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|Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp|
Part VI: Ballyganner Group: Knockacarn; Cahernaspeekee; Roads; Pillared Dolmen
The linear arrangement of forts, not uncommon in Ireland, is well marked at Noughaval; besides the five in line from Lismoher we see the great line west-north-west and east-south-east from Caherkyletaan (past Cahercottine, Caherwalsh, a ring fort, Cahernaspeekee, a slab enclosure and souterrain, the square bawn, the ring wall and castle) to the great dolmen on Ballyganner Hill. A third line at right angles to the last, passes (through a Cathair, the square bawn, Ballykinvarga, and a levelled fort) towards the great hill fort of Doon. The cause of this linear arrangement is unknown; some explain it as originating in a long ridge, but this is certainly not the case at Ballyganner. The two main lines evidently took as their goals the high standing dolmen and Doon fort, but no such prominent object fixed the line over Knockacarn.
There are three cairns or mounds of earth and stone slabs; two to the north of Cahernaspeekee, quite perfect; another to the south, with remains of a small slab cist; they vary from 5 feet to over 8 feet high. There are some regular oval green mounds, rarely 2 feet high, on the crag. One about 4 feet high has a set slab, evidently once a cist. There is a fine well in the valley to the south of these, half way between the Castle Cathair and Cahernabihoonach. Due north from it are the fallen dolmen, the long rock-cut road from the latter to Caheraneden and the slab hut. The group of ruins farther eastward, besides Cahernabihoonach, includes the ‘cairn caher’ with its outer enclosure and perfect gateway  and a large bawn (near a curiously split and very conspicuous rock) which I think is almost certainly the ‘Mohernacloughbristy’ named along with Ballyganner in a deed of 1712.
The site is so rich and remarkable that I hope some other antiquary may study it as a whole to some sound conclusion. Hard and painful as is the work done on fissured crags, hidden in grass and moss, I would urge others to work it out. I give what I can, but a complete plan of a settlement occupied from the bronze age to the later 17th century with graves, residences, wells and roads should be worth obtaining, and it is possible that other roads and foundations may remain, especially to the east of the tract explored for this survey.
I do not attempt to date the slab enclosures. The fences round such dolmens as that at Iskancullin are probably contemporary with the monument, so, possibly, are the circular slab rings, which are probably the basement of wooden and clay huts. On the other hand, the rectangular hut sites are probably far later, and the slab fences, such as we find at Leanna, still more recent. The same may be true of the cairns. In 1681, Thomas Dineley  notes of Burren that ‘the particons are made of broad stones like slate turned up edgeways,’ and in 1752 Dr. Pococke writes of Achill, Co. Mayo, that the people ‘have a custom of raising heaps of stones, here called laktch (leachta), in other parts kerns (carns) to the memory of the dead.’ The custom has yet not died out in Aran and North Connacht.
The late huts of beehive shape, with corbelled roofs (found in Aran and some in Co. Kerry, on the Blasket Sound, so late that I saw one in the course of building near Dunquin in 1904), are also a serious warning against confident dating. As a rule, however, primitive work is of far larger materials than its late descendants. Here I may warn against another error alleging old remains to be modern on insufficient authority. The ‘oft told tale’ of the British Association  is as a rule ‘left half told.’ The visitors in 1857 were informed that a supposed early hut had been built a year or so before, but the rest of the story is always garbled or suppressed by would-be jesters, for the hut was found marked as ancient in the maps of twenty years earlier, and the scoffer was proved a liar - as often happens. This shows how little any statement made by a native should be received, especially when made to a pic-nic party of strangers. Professor Macalister was told by an old man that certain huts in the Fahan Group were modern, but the mendacious peasant was forced to confess the contrary by other natives present. I had very rarely had cause to doubt information, save on the tourist tracks, or when tourists were by; it is always easy to test local belief by finding an informant not present on the first occasion. The ‘educated classes’ in Co. Clare, if not elsewhere, are rarely found to give any particulars of value or even of trustworthiness.