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Oughtmama

Connacht Tribune 20th August, 1966 page 19

oughtmama

Oughtmama churches Photo: Dr Charles Nelson Wikimedia commons

Oughtmama is situated about a mile to the south east of Corcomroe Abbey. The name “Oughtmama” (“Ucht Mama” in Irish) means “the breast of an elevated pass.”
The Litany of Aengus mentions seven bishops of Oughtmama and the Leabhar Breac refers to thee saints of Oughtmama named Colman. St Colman MacDuach, who lived in the seventh century resided, for a time according to tradition at the base of Ceanaille, not far from Oughtmama, before he founded Kilmacduagh. Sometime before his death he resigned the bishopric of Kilmacduagh and retired to Burren, of which Oughtmama forms part. He is probably the founder of the first church erected there, first because there is a well in Oughtmama (now dry) called Iobar Colemain, secondly because a pattern is held in Oughtmama on 5th of November in honour of St Colman; thirdly because of St Colman’s connection with the Burren and; fourthly because no other saint’s name is connected with Oughtmama. It is said that St Colman died in Oughtmama but that he was buried in Kilmacduagh.

In Oughtmama there are remains of three churches standing nearly in a line. The most western church is 46 ft 6 in in length and 22 ft 6 in in breadth, clear of walls which are 2 ft 9 and 1/2 in thick. Its stones are carefully dressed and fitted but not laid in courses; and some of them are of great size. Its doorway is in the west gable and has inclined jambs which are surmounted by a stone lintel. In its south wall there are two windows, the heads of which are semicircular and splay on the inside. In the southwest corner there is a font on which are carved two animals with necks intertwined. To the east of the church there was a chancel 21 feet by 17 feet. The chancel arch is a plain semicircular opening ten feet wide. In the chancel there are several tombs of early date, on of which is supposed to have a fragmentary Irish inscription.

Near and to the east of the church is another church 23 ft 10 in long and 14 ft 6 in broad, clear of walls which are 2 ft 6 in thick. The stones of this church are large, generally splayed and well fitted. The doorway is in the west end its jambs incline towards the top and its head is semicircular. Its only window is in the east gable and splays, being only six inches wide on the outside while it is four feet wide on the inside.

About forty yards to the east of the latter church are the remains of another church. The remains consist of the east gable and slight traces of the foundation. The gable has a window similar to the windows of the other churches.

There are foundations of small quadrangular stone houses immediately to the east of the churches. These houses are or were called in Irish “Seanbhaile Ochtmama” (Oughtmama Old Town). About a quarter of a mile to the northeast of the churches on the slope of the mountain is Tobar Colmain. This well is now dry and in its place there is a heap of stones in the centre of which grows a whitethorn bush.
“The stream flowing from this well was once conducted,” says O’Donovan “through an artificial channel in the direction of the churches and at a short distance to the west of them it turned a mill, the site of which is still pointed out.”
There is another well a short distance lower on the slope of the hill than tobar colmain. From this well a stream flowed which is or was called Sruthan na naomh (the rivulet of the saints)
There seems, therefore, to have been a monastery once at Oughtmama resembling Clonmacnoise and other ancient Irish monasteries.

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