Clerical and learned lineages of medieval Co. Clare

A survey of the fifteenth-century papal registers


Luke McInerney

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-391-6
March 2014. 346pp; ills.

‘The author is to be warmly praised for producing such a substantial volume … He has generated a great wealth of new data and thereby challenges anyone who might plead that there is a lack of sources available for the study of Gaelic Ireland. As the title indicates, the papal registers of the fifteenth century are at the core of this book, but the author has deployed a wealth of information drawn from other sources to elucidate the very terse entries in the papal records … McInerney has generated a tremendous amount of information for which historians of the Church and society in late medieval Ireland will be grateful. His work will challenge other historians to look again at what is possible in the study of Gaelic Ireland’, Henry A. Jefferies, Irish Economic & Social History (2015).

‘This volume is an exceptionally important contribution to the general history of church and society in late-medieval Gaelic Ireland and to the territories that now constitute Co. Clare in particular. McInerney has conducted a breathtaking amount of work in various Irish and British archives and libraries and has visited practically every medieval site in the county in the course of his research. The result is a volume that is comprehensive, authoritative and destined to be the first point of call for anyone interested in this aspect of Thomond’s history or indeed in medieval Irish church affairs … The foreword by Katharine Simms is an important endorsement of this impressive work by one of the leading scholars of medieval Gaelic Ireland and the author is to be congratulated on the singular service he has rendered to anyone with an interest in Co. Clare and its history … McInerney has produced a volume of which his medieval forebears would most certainly have approved', Colmán Ó Clabaigh, The Other Clare (Autumn 2014).

‘[McInerney’s] focus is on the period from the end of the twelfth century to the eve of the reformation in the early fifteenth century. His achievement is particularly impressive, given the scarcity of source material both for this period and this specific topic … he has transcribed and made available to a wider audience many interesting and useful documents … the book is of interest not just to historians of the medieval church in Ireland. Its broad scope sheds light on local politics, social history and cultural life. Those interested in family history will find much of interest and value while historical geographers and those interested in place-names and the Irish language in the period will also be indebted to the painstaking and detailed research of the author’, Liam Irwin, The Ricardian (2017).

‘This important book by Luke McInerney lies at the intersection of studies of Gaelic political power … the author demonstrates his scholarly expertise in examining the interrelatedness of religious places and ecclesiastical, learned and secular lineages by going far beyond the papal registers and drawing heavily upon a period and in subsequent historiography journals and local studies … The duration of the study period is impressive, encompassing the early Christian era of the Irish church down to the seventeenth century … Throughout the text there are many informative maps, illustrations of sites and intricate genealogical tables of the principal families’, Colm Lennon, Studia Hibernica (2014).

‘This is an impressively detailed survey and analysis of the documentary source material relating to an often overlooked aspect of late medieval Irish society … Drawing on the rich archival legacy of the O’Brien lordship of Thomond, McInerney makes the most of an excellent study area, and his extensive appendices, maps and illustrations will be useful to other scholars working in this field … Throughout the book the depth and breadth of McInerney’s research is everywhere apparent … he captures the lingering significance of these ancient ecclesiastical sites, from the ancestral claims still forcefully argued in seventeenth century deeds, to the familial retention of reliquaries throughout the penal years, and the memories of devotional practices recorded by antiquaries in the nineteenth … This broad scope will endear the book to a wide readership for many years to come', Andrew Tierney, JRSAI (autumn 2014).

‘This book collects, catalogues and interrogates the disparate information on Gaelic clergy and their intimate interconnections with secular learned families in medieval Co. Clare … McInerney’s careful collating and cross referencing means that he can put the information into detailed local and regional contexts and prove crucial connections between secular and clerical learning … However it is not just [because of] his very valuable listings that his work is important; the geographical and familiar contexts in which he places these men and some women is what is particularly interesting about this book … The level of detail in this book will be welcomed by specialists of the medieval Irish church. McInerney provides a template for analysis of the sources and methodologies needed to trace these connections. For historians interested in the history of County Clare, there is a wealth of detail on places, place names, and family connections that will be very useful’, Dianne Hall, Australasian Journal of Irish Studies (2015). 

‘An exceptionally important work on medieval Ireland … a pioneering study … with copious lists and an excellent glossary, this is a hugely important contribution to the history of Co. Clare', Michael Merrigan, Ireland's Genealogical Gazette (April 2014).

‘Very occasionally a scholarly book on an obscure subject, one that is still very readable, comes one’s way. Certainly Luke McInerney’s recently published book is one such … perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book – for the general reader, at least – deal with the histories of the various monasteries and friaries, e.g. Ennis, Quin, Clareabbey, Killone, Corcomroe, Scattery … [this is] a living account of human beings in all their nobility, crassness and power-lust in a particular era. And when one has finished reading it one cannot but think – even when viewed through the dimness of documents – how little human nature changes from age to age. Overall, it is an outstanding piece of scholarship … I will be returning to it again and again in future, proud to have it on my shelves', Clare County Express (April 2014).

‘This book on the learned families, mainly clerical but also secular, of the late medieval lordship of Thomond represents an extraordinary and inspiring achievement. Its author, Luke McInerney, uses the limited number of documents available from the period 1198–1521, consisting of papal letters, annates and petitions sent to Rome seeking dispensation for canonical irregularities, to piece together one of the most detailed studies ever made of a group of learned families … Had the author done no more than publish the five appendices to his book, and his glossary of technical terms, he would have earned the gratitude of all those interested in the ecclesiastical history of the Thomond lordship. He also provides a very useful discussion of the manner in which papal officials presented Irish nomenclature, including titles, placenames and personal names … The book serves as a timely reminder of the continuing importance of papal correspondence as a source of evidence of how Gaelic society coped with the circumstances that obtained after the arrival of the external orders in the early to mid-twelfth century. While much work remains to be done, Luke McInerney has certainly shown the way’, Pádraig Ó Riain, North Munster Antiquarian Journal (2015).