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Autumnal Rambles about New Quay, County Clare
NO. 4 SLIEBH RALY,
OTHERWISE BEHA MOUNTAIN

“To climb the trackess mountain -
This is not solitude - ‘tis but to hold
Converse with Nature’s charms,
and view her store unrolled.”
                                            Byron.

The botanist and the geologist have, in the neighbourhood of New-Quay, an inexhaustible field for the indulgence of their respective avocations. At every step you walk some new and interesting subject for observation presents itself. The large mountain nearest to the New-Quay is known by either of the names at the head of this article, according to the side on which it is approached. If viewed from Parkmore or the Chapel, the side next you is called Sliebh Beha (from the Irish Sliabh, a mountain, and Beacac, abounding in bees. Or it may mean the Mountain of the Birch tree from Bheithigh), that is “The Mountain of the Bees;” but the face next to Munnu, or to Curranrue, goes by the appellation, Ras-Raly (The name pronounced Ros-rely in the English langue is written by the four Masters ad an: 1357 as Ros Oirbheallaigh. O Donovan in a note on that passage anglicizes it "Rosserelly". The Rosserelly of the Four Masters he says was the river Ross near Headford, County Galway). It stands nearly east of the New-Quay, at a distance of about two miles, and is for the most part composed of mountain limestone. Some few specimens are found on the summit of the mountain, resembling basalt, formed into five-sided columns: marine petrifactions are also common on its sides. The highest point of the mountain is 722 feet over the level of the sea, as indicated by barometric observation. - The barometer on the sea-shore stood at thirty inches, in a temperature of sixty seven degrees, and on the mountain top it descended to twenty nine inches, and 24-100th parts of an inch, in a temperature of sixty-six degrees by Fahrenheit’s thermometer.

An extensive prospect presents itself to a spectator, seated on Sliebh Beha, in clear weather. Towards the north lie the town and harbour of Galway, beyond which the waters of Lough Corrib are seen sparkling in the distance. Westward of these may be seen Connemara, and the remote Twelve Pins of Galway, so well known, and useful, to Mariners. In the same direction, between the observer and the sea, is a large tract of verdant land, reclaimed by Mr. Bindon from a state of almost unprofitable and stony waste. On the right hand side, as you look towards Galway, the towns of Kinvarra, Ardrahan, and Loughrea, meet the eye; while Gort, and the venerable ruins of Kilmacduach Church and round tower, are descried in the distance, more towards the south, in which direction also the lofty but obscure Keeper mountain shews itself, itself like a huge pig’s back, rising amidst the clouds in the north-western district of the county Tipperary. In the south-westerly point of the compass may be seen Ballyvaughan and Burrin villages, as also the Castles of Gleninagh, Ballynacreggan, and Muckinish, with two or three others, beyond which, in the far off horizon, rises Callan mountain, famous for the tomb and ogham epitaph of “Conan the Turbulent and Swift-Footed.”

Deep beneath you, at the base of Sliebh Beha, are the little villages of Curranrue and Munnu. While gazing on this wide spread landscape, the mind of the spectator involuntarily turns to the unrivalled Goldsmith, and the privations and vicissitudes it was his lot to encounter. One almost here supposes himself seated beside the poet, while he was indicting those beautiful lines of the traveller: -

“E’en now where Alpine solitudes ascend,
I sit me down a pensive hour to spend;
And, placed on high above the storm’s career,
Look downward where a hundred realms appear:
Lakes, forests, cites, plains, extending wide,
The pomp of kings, the shepherds’ humbler pride.”

Notwithstanding the great elevation of Sliebh Beha, the limestone on its summit abounds in petrified seaweed, apparently of the same description with that found along this part of the coast. A curious horizontal vein, resembling Granwacke is met with about half-way up the mountain. A pretty little geranium-like herb grows in great abundance amid the rocks: it bears a handsome, but scentless flower. The naturalist likewise meets on these elevated rocks a very large description of spider, having a dark-coloured body, studded over with yellow spots: it is not unlike the tarantula, and it spins a web of such extraordinary strength, that a single strand of it has sufficed to suspend eight penny-weights, or one hundred and ninety-two grains.

It would seem as if the central portion of Sliebh Beha was, at a remote period, lifted above its circumambient base by some immense and resistless upheaving power. Chasms, produced in all appearance by some such effort of volcanic or other similar force, accordingly present themselves on different sides of the mountain. These form huge ditches in the vast extent of shattered stones, plainly indicative of the disruption of the central from the other parts of the mountain.

Immediately behind the village of Munnu, is a hole under a rock in the base of Sliebh Beha. The inhabitants of the place denominate it Temple Lieghagh, in English, the “Stone Church,” and the villagers collect therein for their domestic uses the water which trickles from the mountain’s side.

The new decayed and ruinous state of the once populous village of Munnu (still honoured by being the place of residence of the Roman Catholic Incumbent of the parish,) cannot fail to recall to memory the picture of the deserted Auburn:-

“Here, as I take my solitary rounds,
Amidst thy tangling walks and ruined grounds,
And, many a year elapsed, return to view,
Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,
Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.”

Should these observations meet the eye of the present spirited proprietor of Munnu, it is hoped they may have the effect of inducing him to expedite his projected improvements in this part of his estate, and thereby render Munnu worthy of being written of in terms similar to the rest of his Burrin property.

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