Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb, Cork

 Labbacallee Wedge Tomb

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb lies between Fermoy and Glanworth in County Cork. It is believed to be the largest Wedge Tomb in Ireland.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

Wedge Tombs are megalithic funerary monuments which date from the early Bronze age around 2500 BCE. They were built during the transitionary period between the late Neolithic Stone age and the early Bronze age around 4500 years ago.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

In common with other types of megalithic monuments such as Portal Dolmens and Passage Tombs they were used throughout antiquity and remains and artifacts from later periods have sometimes been found inside them.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

The tombs get their name from the distinctive wedge shape they form and they slope downwards from front to back. 

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb is a perfect example of the type and because so much of the structure is still intact it is easy to see the wedge shape of the burial tomb. Labbacalle translates into English literally as "The Hags Bed".

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

There are hundreds of Wedge Tombs in Ireland with some in better condition than others. A lot of the tombs are in inaccessable or remote areas. 

Labbacalle is right by the roadside with easy access. Most of these tomb types are located in the western and southern areas of Ireland and while there are also some in eastern areas they are to be found in far fewer numbers.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

The inside of a Wedge Tomb is usually divided into several smaller chambers. Sometimes this internal division into separate areas can be clearly seen. 

At other times the structures are in poor condition or have been altered at a later stage and the separate chambers can't be easily identified by the naked eye.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

The sides of Wedge Tombs are supported by rows of large upright stones, orthostats. Most but not all of these tombs use a double wall construction technique along the sides of the tomb. 

The roof is covered with huge stones, the capstones. The capstones at Labbacalle are quite big and in a period without modern mechanisation it must have required a considerable effort to place them into position. 

One single stone is estimated to weigh at least 10 tonne.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

It's interesting to ponder on what system they might have used for construction. 

Did they use big wooden levers and rollers, did they have some type of pulley system for hoisting the stones, were Horses or Oxen involved perhaps used to pull the stones or was all the work done by human hand alone? 

It's impossible to know and an exercise in pure guesswork.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

Wedge Tombs are believed to have been initially covered in two ways. 

Cairns of smaller stones were built up over them while in other instances loose earth and mud was piled on top of and around them. 

Wedge Tombs which are above ground now stand denuded of their original covering of small stones or clays.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

Skeletal remains were excavated at Labbacalle several of which were reburials and the headless skeleton of a woman was also discovered, as were cremated bone fragments. Beaker pottery has also been excavated at the site.

In Ireland at this time it appears that there may have been various burial rituals in practise simultaneously. 

This is evidenced by a lot of Bronze age sites containing a mix of unburnt skeletal remnants and cremated remains side by side. 

Perhaps social status dictated a particular funerary rite for a given individual but again that's just supposition as it's impossible to know without written records of which there are none.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

Similar tombs are found throughout Europe where they are sometimes referred to as Gallery Tombs. They are often distinct from the Irish Wedge Tomb and have very different features.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

The Wedge Tombs dotted throughout Ireland were to be the last of the big megalithic monuments that our distant relatives built.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

The era of large stone built monuments to the dead was ending. 

What began in the Neolithic period culminating in wonderful rock art and huge Passage Tombs lasting for over two thousand years into the Bronze age came to a close with the building of the Wedge Tombs. 

There were to be no more large megaliths erected in Ireland again.

Labbacalle Wedge Tomb

We are fortunate to have such a vast collection of different megaliths scattered throughout such a small Island. 

Standing testament to millennia of human occupation and the evolution of belief systems and practises they are truly outstanding works of art and artistry.

I am typing this on a high powered Laptop fitted with a modern processor which uses scientific concepts such as quantum tunnelling to operate. 

I momentarily think to myself as I tap on the modern keyboard. 

Could I direct and oversee the construction of a tomb such as those at Carrowkeel or Loughcrew, tombs which for thousands of years have remained completely dry inside? 

I sincerely doubt it. Our forefathers and mothers, from places as far flung as Brittany, Uzbekistan or even the Rift valley could teach us a lot.

Coordinates here :

52°10'26.8"N 8°20'03.9"W

52.174108 - 8.334407 


Further reading:

Penn Museum/Sean O Nuallain 

Landscape contexts of Wedge Tombs in the Northwest of Ireland - Kurt D. Springs 

Wedge Tombs - Get behind the Muse

Archaeology.ie - Farmers Journal 

Neil Carlin - A proper place for everything:The character and context of Beaker Depositional Practise in Ireland

Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland Volume 4 



Friday, 23 October 2020

Monaincha, Roscrea, Tipperary.


Once in a while you head off somewhere without great expectation only to be pleasantly suprised when you get there. Monaincha just outside Roscrea in Tipperary turned out to be just such a place.


The name Monaincha is a combination of several Irish words. Inis na mBeo is the name which originally describes the monastic site here as The Isle of the Living. It was believed that except for a single caveat no one could ever die at Monaincha.


The exception to this legend were women. As soon as a woman set foot on Monaincha she would die. Soo too would female animals, while female birds flew past and never dared to land here.


It's a  great story which was probably believed at the time and it was possibly a story designed to keep women away from the celibate monks at Monaincha or to deter the monks from fraternising with the opposite sex. I had no idea that was Roscrea was such a hotbed of amorous activity but the old cliché about no Smart phones or TV spring to mind.


Knowing little of its history and with just a general idea of where it was situated Monaincha turned out to be quite a beautiful and interesting place situated in a picturesque location. Peaceful and magical are some of the words I have heard to describe it and I wouldn't disagree in the least.


Early christianity in Ireland can be difficult to decipher and many Saints are obscure in both name and origin. It's believed that Monaincha was founded by a Saint Elair sometime in the 7th century however the site is also associated with Saints Canice of Aghaboe and Cronan of Roscrea.


Monaincha is one of those places that is seldom visited for reasons unknown to me, places of outstanding natural beauty and tranquility that are hidden away in the most unlikely of locations.


Originally the site was an Island on a small lake, Lough Cré, surrounded by water which has long since been drained. There were at least two Islands here at one time, possibly more.


The Church at Monaincha is architecturally described as a 12th century Hiberno-Romanesque construction and it is a wonderful building with plenty of beautiful red sandstone. The doorway and arches are in the Romanesque style and are wonderful examples with zigzags, chevrons and various patterns on the carved stone columns and jambs surrounding them.


At the rear of the Church are vaults and stairways which were probably constructed at a later date but add to the overall beauty and impression of the structure.


A High Cross stands to the front of the Church and it is purportedly a combination of at least two different fragments from seperate crosses, the base and the head being unrelated according to some.


Giraldus Cambrensis otherwise known as Gerald of Wales was a chronicler who described himself as a scout and explorer. He wrote about Ireland in his Topographia Hibernaie. 
Giraldus was what could best be described as an early Norman propagandist and not always kindly in his description of Ireland or the Irish. In his accounts of Ireland he describes Monaincha and its deleterious effects on women.
The site's early origins are associated with the Culdee community. These were a type of austere hermit who lived very simple and basic lifestyles. At some time during the 12th century Monaincha became an Augustinian Church.
A Woman's Church is mentioned located near Monaincha but if it existed there is no trace of it now. 
If it did exist it makes more sense taken in combination with the legends of women dying should they set foot on the larger Island of Monaincha. The legend would have helped to keep the early nuns and monks apart and the singing and dancing to a minimum.
 Monaincha Abbey Carvings
 There were also fish ponds at Monaincha which were an early form of aquaculture and provided a reliable source of valuable protein in the monks diet.
Monaincha Abbey, Vault.
Monaincha is a wonderful place to visit. A place it seems that time has forgotten and where beauty, nature and history converge in peaceful solitude.
Monaincha Romanesque Arch
Monaincha was also described in the 14th century manuscript The Book of Ballymote as the 31st Wonder of the World. If that doesn't give you a reason to visit nothing will.......
Monanaincha Romanesque Carving
Coordinates here :

52°56'46.6"N 7°45'16.5"W

52.946267 - 7.754588

Monaincha High Cross

Monaincha High Cross

Monaincha Abbey Ruins

Monaincha Romanesque Carvings





Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations, Laois.

Lia Ceneil - The Stone of the Nations.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

A kilometre or so from Ballacolla in Laois lies Killermogh Church of Ireland. It is here that I inadvertently stumbled across an obscure and little known piece of Irish history, the Lia Ceneil or Stone of the Nations.

 Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

Begining in the late 19th century there occured what is often termed a "Celtic revival." It was a period of renewed interest in all things Celtic including art, literature, music, theatre, dance and language.

This coincided with a Gaelic revival and fresh interest in the Irish language and traditions. Irelands first President to be, Douglas Hyde, formed the Gaelic League  Conradh na Gaeilge in 1893 along with with Eoin MacNeill. 

Alongside all of this renewed activity centered on language and custom the "Irish Literary Revival" sprang up and was a movement of writers, poets and others interested in promoting literature and Irish politics.

The Gaelic Athletic Association had earlier been founded in 1884 in Thurles to promote Irish games such as hurling, football, handball and rounders. 

All of these developments concerning language, custom, sport, music and writing culminated in a short period between the late 19th and early 20th century.

This turbulent period of Irish history also saw a resurgent republican movement, the 1916 rising and ultimately the War of Independence beginning at Soloheadbeg in Tipperary in 1919.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

Douglas Hyde occasionally worshipped at Killermogh and it is his friend, Bernard Edward Barnaby Fitzpatrick, the second and final Baron Castletown, who is responsible for the Stone of Nations being sited at Killermogh.

Fitzpatrick founded The Celtic Association in 1900 and became its President. 

The Celtic Association was a "Pan-Celtic" effort which included representation from five "Celtic Nations" - Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man and Brittany. A sixth was included later, Cornwall in England.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

The Association held a Pan-Celtic Congress on three occasions, the first in 1901 at Dublin, followed by Caernafon at Wales in 1904 and the final Congress occured at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1907.

The Celtic Association

 The Lia Ceneil - The Stone of the Nations is composed of five seperate stones, one stone representing each "Nation" and laid atop one another in an upright column.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

It appears from the newspaper reports of the times that a delegate from each Celtic "Nation" would place a stone in position until the column was completed and assembled at the site of Congress.

There are reports of bards, druids, ovates and archdruids at the Congress and it is known that the Celtic Association was held in disregard by some organisations and individuals.

The Celtic Association

The fact that both the Celtic Association and the Stone of the Nations remain hidden behind a veil of obscurity suggests that Bernard Fitzpatricks attempts at uniting different celtic traditions and people under a single Pan-Celtic banner ran its course and fizzled out.

Fitzpatrick was variously a Baron, an M.P. for Portarlington, a High Sheriff of Queen's County and a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army who served in the Boer War.

The Celtic and Gaelic revivals were an effort to revive forgotten and lost customs and language and forge a seperate unique identity for Ireland. An identity free from any English influence or Anglo-Norman and Saxon association. 

Occasionally there are important early Saxon influences which are overlooked or forgotten about because of a preoccupation with "Celtism." 

Rarely will you hear of Willibrod or Berrihert, both early Anglo-Saxon Saints associated with Ireland but that's a thread for another day.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

By all accounts Fitzpatrick seemed a decent fellow however his background would hardly have endeared him or the Celtic Association with Home Rule enthusiasts or Nationalists.

Although his friend Douglas Hyde's Gaelic League was a neutral and non denominational organisation at the outset which appealed to many and was interested chiefly in the promotion of the Irish language, Hyde eventually resigned as President because he believed the organisation became politicized. 

Seperately Bernard Fitzpatrick's Celtic Association was always going to struggle to attract mainstream Irish participation despite its secular outlook.

Lia Ceneil, The Stone of the Nations. The Celtic Association.

This is probably especially so in light of the burdgeoning independence movement of the time. Druids and archdruids may well have been superfluous to and indeed counterproductive to the needs of groups such as Clan na Gael or the Irish Republican Brotherhood who had little immediate interest in Cornish celtic rituals or Breton dress codes.

The Lia Ceneil was moved from Grantstown Manor to Killermogh. The Second Baron Castletown lived a very interesting life and there is a wealth of information about him and the Fitzpatrick connections to the area to be found both in print and online.

It's been hard to follow the trail of the Celtic Association. For a time they published :

 Celtia - A Pan-Celtic Monthly Magazine.

The Lia Ceneil - The Stone of the Nations,

 Killermogh, Co-ordinates :

52°52'19.2"N 7°27'28.6"W

52.871994 - 7.457951


 - Footnote -

Bernard Edward Barnaby Fitzpatrick, Baron Castletown, is a descendant of Barnaby Fitzpatrick, the 2nd Baron of Upper Ossory, who was a good friend and "Whipping Boy" of King Edward VI. 

Barnaby Fitzpatrick was instrumental in the killing of Rory Oge O'More in 1578. Rory was sometimes alluded to as the "Robin Hood" of Ireland. I believe he was killed while hatching a plot to kidnap Barnaby. Rory was the archetypal rebel, a continual thorn in the side of the English Crown by all accounts.


 Notice in the West Australian Newspaper 23rd Aug/1901

Celtic Association


Clip from a report on the committee meeting -  May 1899.



Craobh ná hÉireann den Chomhdháil Cheilteach 



Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

 The Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum is a hidden gem located at Attenagh in Laois.

 Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

Although once a sea angler myself I've never been involved with Fly Fishing nor Game Shooting but the museum at Attenagh seems awash with antiquities relevant to both and well worth a visit.

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

Passing by with no proper glasses to see 
I didn't stay long enough to see all the exhibits on display
The aging process does not suit me.

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

I met the curator and owner Walter while there. He seemed very welcoming and friendly and I explained that my eyesight wasn't great and I'd like to come back another day to take a good look around with my proper reading glasses.

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

The backroads and Boreens of this area in south Laois are relatively quiet and a pleasure to wander around and there are waymarked routes for cycling but I've still to find out if they are listed somewhere online for route descriptions.

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

Nearby is the town of Durrow which would have been quite an industrious little place at one time and is home to Bob's Bar and High Nellie Museum and a Church organ in Ireland built by the famed firm of Samuel Green which is in Saint Fintans Church. 

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

Originally the organ was commissioned in the 18th Cty and given to Trinity College Dublin but was moved to Durrow in 1842. There is another Samuel Green organ in Down Cathedral at Downpatrick in Ulster.

Green built many organs for several well known Churchs and Cathedrals but for some reason died in poverty at Middlesex in 1976.

Co-ordinates here :

52°50'02.7"N 7°20'50.1"W

52.834072 - 7.347255


Not too far away from Attanagh is the Ladywell which is signposted. It is actually about 100 yards on the Kilkenny side of the border with Laois and is a site which was once visited by thousands of people.
More information here : Ladywell(Dermot Dorgan)

The ruins of the medieval 13th Century Abbey Church at Rosconnell are also nearby. The Church was partially restored until it was attacked and destroyed by Cromwellians in the mid 1600's.
Information here : 

Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum


This area in South Laois and Kilkenny would once have been part of what was known as the Kindom of Ossory during medieval times.