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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 2: Chapter 18: Tomfinlough Parish: Langough Townland

Site C: CAIRN? (Not marked on O.S. sheet)
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 15.4 cm South; 41.1 cm East
Height : c. 170’ O.D.
Shape : oval, with north-east by south-west axis greater than north-west by south-east one

Description of site:
During the course of my description of archaeological sites in Langough townland frequent reference has been made to the extensive reclamation which took place here since late 1978. I mentioned this, in particular, when dealing with Site A, as during such work the northern part of the site complex was levelled.

That large field between the nearby back lodge to Dromoland Castle and Langough site A was formerly extensively covered by bushes and trees, along with a considerable amount of outcrop. It is hard now (1980) to believe that such an area could be so transformed in a short two year period (1978-1980). That is what has happened.

While such reclamation was in progress a large cairn of stones was noted to the south near the field boundary wall. Though over 12 metres high its presence had never been formerly noted by the inhabitants of the area. Why? Due entirely to the depth of the vegetation covering on and around it. The cairn was completely obscured from view, even from the nearby roads. Now, with the surrounding large field cleared of all vegetation and with all the crag removed, this site looks very impressive (Photo 1).

However the cairn one sees now (1980) in the field is somewhat different to that noted originally in early 1979. During land reclamation parts of it have been damaged and altered and I now propose to describe the site as it formerly (1979) existed. Such information was told to me by the Higgins family, on whose land the site is to be found.

An examination of this cairn will now show a light covering of loose limestone blocks beneath which is soil and loose small stones. This is clear in a few areas where the stone covering is light or damaged. Originally (1979) however the actual stone covering was almost an extra 1 metre in depth but during land reclamation much of this loose stone was bulldozed off to infill nearby “pits” (more about these later). During such bulldozing also the many trees and bushes over the site were likewise cleared but for the exception of one (see photos 1 & 2).

Field work found this site to be of an oval shape with the north-east by south-west diameter greater than that for the north-west by south-east part. Present measurements are 55 metres by 42 metres. Originally it was possibly even longer and wider but the bulldozing reduced it.

One of the most interesting points about the cairn was the presence of two “pits” (fosses) at either side of it, to the south-east and north-west. The fosse to the south-east was especially impressive. It ran along the side of the cairn for some 25 – 30 metres but was 1 ½ metres back (i.e. south-east) from the actual foot of it. This feature, according to local sources, was some 12 to 15 metres wide and had a maximum depth of 3 metres at its centre. Its impressive measurements were only clearly noted when the trees and bushes, in and around it, were cleared off. Within the fosse was a large slab, some 3 metres high and 2 metres wide. It lay against the fosse side and was quite close to the actual cairn.

A second fosse existed to the north-west. This was some 10 metres from the actual cairn and was not as impressive as that one described previously. Measurements centred on 8 metres wide by 1 ½ metres deep.

No trace exists now of the above described fosses. While the land was being reclaimed it was decided to infill such “pits” as they were a danger to cattle. This was done and some of the stone infill was bulldozed down from the nearby cairn. This is the reason for the c. 1 metre loss of loose stone from on and around the cairn. During such infilling also the large stone in the south-east fosse was buried.

There is some limited folklore on this site area. One elderly local said people used to refer to a “cnoc an Aifreann” (i.e. the hill of the Mass) in the overgrown crag though such a site, the cairn, was not then visible. Another person heard it referred to as Cnoc an Pipera – i.e. Piper’s Hill.

This site is certainly of possible archaeological interest. As it is proposed that further reclamation work will be undertaken in this area it is essential that such a site be investigated now.

Langough C (Cairn): Photo towards the cairn, from Langough Forts to the south-west
Langough C (Cairn): Photo towards the cairn, from Langough Forts to the south-west

Langough C (Cairn): Distant shot of cairn. This was taken from the car park into Mooghaun Wood, to the north-west. Photo also shows reclamation in progress
Langough C (Cairn): Distant shot of cairn. This was taken from the car park into
Mooghaun Wood, to the north-west. Photo also shows reclamation in progress