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The Parish of Kilmihil

The following is a description of Kilmihil given in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837:

Kilmihil or Kilmichael, a parish in the Barony of Cloderalaw, County of Clare and Province of Munster, 8 miles from Kildysert, on the road from Kilrush to Ennis, containing 3,794 inhabitants of which number 79 are in the hamlet.

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Old Kilmihil Church

This thriving village, with its wide street, good shops and neat houses (a pleasant contrast to some of the wretched decayed “towns” of the west), lies inland about 9 miles from the sea, and not far to the south of Cahermurphy described in the first part of this paper.

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Cahermurphy Castle


Cahermurphy Castle and Earthworks, from S.W. – T.J. Westropp

As we go down the southward slope we see below us to the right a large stone fort on a knoll, which proves to be no mean hill when we reach it.

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Cahermurphy Castle
The MacGorman stronghold once stood in the middle of a broad marshy valley near a little stream running westwards through Cahermurphy lake. When the original earthworks were built the valley was probably a large shallow lake. Only the north-west corner remains. The work is unique in Clare, and only for its sloping site is closely similar in plan to certain early Norman earthworks, with a square bailey and low motte castle. It may have been laid out by the MacGormans from their recollection of some such structure in Leinster. The Macgorman fled from Leinster in the twelfth century and settled within the area covered by the parishes of Kilfarboy, Kilmurry Ibrickan and Kilmihil. Murchadh was succeeded by his son, Cuebha, from whom the descent ran in an unbroken line to Melachlin Dubh MacGorman, the Chief, in 1498, from whom all the landowners of the later family were derived. His grandson, Domhnall, is said to have built the castle of Cahermurphy, though it may be far older than this. The family kept themselves apart from the crimes and petty wars of Thomond. They “nourished poets and fed the poor for 400 years”. Daniel and Mahone MacGorman of Cahermurphy took an active part in the siege of Tromra Castle in 1642 but the family was still in possession of Cahermurphy in 1655. By 1675 Viscount Clare held Cahermurphy and other surrounding lands. Cahermurphy was confiscated again in 1688 and sold to Francis Burton, Charles Mac Donnell and Nicholas Westby. The MacGormans continued to live in Drumellihy.

Cahermurphy Stone Fort
Cahermurphy Stone Fort gave its name, the caher or fort of Murchadha, to the area. Situated in a commanding position at the northern end of the valley on a steep green hill, one of the outposts of the plateau from Mount Callan, it was a stronghold which could resist almost any enemy.

Castlepark House
Castlepark House to the north of the old castle is a nineteenth-century house built on the site of an older house of the same name. It was here that Thomas the Chevalier O’Gorman was born in 1732.