The Clare Heritage
The Museum tells the story of the 19th Century Ireland, a
fascinating window on the past. Simply but effectively
The themes covered include:-
- Famine and Emigration
- Landlords and Tenants
- Music and Culture Traditional Ways of Life
The award winning Heritage Museum is housed in
what was once St. Catherine's Church, which was built in
1718 by a first cousin of Queen Anne. The circumstances that
moulded the character of the people over one hundred years
ago are interpreted in an absorbing story.
It is also an appropriate setting for some fine
sculptural exhibits - the original Tau Cross, also
the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. Sir Frederick Burton, a
former Director of the British National Gallery, was a
native of Corofin, and some colour reproductions of his more
famous works are on display.
The Story So Far
Clare Heritage Centre was officially opened by Dr P J
Hillery, the then President of Ireland, in September 1982.
The Centre is a community-based, non-profit making
organisation. In 1976, after being unused for some years,
the representative Church Body very kindly offered St.
Catherine's Church to the Corofin Community to be used for
(The photo shows President Hillary
on the right with Naoise Cleary Founder of Clare Heritage
It was the idea of local school-teacher, Mr Ignatius
Cleary, that it would be converted into a Heritage Centre
for Co.Clare. An interpretative museum, which would enable
visitors to understand more clearly the traumas of 19th
century Ireland and the root causes of mass emigration at
this period. He hoped also to preserve in a local context
many items of historical value to enlighten and assist
persons trace their Clare roots.
Since it opened, the Clare Heritage centre has been
visited by thousands of people including many dignitaries
from political, religious and academic fields. It is now one
of the leading day-visitor attractions in County Clare.
The Church was built between 1715 and 1720 by one
Catherine Keightley and it was most likely named after her.
Catherine was a grand-daughter of the earl of Clarendon,
Lord High Chancellor of England and she was a first cousin
of Queens Mary and Anne. Her husband was Lucius O'Brien,
grandson of the famous Maire Rua of Leminagh Castle. Lucius
and Catherine did not reside at Leminagh but took up
residence at Corofin House. When the parish church at
Kilnaboy fell into disrepair and the necessary support was
not forthcoming to renovate it, Catherine considered the
siting of a new church at Corofin which as a town was
growing rapidly and was more central for the parishes of
Rath and Kilnaboy, now united, and served by the same
A century later St. Catherine's needed alteration and
renovation, and by 1829 the steeple and vestry had been
added, all done with the aid of a loan of £369 from the
Board of First Fruits. Tradition has it that the bell of the
original building was discovered by treasure seekers while
digging inside the Round Tower at Dysart O'Dea. When the
steeple was added, that bell was exchanged in Limerick for a
solid brass bell. Dr Charles Columbine who was rector here
in the 1760's is buried under the communion rail. The most
notable personage to be buried in the churchyard was William
Blood of Applevale, who was murdered in 1831 by the Terry
Alts, a notorious secret society. St. Catherine's was used
for regular service up to the early 1970's.
Local folklore maintained that St. Catherine's had been a
barn prior to it's conversion to a church by Catherine
Keightley. This theory was confirmed when the plaster was
removed and the old barn was clearly recognisable. A coin
dated 1680 was discovered near the main entrance.
The Museum is open daily 9.30am- 5.30pm April to
Special Groups and Family Rates