archaeology

Cloch an Altor
An example of a neolithic dolmen stone. In “penal” times (late 17th-to 18th cent.) Such sites would be used by Catholic priests as meeting places to conduct Holy Mass, which was forbidden by the established church and state. Severe penalties, including execution, could be meted out to priests who were caught during these times. (More detailed description to follow)

Donamona Castle
Houses such as these were referred to as a ‘£10 Castle’ because of a grant of ten pounds that was given to build these type of castles by Henry VI of England c.1429, what is visible now are the poor remains of what was probably a four – storey building constructed from both large and small undressed limestone blocks and mortar, some of the defensive features seem to have dressed stone in their construction, the poorly preserved remains of a spiral stairs are evident in the north east and south west walls, no trace of an enclosing bawn is surviving (These Castles were mainly defensive in nature and would probably have had one) a lot of features have probably fallen victim to field clearance in modern times.

 Originally a Bourke stronghold, in the early 15th century the O Kelly’s of Ui Maine occupied it, however by 1574 Richard Mac Davy Mac Parson Bourke is listed as the owner.

It was here also that the indenture of Composition of Mayo was ratified by Sir Richard Bingham and most of the Mayo Chieftains surrendered to his authority in 1588, William Bourke of Belcarra known as the Blind Abbott and Justin Mc Donnell chief of the Clandonnell Gallowglass were among the first to submit. Justin Mc Donnell was hanged a year later by Bingham allegedly for sheltering Spanish survivors from the Armada who were shipwrecked off Ballycroy. Allegedly twelve people are said to have been hanged at Donamona. Eamonn Na ‘Feasoige’ (Edward de Burgo) was hanged on trumped up charges at Castlebar after a mock trial at Donamona by Bingham who took possession of the Castle then.

 (Sources: Leo Morahan; Brian Hoban & Pat MacLaughlin)


Drum ecclesiastical enclosure and cemetery
Monastic Enclosure or Cashel: The enclosing element is best defined between the west and south west, along here it survives as a broad bank of earth and stone 5-6 metres in overall width and averaging 1.2 metres high internally and externally. Some later rubble has been dumped on the bank in places. Between the south west and north west the enclosing element is enclosed by a later field fence but there is still a drop from the site to the outer field level. No clear trace of the enclosing element can be seen elsewhere.

The ancient Church of Drum was the seat of the Parish of Drum. It is believed that St. Patrick built the first church here in 440A.D, it was of timber construction.

Over the years a stone church (possibly medieval) was built which fell into disrepair in the 1800s. In 1871 local people decided to build a new church but sadly their wish was never fulfilled, all that remains of the old church is one wall aligned east west. Sited around the old church are many gravestones dating back to the 1700s. The construction of a Caiseal further marked the importance of Drum church. The remains of the Caiseal can still be seen west of the graveyard.

 Sources: Mr. Brian Hoban & Leo Morahan.


A natural feature similar to a human footprint said to be St. Patrick’s can be made out in a field to the rear of the graveyard; it appears in high relief on a large irregular shaped stone. It looks similar to a human foot apart from its large size and extreme narrowing of the middle area. Locals have told me there are no known customs or traditions associated with the stone except the imprint was left by St. Patrick on his way to Croagh Patrick. These features are common adjacent to early Christian sites.

Cross Slab: Described as a Cross Slab dating c.900AD. Here we have the broken remains of a cross inscribed slab carved from sandstone. Part of the central bosse, the left hand arm and part of the stem are all that are visible presently. As one faces the slab in its present location (eastern end of the old graveyard at Drum) the top and left hand side are intact with the breaks having occurred at the base and right hand side. The breaks appear very clear. At the base it has broken in a chamfer type feature. An examination of the graveyard to date has failed to uncover the remainder of this impressive slab. Sources: Mr. Leo Morahan.

  A small cairn of earth and stone located in the field adjoining the graveyard is described as a ‘Druids Grave’. It is sub-rectangular in shape, measuring 4 metres north south by 6.5 metres east west. It stands 0.5-0.7 metres high and was obviously an ancient burial location probably pre-Christian.


Staunton’s Forge
This forge in Newtown has been rebuilt from a ruin by the local F.A.S. C.E. Scheme in 1999, the site and ruin were donated by the Staunton Family of Ballyheane, the old forge was in the Staunton family since the 19th century. Patrick Staunton, head of the household was listed in the 1901 census as a ‘Blacksmith and Farmer’, his son Richard was also listed as a blacksmith. John Staunton who died in 1980 was the last of the Stauntons to operate the Forge.

(Source: Clogher Environmental Group)


The Cross Slab
Located in Drum graveyard, described as a Cross Slab dating c.900AD. Here we have the broken remains of a cross inscribed slab carved from sandstone. Part of the central bosse, the left hand arm and part of the stem are all that are visible presently. As one faces the slab in its present location (eastern end of the old graveyard at Drum) the top and left hand side are intact with the breaks having occurred at the base and right hand side. The breaks appear very clear. At the base it has broken in a chamfer type feature. An examination of the graveyard to date has failed to uncover the remainder of this impressive slab. Sources: Mr. Leo Morahan.


 

Clogher House
Clogher House originally known as Clogher Lynch was built in 1770 by the Lynch family. Marcella Lynch married Major Crean from Hollybrook outside Claremorris. On the 6th January 1839, ‘The night of the big wind’ the house was damaged and left roofless. This disaster was however welcomed as it gave reason to remodel the house – a further storey was added to the house and it was roofed with modern slates. Helena Crean who inherited the estate from her father married James Fitzgerald Kenny from Galway in 1870. Clogher House passed to James Fitzgerald Kenny Jnr. When Harry his oldest brother died mysteriously at 23 years of age after an incident in a local public house. James was a brilliant lawyer and the most famous of the family; he was elected to Dail Eireann as a Cumann Na nGaedheal candidate in 1927 and was soon appointed as Minister for Justice, but lost his seat to Dominick Cafferkey Clann Na Talmhan in the 1944 General Election. James continued to live at Clogher until his death in 1956. After his death the house and estate were sold to a timber merchant in the late 1960’s. In 1970 the house was destroyed in a fire. All that is visible today are the ruins of the house with associated outbuildings and courtyard.

 

Coffin Gate
Close to Drum Graveyard is a stile known as 'Geata na gCorp' (Gate of the Corpse) where coffin bearers traditionally rested their burden en route to a burial.

Inscription at Drum graveyard
Drum ‘a ridge’. The ancient Church of Drum was the seat of the parish of Drum and was recognised as being of ecclesiastical importance in St. Patrick’s time. It is believed that St. Patrick built the first church here in 440AD. It is of timber construction, over the years, a stone Church was built which fell into disrepair in the 1800s. In 1871, local people decided to build a new Church but sadly their wish was never fulfilled. All that remains of the old Church is one wall, which is of great archaeological interest. Sited around the old Church we can see many gravestones dating back to the 1700’s. There will of course be many un-marked plots dating back perhaps as early as the first Church 440AD. Near the remaining wall lies the Fitzgerald Kenny enclosed plot, these people were central figures in much of Clogher’s history. Caiseal Bia Taghs: places of rest, devotion and refreshment. The building of a Caiseal further marked the importance of Drum Church. The remains of the Caiseal can still be seen in a field west of the graveyard. Pilgrims would rest overnight in a place of safety. A Druid’s grave or pre-Christian burial place is to be found in the adjoining field, this is indicated by a large mound of earth. A footprint believed to be St. Patrick’s impressed into local stone, may be seen in a field to the rear of the graveyard.


The following information was received from Mr. Paddy Tuffy Gweeshadan, Belcarra:

Drum which gives its name to the now defunct parish was in olden times referred to as Drumonaghan or Knocktemple. The ruined Church and the Enclosure (the earthen bank which almost surrounded the present graveyard and was unfortunately bulldozed c. 27-28 years ago) are evidently very ancient. Aspects of the site are certainly pre-christian. There was said to be one or more souterrains within the enclosure, also on the west side of the cashel is the ‘Druids Grave’ and St. Patrick’s footprint. The old road known locally as the Tochar padraig passed through Drum westwards. Around the year 1460 at the request of the Abbott of Ballintubber Laurence O’Matkin, Drumonechain along with other parishes were united with the Abbey. Stones from the Church in Drum were said to have been used in the construction of the mill and for building a landlord agents yard. An old road was discovered during land reclamation on McDonaghs land. In 1591 the vicar of Drum was named as Roger O’Donnell. I do not know when the church ceased to function in Drum. It is said that when Drum ceased as a church, a church operated in Lagakilleen for a while and later at Belcarra village itself.




The Old School
Tom Larkin of Carrowkeel described the school, which was built in 1854, as follows:

It was a rectangular building with two classrooms. It had two chimneys, one in each gable, and a ridge roof. There was one door in the centre of the building. There was no outer porch. Inside the entrance door was was a hallway with a door leading off either side to the classrooms. Each classroom had four windows, two front and rear. The whole building was 50ft in length and 12ft in width and the panelled door was 7sq ft. Windows opened from the top, supported by a stick! The coats and jackets belonging to the occupants hung in the hall and in the classrooms. To the front outside there were two circular flower gardens. The "facilities" were outside dry toilets.

In later years the building was in poor condition. During a storm the roof fell in on  a pupil, named as Eddie Fahey.

The building fell into disuse in 1943 and today little more than the site remains.
[Source “Clogher, Down memory Lane”]


Catfort
This fort was situated near the southern end of the former Deerpark on an elongated North West aligned ridge. All that can be seen of this former fort is a partly curving section of raised ground extending from east to west for approx. 13 metres. There is no trace of the enclosing element to be seen in the northern half, there is also no trace of an entrance or any other feature.


 Latest Find Clogher

While searching for archaeological features not recorded along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail, I called into my local library in Castlebar. I proceeded to the local studies section and retrieved the 1900 Sites and Monuments map for the Clogher, Claremorris area. On this map location was written a ‘Cromlech’.  A Cromlech is a name given to complex of one or more archaeological features in the same location. These features are often a Souteriane, Standing Stone or Stones etc. This Cromlech at Clogher is at the entrance to Knockaraha woods, opposite Jimmy Corley's house.  Here, there is only one archaeological feature, a Dolmen which is pictured opposite.   A Dolmen is a burial tomb dated the Neolithic Period, around 4000bc to 2500 bc.  When an important Neolithic person died, after his or her body was left to decompose above ground. The bones would be then placed in a burial tomb, a dolmen much like this one. This is a very rare and fascinating archaeological feature in our own back yard, and well worth a visit.




St Patrick’s Footprint
A footprint believed, according to legend, to be St Patrick's, impressed into a local stone. It may be seen in the field to the rear of the graveyard.


Souterrain at Fortlawn
Situated on the southern slope of a gentle rise in a field of rough (rocky) grazing, rushes grow on the lower ground with some furze, thistle, briars and whitethorn on the higher ground overlooked by a broad ridge to the west which runs roughly north north east south south west. The site is located 105 metres south of the section of traditional Tochar Phadraig that runs close by.

This site which was uncovered accidently consists of the southern end of a souterrain. The roof at the south end was broken leaving a cavity 0.8 metres wide north south by 1 metre east west. To the north of this, the passage continues for at least 2.5 metres. No further access could be gained due to the build up of rubble internally, this rubble takes the form of earth and stone, the maximum width of the passage is 1 metre and this appears to decrease slightly towards the north and south end. Two massive limestone roof lintels are still in situ and a third one probably roofed the south end. The maximum internal height of the passage is 1 metre though this decreases towards the north. The current south end has a solid wall and this probably marked this end of the souterrain, it is unknown how far the site would have extended to the north. The construction is in the corbelling style (stones built on top of each other and projecting out from the stone underneath) and consists of dry stone with no mortar.
Souterrains were thought to have been used as places of refuge after a fort was attacked by enemy forces; some were built in the 600sA.D. Many more were constructed during the second half of the first millennium especially after the first wave of attacks by Vikings in the late 700sA.D. Some according to Mark Clinton’s Book ‘’The Souterrains of Ireland’ contained a hidden escape route as well but these are very rare. Other uses are thought to have been places of storage for perishable foods like milk and meat in summertime.


The Heritage Cottage
Every effort has been made to reproduce a typical one bedroomed Labourers Cottage; constructed in 2003 by the local F.A.S. C.E. scheme with the help of leader and locally raised funds and donations it includes a Cailleach Bed/Hag Bed (a bed in an alcove/recess) and a Loft. The Loft would have been used as extra bed space but currently houses an excellent display of Churns. Local residents have donated many of the articles on display. The site for this Cottage was donated by Mrs. B. Cosgrave.

(Source: Clogher Environmental Group).


Tobermacduach - the Holy Well
Situated in the townland of Killeen. A modern day shrine to the Blessed Virgin stands beside the well. An ancient church is said to have stood nearby, also an old unconsecrated burial ground for the unbaptised. The name 'Tobermacduach' is ascribed to Colman Mac Duac, who lived in the 7th cent. Colman was closely  related to Guaire, King of Connacht.



Antique mile post - Thomastown, Clogher
Milestones were erected along route of mailcoach in times gone by.

This example of an antique mile stone is located along the route of the old mailcoach at Thomastown, Clogher, Claremorris.

Shown (inset) is "sappers mark" (benchmark) on top of Old Mile Stone.These are sometimes called "Crows Feet". They were put in place by British Army engineers (Sappers) to indicate height above sea level. They were put in place while surveying the country for first Ordnance Survey maps in 1838..


 Second Ringfort in Knockaraha

On the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail is the village of Knockaraha, Clogher, where I live. The village has a locally well-known Ringfort, which is located in Sean Horan’s field, on a high hill overlooking the village of Knockaraha itself. Ringforts are archaeological features that dominate the Irish landscape. In the Iron age period and well into to medieval period, Ringforts were places where our Celtic ancestors lived or were used to hem in livestock in case of thievery in ancient times. While looking for more archaeology in my local area, not recorded in recent times, I was surprised to find another Ringfort in Knockaraha village, Ringfort no 2. The place name Knockaraha means hill of the fort, knock meaning hill and raha meaning fort.  While looking through Bing Maps online, (satellite aerial photo maps) I zoomed in on Knockaraha village. To my surprise, from the aerial photos there seemed to be another large circular archaeological feature south west of Knockaraha Ringfort no1, still in the village itself. To verify that this was another Ringfort, I needed some proof. So I called into Castlebar library to retrieve the local 1900 sites and monuments maps held in local studies section there.  When I located my village of Knockaraha on the 1900 SM map, low and behold on the same area on the Bing aerial map online, south west of Knockaraha ringfort no 1, was written Ringfort.

So naturally I went back to my village of Knockaraha, to locate Ringfort no2.  With a copy of the 1900 sites and monuments map with me, I found the circular feature I had seen from the Bing aerial photos. The Ringfort no 2  is in O Tools field Knockaraha, less than a mile, south west  of Ballintubber Abbey. At first I could not  see the ringfort from my eye line, as it had no high earth and bank. However, as I got closer, I began to see a low but very large circular ring ridge in the field. This of course would have be much clearer from the air.  I decided to measure the width of the ringfort by pacing across the middle of the feature. I measured the Ringfort roughly at 90 ft. across, which is rather larger the than the average of 60 ft. across.  My own interpretation? Was this Ringfort habitational or for livestock use?  I just don’t know. If I had to hedge my bets, I would say livestock. Why? Because the locally known Knockaraha Ringfort No 1 is located high on a hill, perfect for viewing the enemy far away and for defensive purposes .  Knockaraha Ringfort no 2 is located on low level ground , not go good for defence in the event of attack., but certainly large enough the hem in livestock.


Carving from Thomastown House
This unusual artefact was discovered some years ago by the late Michael Campbell. It represents Cerberus, in Greek mythology, a three-headed, dragon-tailed dog that guarded the entrance to the lower world, otherwise known as Hades.
It was discovered among the ruins of the former Thomastown House and moved to its present location so that it could be preserved.
According to Horace, Cerberus possessed one hundred heads. Hesiod is content to give him fifty, but most sources agree that he had only three. The center one was that of a lion, while on one side was that of a dog, and on the other was that of a wolf. His shape was that of the dogs who haunted the battlefields in the dark of the night, feasting on the bodies of the fallen warriors.
The stone carving is situated in the lawn of the late Michael Campbell’s house at the junction of the Clogher-Newtown crossroads close to the GAA  grounds. It was believed locally that it protected the locality from evil spirits which roamed the countryside.

Clogher Heritage Complex - Newtown, Clogher, Claremorris, Co Mayo

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