boundary went north from Dromskarragh along the Araglin River towards Glountanefinnane, and thence to the Blackwater to the north of Ballydesmond. This would mean a difference of several thousand acres from that claimed by the MacAuliffes in 1615, and also shows that this was an area of rival claims between the MacAuliffes and their neighbours to the west - the O'Keeffes. One can realise the great stretch of country ruled by the MacAuliffes, over 80,000 acres; mixed land, no doubt, but still a land worth fighting for. Today, within its limits are such places as the town of Newmarket, Meelin, Rockchapel, Kiskeam, Lismire, and possibly Ballydesmond.
Map showing boundaries of Clanawley
Map at right shows boundaries of ancient Clanawley with some present-day towns marked in.
Allen records that the Inquiry document  of 1615 shows that Clanawley was divided into six parts - Drominarrigle, Castlemacauliffe, Aghatrasney, Carrigcashel, and two smaller parts, Coolavota in the east, and Lismeelcunnin between the Dalua and the Brogeen.

Irish clans were divided into smaller sections called septs, each of which had a part of the clan lands for its use. The precise description of these six divisions in the Inquiry document might suggest that the there were six MacAuliffes septs but no other evidence for that has been found. It is known, however, that there were at least two; one based at Castlemacauliffe and the other at Carrigcashel. The Castlemacauliffe sept  was the leading one, from which the chieftain was usually chosen. The Carrigcashel sept became more prominent after the Battle of Kinsale and provided at least two chieftains for the clan.
Map showing divisions of Clanawley
Map: Divisions of Clanawley.
Adapted from D.H Allen, 'The McAuliffes of Clanawley'.
Areas in green were controlled by the Castlemacauliffe sept, the rest by another sept based at the castle of Carrigcashel.  Clonfert, shown on the map, consisted of a village, church and cemetery and was the traditional burial-place of the McAuliffes.  There was  a church and village associated with the castle at Carrigcashel, and also at Anacrohane (modern-day Newmarket).
"Far beyond the bountiful Allo,
and westward of Glen Celsian
     of the stately trees,
in a fair land of great prosperity,
it is the Domain of the
    noble MacAuliffe"
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"If you strike us down now we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland. You cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom. If our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom, then our children will win it by a better deed."
Padraig Pearse
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It is sometimes said, erroneously, that Mc is Irish and Mac is Scottish. In fact, both forms appear in both Irish and Scottish names. Mc is simply an abbreviation of Mac, meaning 'son of'.
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Much of the information on this page is derived from
D.H Allen 'The McAuliffes of Clanawley'1991.

Clanawley - Land of the MacAuliffes
Site designed and maintained by Bob McAuliffe, New Zealand.
This page last updated 12 May 2011

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