Friday, 30 November 2018

Sword "Sharpening" Stone at St. Patricks Well, Carrigatoher

One of the biggest discoveries I've made in the last year or so was the rediscovery of St. Patricks fingers on a stone near a holy well in North Tipp. These carving may in fact relate to sword sharpening and this has been linked to inauguration ceremonies for local kings / chiefs.
For more information on sword sharpening stones see here
I originally came across a reference to them via a facebook friend online in the Irish Folklore Commissions manuscripts. Last August I did a talk on Rock Art in Tipperary in Portroe in which I mentioned St Patrick's fingers and a local man came up to me afterwards saying that he knew where they were located. It was not till January of this year that we got a chance to look for them and he and another man kindly showed me where they were. (Thanks to these two men for their kind help) It has since been added to the SMR under the following description.
"Situated on W side of road 25m SW of St. Patrick's Well (TN020-056----). Large roughly rectangular-shaped stone (approx. dims. L 1.65m; H 0.5m) known locally as St. Patrick's Stone set on edge and incorporated into the roadside boundary hedge on W side of public road opposite St. Patrick's Well (TN020-056----). The exposed surface has numerous deep vertical lines (L 0.25m x D 0.03m) cut into the surface of the stone and along the edge of the rock at the top and at the bottom. This rock appears to have been used as a sharpening stone, the dating of which is uncertain. The cuts are similar to cut marks found on stones associated with megalithic monuments in France where they are referred to as 'Le Polissoir' (the polisher) and elsewhere as 'Grooves' and 'sword sharpening stones'. In 1938 the following folklore regarding this stone was recorded in Carrick National School; ’At St. Patrickswell in the townsland of Ballywilliam in the Parish of Youghlalarra is a stone on which there are marks. I (the writer) was always told as a young lad that the marks were those of St Patrick's fingers. The stone is from 5 to 6 ft [1.5-1.8m] in length & 2 to 3 ft [0.6-0.9m] high. I do not know how wide it is as it is built into the fence. The marks are somewhat like the following, all on the face but I could see without the ditch that there are some of top. They look like Bronze age markings’ (pers. comm. Joann Hinz; The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0535, Page 472;"

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Bunratty Castle & Shannon Development

I stumbled across a very interesting book on how Bunratty Castle and Folk Park became the tourist destination it is today by author Bernard Share titled "Bunratty: Rebirth of a Castle".
From my reading it seems that to help mitigate the eventual removal of the enforced stop-over at Shannon Airport in the 1950s (which had been agreed in a bilateral agreement between Ireland and America in 1945). It was decided by Sean Lemass (who was then Minister of Industry and Commerce) that they should try to promote tourism further in the west around Shannon Airport and this happily coincided with the purchase of the castle by Lord Gort in 1953 and also the OPWs desire to protect the castle (which had been ongoing since the early 1900s).

From there Lord Gort, who purchased the castle privately, was allowed to restore the castle with significant help from the OPW and eventually open it to the public. Later the idea of the banquet was added and finally the Folk Park was added on lands adjacent.

So the current situation (as far as I know) is that the castle was sold to Shannon Development for £10,000 and later a trust was formed to administer the castle who then leased the castle back to Shannon Development. One of the key paragraphs I think is

'The trustees shall hold Bunratty Castle upon trust for the State... to the intent that Bunratty Castle will be preserved in the public interest and made available to the public as a contemporary National Monument. Bunratty Castle may be used as a tourist amenity and as an entertainment centre provided such use is subsidiary to the object aforesaid and provided all profits (if any) therefrom are applied exclusively in the furtherance of the said object.'

Shannon Development was dissolved in 2014 and its assets are now operated by Shannon Group Plc.

It is now Shannon Heritage (part of the Shannon Group) that operates the Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.

From Bunratty: Rebirth of a Castle
pg 184
"so what they decided to do was that the building should be sold for a nominal sum to Shannon Development, who would be the custodians, if you like.' The sum involved was £10,000 and the indenture was signed, sealed and delivered on 17th October 1969 by the Right Honourable Bessie Viscountess Gort, and by Brendan O'Regan representing SFADCo; other signatories were John Hunt, the solictitor John Gillman and Lord Gort. It was not, however, until 3 June 1987 that an indenture was made establishing a trust under the terms of which, as stated, 'The trustees shall hold Bunratty Castle upon trust for the State... to the intent that Bunratty Castle will be preserved in the public interest and made available to the public as a contemporary National Monument. Bunratty Castle may be used as a tourist amenity and as an entertainment centre provided such use is subsidiary to the object aforesaid and provided all profits (if any) therefrom are applied exclusively in the furtherance of the said object.'
One trustee each was to be nonimated by SFABCo, Bord Fáilte, the Trustees for the time being of the Furniture Trust and Aer Rianta, the State airports authority. In the matter of management, the Trustees agreed to 'enter into a lease with the company (Shannon Development) whereby Bunratty Castle will be leased back to the Company. Under the terms of the agreement regulations regarding times and prices of admission were to continue to be made by the Commissioners of Public Works, subject to the approval of SFADCo and the trustees of the Furniture Trust. This latter, created by a deed dated 12 June 1959, had been altered and added to by a further deed dated 3 October 1967 made between the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland - 'the ultimate owners', according to Peter Donnelly - and the trustees; the former body was now empowered to 'make any alteration to or variation of or additions to the presents' by the Building Trust.
Lord Gort had, in a somewhat bizarre ceremony, immediately handed back Shannon Development's £10,000 cheque representing the purchase price of the castle to be applied to the Furniture Trust..."

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Murtagh O'Brien's "Palace" (Limerick) and Grianan Aileach (Donegal)

Did stone from walls of the Cashel of the Kings of Ulster (known as Grianan Aileach in Co. Donegal); end up as part of the Bishop's Palace in Limerick?
"1101 It is probable that Murtagh O'Brien, King of Munster removed his residence to the city of Limerick after Kincora was destroyed. The first opportunity that offered he marched with a large army into Ulster, and demolished the Grennan of Ely in revenge for Kincora, and his soldiers brought the stone to Limerick where they were inserted on the parapet of the palace."
Pg 80 The Diocese of Limerick Ancient and Mediaeval - Begley

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Dysert O'Dea and the O'Briens of Arra

We probably all remember the story of Robert Bruce and the spider in Rathlin Island. For me it was one of the stories told, maybe in our primary school history books.

He had suffered defeat in Scotland in 1306 and was licking his wounds supposedly in a cave on Rathlin Island off the Irish coast where he saw a spider building his spider web over and over again, never giving up. This is in legend is thought to have inspired him to try and free Scotland from the English again even after a number of set-backs. This he succeeded following the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and he was proclaimed King of Scotland.

Robert's brother Edward then proceeded to Ireland to help open up a 2nd front against the English. The Bruces had some claim to the Kingship of Ulster through their mothers side. He landed in Ulster with a large army and with the help of the O'Neills, Edward was proclaimed High King of Ireland.
The Scots and their Irish allies went to have some major victories over the Anglo-Norman magnates that were in control of the English colony and this encouraged the Gaelic Irish across the island to rebel.

For more detail on the above events

One clan that did rebel so a sept of the O'Briens in Clare who at this time had lost much of their lands to the de Clares who were Anglo-Norman.
The de Clares were supported by one branch of the O'Briens know as "Clann Brian Rua" who wished to benefit by supporting them in receiving territory / land.

From "The History of Medieval Ireland" by Edward Curtis (pg194-195)

"Muchertach O'Brien succeeded his father Turloch 'of the Triumphs' who died in 1306, and in August 1317 his young brother Dermot slew Donnchad, chief of Clann Brian Rua, in a battle at Corcomroe.
Richard de Clare then invaded Thomond from his strong castle at Bunratty along with the next heir of Clann Brian Rua, Brian Bán, but at Dysert O'Dea was attacked first by Felim O'Connor of Corcomroe and Connor O'Dea, and then overwhelmed by Murchertach O'Brien himself, coming to the aid of his vassals, on May 10th 1318. According to the vivid account in the Cathréim, the Normans proved worthy of their old military repute. 'So stubborn was the hand-to-hand encounter that neither noble nor commander of the English left the field, but the greater part of them fell where they stood.' Brian Bán, however cut his way out, crossed the Shannon, and survived to found a branch of the royal race of Duithcre Arra which was called MacBrien of Arra."

Some of the knock-on effects of Dysert O'Dea are as follows:

As stated in Curtis (pg 195) "Thomond, which had been dominated by the Anglo-Irish since 1240, was now cleared of them at one stroke and till 1540 it remained a purely Irish country, the kingship of O'Brien".
What the effects were in Arra is not dealt with in Curtis's book.

However in Gleeson (1915, 7) (who isn't always the most accurate), records that the O'Donegans were the chiefs of Arra up to at least the 11th century. He describes them as being of Leinster stock.

He states that in the 11th century they supported "Donogh, King of Munster, and son of Brian Boroimhe. During Donogh's absence from Munster on a military expedition a rival of Donogh's Turlough O'Brien, severely punished the O'Donegans. It must have been after that time that the O'Ryans of Idrone, in Co. Carlow, obtained the Lordship of Owney, probably by inheritance. O'Donegans ancestors having came from the same district."  

Others state that the O'Donegans are actually from Cork

So I have yet to find exactly what occurred in Owney & Arra during this period where the Mac I Briens and O'Mulryans begain to dominate
However from Curtis we do seem to have a definite "push" factor for why the "Clann Brian Rua" branch of the O'Briens moved to Arra after Dysert O'Dea (becoming the Mac I Briens of Arra).

(This is complicated again by the fact that Gleeson (1915, 501) puts some of that clan in Arra as early as 1207 according to the Annal of Clonmacnoise & Four Masters. However I think he has misread this evidence.)

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Feast Day of Michaelmas in Tipperary

"In the long ago it was a Custom with the people of this district to kill the first goose of the season on St Michael's Eve, 28th September.
It was eaten on St. Michael's Day, 29th September and for that reason was always called the "Michaelmas Goose".

Also the púca was out and about so best not eat blackberries after today.

For a great post on Michaelmas traditions see thefadingyears blog here

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Lackamore Wedge Tomb

Lackamore is a townland in Castletown Arra of 181 acres. Its name is thought to come from An Leaca Mhór which translates as the "Big or great hillside".
Arra's only confirmed wedge tomb is located prominently within the townland with views to the Clare Hills in the East on which there are other wedge tombs located and down to Youghal Bay which to me also stands out.
De Valera & O'Nuallain in "The Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland" suggest that this tomb and Cooleen near the Silvermines were evidence of a link between the wedge tombs of East Clare and the Kilcommon Group around Rearcross & Kilcommon area. They proposed that there may be there a mining link between the settlements that may have accompanied them.
I've always found this interesting considering the slate quarry industy that has been carried out in the locality up to the present day.

The half-barony of Arra must be unique in the variety of megalithic monuments still existing in the area. 
There is a wedge-tomb, stone row, stone pair, stone circle, possible portal tomb, rock art and possibly the remains of a court-tomb (Graves of the Leinstermen). 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The Turret at Doonass Falls

An abandoned castle on the Clare bank of the River Shannon near the "Leap of Doonass" close to Castleconnell. The castle today is very impressive, perched on a rock above the River and with rock cut paths leading up to it from the water side.

The Leap of Doonass was where the power of the River Shannon met its narrowest point and as a result were powerful rapids. Here most boats had to disembark and either carry on by foot to another waiting boat or lift the boat out and carry it with them. As such this was a very strategic point on the River. The river itself was a routeway into the midlands of Ireland and this point here controlled access to it via the boat.

It is likely that the current building is an 18th century folly known as "The Turret". At this site however there was likely to have been a much older castle. There is evidence of some medieval stone work which was probably reused in this brick and mortar folly.

It is thought that there may have been a much older fort known "Fort of the cataract" at this point. Doonas was a fording point of the river and is noted in the Annals of the Four Masters in 1124 when it is called "Eas-Danainne" and it is where Turlough O'Connor crossed the Shannon on his way to plundering the MacCarthy lands as far as Foynes in Desmond.

A 16th centurty McNamara castle was later built on the same site. In 1563 it was in the hands of  Conor O'Brien who was the 3rd Earl of Thomond. It was given to the Earl of Ormond around this time following rebellion by Conor O'Brien.

It was later recorded by Westropp, noting that it appears on the Down Survey maps and that it was built at the old fort of "Eas Danainn", or "the rock of Astanen".

The above comes from "The Castles and Tower-houses of Co. Clare" by Risteard Ua Croinin and Marting Breen.

Old Photo of the Falls of Doonass