Monday, 19 January 2015

New Book on Killaloe and Ogonnelloe Parishes

Brisbane author Patrick O’Brien has written a definitive and detailed account of the townland of Carrownakilly (and the adjoining townland of Carrowbaun) in the parish of Killaloe. In the civil parish of Killaloe both townlands are in the Catholic parish of Ogonnelloe. “Looking over my shoulder: life for an O’Brien family from the townland of Carrownakilly in 19th century Ireland” (published by the author, 2014) chronicles the family of Cornelius O’Brien in Carrownakilly, his antecedents and his successors. Cornelius O’Brien left Clare for Australia in 1883. The author was prompted to write his book on his family history and on Carrownakilly in order to find out why Cornelius left Killaloe in 1883, and why he chose Australia. “Were you pushed out of Ireland or pulled towards Australia?” he asks the ghost of Cornelius O’Brien.

Looking over my shoulder” is an exhaustive study of this small part of County Clare. It examines local land-holding patterns from the perspectives of landlords, agents and tenants; farming methods and practices; poverty and survival mechanisms including the local workhouse; evictions and ejectments (“an estimated one in ten persons living in Clare at the time [of the Great Famine] was evicted”, O’Brien writes); social and cultural practices including religion (“throughout the 19th century local families would have set out across the fields through Ogonnelloe on well-worn ‘mass paths’ to attend church … In pre-famine Ireland church attendance was on average only 33%”); folk beliefs and customs (local holy wells, patterns, wakes); and education and local hedge schools (“the space was too crowded to sit down [in the local hedge school, circa 1835]. A middle-aged barefooted man was teaching children in rags”).

The daily lives of our ancestors are also delineated - food and diet, illicit distillation, local fairs and markets, and faction fights (“men typically wore heavy felt hats, partially as a defence against the blackthorn shillelagh”). Patrick O’Brien has written a detailed, engaging and engrossing account of this part of North Killaloe and South Ogonnelloe, a work which also touches on neighbouring families and townlands. At 305 pages, with a seven-page bibliography, “Looking over my shoulder”(ISBN 9780646921815) is a model work of local history and a valuable addition to the scholarship of County Clare. The author has kindly deposited copies of his book in Killaloe Public Library and in Clare County Library’s Local Studies Centre in Ennis.


patrick said...

I need this book. this is exactly where my family is from.carrownakilly, carrowbaun, ballyheefy, etc. in the hillside up from loch derg, 5km north of killaloe. in the 1901 and 1911 census I notice many o'briens along with my grandfathers family, the mcgraths living in houses in carrownakilly. please tell me how I may buy this book. thanks, Patrick McGrath.

Clare County Library said...

Copies of the book can be obtained from the author. Please contact him at