Stone Circles in Ireland

Glebe Stone Circle, near Cong in County Mayo.

Stone circles, or stone rings (as some are not exactly circular), are perplexing archaeological monuments in the Irish countryside. They usually consist of an arrangement of free-standing-stones placed erect in the ground to form a circle with an enclosed open area.  The entrance is generally in the north-east between a pair of tall matching stones known as portals.  The smallest stone, called a recumbent stone, is normally the lowest of the perimeter and located opposite the entrance. Some sites are erected into earthen banks. Stone circles are mainly late Neolithic or Bronze Age monuments (c.3000 – 600 BC), once used for a multiplicity of purposes, including ceremonial, ritual, meeting places, trading sites, and burials. The main axis in some stone circles is orientated towards the rising or setting sun on specific days of the year like the summer and winter solstices. They are also believed to have been used for astronomical purposes, and could have had a role in the calendar of the ancient farming community.

     There are approximately 200 surviving in Ireland, with two big concentrations, South According to the late Dr Seán Ó Nualláin, the number of stones in the Munster circles Munster and mid-Ulster.  The Munster stone circles are located in County Cork, especially the Beara Peninsula, and in south Kerry. The number of stones here vary from five to nineteen,  with the circle diameter on average from 7m to 10m, but some are much larger. Some circles contain boulder burials, usually cremated burials under small capstones measuring about 2m by 1m placed on low supporting stones. The best-stone circles in Cork are those near Glandore, between Skibbereen and Clonakilty. There are concentrations in Counties Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone, with Beaghmore complex, N-W of Cookstown, and Aughlish in Derry the best known. Some circles here have more than 20 stones, with many sites containing multiple rings to add further intrigue.

         There are scattered examples of stone circles in several other counties like Grange at Lough Gur in Limerick, where one circle has 113 stones and a diameter of 45m; Newgrange, County Meath,  Kildare-Wicklow border, Louth, Carrowmore in Sligo,  and Masonbrook, near Loughrea, in Galway.

        There are twenty-four stone circles in County Mayo. An impressive collection can be seen in close proximity in Glebe, Nymphsfield and Tonaleeaun, near Cong, in the south of the county. Sometimes a stone stands outside, associated with, but not part of the circle, as at Dooncarton, near Pollatomish, in north-west Mayo.   Other stone circles are located at Gortbrack North, Letterbeg, and Knocknalower, west of Glenamoy in the north-west; at Rathfran, near Killala; at Knockfarnagh on the west coast of Lough Conn, and on Achill Island.



Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.
Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Martin Davitt: Father of the Founder of the Irish Land League

The Padden family grave in Scranton where Martin Davitt
was buried in December 1871
(His daughter, Mary, and her husband, Neil Padden,
were later buried in the same grave).

        Martin Davitt, father of Michael, the founder and chief organiser of the Irish Land League, died in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, one hundred and fifty years ago in December 1871 at the age of about fifty-seven.  Martin was born in or around 1814 probably in the townland of Straide, County Mayo. As a young person, Martin was involved in a local agrarian secret society during the 1830s.  Arising from these activities, he went to England for a period before returning to Straide to farm a small holding of land as a yearly tenant on a local estate.  Martin, who probably attended a local hedge-school in his youth, was literate, bi-lingual, and a good reader, with a big interest in Irish and American history.  He had a reputation as a good seanchaí, or storyteller, and in later years his son, Michael, remembered his narratives of the French landing in Killala Bay on 22 August 1798 to support a rebellion in Ireland, accounts of the Great Irish Famine, and other events in Irish history.  These stories were to nurture strong patriotic feelings in Michael as well as a dislike of the then landlord system.  In or around 1840, he married Catherine Kielty, from the parish of Turlough in County Mayo.   

        Four children were born to Martin and Catherine Davitt in Straide:  Mary (1841), Michael (1846), Anne (1848) and Sabina (1850).  (A fifth child was later born in England but did not survive.)  They were christened in the nearby seventeenth-century church in Straide (which was refurbished and opened in 2000 to house the Michael Davitt Museum).  The late 1840s was a difficult period in which to rear a young family.  With the frugal subsistence of most families deteriorating each year, it was a major struggle to survive.  Despite securing work on a local relief scheme and going to England as a seasonal migratory labourer for the summer of 1849, Martin Davitt was unable to pay off the arrears of rent which had accumulated during the Great Famine.  After being served with an ejectment notice in 1849,  the Davitt family were evicted, probably in October 1850, as part of the ‘great clearances.’  This involved the landlord’s agents forcing in the door of their home with a battering-ram, putting the family out on the road, and knocking the house, an unforgettable experience for any family. 

        The family went to the workhouse in Swinford, which they hated doing, but when Catherine Davitt was told that male children over three years of age had to be separated from their mothers, she promptly took her family away after one hour.

        Sharing the fate of many thousands of Irish dispossessed by the famine, the Davitt family emigrated to Haslingden, a small textile town in Lancashire, about twenty-seven kilometres north of Manchester.   They were transported to Dublin by another family from the vicinity of Straide who were going by horse and cart. They then crossed to Liverpool and stayed with some friends for a few days before making the twenty-seven kilometre journey to Haslingden by foot.  The Davitts stayed with friends in Wilkinson Street until they were able to rent a house of their own at a place called Rock Hall in Haslingden.  It was in Rock Hall that their fifth child and Michael’s only brother, James, was born in June 1853 (he died two years later). Martin’s first job was selling fruit from door to door, and he later became a labourer. 

        After Michael became involved in Fenian activities, he persuaded his parents and sisters to emigrate the United States. It was their wish to return to Ireland if they could make a living there, but acceding to Michael’s pressure they decided to cross the Atlantic.  Preceded by their daughters, Martin and Catherine Davitt sailed from Liverpool and arrived in New York on 13 April 1870, and from there went to Scranton. (They were never to see Ireland or England again, which was the experience of almost all Irish emigrants at that time.) Shortly after their departure, Michael was imprisoned for his Fenian involvement. Of all that Michael endured in prison, his most depressing experience was when he learned of his father’s death in December 1871. Martin Davitt was buried in the Padden family plot (his son-in-law’s family), number 24, section D1, at the Cathedral Cemetery, Oram Boulevard, Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.

The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.

www.mayobooks.ie also sell the print versions of Killasser – Heritage of a Mayo Parish , Anseo and Davitt.

Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.comamazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble

It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Anna Parnell Remembered

 At long last, Anna Parnell (1852-1911), one of the many forgotten people in Irish history,  was  remembered  in September 2021 with a blue flag on the Allied Irish Bank at the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin, the site of the Ladies’ Land League, which she founded.

         During 1880, it had became obvious that the arrest of the Irish Land League leaders was only a matter of time, and its founder Michael Davitt was determined that their work should be continued in their absence.  He asked the Land League executive to authorise the formation of a provisional committee of ladies to carry on the work.  The proposal was opposed vehemently by the executive, but Davitt persevered and secured a passive assent.  Prior to that, numerous women were involved with the Land League, but not in a leadership role.  On January 31, 1881, Anna Parnell (a   sister of the Land League president, Charles Stuart Parnell) presided at a meeting in 39 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin, at which the Ladies’ Land League was formally established.  It was the first political association led by Irish women.

       As general secretary, Anna Parnell spoke at the first public meeting of the Ladies’ Land League in Claremorris, County Mayo, on February 13, 1881.  She was reported in the Connaught Telegraph of  February 17  as stating that the Ladies’ Land League was not going to be a charitable organisation but a ‘relief movement’.  From its inception, it had a difficult relationship with the Land League, most of whose members had strong views on the role of women in society and deemed political activity by them  as inappropriate, views strongly reinforced by Charles Stewart Parnell, who never approved of the Ladies’ Land League.  As a result, the role of the Ladies’ Land League was never clearly defined and its champion, Michael Davitt, was imprisoned only three days after its inauguration.  The Ladies’ Land League, however, established branches around the country and raised money to support families of those evicted or imprisoned.  It became very active following the suppression of the Land League in October 1881, taking over the League’s functions and extending its relief activities, including the provision of pre-fabricated huts for evicted families and paying court expenses for tenants fighting ejectment notices.

The Ladies’ Land League built up a very efficient organisation within a few months became quite radical in its approach.  This was illustrated early in 1882 when the imprisoned Land League leaders ordered the ladies to call off the ‘no rent campaign’, but they refused, as well as taking a more aggressive stand at evictions. During the imprisonment of William O’Brien, the Ladies’ Land League published and circulated the United League newspaper.  The Ladies’ Land League was suppressed on December 16, 1881, and some members were imprisoned for their activities.

After the suppression of the Ladies’ Land League, Anna moved to England, living as a virtual recluse for the rest of her life.  She wrote The Tale of the Great Sham in 1907, which was not published until 1986, expressing her disillusionment with the outcome of the land war in placating large tenant farmers and achieving very little land distribution for those on small holdings. Anna Parnell died in a drowning accident at Ilfracombe in Devon, England, on September 20, 1911, at the age of 59.  Only seven attended her funeral there beside Holy Trinity Church; her grave remained unmarked until the Parnell Society erected a stone in her memory in 2002. Anna Parnell deserves to be remembered in Irish history for the courageous pioneering feminist and patriot that she was.

Exploring Mayo by Bernard O’Hara is now available Worldwide as an eBook for the amazon Kindle application.

The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting www.mayobooks.ie.

www.mayobooks.ie also sell the print versions of Killasser – Heritage of a Mayo Parish , Anseo and Davitt.

Bernard O’Hara’s book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or Barnes and Noble

It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press (www.tudorgatepress.com) and is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from Barnesandnoble.com (Nook tablet and eReader).

Anglo-Irish Truce

Castles in County Mayo

Michael Davitt’s mother