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Moghane Hillfort and the Great Clare Gold Find

Moghane HillfortMoghane is the most extensive hillfort in the county, with several acres of ground encompassed within its treble walls. It is located about 1.5 miles east of Newmarket and adjacent to the parklands on the Dromoland Castle estate. It commands a fine view from its highest point ( about 300 feet ) of the islands on the estuary of the Fergus which in early times was the passage to the interior of the country. [Moghane differs from some of the other similarly located forts as it is thought to have been the residence of a chieftain with a community of followers; it is believed to have been the site of a prehistoric walled village and a meeting place around 500 B.C.] The ramparts of this great fortification are 20 feet thick in places but today do not stand at a great height above the ground but are easily discernible. The outer wall is said to extend to about 4.5 thousand feet and within its confines are a number of circular enclosures; stone built ringforts similar to the type we are accustomed to meet throughout the countryside. These structures may represent the more permanent homesteads of those who come to occupy the site at a later period.

Access to this fine monument has been made easier in recent years by The Forest and Wildlife Service of the Dept. of Forestry and Fisheries who have provided parking facilities picnic tables and direction signs to the summit for intending visitors.

Moghane is now regarded as one of the most impressive prehistoric fortifications in the country and for another reason possibly the most widely known. Nearby on March of 1854 a hoard of elaborate gold ornaments were discovered by workmen engaged in building the railway line from Limerick to Ennis. Thomas J. Westropp, the noted antiquary, describes this discovery as “one of the most sensational in Irish archaeology which took place when a number of labourers digging near the railway bridge in Moghane North undermined a sort of box made of rough stones which contained a mass of gold ornament - armlets with cup-ends, thin gorgets, many circular fibulae, large bracelets with cup - shaped hollowed ends, a gold crown with ten points, a gold ring, and a splendid crescent collar of sheet gold and some ingots of gold of the purest description”. (See Costume in County Clare). A later study of these objects show that they all belong to the latter period of the Bronze Age and all appear to have been personal ornaments. Unfortunately following the excitement and the scramble resulting from such a discovery many of the objects were sold for trifling sums and many more were melted down for the value of the metal. If the Clare find had been preserved in its entirety it would have proved to be the largest collection of gold objects ever discovered in Europe. Casts were made of several objects and these have been preserved in the Royal Irish Academy.

 

Newmarket-on-Fergus: Places of Interest