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Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part I: Foreign and Irish Forts: Footnotes

1. This Paper forms a continuation of ‘Prehistoric Stone Forts in Central Clare’ in our ‘Journal’ [of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland], 1893, pp. 281 and 432. By the terms ‘prehistoric’ and ‘fort,’ I only imply that the origin of the cahers is un-recorded, and their use more or less defensive, few being forts in the modern sense.

2. The commencement of St. Patrick’s mission was probably nearer to the death of Cormac mac Airt than the present year is to the accession of George II. This leaves abundant room, however, for a plentiful growth of myths, had we even fifth-century manuscripts to aid us, without the added errors of seven more centuries, a period as long as that which separates us from the reign of Richard I.

3. Another manuscript, however, says, ‘They dwelt thus in fortresses.’ – ‘Revue Celtique’, 1894, p. 481.

4. ‘Dindseanchas,’ in ‘Revue Celtique’, 1894, pp. 478, 480. Professor Rhys goes so far as to consider the legend a solar myth, the Firbolgs seeking refuge from the heroes of Tara in the isles of the Western Ocean, as darkness flies before the rising sun (Hibbert Lectures, 1886). For the lost poem, ‘Togail Duine Oengusa’ (Taking of Dun Oengus), see M. Darbois de Jubainville’s ‘Catalogue of Epic Literature of Ireland’, p. 244.

5. As he and his three relatives only afforded four heads as trophies, the epithet is not so ogre-like as some imagine. Lough Cime is Lough Hackett, near Headford, Galway, round which, within a few square miles, are ninety-one forts, of which over a dozen cahers have names. (Sheet 42, 6 inch Survey of Galway.) Magh Adhair, the district north of Quin, Clare; the name survives in Moy Eir, near Corbally, and the mound in the adjoining Toonagh (Tuanamoyre, 1584). Muirbech Mil, probably Kilmurvey, Aran, Aidne, is Hy Fiacra Aidne, barony of Kiltartan. In it and the adjoining parishes in Dunkellin, we have no less than fifty-eight caher names. Dail, the river Daelach, near Ennistymon, Clare, Taman, Tawin Island, south of Galway.

6. Perhaps Black Head, ‘Ceann Boirne,’ still crowned with the fort of Fergus, query Irgus?

7. ‘Reveue Celtique’, 1894, p. 334. The curious legend states that Maistiu embroidered a cross on the tunic of her father Oengus, in Mullaghmast, which place derives its name from her. Asal (Tory Hill), near Croom, Co. Limerick, was named from another son of Umor. Mend, son of Umor, a poet, is also given. - Ibid., p. 481.

8. For these tribes, see our ‘Journal’, 1879-1882, pp. 469, 475. It may be a mere coincidence, but we find the Ganganoi round the Shannon mouth in Clare, and the Ganganon Akron in Carnarvonshire, both districts having these stone forts. Gan and Sengann’s cupbearer wooed Echtge ‘the awful,’ from whom Slieve Aughty is named (‘Revue Celtique’, 1894, p. 458). This connects their legend with Clare.

9. See our ‘Journal’, 1895, p. 227.

10. The Dalcassians under Lughad Menn engaged in the conquest of Thomond from the King of Connaught soon after King Crimthann’s death, circa 378, well within the limit of reliable tradition: see inter alia Silva Gadelica, p. 377, from Book of Ballymote.

11. It is just possible that the legend of Crochan and Dolv, son of Dal, two of the Tuatha De Danann of Slieve Echtge, found its counterpart at Cahercrochain and Lisdundalheen, at Loop Head (see O’Donovan, Ordnance Survey Letters, Galway II., p. 36, on Ceanncrochain and Drumcrochain). Petrie, in 'Military Architecture of Ireland', p. 122, points out that dry stone forts in parts of Western Scotland are called ‘Dun na Firbolg.’

12. M. de Jubainville in ‘Revue Archéologique’, xxix., 1875, p. 53; also see same on Celts, Galatians, and Gauls, xxx., 1875, p. 4.

13. ‘Les Gaulois eurent pour maîtres les Phocèens ou Marseillais.’ - Soc. Ant. Normandy’, 1835, p. 228. For Celtic Conquest of Spain, see ‘Early Man in Britain’, p. 320.

14. ‘Rambles and Studies in Bosnia Herzegovina’, by Dr. Robert Munro. Debelobrdo is an oval fort about 330 feet x 110 feet, with stone huts near it. Ograc (see p. 147, fig. 21) is an oval ‘caher,’ surrounded by a long irregular enclosure; Kicin and Pleschiwetz; also ‘L’Anthropologie’, 1894, v., pp. 563-568 – ‘Notice of Ringwalls, Tumuli, and Circles of Bronze Age at Glasinac and Rusanovic.’ See p. 147, figs. 9, 21 and 25.

15. ‘Congrés Internationale d’Anthropologie et d’Archéologie Prehistoriques’ at Buda Pesth, 1876, vol. viii., pp. 62, 79. ‘Hring de Bény’ measures about 1500 feet x 1300 feet, slightly larger than Moghane. Sixty-six of these forts are given, some are still named ‘duna.’ See also ‘Revue Archéologique’, 1879, p. 158; ‘La Dominion Celtique en Hongrie’. For plans, see p. 147, figs. 3 and 10.

16. ‘Proc. Soc. Ant., Scotland’, 1868-1870, pp. 158-161. The Bohemian forts are of dry stones, vitrified in some cases. See p. 147, figs. 19 and 22.

17. Mons Pirus. I have examined this fort since writing the present Paper. It is of small sandstone blocks, and much dilapidated and overgrown with oak and beech. It consists of a round fort, about 650 feet in diameter on the higher peak, with a crescent-shaped annexe to the south, whence a long loop of wall surrounds the southern peak. It measures over all about 2640 feet x 440 feet, a lesser area than Moghane. See plan, p. 147, fig. 23.

18. The Vosges forts: see ‘Mémoires de la Soc. Royale des Ant. de France’, vol. v., p. 106. Masonry like Langough, county Clare. Also Ibid., vol. xii., p. 8.

19. ‘Dictionnaire Archéologique de Gaule époque Celtique’, 1875. Deveher (Jura), p. 339. Cheteley, p. 284. Chateau Chalon, p. 271. Siesberg, p. 93. Also in Zurich, Birchweil, p. 162. Bassersdorf, p. 122. The Swiss forts are usually curved entrenchments across the necks of spurs.

20. ‘Mémoires de la Soc. Arch. et Hist. de la Moselle’, 1859, p. 58; 1862, p. 275. ‘Dictionnaire Archéologique de la Gaule’, Haspelscheidt, p. 5; Hommert, ‘ring’ on isolated rock, p. 26. Laguille’s ‘History of Alsace’, vol. vii., and ‘Soc. Ant., Normandy’, 1835, p. 247, describe the great dry stone fort of Mont St. Odille.

21. ‘Dictionnaire Archéologique de la Gaule’. La Cheppe (Marne), p. 283. Bar Sur Aube, p. 121. Baillu sur Thérain (Oise), p. 114. Arces (Yonne), p. 73. Champ Cevrais (same), p. 259.

22. ‘Société des Antiquaires de la Normandie’, 1835, pp. 188, &c. ‘Entrenched enclosures on the banks of the Seine’ (plate vi. and vii.). The fort of Bourdeville, 150 acres in extent, a great semicircle on the edge of a cliff, with radiating enclosures and great curved trenches, forming a second ring. A ‘Druidic’ stone stands in the inner enclosure (plan, p. 147, fig. 26). Of somewhat similar plan is the great fort above Caudebec. On the opposite hill a large circular ‘rath’ enclosed a Roman villa. M. Fallue, the author, does not consider the remains to be early Gaulish work, but as he does not take into account similar, though smaller forts, in places never held by Romans, or threatened by Saxons, we may hesitate to accept all his conclusions.

23. Henansal (Côte du Nord), p. 18 (‘Dict. Arch.’, as quoted). Langast (same), p. 66. Laz (Finisterè), p. 78. Cléden (same), p. 291. Cléguérec (Morbihan), p. 292.

24. For the British forts - Borlase’s ‘Antiquities of Cornwall’, pp. 346, 347. Mac Arthur’s ‘Arran: Its Antiquities, &c.’, pp. 80-83. Roy’s ‘Military Antiquities’, plate xlviii. Martin’s ‘Western Isles’, 1703, pp. 34, 152. ‘Proc. Soc. Ant., Scotland’, 1886 to 1895; and our ‘Journal’, 1894, pp. 408, 416. George Chalmers’ ‘Caledonia’, vol. i., pp. 88, 92, 131. ‘Archæologia Cambrensis’. ‘Archæological Journal’. Pennant’s ‘Tour in Wales’, vol. ii. For Celtic invasion of the British Isles, see ‘Early Man in Britain’ (Mr. W. B. Dawkins), p. 342.

25. ‘Age of Dun Aenghus,’ by Dr. Colley March. ‘Proc. Soc. Ant., London’, vol. xv., 1894, p. 222; and our ‘Journal’, 1895, p. 257. ‘Early Man in Britain’, p. 336.

26. See Petrie’s ‘Military Architecture,’ MSS. R.I.A.; Dr. Fergusson’s ‘Rude Stone Monuments’, chap. v.; and Mr. Milligan on Sligo Forts, in our ‘Journal’, 1890-1891.

27. The total number is about 2300. Of these over 300 are in Burren, and about 200 each in Corcomroe and Inchiquin.

28. One Scotch dry stone fort is attributed to a certain Tuathal, who died 865.

29. Mr. Standish Hayes O’Grady first called my attention to the true meaning of this passage in the ‘Triumphs of Torlough.’ Cahers are still ‘Uamhs,’ ‘Ooans,’ and ‘Nooans’ in Burren and Inchiquin.

30. In eastern Galway and Roscommon and around Emly. They rather figure as builders of earthern forts, e.g. Talti and Rath Croaghan.

31. In Mayo fifteen out of twenty-two are inland. We shall see how inaccessible were many forts in Clare.

32. The Grianan Lachtna is of earth, though convenient slate blocks lay loose to hand, and indeed were used for the base of the inner building. Balboruma is entirely of earth (see our ‘Journal’, 1893, p. 191). In face of this fact, it is more probable that the great cahers in Tradree were dismantled and useless before the Danish wars, in which they played no recorded part, than that Brian, or his successors, undertook such vast works to the neglect of their own residences.

33. See, first, Giraldus Cambrensis, ‘Topog. Hib.’, III. 37, who states that the Danes made ‘entrenchments both deep and circular, for the most part triple’; also Martin’s ‘Western Islands’, 1703, p. 34; Lady Chatterton’s ‘Rambles in South of Ireland’, vol. i.,
p. 280; Borlase, ‘Cornwall’, &c.

34. I must allude to the strange theory that they were places for games or combats. We find it in White’s ‘Tour in Scotland’, 1769, p. 273; Vallancey’s ‘Tract on Staig Fort’; Scott’s ‘Marmion’; the ‘Legend of Moghane’ in our ‘Journal’, 1893, p. 281, and in Bohemia, in ‘Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot.’, 1868-70, p. 158.

35. Too much stress is often laid on style of masonry or questions of material; both depended on the facilities of getting stone and the natural cleavage of the blocks.

36. Ordnance Survey Letters, Clare, p. 187.

37. This also occurs in Scotland (see ‘Forts and Camps of Dumfries’, by Dr. D. Christison). ‘Two broad lines of forts appear to cross Annandale from east to west, and nearly half of the Eskdale forts occur in a band running N.E. and S.W.’ – ‘Proc. Soc. Ant. Scotland’, 1890-1891, p. 203.

38. On the more northern line are Cahereen, Caherlough, Cahernavillare, Caher-macrea, Cahershaughnessy, and Cahercalla; also the mounds of Inauguration of Magh Adhair: see for these our ‘Journal’, 1890-1891, p. 463; 1893, pp. 287, 432. On the second line lie Caheragaleagh, Cahergurraun, Moghane, and Langough (see our ‘Journal’, 1893, pp. 281, 284); for the other forts see infra. As I did not then illustrate the interesting triple fort of Cahercalla, I give here its plan and masonry; it needs little other explanation, its steps and terraces, if it ever had any, being defaced. If triple walls mark a royal fort, its nearness to the place of inauguration implies its importance, and the comparative preservation of its rudely-built and small masonry suggests a rebuilding in later times. It may be safely asserted that it was never a permanent royal residence since A.D. 840. The finding of iron objects in its walls has been already noticed. In the adjoining townland of Creevaghbeg is a very perfect but featureless caher, 84 feet internal diameter; walls, 7 and 8 feet thick; door, E.N.E.

39. Introduction to O’Curry’s ‘Manners and Customs’, pp. 298, 303, and vol. iii., p. 11.


Part I