Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Gallen Priory, Offaly

Last post of 2019 and it's going to be short. I seem very busy lately. This is just a quick few photos taken on a recent trip to Gallen Priory in Ferbane, Offaly. 

Gallen Priory

It's not a place much visited but the collection of fragments and Cross inscribed stones is stunning and the midlands are lovely if properly explored. First established in the 5th Century by Saint Canoc the Monastery was expanded by Welsh Monks who settled here.

Gallen Priory

Behind the remains of the Priory wall is an old graveyard with what looks like an old Oratory and Church. Restoration is ongoing but it's worth the extra couple of hundreds yard walk. There is parking here too.

Gallen Priory

 There's also a Bullaun Stone and a beautifully inscribed Pillar Stone of some type at Gallen. Great spot to visit indeed.

Gallen Priory

Coordinates :
53°15'45.6"N 7°49'33.1"W
53.262653, -7.825870

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Timoney Stones, Tipperary

On the North Tipperary/South Laois border is one of Ireland's little known archaeological enigmas. Located in the low lying and undulating green hills of Timoney are the Timoney Stones, a huge collection of Standing Stones spread across several pastures covering a few square kilometres.


Timoney Stones

Originally there were approximately 300 Standing Stones while today roughly a hundred remain standing on the hills. They are unique in Ireland and also in their archaeological and historical aspects.

Having no particular observable pattern they seem to be randomly dotted about the landscape in contrast to other groups of Standing Stones which are normally found in lines, rows and circles, or facing directions of particular astronomical significance.

Timoney Stones

The sheer number of Standing Stones at Timoney is another indicator of the uniqueness of this area. Depending upon which field or pasture you look at it may well have one single Stone or 20 or more Standing Stones scattered about it.

Timoney Stones

Sometimes referred to as Orthostats, Menhirs, Liths or Monoliths, the Timoney Stones are also unique in their beauty and surroundings, with so many located close to each other, a sight that you will rarely if ever encounter and certainly the only place in Ireland where there is such a proliferation of Standing Stones.

Timoney Stones

The OPW Irish Field Monuments Booklet describes Standing Stones as "prehistoric", i.e. erected before a time of written records.

Timoney Stones

Generally prehistoric time frames are regarded as Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age, before finally we enter the period of early Christianization where most recorded history in Ireland begins.

These prehistoric time frames differ from Country to Country and from Continent to Continent. 

Timoney Stones

As a rough example it would not have been possible thousands of years ago for humans in Kazakhstan, to lets say for argument, discover ore's of Copper and Tin, then smelt and blend it together to come up with Bronze and start manufacturing swords, knives, kitchen utensils and jewellery in downtown Astana, while simultaneously passing on that knowledge so that we could start making our own stuff 12 months later at Timahoe in Laois. 

Timoney Stones

The spread of technology, whether it be polished Stone Axe Heads, fancy Passage Tombs and Rock Art, Bronze Cauldrons, Ploughshares or Iron Weaponry, took a considerable time, usually several centuries. 

Perhaps in the extreme even millennia, as can be evidenced by some of the last remaining and remotest of tribes to be found throughout the world in obscure locations still hunting and gathering using basic wooden weapons and stone implements.

Timoney Stones

When occurrences and developments are referenced into a particular historical time frame it's done with the available Scientific knowledge of the time. As the Science changes and new evidence is gained a small bit of "rejigging" is sometimes needed to update our repository of knowledge and place things into a logical or sensible order. 

Timoney Stones

We humans are very pedantic about storing and recording stuff. 

Thankfully we hate disarray and so History, Geology and Archaeology, and all the other Sciences are usually pretty reliable and accurate at any given time, chiefly because Science likes to be proved wrong. In fact it dares you to prove it wrong in order to advance itself.

Timoney Stones

Paleolithic refers back to a time roughly 2.5 million years ago until 10,500 years ago. 

Mesolithic about 10,500 years ago to 8,000 years ago. 

Neolithic roughly from 8,000 years ago until 4,500 years ago. 

The Bronze Age from 4,500 years ago until 2,500 years ago and the Iron Age from 2,500 years ago to 1,500 years ago. 

The addendum is that these historical time references are those that apply in Ireland, not Kazakhstan.

Timoney Stones

Finally the early Christian period and recorded history and writing develop sometime in the 5th Century with Ogham Stones appearing a little earlier in the 4th Century. Undoubtedly Ogham Script was carved onto Wood but none has ever been found.

Timoney Stones

Paleolithic refers to the old (early) Stone Age, Mesolithic the middle Stone Age (still hunter gatherer's) and Neolithic to the new (late) Stone Age, the first farmers.  

Timoney Stones

    So what has all this malarkey got to do with the Timoney Stones ? 
For starters it's about dating the Timoney Stones......

Standing Stones are described sparingly in Ireland from the Neolithic period and are generally associated with the Bronze Age while they also continued to be erected in lesser numbers throughout the Iron Age and into early Christian Ireland.

Timoney Stones

As such the OPW describes them as "prehistoric" rather than ascribing any particular historical time period of reference to them in a generalization.

The Timoney Stones in particular defy explanation, "periodisation", or chronological dating. 

In fact widespread knowledge of the Stones at Timoney only came to light in the 1930's. There has been much speculation made that they may in fact be a Victorian era "Folly". 


In undulating pasture, on the landscaped estate of Timoney Park. One of 46 standing stones (TN018-015071-/116-) identified in this field and recorded in 1934-36 by the Inspector of National Monuments and marked as stone 5B1 on a map of a group of 221 standing stones, of which 173 stones were located in the townland of Timoney Hills and 48 standing stones in the adjoining townland of Cullaun. A map published in the Archaeological Survey of Ikerrin depicts 245 standing stones, 70 of which had been removed, and five cairns, which have also been removed (Stout 1984, 19). Present remains consist of a recumbent stone (L 1.69m x 0.32m x 0.48m) which tapers towards the top. National Monument No. 353.
This group of standing stones in the townlands of Timoney Hills and Cullaun were described in 1936 by the Inspector of National Monuments as following: 'Though a number of stones have been eliminated, the remainder numbering 221 (173 in Timoney Hills and 48 in Cullaun) are a most remarkable group. The stones are not, apparently, arranged on any particular system except for one obvious stone circle in Cullaun. They are all of red sandstone or conglomerate of the same period and stand or stood from 3 to 6 feet [0.9-1.8m] in height over the ground, the average height of the larger ones being about 5 feet 1.5m]' (SMR File).
The location of these stones on the Parker-Hutchinson estate of Timoney Park casts doubt on the antiquity of these monuments.

Taking the above information at face value the chief evidence pointing to the Timoney Stones as a "Folly" is the fact that they occurred on one single landholding but bear in mind that many estates often encompassed tens of thousands of acres. 

During the 1830's John Dawson Hutchinson appears to have employed local labour to clear the fields of rocks and stones and maintain the estate. 

It would seem counter-intuitive to then fill the very same fields with upright stones or simply stand any stones lying about vertically in the very same fields he wished  to clear . 

Dawson himself also alludes to the Stones, seeming to state that they were preexisting in the fields and he had no idea what their purpose was.

Timoney Stones

In a logical counter argument to the Stones all lying within the Timoney estate it only seems reasonable to point out that wherever they were originally erected would eventually become "a place". It is only through a quirk of fate that this "place" became the Timoney estate.

There were also at least 5 Cairns on the estate which have long since been removed. Archaeological evidence for the antiquity of the Timoney Stones would among other things have been much easier to achieve were these Cairns still in situation at Timoney. Unfortunately they have been lost to any possible research efforts.

Standing Stones had a myriad of uses most of which we can only postulate on such as places of ritual and rites, burial markers of deceased individuals of status,  waymarkers, boundary markers, astronomical alignment markers, meeting points, etc. etc.

Archaeological investigation around Standing Stones can sometimes aid in the conclusion of what a particular Stone signified by unearthing what is found in the soil surrounding it but just as often it may produce no definitive conclusion as to what a Stone represented because no accompanying detritus or deposits are found nearby.

The nearest approximation to the Timoney Stones I can think of is the thousands of Neolithic Standing Stones at Carnac in Brittany, France. The difference between Carnac Stones and Timoney Stones mainly lies in the distinction of Carnac's "rows" of Standing Stones versus the "random" Timoney Stones.

If the Neolithic Carnac site were dismissed out of hand merely because no other site had thousands of Standing Stones that would be unscientific to say the least. 

Without question there were plenty of other materials, aids, archaeology and deposits to help describe Carnac as a Neolithic site however to paraphrase in Timoneys defence, the absence of proof of guilt does not prove innocence. 

Today, despite the historical significance and magnitude of Carnac there is still no consensus as to what purpose its unique rows of Standing Stones represent. I place emphasis on Carnac's "unique rows" to demonstrate that "uniqueness" alone cannot negate authenticity.
Just as Carnac is unique so too may Timoney be unique.

To dismiss out of hand the Timoney Stones as a "Folly" seems, if you'll forgive the pun, folly.

The Timoney Stones are classified as a National Monument. Alongside 5 previous Cairns located on the hills roughly 200 Stones have disappeared or been knocked down over the last 2 centuries.

While the origins of the Timoney Stones is still a matter of conjecture it would be a disservice to history should any more of the remaining Stones fall by the wayside. As late as 1980 several of the Stones were destroyed or removed.

The Timoney Stones may well turn out to be a folly or they may very well be authentic. 

Either way they are deserving of a thorough and comprehensive Archaeological investigation.

In the mean time lets enjoy them for what they are.

Google Coordinates :
52°54'06.9"N 7°43'18.7"W
52.901909, -7.721872



Monday, 9 December 2019

Annatrim Anatrim

Annatrim Anatrim, so good they named it twice.


Hidden away and not far from Coolrain and Camross and nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Slieve Bloom mountains lies the ancient monastic settlement of Annatrim.


There seems to be two spellings of the placename hence the title of this post.


A monastic settlement was established here circa 6th Century by Saint Mochaemhog.

Saint Kavans Well

The ruins of a 1730's church and crypt lie here and its graveyard contains row after row of simply marked graves using simple stones as markers. Very plain, simple and beautiful.


This area existed in what was the Barony of Upper Ossory in the parish of Offerlane. It was undoubtedly at one time an important ecclesiastical site with references made to Saint Patrick among others. The earlier Monastery at Annatrim seems to have disappeared sometime in the 12th Century.


Nearby is Saint Kavan's Holy Well. He is also referenced in other places as Saint Kaban. I can find little information on Saint Kavan (Kaban) other than he may be either a brother of Kevin of Glendalough or he may in fact be a Welsh Saint, Saint Cadfan, who never actually visited Ireland.

Saint Kavans Well 

There is a Saint Cavan associated with Inishere, a small Island in the Arans or perhaps it is a derivation of Kavanaugh or Kavanagh from the Carlow area. Who knows...?


A Pattern day associated with the location seems to have died out around the 1830's.


At Saint Kavan's Well is a Saints Stone which has two deep hollows gouged into it. I presumed these hollows were for holding water or some kind or ritual at the well however it seems possible that this stone may be an old repurposed Mill Stone. 


The later 1800's Church of Ireland located next door still holds services twice monthly and is an attractive building in it's own right.


Being a remote and tranquil area off the beaten track in Laois, Annatrim is well worth taking time out to visit if only for the scenery the area is blessed with.

There's a couple of references in an article here about Annatrim however some historical context is missing so a lot of information may be supposition which I guess goes for all early history and records.

The obscurity of the origins of the Monastery and Saint Kavan only serves to add to the attraction of visiting.

The Crypt was originally part of an earlier Church and was modified and adapted to its present use.

Irelands Holy Wells - Annatrim

Interesting entry on Saint Coemhan (Kavan) here :


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Black Jack Adair

Just outside the crossroads at Ballybrittas in Laois lies Rathdaire House (Belgrove/Bellegrove) which was the family home of John George Adair, AKA "Black Jack" Adair. It was burned in 1887 but the remains are still standing and serve as a reminder of what a beautiful building it must have been in it's heyday.


Adair died in 1885, presumed from dysentery in St. Louis, U.S.A. He commissioned the building of Glenveagh Castle in Donegal and was a shrewd investor and businessman building and conglomerating a huge ranch in Texas (The JA Ranch) of over 1 million acres which today is listed as an historic site.


He is most remembered for the Derryveagh evictions from his property in Donegal where over 200 tenants were dispossessed. He was also sometimes referred to as "the most hated man in Donegal".


Adair married a wealthy American widow, Cornelia Ritchie, who built the nearby (and stunning) Church of the Ascension in his memory. John George Adair is buried nearby at Lea Church of Ireland midway between Ballybrittas and Killanard. 

Rathdaire - Church of the Ascension.


Located just a little further from Rathdaire House is the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart. 

The Church was built on lands donated by one Edmund Dease M.P. and of which Adair initially opposed construction, sending several letters of objection in correspondence.

He seemed concerned that the view from his home would be disturbed but from his letters I can't seem to grasp the logic of his arguments as the Church is at least a mile away.

Edmund Dease M.P. is buried here in the Church grounds.

Rath - Church of the Sacred Heart.

John George Adair, Final Resting Place - Lea Church.

Lea Church

Google Maps Coordinates Rathdaire House : 
53.102331 - 7.124833 

Adair was also involved in Irelands first Sugar Beet processing factory at Mountmellick alongside famed railway engineer William Dargan in the 1850's. It only remained in operation for about 10 years.