Effin, its Landscape and History

Map of Parish of EffinThe Modern Parish of Effin combines three older religious parishes of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy Minor.

To understand the local history of Effin, we need to examine these old parishes which today form the civil and religious parish of Effin.

As part of the course on local history I conducted some research on the Effin’s, boundaries physical, administrative, artifical and religious. 



For the purposes of this essay a study of the parish of Effin, Co. Limerick, will demonstrate how the parish today is comprised of different boundaries, both administrative and artificial. Gillespie[1][2] claimed that ‘local history is the study of people in a particular place over time’. However, in order to understand the particular place the researcher has to look outside the local area to understand what external influences impact on local history.  On examination of the literature available on Effin there is a lot of evidence to support the theory that local history cannot be confined to artificial or administrative boundaries.  

Effin is a rural parish located between the towns of Charleville in north Cork and Kilmallock in south Limerick It combines three old parishes Effin[3], Kilquane[4] and Kilbreedy Minor[5].  Lewis description of Effin describes the different boundaries both administrative and religious, “Effin a parish partly in the barony of Costlea, but chiefly in that of Cosma, County of Limerick and Province of Muster, 1 3/4 mile (s.s.w) from Kilmallock, on the road to Charleville, containing 2090 and 8281 statue acres of which 5138 are applotted under the tithe act…. in the R.C divisions it is united with those of Kilbreedy-minor and Kilquane….”. [6] 

To understand the local history of Effin, we need to examine these old parishes which today form the civil and religious parish of Effin. The evidence of early boundaries in Effin called ‘tuath’ were Kilquane Parish [7] mentioned in The Ancient Territory Book of Fermoy  “Cell Chuáin (Kilquane) out of which are the Hí Fhiadhain—or I Iain—and the Hí Laegairi are its chieftains”  the ancient boundaries were described local landmarks.” boundary of the two triucha; even as flows the stream of Muilenn Mairteil in Sliabh Caín and Loch Luigni through An Machaire (the plain) and Glen na nDíbergach (the glend of the reavers) through Móin Mór.”[8]   In medieval times this area was part of a larger boundary.  Begley[9] claims that the tuath originally ment a tribe of people but its meaning had changed to signify a place where people lived.  He cites that the tuaths were districts for political and legal administration ant that the large track of land was the tuath mor and the smaller sub divisions were to become parishes.  He claims that the present Diocese of Limerick and the parishes represented this form of boundaries. Effin and Kilquane evidence as being part of a tuath (Fig1)  “churches of Kilbegly, Kilconegan (Kilquane), and Effin, which incidently discloses that the manor was at least co-extensive with the present parish of Effin and that the old tuath of Desibeg extended to the confines of the County Cork”.   

Figure 1 Map showing the ancient tuaths

Earliest Settlements

The earliest form of physical evidence of settlement and boundaries in Effin are what remains of ringforts, there are approximately 30 ringforts documented in the Ordinance Survey Maps of the Parish. Ring forts were fortified settlements which would have occupied by septs or families, or their cattle, the areas around their ringforts would have been their boundaries and their land may have been marked out by standing stones or other markers. Some evidence exists that ringforts were in use by families up to the 12th Century. In O’Donovan’s Ordanance Survey in 1837[10] he identified and named many of ringforts in Effin  for example Caher Fort, Regans Moat, and Finneasys Fort.  Early boundaries would have been marked by a stream or a natural markers.   Later townlands were marked out by stone banks or “ditches”.

 Manors and Castles

In the Thirteenth century the Manor of Tiberneyum (Tobbernea)[11] was an important castle at the time holding a weekly market and yearly fair.[12] It was given to Gerard de Prendergast as a part dowry from Richard De Burgh in 1240.

Its size and boundaries were defined in 1251 as[13] “7 fees, 7 carucates and 59 ½ acres”   Some of this land was sub-let as part payment for knights fees.  There is evidence of serfdom[14] in this manor and the native Irish had given up their freedom and some rights in order to be protected by the local lord. They could not move out of their area without the permission of their lord. The serfs in Tobernea Manor held 3 carucates for 3 marks a year,  “…the natives here as elsewhere where treated as serfs by the Norman, though it is pleasant to find that some of them occupied a more elevated position in the organisation of this manor than is usually allotted to them”[15].  The serfs boundaries would have been defined a boundary of by the area of the manor they were attached to which may have been in operation in other castles in Effin,  like Ballymacshaneboy Castle[16] and Brickfield Castle[17].

 Religious Boundaries

The Celtic Church was primarily based around monastic settlements, it is a local tradition that the first church at Effin was named after St. Eimhin17. He was son of Eoghan McMurchad of Munster.  He formed a church in Effin, and later it is believed he moved to Co. Kildare to form a monastery and as a result the town of Monasterevin was formed.  In the 12th century, the Irish Church adopted the parish form of boundary moved towards a parish form of boundary and, and following restructuring 1152, thirty-eight dioceses, were approved which comprised of the Catholic parishes of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy-Minor.  In 1287, Effin became the prebend[18] of the Church of Limerick, the religious boundaries were defined and when Queen Elizabeth I changed the Catholic

Church into the Protestant Church of Ireland in the 1560’s the old parish of Effin, Kilquane and Kilbreedy-Minor now became protestant parishes and upon these the civil parishes were based. Edmund Spencer the famous Elizabethan poet has been mentioned as being a prebend of Effin parish   “Collection of the arrearages of first fruits. These contain the names of many of the clergy of the time, amongst others . Edmondus Spenser, prebendary of Effin.”[19]

 First Official Boundaries

The first official boundaries and maps in existence for Effin whish is spread across Baronies of Coshlea[20] and Coshma[21] (Fig2) is in the Down Survey, with which was known as the Civil Survey. An extensive mapping of Ireland was carried out by William Petty in 1655 and 1656.  After the Cromwellian Conquest the government had to pay many of the adventurers and soldiers for their support in the wars in Ireland, They were to be repaid using the confiscated lands and in order to discover the size and quality of land. He listed parishes under their barony boundaries.  The Civil Survey lists Parish of Effyne,  as being owned by George Earl of Kildare, English Interest and The Manor of Tobernea, it describes the land and defines the boundaries and some of the townlands within his ownership.[22]  In the 17th Centaury 331 Baronies and counties became established in the government land surveys.

Figure 2 Map of Baronies in Co. Limerick


 In the 1830’s a detailed mapping of townlands was required to make the tax system more equitable as local taxes were based on the valuation of the townland units. On examining the 6” Ordinance Survey Maps of 1820 for Effin and Kilquane parishes (Fig 3), they illustrate very detailed mapping of local features such as ringforts, location of castles, churches, graveyards, large houses, large farms, and smaller holdingsTownlands were traditionally less than acre and up to several thousand acres, depending on type and quality of land. Richard Griffin was appointed in 1825 to lead a new boundary department.   He began compiling a list townlands and began to define the boundaries of each townland by using local ‘meresmen’ to show the OS officers along the boundaries.   In the 1840’s  John O’Donovan regularised the spelling of townlands and places which are still in use today  his “Book of Field Names”, which is an invaluable source for local historians  The Tithe Applotment Census[23] records for the Effin Civil Parish in 1828, locals are listed under their Surnames, and Townland. Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland in 1851 used the townland system of land division for valuation purposes.

Figure 3 Sample of the 6″ Ordinance Survey map of Effin Parish

Link to OSI Maps on line http://geohive.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9def898f708b47f19a8d8b7088a100c4

Poor Law Union

In 1838, a system of Poor Law was introduced into Ireland which saw the establishment of a workhouse system.  Effin is included in the Poor Law Union of Kilmallock whose workhouse was built in 1839-40.  Poor Law Unions were made up of other parishes in the region. 

District Electoral Division

In 1911 census The District Electoral Division (DED) administrative boundaries were used to organise data. Effin parish is in the District Electoral Divisions of Tobernea and Ballyshonakin.  Examining the ‘House and Building return form B’ the census of the townland of Ballyshonakin[24] in the parish of Effin lists the civil districts under the headings: County, Parliamentary Division, The Poor Law

Union; District Electoral Division, Townland, Barony, and Parish. 


On examining the above literature and source materials on the parish of Effin it was beneficial to look at external influences to understand what was happening at a local level.  It has also been presented from the above material how its landscape and history evolved from the ancient boundaries of Tuath of Desibeg, Manors, Baronies, and effects that colonisation in Ireland and Down Survey had locally.  Effin is a rural area that is linked historically, economically, politically administratively to local towns, cities, counties and nationally and internationally The evidence above demonstrates how these external influences outside of the Parish of Effin have to be considered when researching its local history therefore agreeing with the argument that local history should not be confined to artificial or administrative boundaries. 


[1] Raymond Gillespie and Myrtle Hill, Doing  Irish local history: pursuit and practice (Belfast,

[2] ), p.13

[3] http://www.logainm.ie/100022.aspx

[4] http://www.logainm.ie/1572.aspx

[5] http://www.logainm.ie/1618.aspx

[6] Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Limerick City and County (D-K),


[7] J.G. O’Keeffe, The ancient territory of Fermoy in Ériu. Volume 10, Dublin, Royal Irish

Academy (1926-28) page 170–189, p182

[8] J.G. O’Keeffe, The ancient territory of Fermoy in Ériu. Volume 10, Dublin, Royal Irish

Academy (1926-28) p177 page 170–189

[9] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p3

[10] Ordinance Survey of Ireland 1839 – 1840, Field Name Books of the County and City of Limerick  with the Place Names, English and Irish, as explained and Fixed by John O’Donovan. 

Parish of Kilquane, Barony of Coshlea p1180

[11] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p174  

[12] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p 176

[13] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaeval (1906)  p 175

[14] serfdom.” The Oxford Companion to Irish History. 2007. Encyclopedia.com. 31 Oct. 2010 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>

[15] J. Begley, Diocese of Limerick, Ancient and Mediaevial (1906) p176

[16] Michael J Carroll, Castles of Limerick (Bantry Studio Publications 2005) p88

[17] Michael J Carroll, Castles of Limerick (Bantry Studio Publications 2005) p106 17 Cullen, John. “St Eimhin. “The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 26 Oct 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05366a.htm&gt;

[18] “Prebend.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 31 Oct. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12371a.htm&gt;.

[19] Spenser in Ireland  Frederic Ives Carpenter Modern Philology

Vol. 19, No. 4 (May, 1922), pp. 405-419  Published by: The University of Chicago Press, p 406

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/433516

[20] The barony of Coshma in the county of Limerick (1650’s?) Scale 160 perches in an inch

Published at the Ordnance Survey office Southampton 1908, reproduced by permission of the French government from the original in the Bibliotheque Nationale Paris, Map No 20, Limerick Local Studies Library.

[21] The barony of Coshlea in the county of Limerick (1657?). Scale 320 perches in an inch

Published at the Ordnance Survey office Southampton 1908, reproduced by permission of the

French government from the original in the Bibliotheque Nationale Paris. Map No 21 Limerick Local Studies Library  

[22] Robert C. Simington, The Civil Survey 1654-1656 County of Limerick, Vol IV, (Stationery Office, Dublin 1938) p128

[23] The Effin CP Tithe Applotment transcribed for the LDS film #0256608.


[24] http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai002734569/

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