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

Part VI: Cahermakerrila Group: The Forts; Cahermakerrila; House Ring

The Forts
In the field next to the road we first note a low mossy ring of filling, a house site, 27 feet inside. The foundations are 10 to 12 feet thick. It lies 30 feet from the south wall of the field. North from it on a flat low knoll are parallel rows of slabs, three about 4 feet square, lying north and south. I cannot suggest their purpose. About 70 feet eastward from the house ring is a second one, 386 feet westward from the great cathair. It has a wall of large oblong blocks, now rarely a yard high, 3 feet thick and 24 feet across inside. At the north-east part of its garth is a well built sunken and circular cell, of similar stones, and 6 feet inside, with a door to the west, the jambs 2 feet thick; thence runs a curved passage, 12 feet long and 3 to 4 feet wide, running under the outer wall at its north point. The souterrain was probably enclosed in a wooden or clay house with a stone fence or even basement.[23]

Cahermakerrila is a ring wall of very fine regular masonry, the lower part of large blocks, the upper of regular thin slabs, laid as headers and closely fitted.[24] It is nearly circular, 96 feet across the garth, 115 feet over all. The frequent occurrence of small masonry in the upper part of the ring walls explains how it is that we so often find well preserved stone forts, with even tops, 5 to 6 feet high, the garth level with the summit, and no debris; the small upper stones were easily removed for other purposes. The base courses here are 2 feet 8 inches to 3 feet thick, the 10 or 11 upper ones usually from 4 to 8 inches thick; the batter is very well laid, usually 1 in 7, but at the north-east part, where the wall is 11 feet high, it falls into the slight, characteristic S-curve owing to settlement. In the north-east section of the garth are two early hut enclosures, one circular the other slightly oval. The gateway faces the south-south-east and is 4 feet 8 inches (or if a loose slab be its jamb, 4 feet) wide. A long slab (too short to be a main lintel, but perhaps a relieving block) is 4 feet 7 inches long by 17 inches by 7 inches, and lies against the jamb.

Cahermakerrila, North-East
Cahermakerrila, North-East

An old oblong house abuts against the south-east section, two later ruined cabins to the south-west, and a little stone-roofed cell for goats or sheep to the east. On this side, wherever a facing block is removed, we can see that the inner filling is full of bleached and crumbled bones of animals; but whether these were built into the wall originally or slipped there in late times I cannot decide; I never saw bones elsewhere in the substance of a rampart. A featureless bawn lies near St. Colman’s Well; this well is not in any fort.

Cahermakerrila, at West Face
Cahermakerrila, at West Face

House Ring
About a quarter of a mile to the east of the cathair is a little house ring, about 60 feet over all, and, as usual, reduced to about 3 feet high. The wall is rarely over 6 feet thick, of large blocks, with no filling. It may have been a bawn for protection against wolves, for ‘the grey beast’ was common in these wilds, and its name appears at Knockaunvicteera [25] (contrasted with Knockaunawaddera, or ‘dog’s ridge’) near Lisdoonvarna, and at many other places, called ‘Breffy’ (Bregh magh).[26]