The Clew Bay Complex of western Ireland contains a variety of rock types. These include schists possibly of Dalradian association, amphibolites and serpentinites of unknown age, cherts, volcanic rocks and graded gabbros of mid to upper Ordovician age and shales and sandstones of Silurian age. Intercalated within the cherts of the complex on Clare Island are chocolate-brown horizons of a porous rock, geochemically comparable to hydrothermal mid-ocean ridge metalliferous sediments (e.g. umbers). These cherts overlie volcanic rocks of MORB affinities with an island arc influence. The association exposed on Clare island of graded gabbros, MORB volcanic rocks, discontinuous carbonaceous horizons, cherts, umbers and deep water shales suggest the presence of a mid- to late Ordovician spreading centre now preserved as a dismembered ophiolite.
The Clew Bay and Highland Border Complexes, both being parts of the Border Terrane, have many similarities including evidence of mid- to late Ordovician spreading, and it is suggested they formed in the same basin. However, they are dissimilar to both the South Mayo and Midland Valley Ordovician and Silurian rock associations, from which they are separated by a terrane boundary. The geochemical data and field associations do not indicate back-arc or intra-continental rifting. We suggest, therefore, that elements of older ocean crust became trapped inboard of a collided early Ordovician arc at re-entrants along the Laurentian margin. This trapped crust became the site of mid- to late Ordovician spreading. We also suggest that the site of this entrapment was to the northeast of the present positions of the Clew Bay and Highland Border Complexes and that they were emplaced into their present sites by end-Silurian transpression. This Laurentian margin morphology is compatible with that demonstrated for parts of the Newfoundland-Quebec sectors of the Appalachian sector of the orogen.