Monday, 13 April 2020

An Irish Bog

There are two types of bog in Ireland, a raised bog and a blanket bog. 

Irish Bog

Blanket bog is generally found in mountainous upland areas whereas raised bogs are mostly found in lowland areas with the biggest concentration of raised bog areas found in the Irish midlands. 

Bog railway

Raised bogs develop over a long time from fens, an intermediate stage of raised bog formation. Bogs are 95% water and the chief vegatation in them is Sphagnum moss.

Turf

Without going into a post on the details of either I've just posted a few photographs from the bog nearby.
Turf harvested by hand has to be "footed" to dry out before it is suitable for use and burning.

Milled turf (Peat) would be hauled on narrow guage railways direct from the bogs to the energy generating power plants for burning.

Bog Locomotive

Because of restrictions on movement and limitations of going no further than 2 Kms from home during the Corona virus pandemic any cycling recently has been limited to me heading into the nearby bog.

Bog

These bogs have historically been harvested by locals for fuel to be used as home heating as well as harvested on a larger scale by the state (Bord na Móna) as a fuel source for turf burning power stations.

Peat Bog

Bogs are "anaerobic" which means that they have very little oxygen in them. Because oxygen accelerates decomposition this means that bogs often preserve things well and stifle decomposition. 

Bog Butter

Cashel man is an example of a Bronze Age "Bog Body" which is on display at the National museum and is a well preserved body which was found in a local Laois bog.

"Bog Butter" is another item sometimes discovered in a well preserved state and I've included a picture of a 30 Kg lump of 1000 year old "Bog Butter" which is on display in Roscrea.

Bog Butter

The rehabilitation of Ireland's raised bogs will take many decades but should eventually return a valuable ecological asset to nature.

Turf Bog

With environmental and ecological concerns coming to the forefront the days of the rural turf cutter are fast coming to an end.

The image conjures up a very happy and comforting picture of times past but there's no going back and no matter how much we might object the reality is that there is no place for an unsustainable and environmentally destructive process any more.

Bogs are an important ecological niche and a huge variety of specialised plants exist and depend on them as does a large variety of "Scrub." The "Scrub" encourages a wide number of small bird species.

The most unusual bird I've been fortunate to see in an Irish bog is an African Hoopoe, which I presume was somewhat "off course."

Hoopoe

I've fond memories of meeting turf cutters decades ago as I rambled here and there but time moves on and so too must process's......



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Irelands Bullaun Stones

Found throughout Ireland and quite numerous there are many fascinating "Bullaun Stones."

 

Bullaun Stone
Roscam, Galway - Associated with Saint Patrick.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stones are stones which have hollows or depressions carved into them, either a single hollow or multiple hollows or depressions. Many are shaped like a "bowl."

Bullaun Stone
Clonmore, Carlow - Large multiple Bullaun.
Bullaun Stone
 
They range very often in size from as little as 20 Centimetres across to as large as several metres measured along their upper surface. The difference in size, shape, and number of depressions make Bullaun Stones quite unique and difficult to categorize. They vary in shape and style considerable.

Saint Molua's Bullaun Stone

Saint Molua's Stone - Kyle, Laois.
Bullaun Stone
 
Saint Molua's Bullaun Stone
 
The origins of Ireland's Bullaun Stones are lost in the mist of time however similar Stones are also found in Britain as well as in continental Europe and throughout the world.

Bullaun Stone
Probable Bullaun - Church of Ireland, Aghade, Carlow.
Bullaun Stone

Today the majority of Irish Bullaun Stones are found close to ancient sites of ecclesiastical importance such as early Christian monasteries and Churches and alongside Holy Wells and sites of pilgrimage.

Bullaun Stone
Bullauns - Saint Peacauns, Toureen, Tipperary.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

It's very unlikely that the present religious associations and settings are the original source of Ireland's Bullaun Stones.

Bullaun Stone
Bullaun and Holy well - Cumber/Forelacka, Offaly.
Bullaun Stone

At a guess it would seem likely that some Bullaun Stones must have originated as some form of prehistoric grinding stones much like a Mortar and Pestle or a Saddle querns. 

Bullaun Stone
Bulluans - Killamery, Kilkenny. Is the lower stone a Bullaun or a Holed Stone ?
Bullaun Stone

To my knowledge the only way to date stone usage without written records is if it
(the stone) has recently been excavated and can be tested for how long ago it had previously been exposed to sunlight. 
It would seem that dating pre-existing Bullauns is a non runner.

Bullaun Stone
Glendalough, Wicklow - One Bullaun has been repurposed into the Altar.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

What can be said with certainty is that they are a multi period artifact in the Irish landscape and an intriguing and beguiling one at that.
It is entirely possible that some of them may have been Bronze age or even Neolithic grinding tools. 

Small Bullaun - Castletown Cemetery, Drumroe, Tipperary.
Bullaun Stone

I presume a lack of finds near neolithic sites may make this seem unlikely however given the portable nature of most Bullaun Stones perhaps they were moved and repurposed over the millennia, who knows?

Bullaun Stone
Saint Berriherts - Tipperary. Bullauns or Swearing Stones ?
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

The Bullaun Stones found in Ireland today seem to have very ritualistic purposes and most are associated with local myths, legends, and traditions.
Many are still an integral part of local worship and veneration at sites of pilgrimage throughout the Country.

Killone Bullaun on Kilmurray Hill, Laois.
Killone Bullaun Stone, Laois


Along with the obvious depressions which are the defining feature of Bullaun Stones several have further interesting marks, grooves, or hollows which are often ascribed to the marks made from where venerated Saints knelt when praying, their hand prints when worshiping or the marks of Horses or Cows hooves etc. etc.

Lemanaghan Offaly - Associated with Saint Manchan. Bulluan at Well and on ancient Togher. 
It's mooted that the Bullauns in the lower photo were left behind by the Saints Cow when it was stolen by a thief and he was then able to track the Cow down by following its hoof marks.
Bullaun Stone

Bullaun Stone

The Bullauns, some of which may have originated as a type of early milling stone are now often used for ritual purposes and are often believed to have magical or healing properties. They are sometimes associated as sources of cures for different ailments.

Bullaun on ground - Gallen Priory, Ferbane, Offaly
Bullaun Stone

Some were also repurposed as "Cursing Stones" or "Swearing Stones."
There are several traditions of using Bullauns to cast a spell or curse and also of using them to swear an oath or obligation.

Kilmurray Hill, Laois. Another picture of the Killone Bullaun.
Killone Bullaun Stone, Laois


It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to visualise a distant relative centuries ago after a "night on the tear" and some misfortune pleading or entreating at a Bullaun stone or in other instances asking for a favour, healing grace, or placing a curse ..........
"I swear, I swear. I'll never touch a drop again if......."

Glendalough, Wicklow.
Bullaun Stone

A Large number of Bullaun Stones are located at devotional sites and places where votive offerings are left and prayers offered to Saints associated with the locality.

Glendalough in Wicklow contains an unusually large number of Bullaun stones with over 40 recorded in the area, attesting to their religious significance in the locality.
Some of the many uses and purposes to which Bullaun Stones may originally have served have been mooted as ; grinding stones for grains or nuts, crushing herbs, metal ores and colour pigments, and making medicines.
Each of these suggested ancient uses seems quite plausible in its own right and we will probably never know for sure. In fact some may have origins or uses for which we could never even begin to hazard a guess.

Double Bullaun at Saint Peacauns in Tipperary.
Bullaun Stone.

Occasionally it is difficult to be certain a stone is in fact a Bullaun Stone as it may be a repackaged Font or Stoup or just a weathered conglomerate rock but most Bullauns are fairly easily identified.

  Small single Bullaun at Saint Fintans Well, Cromogue, Laois.
Bullaun Stone.

Ireland's Bullaun Stones are a striking and evocative archaeological record of times past and present throughout the Country. 
Myths, legends, local folklore, and ecclesiastical associations have served to keep most of them "in situ" and intact so that they remain in place for future generations to enjoy.


Killinagh Cursing Stone - A large multiple Bullaun and two other Bullaun Stones in a group, Cavan.

Killinagh Cursing Stone


They also provide a valuable link to the past and serve as a visible reminder of our sometimes forgotten history and heritage.
As technology advances further the old "oral tradition" fades and the meaning and purpose of relics can be lost or forgotten, particularly concerning obscure local traditions and folklore.
 
An impressive and large Bulluan Stone, the Nine Hole Stone in Offaly.
 
 
The Nine Hole Bullaun Stone, Offaly

Bullaun Stone
 
Wherever you live you will probably find that you are not too far from a Bullaun Stone. Perhaps you were unaware of its existence and passed it by without even knowing it was there. 
The stone probably has a tale to tell if you dig a little deeper......
 
Saint Brigids Stone. A large and unusual upright positioned Bullaun Stone at Ballybuggy in Laois.
 
 
Bullaun Stone with depression and channel at Morett in County Laois beside Saint Brigids Well.
 
Saint Brigids Well and Bullaun, Morett, Laois 
 
Saint Brigids Well and Bullaun, Morett, Laois 
 
 A single Bullaun Stone outside Ballynakill Church in Galway, perhaps once used in rituals as a font.
 
Ballynakill Bullaun Stone, Galway
 
Another large single Bullaun Stone at Kilcorban medieval Church ruins in Galway, a lovely quiet area close to Pallas Castle....

Kilcorban Bullaun Stone, Galway
 
This multiple "earthfast" Bullaun at Aghowle in Wicklow was referred to by a local as the "Baking Stone". It looks like a frog with a crooked smile.

Aghowle Bullaun Stone, Wicklow
 
Below are several small Bullaun Stones found in the general area of Kilkieran and placed beside each other at the ancient ecclesiastical site in Kilkenny.

Kilkieran Bullaun Stones, Kilkenny
 
Killadeas in Fermanagh plays host to this unusual upright "possible" Bullaun Stone which also serves as a Cross inscribed stone. The ringed Cross is on one side and the multiple Bullauns, possible prehistoric cup marks, are on the other.

Killadeas Bullaun Stone, Fermanagh

Killadeas Bullaun Stone, Fermanagh
 
Saint Patricks Bullaun Stone and Raggedy Bush, Bamford, Kilkenny. Easy to miss.
 
 
The "Wart Stone" in Offaly is a single Bullaun on an elevated and elongated rock platform which reputedly served as an altar for Mass during the period of the Penal laws in Ireland.
 
The Wart Stone_Offaly
 
The Wart Stone, Offaly Bullaun Stone.

The Wart Stone, Offaly Bullaun Stone.
 
A lone Bullaun Stone at Killina, Rahan, Offaly.
 


A beautiful Bullaun which has been carved into a small rocky outcrop beside an abandoned Board of First Fruit Church at Kilruane in Tipperary.
 
Kilruane Bullaun Stone, Tipperary

Kilruane Bullaun Stone, Tipperary

Kilruane Bullaun Stone, Tipperary

 At the large ecclesiastical settlement of Clonmacnoise in Offaly there are just two Bullaun Stones recorded. In comparison there are over 40 recorded at Glendalough in Wicklow. 

It's possible that at one time there were many more Bullaun Stones at Clonmacnoise and they have been long since lost or forgotten about.

Bullaun at Clonmacnoise

The one pictured above and below is known as "Glun Tinnis Cinn" or "the knee-stone of the head-ache". 

Being one of only two at Clonmacnoise it is very unusual. The stone is listed as lying north of the Pilgrims Road (behind the hedge) "9 chains from the Graveyard". 

Bullaun Stone at Clonmacnoise

An Irish Chain is an old unit of measurement which was 100 Links or 4 Rods in length. 
This was about 84 feet in length and the measurement was originally thought to refer to a Surveyors chain.

Bullaun Stone

This Bullaun at Clonmacnoise was partially buried and I wasn't properly equipped to uncover the full stone. 

What is in no doubt is that unless it is protected properly it is likely to be destroyed in short order by agricultural machinery or passing vehicles.

Bullaun Stone

It has an unusually large depression and reputedly other depressions made from kneeling. I didn't get to uncover these on the day in question. My bad photographs don't fully convey its size.

At the wonderful Temple Cronan Church in rural Clare are two beautiful Gable shrines while inside the Church is a single elongated stone slab with a single depression in it. 

Bullaun

There is no Bullaun listed here however the single depression is unmistakable so I'm taking it to be a Bullaun stone of one type or another. I'm not an archaeologist so authoritative verification is outstanding however I believe it is a Bullaun.

Bullaun

The angle of the light made photographing the stone difficult and the pictures are a little washed out. The stone is rectangular in shape and outline. The depression is shallow and could easily be missed in the wrong light.

Bullaun at Temple Cronan, Clare

Near Knickeen in Wicklow by a marshy area near a stream are two interesting Bullaun Stones. One is known as Saint Laurence O'Toole's Hand Print.

One Bullaun is cracked and has two depressions carved into it while the other is a multiple Bullaun Stone partly submerged with at least six and perhaps more Bullauns carved into it.

Saint Laurence O'Toole's Hand Print

Saint Laurence O'Toole's Hand Print

Saint Laurence O'Toole's Hand Print

Saint Laurence O'Toole's Hand Print

Three single Bullaun Stones located at the wonderful ruins of Clonygoose Church in Carlow.

Clonygoose Bullaun Stones

Clonygoose Bullaun Stones

Clonygoose Bullaun Stones

A single Bullaun Stone by Saint Fortchern's Holy Well in Carlow. The Well and Bullaun are close to the early 10th Century "White" Church just across the road.

Saint Fortchern's Holy Well and Bullaun Stone

Saint Fortchern's Holy Well and Bullaun Stone

A single Bullaun which may once have served as a base for a Cross at Finglas Graveyard, Loughan, Offaly. 
Nearby Dunkerrin has a memorial for Kate Shell(e)y who is remembered in Iowa for averting a train crash and had a bridge named in her honour.
 
Bullaun Stone, Finglas, Offaly, Ireland.

She was the first woman in the USA to have a bridge named after her and a Locomotive was named the Kate Shelley 400.

Bullaun Stone, Finglas, Offaly, Ireland.

A beautiful earth-fast Bullaun Stone at Cemetery Hill in Wicklow. It is situated in what now seems a peculiar position but perhaps it's position was much more prominent previously and the land and situation surrounding it has changed.




A single Bullaun at Glenbower near Killeagh in Cork. It is located beside what appears to be the base of a Cross by the side of a woodland trail. 

Killeagh Bullaun Stone, Cork

Killeagh Bullaun Stone, Cork