Friday, 22 November 2019

Mass Pit, Laois

I passed a sign for Ballyquaid Mass Pit recently. I had never heard of a Mass Pit so my curiosity was piqued and I headed in the direction the sign pointed me.

A Mass Pit is just a small hollow in the ground, usually behind cover where Mass was said during Penal Law times from a point in the 1600's onward. Various laws and acts would have been in place and preceded the actual codification of the full suite of what we call today the Penal Laws.

I am led to believe that some of the very last statues involved in the whole sorry business of the Penal Laws were only abolished or revoked in the early 20th century, amazing if true...

At Ballyquaid I am presuming that when it was used as a place of worship that the hollow was deeper than it is today. The local community have erected some nice memorials and an altar with overhead shelter on the site.

It's in south Laois and very rural, well off the beaten track. Below is a Font located at the site.

The coordinates are listed below taken from Bing but work fine with Google Maps as well, keep the wheels turning.

Bing Map coordinates :  52.902561, -7.6469

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Thorgrimr Stone, Clare

The Thorgrimr Stone is both a Runic and an Ogham Stone.

Thorgrimr Stone

It is the only known example in Ireland of a stone which contains both Scandinavian Runic and Ogham Script.

Thorgrimr Stone

The stone is located in the beautiful Saint Flannan's Cathedral in Killaloe, Clare.
Probably at least 1000 years old it is now well protected indoors for posterity and future enjoyment.

Thorgrimr Stone

There is a full page of comprehensive information in another post here :
Saint Flannan's Cathedral and Thorgrimr Stone

Thorgrimr Stone

Keep the wheels turning.............

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Skirk Standing Stone, Laois

The backroads around Newtown Skirk are a nice area to cycle, nice and quiet with little traffic on the small Boreens.

Skirk Standing Stone

There are at least 2 Standing Stones at Skirk one of which I have visited and which is about 3 metres tall.

Skirk Standing Stone

At first glance from a distance it looks tiny because it sits in the middle of a "Henge cum Motte" surrounded by tall briars and weeds.

Skirk Standing Stone

It's well worth taking the time to have a closer look at the Stone. Funerary items and burial Urns found at the location suggest it's associated with the Bronze age.

Newtown Skirk Standing Stone

Another hidden Megalith in Laois.... With so few in the County I often wonder why Laois hasn't come up with a decent strategy and some joined up thinking with local landowners in order to better promote its more ancient prehistoric heritage.

henge at Skirk

The site where the Stone stands was initially presumed to be a Henge where rituals were held. It was later transformed into a Motte for a castle. Just 100 metres away is a medieval Church and a later 1700's Church.

Skirk Standing Stone

That's indicative of continuous human use throughout several millennia and as such would be a great area for story board interpretation. It would be nice if antiquities such at this were easily accessible to the public.

Google Coordinates below :

52°54'48.8"N 7°39'34.9"W

52.913551, -7.659705

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Clopook Standing Stone, Laois

Near the small Townland of Clopook in Laois is a Standing Stone, The Standing Stone of Clopook sometimes known as Tullamoy Standing Stone.

Clopook Standing Stone

Legend has it that the Stone was thrown from the Rock of Dunamase by a Giant who was competing against a fellow Giant to see who could hurl a stone the farthest. The stone was dropped in mid throw by the Giant and landed in Clopook where it stands today.

Standing Stone Clopook

There aren't many Megaliths or Megalithic structures in Laois that have been discovered above ground and classified though this doesn't mean that there is a lack of them, perhaps they are there and have yet to be discovered.

Giants Grave Cadamstown

In an effort to subdue rebellious and unruly areas Laois along with Offaly was "settled" in the mid 16th century by "Plantation." This involved the dispossession of local Landholders, Chiefs, and figures of importance by "settlers" from England Scotland and Wales chiefly, who were granted lands, titles and estates.

Natives were able to avail of the disbursement of lands to those who were conquered, swore fealty, and subsequently submitted to English Crown rule... a programme which had been ongoing for Centuries.

Manger Cist

This ongoing process from the time of the Tudor reign of Mary took a while however it led to huge estates being formed in Laois and subsequently large scale farming and agriculture developed. That subsequent farming and agriculture may itself be a reason why so few Megalithic sites remain or have been discovered in Laois which has extensive tract's of flat arable lands.

Manger Cist

It's possible that many small Megalithic structures have been destroyed or have been "ploughed under" into the ground in the intervening time period without landowners being aware of what they  were or represented.

I don't know and this is just a supposition however looking at the scale of agriculture and tillage in particular, this seems a likely probable cause for the lack of Megaliths in Laois.

Ballycoolan Cairn

The few I have seen are Ballycoolan Cairn, a likely Neolithic or Bronze Age Burial Tomb (Unclassified) which needs further archaeological investigation.

 Manger Cist, a possible Bronze Age burial Cist
(again Unclassified).

 The Giant's Grave at Cadamstown (technically Offaly), which was some type of large Megalithic burial structure toppled in the search for buried treasure.

 The Standing Stone's of Clopook (Tullamoy), Newtown Skirk, Clonfertmulloe, and Timoney Hills
(just outside Laois).

Ballycoolan Cairn

All are interesting and historic relics of the County's distant prehistoric past. Most are hard to locate and some will require the permission of local landowners should you wish to gain access.

Tullamoy Clopook Standing Stone

I've posted a few photographs throughout this post of the various Megaliths and Orthostats mentioned and although none are on a grand scale they nevertheless belie an interpretation of the landscape of Laois from times past.

Most are located in scenic and beautiful areas well off the beaten track and each is worth a visit in its own right.

Newtown Skirk Standing Stone

Traveling from place to place in the County you will doubtless pass numerous Raths, Hillforts, Mottes, Castles, Church Ruins and Abbeys.

Newtown Skirk Standing Stone

These are some of the things we often pass yet seldom see.

Timoney Stones

Clonaslee in Laois had a rich neolithic past yet as far as I am aware all trace of neolithic structural activity at Clonaslee has long since been destroyed and any prehistoric Tombs or Dolmens have vanished.

Clonfertmulloe Standing Stone

A large number of Standing Stones of antiquity have been demolished throughout Laois, some with the use of explosives to clear them from the fields.

Clonfertmulloe Standing Stone_Old Kyle_Laois

A Sheela na Gig from Rosenallis lies not in Rosenallis.... but in Dublin.

There is no doubt and very evidently a love and duty of care exercised by many landowners who have discovered or inherited antiquities on their property. More so in recent decades as the importance of these artifacts has been brought more and more into focus.

Laois has no recorded Ogham, no classified (above ground) Passage Tombs or Dolmens, few Crosses whether High, Pillar or Wayside etc. etc. etc.

It also has no County Museum (as of Dec/2019).

Scarce resources and capital from exchequer funding are diverted all too often to large scale projects primarily with a focus on tourism and as a means of generating income at very specific well know locations. As a result visitor numbers at these locations are approaching unsustainable levels....Maximum Saturation.

If more resources, effort and lobbying are not diverted to and carried out on behalf of areas with little by way of large scale Heritage sites and a long history of decades of lack of investment in heritage, history and archaeology, many of these smaller but nonetheless important antiquities and sites will be lost forever in Laois and throughout other neglected midland counties.

At some stage at a National level heritage will have to be addressed for its intrinsic value not merely for its contribution to GDP.

The volunteer ethos and effort has restored or preserved many sites throughout Laois but without doubt unless more attention and resources are placed on areas like Laois, Roscommon, Longford and Tipperary, and other long neglected counties it is inevitable that more and more historic sites and heritage will disappear from the Irish heritage landscape forever through neglect or abandonment.

Relics and Reliquaries. Iron age weapons, tools and utensils. Bronze age Jewellery and Christian era Illuminated Manuscripts and Inscribes Stones. Mesolithic hunter gatherer Axes and tools.

These are just some of the many important and beautiful artifacts discovered in Laois and the midlands. I have been fortunate to see a lot of them  ........... in Dublin and Britain!

Newgrange, Killarney and Wicklow. Dublin and Galway among others........ Bustling and prospering places, however they don't represent the totality of Ireland's rich heritage.   

Keep the wheels turning.


Monday, 4 November 2019


Winter is here and I'm laid up (well at least laid up as in not cycling) from a bad chest infection. Fourth week now waiting on it to clear. Hopefully back cycling shortly.

Below are a few photo's of a solitary Mass Rock all alone in a field at Cullahill, Laois. There's a Tower House ruin, Nature Trail walk, some old Lime Kiln's, a ruined Church and a host of other things of interest hidden away in Cullahill, so it's well worth stopping if you are in the area.