The Disqualified Round Towers of Ireland

Clonmacnoise, Teampuill Finghin (Co. Offaly)

visited 5 August 1998

This church on the northern edge of the monastic city has a tower which is often described as the second round tower of Clonmacnoise. It is 16.76m high with an internal diameter of 2.13m at ground level and walls 92cm thick. The doorway is at ground level and opens into the southwest corner of the chancel. There are seven small windows of which one faces north-east and the others all between south-west and south-east looking into the monastic enclosure. The cap is complete of unusual herringbone pattern. It was taken down and reset by the OPW in 1879-80. The tower is sometimes referred to as McCarthy´s but it seems that local Irish speakers in the last century called it clogas beag, the small bell tower, to distinguish it from clogas mór, the large one. - The present church appears to be of later origin than the tower as the ashlar stonework of the tower wall has been clumsily cut away to accommodate the wall of the chancel. The doorway into the chancel looks like an insertion but if so it must have replaced an earlier doorway in the same position as there is no sign of any other. When the foundations were excavated, those of the tower were found to be bonded with those of the church, which shows that it was never a free-standing tower. The most probable explanation is that of Westropp that the tower originally formed part of an earlier and smaller church which was replaced by the present one in the eleventh century. It does not therefore qualify as an orthodox round tower. (B.)