Friday, 29 March 2013

Killelan Abbey


This was one of those sites that you just happen to come across by pure chance. On a recent trip down near Moone I was in the process of getting lost yet again,down some narrow country road thanks to my trusty Sat Nav. Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something of interest. So I turned around and was able to park the car on the verge just outside the boundary wall gate.



The ruins known as Killelan Abbey consist of a church and graveyard. With little information available for this site, I really had to do some digging on this one. It would seem that the site at Killelan is the remains of a 13th century settlement connected to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, whom were better known as the Crusader Knights Hospitaller. Unfortunately this is pretty much all that is known. Access to the ruin is via a gap in the wall and there are no paths within the enclosure save for a beaten track. The ground within the enclosure is significantly higher than outside with the surface quite uneven and overgrown in parts, so care is needed if exploring.



Similar to the site at Oughterard the main square part of the church has a barrel vaulted ceiling with what seems to have been some sort of Round/circular Tower attached to the North-West, this was believed to have been added at a later date, perhaps 14th century. Also visible are small sections of what was once the foundations to part of the nave.



After studying the circular part of the tower for a while to figure a way in, I found a small crawl-space which lead to a spiral stair case. As luck would have it I was not properly attired for the occasion and had to miss out on ascending the tower.



 Most of the grave stones that are still readable date from 18th – 19th century, with many more that appear to be much older. With so little available information available we can on speculate as to the surrounding history of such a location but I guess it would be a safe bet to assume that Killelan would have come to an abrupt end either during the Suppression of the monastery’s by Henry VIII in 1534 or if it indeed survived the ‘Act of Suppression’, Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland (1649–1653) would have surely finished the job.


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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Boherboy Stone Pair



The main purpose of my recent trip to Saggart was to visit this wonderful pair of megalithic standing stones. I had previously visited these many years ago with a friend and seem to recall that they were under threat at the time due to plans for a new road being built. So it was great to see the old couple still standing. Located in the town land of Boherboy just outside Saggart the stones seem to have been christened over the years and are known locally as the Adam & Eve stones. Obviously in reference to the fact that the stones are a male & female pair. Guess which is which???


 The female stone which is  the larger of the two is  about 1.3 meters high with the pointed male stone slightly smaller at approx  1.2 meters high. There is a really nice energy to be found here and the local farmer keeps the area well maintained.


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Friday, 22 March 2013

JOHN DEVOY MEMORIAL


Now for something a little different. Whilst this is not quite a ruin, it is a monument with some great history attached. On the new road which runs between the small villages of Kill and Johnstown there stands a memorial to one of Ireland’s almost forgotten heroes. The memorial, which was erected in the 1960s, commemorates John Devoy (1842 - 1928) and, until its recent re-location to accommodate road widening, marked the site of the cottage where Devoy was born.


 After joining the Fenian Brotherhood as a young man, Devoy was jailed in England for five years and released on condition that he would not return to the United Kingdom. He went to America where he worked as a journalist and rose to head the Clan na Gael organisation which provided funding and material support for the cause of Irish independence. He was largely responsible for the daring rescue of Fenian prisoners in Australia in 1876 using a whaling ship ‘The Catalpa’ and for financing initiatives such as ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, St Enda’s school and, later, the Irish Volunteer organisation. 


Described by Pádraig Pearse, the leader of the 1916 Rebellion, as “The greatest of the Fenians” He later supported the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and the formative Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War, and was an honoured guest of the new state in 1924. Devoy was editor of the Gaelic American from 1903 until his death in New York City on September 29, 1928. His body was returned to Ireland and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.


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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Johnstown Medieval Church


I found this old graveyard by pure chance having passed by it many times over the years. Situated at the north end of the small Kildare village of Johnstown. It contains the ruins of a medieval nave and chancel which was built by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. Presumably where the village took its name from as the Hospitallers were a medieval order of knights who held lands in the surrounding area until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s.





There were many members of  local landlords and aristocracy which were buried in the graveyard, most notably those of the Bourkes, who were Lords of Naas and Earls of Mayo. Perhaps the most famous of these was Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo (1822-1872) who was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland three times in the 19th century. HE was also appointed as Viceroy of India in 1868, were he came to an untimely end after being stabbed to death. He then became known as 'The Pickled Earl', locally after his body was reputedly shipped back to Ireland in a barrel of rum (for preservative purposes). He is believed to be buried under the wonderfully ornate Celtic cross in the centre of the graveyard.





A large plot can be seen tucked away in a corner near the entrance to the graveyard which is the family plot of the Bourke clan. Today it is marked by a simple plain stone cross. Inset into the wall is a 15th century grave slab with coats of arms of the Flatsbury and Wogan families.This has been taken to be the grave slab of James Flatsbury who married Eleanor Wogan in 1436. In 1503 Phillip Flatsbury compiled the ‘Red Book of the Earls of Kildare’ for Garret ‘Og’ Fitzgerald, the 9th Earl of Kildare.The book, which contains lists of documents relating to the Fitzgerald estates (including grants and title deeds) went missing after the Rebellion of ‘Silken Thomas’ the 10th Earl, but is today in the possession of Trinity College Dublin.




Bourke family plot.
Flatsbury and Wogan grave slab





Also worthy of a mention are the octagonal base of a medieval baptismal font which lies in the confines of the chancel and is in reasonable condition for its age, and a fine example of a lancet window which remains suprisingly intact in comparison to the remainder of the structure.

Medieval Baptisim Font
Lancet Window




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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Johnstown Standing Stone



Aside from Castles, my favorite sites to explore are the many standing stones to be found scattered around the country. Marking the land like the needles of an acupuncturist, in fact I was once told that they were used by our ancestors as such to harness or balance the natural energy of the land similar to how acupuncture works. Whatever use these stones had, they remain to this day quite fascinating.  Easily found, just outside the small Kildare town of Johnstown, the Standing Stone at Johnstown also known as the ‘Maudlins Holed Stone lies in the middle of a field. What really stands out about this stone is the angled cylindrical hole at the top. It has been said that during the summer solstice (20-22 June) the setting sun shines directly through the hole which backs up the common belief that these stones would have been used by the ancient inhabitants of Ireland as astronomical tools. This granite stone measures 1.46 m in height which tapers at the top. The stone was at some stage embedded in a concrete base, so may not lie in its original alignment.  Hopefully I can get back here for summer solstice to observe the sun set and see if the stone is still aligned correctly.



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Monday, 11 March 2013

Moone High Cross



I eventually had the chance to head down to Moone for a wander,  where the famous 7th century High cross stands within the ruins of an old medieval abbey of the same name. The name Moone is said to come from the old Irish "Maen Colmcille" which means "Colmcille's property". The area of Moone is believed to have originated from a monastery which was founded by a St. Palladius, who came to Ireland in 431, and which was later dedicated to St. Columcille. There are actually two crosses to be found here, although only fragments of the second one can be seen which would have been known as a holed cross. The Moone High Cross is also known as the second tallest high cross in Ireland. A make shift roof has been erected to cover the main ruins it seems to protect the site from further weather erosion and when I was here there were a number of construction workers on site whom seemed to be carrying out some restoration work on parts of the wall.




The cross itself, stands at over 17 feet in height which includes the stepped base. It is commonly believed to date from the eighth century. Irish high crosses were not intended to mark out places of burial, but were constructed to act as embellishments or boundaries for monasteries





The shape of the high cross is quite unique, and consists of three parts, the upper part and the stepped base were discovered in the graveyard of the abbey in 1835 and re-erected as a complete cross, but in 1893 the middle section of the shaft was discovered and the cross was finally reconstructed to its original size 60 years after the initial find. This high cross is well worth seeking out for its height and well preserved carving.





 A section of another highly ornamented cross was found and both crosses were moved to the interior of the church ruin in 1995 and some conservation work was done on the large cross. The large cross is believed to have been carved between 900 and 1000 AD. These crosses are part of an impressive monument at Moone and one of the best preserved of its kind in Ireland.





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