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

Part VI: Knockauns Mountain: Caherbullog; Lisheeneagh; Finnavarra

Caherbullog (O.S. 5)
On revisiting the lower cathair in the valley I photographed and carefully sketched and measured its rampart, which, as I noted,[17] is in two sections. The inner section has as careful a face as the outer, and it is quite possible (here, as at Caherscrebeen) that the outer section was added to enlarge the garth. The northern section has been nearly destroyed since I first saw it in 1887. These walls of more than one section are regarded by French antiquaries as the ‘murum duplex,’ noted by Caesar, in Gaulish forts.[18] Two, and even three, sections occur in the French forts, as in Irish ones. The Co. Clare examples, besides Caherbullog, are Caheridoula, Poulgorm, Carran east cliff fort, the Cashlaun Gar (?), Caherscrebeen, Ballykinvarga (3), and the nearly demolished Cathair, beside Cahermore, in Ballyallaban. It occurs in three sections in Caherna-spungane, near Hollymount, in south Co. Mayo, where the two outer sections have only outer faces, as is generally the case.[19] 9 In the Aran Isles it is found in Dun Aengusa (3), Dun Eochla, Dun Eoghanacht, Dubh-Chathair, Dun Conor (3), and I think Dun Moher (Dun Farvagh). In Co. Kerry it occurs at least at Cahercarberybeg [20]; in Co. Limerick at Ballylin, to the south of the old crag road from Old Abbey to Lismakeery. So far I have not seen it farther south.


‘ The small rectangular fort of good masonry’ mentioned in these pages in 1901 [21] has (as I have since observed) boldly rounded corners, like Knockauns in Tullycommaun; there are no forts inside, and the north side is much injured, as a modern house lies in ruins near it. The walls are well laid slab work, and are 5 to 6 feet high to the south.

Finnavarra (O.S. 3)
Dr. George U. Macnamara has sent me a photo-graph of a very curious and problematic structure, known as ‘the Caves’ at Finnavarra. They lie in a heap of stones, perhaps an overthrown carn, in a wood, and consist of three short straight passages, opening in the face of a wall and roofed by an angular-headed arrangement of slabs ‘pitched’ against each other, two and two. This is common in windows of round towers, churches, and even late castles, but, I think, is unknown in souterrains.

I suspect this to be the ruin in Burren, described in 1780.[22] The note is so curious as to bear repetition. ‘From Burren [23] in the Co. of Clare, March 5th, 1780, on Thursday last, as Mr. Davoren was superintending some men who were digging away the foundation of an old tower, near the Abbey of St. Daragh,’[24] he discovered an opening. He cleared in seven hours a flight of 22 steps of granite [25] and found a square room of similar hewn stone, with 14 niches. In seven were skeletons,[26] set upright, in long oaken boxes; on the south side was a slab, ‘in the old Irish, or Bearla Firrna, which Dr. Dames has thus translated: ‘Cadh, the son of Aorth, the son of Osra, the son of Cucullen Tiegernan, the son of Bracklahm; Lunduh, Greanaulin, Farduragha, three brothers; Illan, Suilaulin, two sisters - all of the house of Burren. From learned Phoenicia they drew their spark of life which was extinguished, like the sun, in the Western ocean.’

With either touching guilelessness or wicked satire the writer adds: ‘No date has yet been discovered, nor any other monument of antiquity which can enlighten this subject.’ Surely this was much even for a follower of Vallancey to believe! Even the five readings of the Mount Callan Ogham may be charitably regarded as perverted ingenuity, but what can we say of this other low water mark of Irish archaeology? [27]

What the ‘Caves’ may be, unless some one built a ‘hermit’s grot’ or a ‘gazebo’ there, in the taste of the later 18th century, I cannot venture to suggest. I can only call attention to a curious enigma.