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A trip through Clare – 1869

Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (1836-1869), Vol. 10 (1866 – 1869), pp. 440-443
M. Brogan – 8th February, 1869 (abridged)

The Hills of Clare Photo: EO'D

The Hills of Clare
Photo: EO’D

When travelling through the country on official duty, I frequently meet with antiquarian remains, some of which may not have as yet been brought under the notice of the Academy. Being recently employed on inspection duty in the county of Clare, my attention was attracted by what I at first conceived to be immense cromleacs, or druidical alters; but which I concluded, on closer inspection, to be sepulchral monuments of some of those stalwart heroes of the olden times who had been “dead and turned to clay” long ere the Milesian adventurers left the sunny shores of Spain to seek and win new home in the green island of Innisfail.

The precise locality of these antiquarian remains is a little south of the public road leading from Gort to Feakle, and about midway between these two towns, in the townland of Druomandoora. The situation is very romantic, being on the northern declivity of the Clare hills, overlooking the deep valley which separates Clare from Galway and which embosoms two beautiful lakes – Lough Graney (Lake of the Sun), and Lough Cooter, with its wooded shores, and islets, and magnificent castle, whose lofty towers and battlements proudly rise over the stately woods by which they are surrounded, and fling their shadows o’er the pellucid lake, “whose tiny wavelets murmur at its base.”
They consist of two sepulchral monuments, distant about a furlong from each other, with two figures inscribed on the adjacent rocks, which in many places present tolerably smooth exposed surfaces. The monument at the greatest elevation on the slope of the hills, though not in the most perfect state of preservation, is the largest. It is called by the people of the locality “Leabadh Diarmaid” (Diarmud’s Bed), while the smaller and more perfect one is called “Leabadh Granu.” I may remark, en passant, that there is a very remarkable sepulchral monument at Coolmore, about three miles north of Ballyshannon, county of Donegal, to which local tradition has assigned the name of “Diarmud and Granu’s Bed.” The rock inscriptions are;

1st. An elaborately and artistically designed figure, somewhat resembling the caduceus of Mercury.
2nd. The impression or outline of the sole of a sandal. I suppose it to represent a sandal; as, if it were intended to represent the naked foot, there would certainly be some attempt, however, rude, to represent the formation of the toes. The foot must have been rather small, probably that of a youth or of a female, as the carving represented it as only ten inches in length, by four and a half inches at the widest part, and two and a half inches at the narrowest part..

My reasons for assuming that the two first mentioned remains are sepulchral, and not cromleacs erected for sacrificial purposes are;

1st. the name accorded to them by local tradition.
2nd. The covering slabs being placed almost horizontally, without the inclination of the covering slabs observable in structures intended for sacrificial purposes; and
3rd. The extreme roughness and irregularity of the upper surface of the covering slabs, formed of the coarse conglomerate rock of the locality. This is most observable in the smaller and more perfect monument, which is covered by a single slab, tolerably smooth on the inner side, but extremely uneven on the outer side, without the slightest mark to indicate that it was ever designed or used for any purpose but that of effectively securing the receptacle underneath. The larger one, of which I give a rude drawing, was covered by at least two large slabs, the end one of which still remains in its original position. The other has been broken into fragments, some of which have been removed; but one large one yet remains, leaning against and overtopping the supporting stones, several of which have also disappeared.

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