Sunday, 10 December 2017

Duntryleague Passage Tomb

Duntryleague Passage-tomb near Galbally, Co. Limerick. I always seem to think this is in Tipperary, probably because the view to the east is of the Galtees and the "Harps of Cliu" and because it is on the same ridge of mountain that forms the Glen of Aherlow where Tipperary's only confirmed passage tomb is located (Shrough). This passage tomb is unusual in that it is aligned towards the north. It is located within a forestry plantation that with every new picture I see, seems to be growing taller and taller. I first visited in 2006 when the trees had last been harvested and here are some pictures from this visit. I suppose you could argue that this is  the essence of antiquarianism, visiting monuments and preserving photos and sketches (or whatever) of them before time, nature or human action change them.

I found some wonderful folklore on about the tomb, also known as Darby's Bed. Much of the action in this story takes place in Co. Tipperary and initially when I saw sunset mentioned, I thought that it might have had some hidden astronomical meaning. However (as above) the passage in Darby's Bed is aligned to the north. Interestingly there is a wedge tomb at Corderry that is almost exactly 3 miles away and a passage tomb at Shrough that is almost 4 miles away.
"A long, long time ago there lived a fierce black pig on the Sliab na Muc Hills. This pig was the terror of the neighbourhood and nobody would dream of roaming on the hilltops for fear of meeting with this terrible beast. It happened that one day a great giant called Diarmuid chanced to come across the pig at a point or peak on those hills called Corrin (Cairn). The pig in its rage started rooting up the ground and continued doing so until it had made a huge deep hole. This hole is still to be seen and for years everybody that passed it by threw a stone into it, why I cannot say.
The giant then attacked the pig put could not kill it. The battle raged for hours and towards sunset they found themselves 3 or 4 miles further east at a place called Rathdarby. The giant here made a last attempt with his spear to kill the pig but he missed his
thrust only to find the pig taking a sudden hold of him on the ground. It then seized the giant by the throat and killed him. He was buried on the spot where today three large stones mark the site of his grave. This grave is on Mr. T. Kennedys land Rathdarby, a few miles from here.
All the old people called the valley lying south of the Sliab na Muc Hills the "Valley of the Black Pig"."

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Lost Tombs of North Tipp

There are currently 14 intact megalithic tombs recorded in North Tipp. Eleven wedge-tombs, two portal-tombs & one court-tomb. There are also records of megalithic structures (possible tombs that don't conform to any of the above types) and there are three of those recorded.

However there are also records of a number of tombs that are unfortunately destroyed or missing.


The first one we will look at was at Cooleen. It was recorded in 1969 by O'Nuallain & De Valera and a photograph was even taken of it.

From Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland : Vol IV by Ruaidhrí De Valera & Sean O Nuaillain  
Although heavily overgrown at the time it was clearly an impressive tomb with a gallery that was 6 m long. By 1972 it was being used as a dumping ground for other large stones from the surrounding area. In 1969 De Valera & O'Nuaillain even drew a plan of the tomb.

From Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland : Vol IV by Ruaidhrí De Valera & Sean O Nuaillain 

However after 1972 it was unfortunately removed and comments that "Some of the large stones lying in a nearby fence may have formed part of the structure". 

Reardnogy More

It was recorded by Crawford in "Dolmens of Tipperary" in 1910 as being partly destroyed but was unfortunately fully removed in 1956.

Crawford described it as follows:

"This monument is situated a short distance west of the last, in the fields behind the creamery. It is partly destroyed, only eight stones remaining in position. Two of the largest form the south side of a chamber now 8 feet long by 3 feet 3 inches wide. Two others form the north side, with a fifth outside ; and the last three are placed as an outer row to the south; all these are under 3 feet in height. Six stones are lying about loose; two of these, respectively 6 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 4 inches long, are large enough for covering slabs; the others are smaller".

There was also a now destroyed stone circle less than 300m to the north of it.
From Crawfords "Dolmens of Tipperary" (1910) RSAI

The other lost tombs are described as the aforementioned megalithic structures and all are in the Slieve Felim up lands. They are likely to be part of the "Kilcommon Group" which I wrote about here before.

Bauraglanna / Loughabrack

This was recorded as a Cromlech on the 1840s Os map and also in the OS name book as "a heap of stones covering about a square perch (c.5 m?) of ground." In 1906 it appears that Crawford (or someone he corresponded with) visited it as he gives a detailed description of it as follows:

"Borlase, No. 1 (under name of Knockanroe). This is a doubtful specimen, and situated in an unusual place, that is in the side of a glen or ravine. A large flat stone is buried in the bank, with one corner projecting, and this corner rests on a smaller stone ; nothing more can be seen. Bauraglanna is in the valley called Glenculloo, at the foot of the Keeper Mountain, a mile or more south of the village of Silver mines".


Less than 0.5km away from the above, is the record of another structure. This time marked as "Dermot & Granias Bed (Site of)" on the 1840's OS maps.

It was described in the OS Name books as "a few large stones stuck in the ground in the form of a bed". 

Also within the townland of Bauraglanna is one of only two intact stone circles in North Tipp.


It was recorded in the OS Name books as consisting "of a few large stones placed erect on a hill". 

Interestingly the large wedge tomb at Baurnadomeeny is less the 500m to the east.


Very little is known about this other than it being recorded as a "Cromlech" on the 1840s OS map. Like the other missing tombs it appears to have been located in the vicinity of another larger or more important monument - this time the destroyed stone circle in the same townland.

The remains of one enigmatic feature known as "The Graves of the Leinstermen" is also thought to be the remains of some type of megalithic tomb. It however was located in the Arra Mountains. For more on it see here.

There is no doubt that there are likely to be the remains of many more destroyed monuments out there to be found. As I have said before there are likely to still be intact tombs out there as well. If anyone knows of anything unusual that they suspect may be an unrecorded monument, please do contact myself or the National Monuments Service.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

St. Lua's Oratory

I found this great drawing from 1791 of St. Lua's Oratory which was located on an island on the River Shannon just outside Ballina in North Tipp. The island was drowned when the Ardnacrusha Hyrdo Electric Power plant was built and the level of the water raised. The Oratory was removed stone by stone and reerected in the yard of the RC Church in Killaloe.
For some foklore on St. Lua see the following
"Long ago there lived on an Island in the vicinity of Killaloe a saint named... Lua or Molua. It was from this Saint that the town and the diocese got their names. The Cathedral however is called after St Flannan.
There are few places in Ireland of more historical interest, combined with unrivalled scenery, than that to which St. Lua gave his name. One of the most ancient monasteries on the Shannon was that built by Molua in the sixth century and this and the monastery called Iniscalthra, founded by Caimin, are situated amidst scenic beauty. Both had their saintly homes destroyed by the Viking invader. What was left of the former (St. Lua's) had been removed and re-erected, and now lies alongside the Catholic Church at Killaloe, to save its being submerged by the rising waters of the Shannon in consequence of the hydro-electrical scheme. At the beginning of the eleventh century a brother of Brian Boru was Abbot of Inis calthra.
On the Island where Saint Lua's oratory stood there was a holy well and people used to visit it especially on Lady's Day on teh 15th August. Many cures were obtained by doing rounds there and reciting prayers. There is a street in Killaloe called Saint Lua Street after the saint."

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Garranmore Bullaun Stones

A pair of earth-fast Bullaun stones in the vicinity of Youghalarra monastic site in North Tipp. Although known locally I realised it hadn't been included in the SMR and notified it to the National Monuments Service. Just one of many interesting sites in the half barony of Arra.

Described on as follows:

"In pasture, in a slight hollow, on NE facing slope of rising ground overlooking Lough Derg to N and E, higher ground to NW and W. The shoreline of Lough Derg is 650m to NE. St. Conlan's church (TN014-015001-) and graveyard (TN014-015002-) 1.4km to SE. Second bullaun stone (TN014-078001-) 1.2m upslope to W. A subrectangular earthfast sandstone boulder (dims. 1.15m x 1m; H 0.22m) with two bowl-shaped water-filled hollows (top diam. 0.41m; base diam. 0.3m; D 0.2m) on its upper surface. The W hollow (top diam. 0.41m; base diam. 0.3m; D 0.2m) is 0.04m from shallow E hollow (diam. 0.36m; D 0.07m). According to local tradition these stones were believed to be the site of a mass rock."

There are two more bullaun stones within the general vicinity of what may have been a large monastic settlement and its adjacent lands.   

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Baurnadomeeny Standing Stone

At over 2.6m tall - this standing stone next to the largest wedge tomb in Tipperary is likely to be the tallest standing stone still standing in Tipp.

There is some interesting folklore linking it with the story of Diarmuid & Grainne. They of course were thought to have spent the night in the nearby wedge tomb or leaba.

"About 200 yards from this house in an old road stands a pillar stone about 12 ft high. Around this stone is a print of a chain and at one time by its side was a smaller stone, which is now broken and carried away. Longstone tradition says it was brought by Diarmuid on his back by means of a chain and the smaller stone brought by Granna. Stones in the construction of labba seem to be brought a short distance from a Quarry down under in the Glen."

It is interesting to note the height of 12ft - this converts back to 3.6m high, what happened to the additional 1m!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Ultachs of the Slieve Felims

Red Hugh on his horse by Gavigan 01 at English Wikipedia Creative Commons Atrribution - Share Alike 3.0 Unported

One of the most interesting bits of folklore I came across when I started reading the Irish Folklore Manuscripts when they went online was the story of "The Ultachs" in the Slieve Felims.

One version that seems to have carried through is that a number of Ulster men from Donegal settled in the Slieve Felims on the retreat after the Battle of Kinsale. It is thought that they were part of Red Hugh O'Donnells army who passed this way from Holy Cross to Croom and may have seen how sparsely populated the area was at that time and so on the way back decided that it could be a place to settle.

From Foilycleara (just over the border into Co. Limerick).

"Several families of people in this locality are referred to as "Ultachs".
They have typical Donegal names such as Quigley, Dogherty, Devitt, Carew, Carr.
After the name Ryan the most numerous names on the Roll of this school are Quigleys & Carews.
While "faction" fighting survived it was not unusual to "wheel" (or shout) for "an Ultach" or against "an Ultach". The Ultachs were considered settlers by the other people of the neigbourhood. Something of a hostile spirit seems to have existed, or at least was easily stirred up between them & their neighbours. As far as ( can see that has all died away but the term "Ultachs" remains. There is a natural pass from east to west through the Slieve Feilim Mountains. It is now trasversed by the fine road called "The Anglesea Line"."

"When Red Hugh O'Donnell was camped at Holy Cross on his way to Kinsale in November 1601 to assist the Spainards, he found himself surrounded by the forces of Carew & Mountjoy.
A very great frost came on the night of the 13th of November and impassible bogs to the Slieve Feilims became frozen hard.
I know the country very well between Holy Cross & Croom, & I know the only great bog on the way is Cummer bog (shown on map at page 5).
There are other smaller bogs but none as large as Cummer. When these bogs became frozen hard that night was was possible for Red Hugh & his army to strike their camp and march away from their enemies. They did so, and in that very famous march they covered about 40 statute miles and camped at Croom next day. They must have followed (at least roughly) the line where is now the Anglesea Line as far as Réid.
These Hills & mounstains were very thinly populated at the time (The population of the whole country was small). It was at the time of the Cromwellian clearances, 52 yrs later (To Hell or Connaught) that a considerable number of the natives, the people on the fertile plains surrounding the hills left their rich land and came to live in the hills or "Up the Mountains" as they say.

For them it seemed to be "Hell or Connaught or the Slieve Felims" and many chose the latter.
This very district became a very conjested area. There must have been a very large population here in the 1840's. the farmer Mr. Jeremiah Moloney R.I.P. who owned the farm on which this school is built told me there were once 23 houses on this farm. When he told this time there were 2 houses on it - his own & a workman's - Now there is only one (Or two if we include the teacher's residence).
Some of Red Hugh's followers must have become detached from the main body. Michael ryan, Croughmakeen, Farmer 35 yrs, a real native of this place & who has authentic tradition from his people told me since I wrote this that the "Ultach" remained here when coming back from the Battle of Kinsale.
It is certain they passed this way when going from Holy Cross to Croom. They must have noticed the sparseness of the population. Large tracts must have been almost deserted at that time.
At that time it must have been extremely difficult for a weary army to make its way from the extreme South of Ireland back to Donegal in the depth of winter. It is little wonder a colony of them "settled" here. I used here an old man Mr. Rody Ryan R.I.P. (If still alive he would be about 80 yrs) telling how the natives of the district "Saw them camped all about the fields when they looked out in the morning". Thus the Slieve Feilims got their Ulster "colony". Their decendants :- Quigleys, Carews, Carrs, Devitts, Doghertys are the "Ultachs".
When teaching local history I always tell them they be extremely proud of their origin & their connection with Red Hugh O'D."

More on it here, this time from Kilcommon. It again mentions the Battle of Kinsale but not where the settlers are thought to have originated.

"Ulster families are said to have settled here after the Battle of Kinsale. They were looked upon as inferior strangers and were commonly called "Owlthacs" probably from the Irish word "Ultach". This extraordinary apathy to good Irishmen is now practically dead. The principal families regarded as Oulthacs were:- O'Tooles, Doherty, Quigly, Carr, Carey, Farrell, Hanly, Keane and the celebrated shout or "wheal" at the faction fights is still remembered. "Here's Quigly, Carey, Carr an' Owlthacs". There are several families of Scanlans said to have come originally from Garranboy, Killaloe, Co Clare."

Again from Kilcommon - this introduces another story about their origin. That they were driven out of Ulster by the Plantations there in 1609 & 1610. It also mentions a battle that was fought in the locality between some of the Ultachs and English soldiers either on there way to or from Kinsale. Another interesting bit of evidence is that the informant in this piece had some Dongal Irish as a result of him being of Ultach stock.
There is also mention of Clonoulty and I think this is in reference to the placename meaning which is thought to translate as the "plain or meadow of the Ulstermen".

"In this locality quite a large number of northern names survive i.e. Doherty, Nolan, Quigley, Carey, Carr, O'Farrell, Hanly & included in the list are O'Toole tho' they probably came from Leinster. One theory is that they were driven from Ulster Plantation of 1609, '10 the other theory held by some of themselves very strongly is that they fought at Kinsale & settled here instead of returning north.
Story (I)
According to this legend they were from Ulster.
"When the O'Doherty clan had to leave Donegal after the plantation they were travelling along and called at an Abbey for a blessing . A Monk told them to travel on and on to the south and that they must keep going until the reached a level field where ten cows would be lying in a ring chewing the cud and the bull standing in the middle. This they did and never saw cows or bull in that way until they reached Clonoulty. There they found them and there the first of the "Oulthacs" made their home.
Story (II)
At Coonmore Bridge about half way between Kilcommon and Rearcross there is a level patch or "Inch" called Inchnagrauv. This is translated as Ins na gCrám so called I believe because years ago heaps of bones were unearthed there. The bones were human and tradition says that an encounter took place there between the Quigleys, Careys, Carrs being a remnant of O'Donnell's army, and some English Soldiers either in the march to or return from Kinsale. This paints to a kind of influx of Ulster people after the Battle of Kinsale.
The same James Doherty had odd words of Irish. He said to me one morning Goide mar a thá tú When I reminded him that that was Donegal Irish he said Why not? Didn't they come from Innishowen fought at Kinsale & remained here instead of returning north. That more or less disagrees with his legend of Clonoulty or it is quite possible that they settled here both after Kinsale & after Plantation of Ulster.
He got a stroke of a plant on the forehead at a faction fight in Cappawhite about 1876. He carried to the grave a deep dent in the forehead. He wasn't fighting but tried to make peace & got the stroke. The whole party fled leaving him for dead on the street. The fight was between the "Domnall Máire's" (Burkes) and the Quigly Carey Carr an Awlthac"."

More again about the Ultachs - this time at Lackamore. The folklore here is that a number of soldiers got detached / lost in the hills on the way to Kinsale and eventually managed to set up a settlement in the Slieve Felims and eventually intermarry.

"History relates how the great Aodh O'Donnell crossed the Slieve Phelim mountains on his way to the battle of Kinsale. Our story deals with the daring exploit. Tradition has it that O'Donnell entered the mountains near Templederry without guidance. Since he left Ulster he had to travel through hostile territory and he seemingly couldn't trust the local guides. Therefore he had to take his bearings as best as he could. He succeeded in penetrating the outlying hills without accident until he arrived in the vicinity of Maher Sleive (Máthair Sleibh). His lack of a proper guide found him floundering an impassible morass between (Camáilte) and Máthair Sleibh. He lost the greater part of his commissariat and a company of horse. Within recent years many of the saddles have been dug up out of bogs and even some of the coinage of the period has been found.
O'Donnell had to abandon those troops that lost their calvary and make haste so as to circumvent hostile forces between him and Kinsale. The poor troopers lost company suffered terrible privations but eventually succeeded in establishing a little settlement on the more fertile mountain slopes. A large part of the present inhabitants of the Hills of Tipperary is directly descended from those gallant heroes who left their happy homes in Tír Connaill to strive and die in the cause of Róisín Dubh."

From Curreeny - this one suggests that the family lore of the Dohertys in 1934 still maintained they were from Inishowen.

"At the battle of Kinsale, a section of Hugh O'Donnells army consisted of Dohertys from Inishowen, Donegal. Some of them did not return to Donegal but remained, settled down around Kilcommon, Thurles. Their descendents are there today & are referred to as
The Doherty Galltachts
In 1934 an old member of the present family died in Kilcommon & he maintained that he originally came from Inishowen in the manner described above. It was from him heard it."

So the list of "Ultach" family names seems to include
O'Tooles, (Possibly Leinster)

To summarise; folklore seems to suggests that either the "Ultachs" arrived in the Slieve Felims as a result of movements associated with the Battle of Kinsale around 1601 or else as a result the Ulster Plantations of 1609 / 10. Either way it shows how strong folk memory is.

One interesting placename I stumbled across is that of Annaholty near Birdhill - in the general Owney / Slieve Felim area. It translates as the "Ulstermans Marsh" and goes back to at least 1654.

Another reference to Ultach settlements that I came across was in East Galway but this occurred in the 1800s as a result of Catholic persecution in Ulster.

This time the surnames are different

The saddest part of the story is that they were treated very poorly by the landlord in that area who sold them farmland that turned out not to be so but was actually upland that required reclamation.

For more on this see a summary in the Irish Times of Dr Christy Cunniffe's research on the subject.


Additional information on the subject received through facebook. 

John F Headen - "some also settled on O'Brennans land at Crutt Castlecomer Co Kilkenny after the Battle of Kinsale------the road was called Straid Ulaid ------now just Straid----still Fermanagh and Tyrone names in the holdings in 2017"

Michael Roche - "O Donnells are still common enough in the Northern edge of the Knockmealdown Mts around Clogheen, Grange,and Ardfinnan. The local tradition among the older Irish speakers in Newcaste was that the O Neills and O Donnells settled and cleared from forest some of the unihabited glens there after the battle of Kinsale. I have also seen O Donnells listed on the hearth roll census for Knocklofty and a few other areas here."

Michael Roche - "The schools folklore also mentions that the Flynn families around Latteragh were dropouts from the O Sullivan Beare march to Leitrim that passed by there. Ive been told that 9 families of Harringtons in Templederry are descended from those that accompanied O Sullivan Beare. The tradition is that they were farriers and horse tenders to the O Sullivans."

Michael Roche - "Could they have been responsible for building a sweat house at Boolatin in the Silvermines. Sweat house were common in W Ulster but very rare south of N Roscommon and W Cavan. There is also one near Clogheen (An area settled by O Donnells)."

Michael Roche - " There is one fine example of a corbelled sweathouse in Castlegarden Co Kilkenny with a nearby Ultach placename association. Ultachs were known to have settled parts of Co Wicklow and it has been suggested that the sweathouse at Annacarney Valleymount owes its origin to Ulster settlers who were banished here at the time Ulster plantations."

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Shrine of St. Columba, Terryglass, North Tipperary

Part of a Shrine to St. Columba / Mass Rock and bullaun stone at Terryglass Catholic Church in North Tipp.
Folklore suggests that it was a part of a Shrine that housed the remains of St. Columba at one stage. It also says that the rock was later used as a mass-rock at this site. This is slightly contradicted by the folklore saying it was located at the National School in Terryglass prior to the 1930s when it was moved to the "new" cemetery.
I had initially wondered if it may... have been the base of an old high-cross and whether there may be any faint carvings on it that could be brought up with a light but I think that seems unlikely after a second visit to it recently.
From an information board at St. Columbas Headache Well.
"For centuries, pilgrims have prayed for healing at St. Columba's Headache Well. St. Columba's founded a monastery in Tir Dhá Ghlas in 549AD. Some years after his death, his remains were returned to Tir Dhá Ghlas to be laid to rest in a special shrine. Part of this shrine now forms the base of a cross in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. This stone bears special historical significance as it was as a Mass Rock in Penal times."
"(In May, 1934 The revered relic of St. Columba was removed from its resting place in the school yard. It was probably placed there when the old Catholic Church was erected, sometime between the years 1826 and 1832. The present national school is part of this church.
The school children, boys and girls, under the direction of Mr. Manuel D. Hickie, Oldcourt shifted the large stone from its long resting place and conveyed it to the new cemetery beside the church of the Immaculate Conception. The object in procuring the help of the school children in the removal of the relic was to impress upon their young minds the glory of Ireland's historic past dating back even thirteen centuries and also to encourage them to pass down to the next generation the same beautiful story. Hence it will pass from generation to generation."
"The church of the Immaculate Conception is built on a mass-rock site. The old Catholic Church (its predecessor) was built on the grounds attached to the monastery. Tradition still speaks of a still older Catholic church, a low thatched building dating back to the eighteenth century. This one too, was built on the old monastic grounds, but no remains of it are to be seen though the spot it occupied is known traditionally. It was in existanc probably up to the year 1826."