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Through the


Ages


tions. But they could not agree together because the Irish, in summer time when the harvest was to be gathered in, left the monastery and wandered about, scatter- ing into various places with which they were familiar; then when winter came, they returned and expected to have a share in the things which the English had pro- vided. Colman sought to put an end to this dispute and at last, having travelled about far and near, he found a place suitable for building a monastery on the Irish mainland, called in the Irish tongue Mag Eo (Mayo).’


Tis seems to be the first record of English contact with the


Irish custom of transhumance or ‘booleying’. It would also cause problems for their successors.


In all, seventeen islands off the Connemara coast have mo- nastic remains. Tese islands provided an important retreat and a home for hermits away from the bustling world of early Christian Ireland. Te Irish name for Clifden is an Clochán, the beehive cell. Tis indicates a possible early Christian association with the site of the present day town although the specific site has yet to be found. It is also possible that the name is derived from ‘the stepping stones’ an alternative meaning of the term but there is an Ard Clochán nearby so this seems unlikely as ‘the high stepping stones’ seems a less likely derivation than ‘the high bee-hive cell’.


Viking Raids In the West In 795 A.D. the first Viking longships raided the Irish coast.


In the very first year of attacks, raiders sacked the monasteries at Inismurray and Inishbofin. Troughout the 9th and 10th centuries the islands were easy prey for marauding Viking fleets. At least one Viking warrior did not return home from whatever errand brought him to Connemara, his weapons and armour (dating to the mid 9th


century) were discovered


in the sand dunes at Eyrephort on the Sky Road; this is the only known Viking grave on the west coast of Ireland.


‘A slaughter was made of the Conmaicni by the foreigners’ in 807 according to the Annals of the Four Masters. Te Vikings appear to have found a fierce reception or else scarce pickings in the extreme west. Te Scandinavians landed in large fleets in the 840s and established themselves as power- ful local presences on many of the harbours of the east coast. Tey captured large areas of England and Scotland as well as the Hebrides but outside a small area known as Dyfflinarskiri around Dublin they do not seem to have had much success in Ireland as colonisers. Tey established themselves in their port settlements and became a source of mercenaries and a local enemy in Irish affairs rather than a dominant presence. Teir main influence on Ireland now appears to have been through their craftsmen and traders rather than their war- riors.


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