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Through the


Ages


work of castles, which they used to control important coastal resources and communication routes. Te oral traditions re- count tales of their tyranny over humbler folk in the locality, much as it recounts that of their successors the Anglo-Irish landlords and would doubtlessly recount the misdeeds of their predecessors, the O’Cadhlas, if memory stretched back that far.


Te main stronghold of the eastern branch of the


O’Flahertys was at Aughnanure, near Oughterard. Te western branch had castles spread out around the coastline: at Lettermullan, commanding the narrow tidal channel between Cuan Chuighéil and Cuan Chaisin, at Ard near Streamsown, at Bunowen near Ballyconneely, at Doon near Streamstown and at Renvyle. Tere was also a lake island cashel at Ballynahinch on a former Crannog. During the 13th


century


they controlled the upper Lough Corrib system and ruled Inishbofin for a short time before it fell to the O’Malleys in 1328. Tey likewise controlled the Aran Island for a time at the end of the 16th


Te O’Flaherty chiefs retained their Catholicism and century when they overthrew the centuries


old O’Brien’s hold on these islands. Te O’Flahertys them- selves were shortly to be evicted by the Crown, who took the islands into Royal hands as church property. A branch of the O’Flahertys survived on Aran in Kilmurvey as major land- owners. On view in Kilmurvey House is a gallery of court paintings of the O’Flahertys from the 17th


century onwards.


ruled in Connemara according to the ancient Brehon law. After the Reformation had become established in England, Elizabethan policy makers feared that the independent and Catholic Gaelic culture of the west of Ireland could be used by the Catholic powers as a springboard for the conquest of England. It was decided that the best way to forestall this would be to bring the Gaelic Lords into the feudal system. In 1585 the O’Flaherys accepted the agreement known as the Composition of Connacht whereby they abandoned their Gaelic title to their estates and became hereditary landlords. Tis gave the Crown a decisive influence on the succession


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Near Ballynahinch the O’Flahertys established small com- munities of Carmelites and Dominicans from which, un- der the Elizabethan dispensation the old territory of the Conmaicne Mara (dog sons of the sea) was renamed as the Barony of Ballynahinch. Little remains, to the untrained eye, of Ard, Bunowen or Doon castle. Spanish Armada survivors were held in these castles before being marched to Galway for execution. Te lake tower at Ballynahinch has been much altered by subsequent owners to serve variously as a prison, a brew house and a picnic bower. Tus the best preserved of the West Connemara tower houses is now preserved at Renvyle. Tis has been partially cross-sectioned by collapse and its simple structure of three square vaulted rooms, one above the other, linked by spiral stairs in a corner is clearly visible to the passer-by.


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