Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

I came across some old photographs recently of an interesting antiquity which would be part of the Heritage of County Laois. 

Even more interestingly it was tucked away in neighboring Kildare at Crossmorris.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

The antiquity itself is the base of a Wayside cross which once held the Cross proper, upright. 

The entry in the archaeological records state it is known as the Wart Stone. It also goes on to say that a portion of the decorated shaft is at Kilkea Castle.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

Wayside Cross's were erected from around the 12th Century onwards as memorials and markers to specific events or people.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

This one was erected to mark the spot where the Knight Sir Maurice Fitzgerald was killed in 1520 by Con mac Melaghlin O'More of Leix.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

The base is Diamond shaped with a deep recess where the Cross was inserted. It has a small pool of water in it now.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross 

Presumably you put some of the water from the recess onto some body parts or Warts in hopes of a cure. 

I was fortunately unafflicted by Warts at the time I passed by so I can't vouch for the efficacy of the "Wart Stone" cure.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

The clip below is from the Journal of the  Kilkenny and South East of Ireland Archaeological Society Vol 4, 1863.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross

This is the entry for Con mac Melaghlin on the Ancestry website.

Crossmorris Wayside Cross 

The following entry is at williamgray101 and presumably taken from John Canon O'Hanlon's History of the Queens County.

On it Con's full name is listed as Connell og mac Connell mac Melaghlin O'More. Quite a mouthfull.

The O'More Clan were an indescribable "thorn in the English side" for many centuries in Laois. 

The killing of Maurice Fitzgerald would be just one of hundreds if not thousands of conflicts and scores settled and meted out throughout centuries of bitter internecine conflict in Ireland. 

It was another legacy of British Imperialism which seemed to bring more misery than fortune to those inhabitants unlucky enough to have the pleasure of hosting our near neighbours.

I don't know exactly when the Cross was initially erected at this spot in Kildare but it's quite amazing to think this little known memorial to a Leix Chieftan may well have been constructed in 16th Century Kildare.

Keep the wheels turning.


Thursday, 18 November 2021

Ballylarkin Abbey, Kilkenny

Ballylarkin Abbey

Not far from Freshford in Kilkenny and just off to the side of a small Boreen lies an interesting and peculiar building, Ballylarkin Abbey.

Ballylarkin Abbey

The Abbey is in actual fact a small Church and Ballylarkin Abbey is its given "local" name. It's a bit of a curiosity in so much as old obscure Churches often are.

Ballylarkin Abbey

This particular Church has high Parapets that run along either side of the Church, sometimes called Wall Walks or Chemin de Ronde. 

Does this suggest that perhaps the Church needed to be heavily defended at one time, who knows for sure?

Ballylarkin Abbey

It is a multi-period Church having seen further construction and additions at several different times in its life but initially constructed some time during the 13th Cty.

Ballylarkin Abbey

There was a Sheela na Gig, a female exhibitionist figure found at the Church and it is now housed in the National Museum at Dublin.

Ballylarkin Abbey

A tunnel has also been described as running from the Church to a Castle just opposite on the other side of the road which only  seems to add further to its intrigue.

Ballylarkin Abbey 

There are some small ruins across the road and a patch of easily identifiable and partially elevated ground. 

There was both an early Castle of some type and a later house here, probably fortified. 

The area was initially associated with the Ó'Lorcáins and later the Shorthall family.

Ballylarkin Abbey

Inside there is a Sedilia which seated three and a Piscina. Piscina is a Latin word meaning Fish Pond. 

Used in Church references it describes a little wall enclosure in which a small basin has been  carved. 

It's used for washing liturgical vessels from the celebration of communion or for washing the priests hands.

Ballylarkin Abbey 

Often these little basins are carved in a beautiful shell shape like a Clam or Scallop. 

There is also a small Aumbrey, a type of small recessed box which would have held the vessels used in the Church ceremonies.

Ballylarkin Abbey

There is an embossed Plaque at the eastern end of the Church which probably came from Ballylarkin Castle across the road and commemorates the Shorthall family. It is believed to date to 1551.

Ballylarkin Abbey

The walls of the Church are quite high in comparison to its overall length and the Western wall is the remaining portion of a now gone tower. 

You can clearly see the pitch of the roof defined on this part of the wall and where the roof would have swept down to the defensive Parapets.

Ballylarkin Abbey

The openings into the Church consist of a large Gothic style East window, a small Ogee window in the South wall and a Doorway on a corner of the North wall.

Ballylarkin Abbey

Human remains were found both within and without the Church and suggest an associated Graveyard was once present.

Ballylarkin Abbey

Local tradition holds that there is a tree called the Bishop's Tree in a nearby field. 

That field is called the "eleven acres" and folklore tells a tale of 7 Bishops murdered here by Cromwellians in the 1600's. 

True or not it goes without saying that we wouldn't hold that particular Parliamentarian at high esteem in Ireland.

Ballylarkin Abbey

The combination of the large Sedilia, the Wall Parapets and the Sheela na Gig seem to suggest that the Church at Ballylarkin was of significant importance to either the local community or the Shorthall family, perhaps both.

Ballylarkin Abbey

Ballylarkin can be broken down into the Irish word Baile meaning town and Larkin as in the family name Larkin. 

The town of the Larkins. 

Larkin is the English version of the original Gaelic family name Ó'Lorcáin.

Ballylarkin Abbey

I don't know how accurate it is but I came across a distillery webpage that suggests Augustinian Monks at Ballylarkin once made Irish Liqueur. 

I don't usually link to commercial pages but this seemed interesting so there's a link here to Ballylarkin Liqueur.

Ballylarkin Abbey

This Church although small and at first unassuming is worth visiting if in the area. It struck me as a bit of a mystery as to why it seemed to be fortified.

Ballylarkin Abbey

Keep the wheels turning.

Co-ordinates Here :

52.722912 - 7.427906

52°43'22.5"N 7°25'40.5"W

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Laois Industrial Heritage

The Industrial Heritage of Laois.

There is a whole plethora of old industrial heritage and artifacts dotted throughout Laois, much of which are relics and bear witness to busier days in the County. 

Days when Laois was a central producer and manufacturer of many of the everyday goods used in Ireland.

Laois Tractor

Laois once produced Coal around the Wolfhill area and had a fully operational railway line there which is now disused.

 The area around the Swan produced Fire bricks and Fire clay and still does to a certain extent I believe.

 The photo below is of a railway bridge and what is left of the line at Wolfhill.

Wolfhill Railway Bridge, Laois

Wolfhill Railway Bridge, Laois

At Abbeyleix carpets were once woven while Durrow produced among other things the Durrow Brick.

Durrow Metallic Brick

Mountmellick had a huge Sugar Beet enterprise which only operated for a short while. 

It was set up by the famous railway engineer William Dargan and the somewhat notorious "Black Jack" Adair. 

The town was home to a Quaker settlement and had many mills and forges.

Both Portarlington and Mountmellick are dotted with many "Bridges to Nowhere". 

Grand Canal Bridge, Portarlington

A casual visitor might wonder what these relics meant while the local is well aware that they crossed the Mountmellick branch of the Grand Canal which is now overfilled and gone.

Grand Canal Bridge, Portarlington

The Midlands bogs were once busy and a major employer in the form of Bord na Mona. 

An Irish Bog

Bord na Mona extracted peat for burning in now defunct or gas operated Power Stations and for the trusty gardeners bag of Moss Peat. 

This industrial scale activity is gradually  being abandoned and hopefully the bogs will slowly become rewilded and possibly a place for visitors to enjoy.

An Irish Bog

Old and now abandoned  rail tracks can often be seen in the bogs, ethereal and waiting for a Ghost Train from the past to trundle by.

An Irish Bog Railway

 The indelible signs of former large scale economic activity are all around us but perhaps we often overlook these simple relics.

Agriculture was and still is a large part of most local midland economies. 

Agricultural machinery is to be found everywhere and some have lovingly restored many beautiful examples of early machinery. 

Stradbally houses a Steam Museum. 

Bob's Bar in Durrow has a bicycle "High Nelly" museum and brightly painted agricultural machinery sits outside the Bar. 

Bobs Bar_Durrow 

Unfortunately whenever I pass the Steam Museum it's closed. A fantastic rally is held annually and a big investment and promotion of the museum would make sense in bringing visitors to the area.

Lime Kilns like the one below at Skirke are also found throughout the County. These were used to heat Limestone so that it could be crushed up to make Lime. 

Perhaps a ghost from the past stokes the dying embers as we sleep soundly at night.

Lime Kiln_Skeirke_Laois  

Lime Kiln_Skeirke_Laois

There are many other relics scattered here and there which serve as reminders of the industrial and economic activity in the area. 

The photo below is of a former Forge at Luggacurran.


The old British Letter Boxes are often still in situ along with the old P&T Post Boxes, a reminder of the now defunct Department of Post and Telegraphs which ceased to exist in 1984.

Edward the 7th Post Box 

The ER and VR remind us of both King Edward and Queen Victoria and our legacy of Imperial occupation and of Britain's former Empire on which "the Sun never set".

Queen Victoria Post Box

Post and Telegraph Post Box

Much I have left out of this post. The topic would lend itself to a complete book or volume of books. 

Hopefully this quick post might jog a memory of times and working lives past.

A Laois Bog

In a short post there is only so much that can be covered so keep the wheels turning and the eyes open and you never know what you might spot right on your doorstep.

The old "Carlow" Waterworks at Killeshin in Laois.

Carlow Water Works at Killeshin

Carlow Water Works at Killeshin

 A "Bridge to Nowhere"

There are numerous Mills, Forges, an occasional Windmill, Disused factories' and a host of other industrial relics that are too numerous to mention in this short post so I have actually included just a small fraction of the heritage that lies in the County.

My apologies to the County.