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Monday, January 27, 2014

Rathcroghan Monuments Spotlight No. 4 - The Mucklaghs: An Iron Age ceremonial procession way?

The earthen feature known as the Mucklaghs are one of the only monument types within the complex of Rathcroghan that has no evidence of settlement or habitation. For this reason the Mucklaghs are an entirely different phenomenon visible above ground at Rathcroghan. The name given to this site originates from the Irish for pig, muc, first recorded by Knox in 1914. The monument is located to the south of the complex, lying between Cashelmanannan and Oweynagat which in itself is significant. It is possible that there was very deliberate interaction between the three monuments during their period of use, suggested to be the Early medieval period by Waddell et al (2009).

Mucklaghs from the air with Caldra pool seen at the centre of the picture. (Image courtesy of G. Bracken)

The monument consists of two pairs of earthen banks. The northern pair mesures approximately 100m in length whereas the more southerly pair measure approximately 280m in total length. The banks of the northern 'Mucklagh' are substantially taller than those of the southern pair, reaching over 2m in places. The latter curiously terminates to the south in what Knox describes as a cattle drinking pond, recorded as Caldra pool. Through excavation of the pool it may be possible to extract a comparable date for the surrounding monuments which would further any information as to the Mucklagh's function. The use of the pool may well be associated with ceremony and ritual, a possibility that was also entertained for the pool associated with Rathnadarve.

Northern Mucklagh from the ground.

The presence of the Mucklaghs entertains the very plausible theory that major ceremonial activities would have focussed on this section of the complex. A potential procession suggested to begin at Cashelmanannan, continuing through the Mucklaghs to Oweynagat. Such processional earthworks which connect two monuments that share folkloric associations, centring on a sacred animal in Iron Age Irish belief practices such as the pig or wild boar, could solidify this theory further. The use of the cave as a place of warrior testing, initiation or rites of passage also ties into the wider framework of this collection of sites.  The use of the the southerly Mucklagh may be furthered in its hypothetical function as a ritual procession, baring from the spiritually significant Oweynagat cave and on to Caldra pool. It could be presumed that this earthern bank was intended for sacred purposes and perhaps votive offerings at the pool.

3D LiDAR model of the Mucklaghs (OSi & Kevin Barton) 
Medieval road evidence is fragmentary and the magnetic gradiometry surveys have shown up otherwise hidden features on the landscape around Rathcroghan Mound. However, nothing stands out on the landscape or in the imagination as much as these fabled ruttings of a magical giant wild boar. Although we are unsure of the specifics of the rituals or purpose, it is presumed that the theme at this site is centred on the spiritual. 
Replica of the Iron Age Deskford carnyx, Scotland, depicting the head of a wild boar.

Comparable evidence to this type of linear earthworks can be seen with the so-called Banqueting Hall or Tech Midchuarta on the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. Another more local example, comes from Black Pig's Dyke, however, its purpose seems to have been more practical and martial than ceremonial. In respects to this information it is clear to see how the Mucklaghs have provided a unique and prominent example on the complex of where people have potentially sought to explicitly link two monuments. Daniel Curley.

The Mucklaghs can be seen between Cashelmanannan and Oweynagat in the south-west of this map.

  • Waddell, J., Fenwick, J., & Barton, K., Rathcroghan: Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape, (Wordwell, 2009)

Marie's Delicious Irish Scones

Delicious Irish Scones


 225g/8oz Odlums Self Raising Flour Pinch Salt

25g/1oz Caster Sugar (optional)

25g/1oz Margarine

 150ml/¼ pint Milk (approx)

 For glaze Beaten egg or milk


 1. Preheat oven to 210°C/425°F/Gas 7.

 2. Lightly dust a flat baking tray with flour.

3. Sieve flour and salt into a bowl, stir in sugar, if used.

4. Rub in margarine.

 5. Add sufficient milk to make soft dough.

 6. Turn onto a floured board and knead to remove any cracks.

7. Roll out lightly to 1”/3cm in thickness. Cut into scones with a cutter dipped in flour.

 8. Place on the preheated baking tray, glaze if liked.

 9. Bake in oven for 10 -15 mins. approx. or until risen and golden brown.

 10. Cool on a wire tray


 To Make Fruit Scones: 50g/2oz of sultanas, cherries or raisins may be added to the dry ingredients before adding the liquid. To make wholemeal (brown) scones: Use 125g/4oz Odlums Coarse Wholemeal and 125g/4oz Odlums Self Raising Flour following the same method as above.

 Above quantities may be doubled if you wish

Enjoy from Brian & Marie @ Rathcroghan Cafe

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rathcroghan Monuments Spotlight No. 5 - Rathnadarve: the Madison Square Gardens of Irish myth?

Ráth na dTarbh, translating as 'the fort of the bulls' is one of the most interesting sites within the complex of Rathcroghan. The name was first recorded in 1837 by the now familiar John O'Donovan of the Ordnance Survey.

Rathnadarve, sketched by H.T. Knox in 1911, was described in the same publication as 'an ordinary rath which encloses an oval esker'. It measures about 115m, making it a rather large example of a ringfort. It is of univallate or single bank and ditch construction and can be seen clearly in the external ditch and internal bank running the entire circumference of the monument. The bank, where it is best preserved, averages 6m in width and 2.25m in height. The ditch averages 5m in width and 50cm in height, although the ditch would have been substantially deeper during its period of use.

Rathnadarve (Image courtesy of M. Casey)

In its present state, access to its interior is served by seven gaps in the bank, however, not all of these gaps would have represented an entrance. These breaks in the bank are from centuries of cattle grazing disturbing the monument. The most likely candidate for the entrance to the site is visible SSE of the monument, where the gap in question is 6m wide with some physical traces of a possible causeway evident. Immediately to the south of this 'entrance' is a small body of water, that has been tentatively suggested as a ritual pool.

The various geophysical techniques that have been used to analyse the monument have turned up some anomalies that suggest settlement. These include the presence of possible burning activities on the summit of the internal mound and a possible 8m structure in the north of the interior. Excavation would be required to gain a more accurate understanding of the features on the monument.

3D LiDAR model of Rathnadarve (OSi & Kevin Barton)

Aside from the archaeology, folkloric tradition locates Rathnadarve as the place where the Finnbennach and Donn Cúailnge, the two bulls at the centre of the great epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, met in mortal combat. This heavyweight bout took place at the very end of the story, a final battle after the men of Ireland had fought each other to a standstill. The tale describes them fighting night and day until eventually the Donn Cúailnge finally impaled his adversary on his horns, taking parts of the Finnbennach's carcass away with him as he headed back to his home at the foot of the Cooley Mountains.

Desmond Kinney's mosaic of the Táin

In fact, when standing on the banks that enclose the raised central space on Rathnadarve, it is not too far a stretch of imagination in order to see the two monstrous bulls of Irish myth engaged in a fight to the death. The possible ceremonial use of this monument, with raised interior, could be the perfect platform from which to address an Iron Age assembly. The 'ritual' pool would links this monument into the ceremonial and ritual use mentioned. It could be surmised that the pool was in fact a point of votive offering or 'sacrifice' into watery depths which is seen across the Celtic world as a means of appeasing the gods. Daniel Curley

Rathnadarve is located slightly to the west of centre in this map, with Rathcroghan Mound in sight close by.

  • Waddell, J., Fenwick, J., & Barton, K., Rathcroghan: Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape, (Wordwell, 2009)
  • Green, M. J., Exploring the World of the Druids, (Thames & Hudson, 1997, 2010), p. 109
  • Traditional Irish Boxty



    • 1 pound potatoes

    • 3/4 cups flour

    • 1 teaspoon baking soda

    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk

    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    Peel the potatoes. Take half the potatoes cut up and boil for about 10 to 15 minutes until tender. Mash and place in a bowl.

    Meanwhile take the other half of the raw potatoes and grate on the large holes of a box grater in a bowl lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the water from the potatoes into the bowl and let it sit for about 20 minutes, until the starch settles to the bottom. Pour off the water, reserving the starch.

    Add the grated potatoes to the mashed potatoes. Then add the flour, baking soda and salt. Blend in the starch liquid and the milk.

    In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high. Add the potatoes mixture one tablespoon at a time. Don't crowd the pan. Cook in batches if necessary.

    Flatten slightly with a spatula. Fry until slightly raised and browned. About 3 to 4 minutes a side.

    Serve hot. Enjoy.

    Brian & Marie @ Rathcroghan Cafe

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Rathcroghan Brown Bread

    Rathcroghan Brown Bread

    Brown flour 700g
    Porridge oats 200g
    Pinhead oats 200g
    White flour 350g 
    Eggs x 5
    Bread soda x 5 tsp
    Pinch of salt
    Sift all flours into a large bowl
    Add oats and bread soda
    Mix eggs and buttermilk and add to bowl add enough buttermilk to moisten mixture
    Place in greased bread tins in oven at 180 c
    After 10 mins reduce oven temp to 160 c and cook for 30 mins
    Check if bread is done by inserting skewer

    Remove from tins and allow to cool on wire rack 

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    Legal Tulsk

    Legal Tulsk

    Tulsk may seem a village today but it has, or had, all the prerequisites to be a town during the last four centuries. some of these are; A religious settlement (the Priory), a cross roads, a river and a bridge, a big house (now demolished), a jail or barracks, a forge, a fair green and a courthouse. The long low building next to the current petrol station was the Courthouse for most of the 19th century. Records do exist and newspapers started to print reports of trails and convictions and some have survived in archives and local session books.

    During the agrarian disturbances of the 19th century, Roscommon topped the table in the number of violent acts in the cause against paying rents and tax. There were hundreds of meetings both open and clandestine, and thousands of arrests.
    There were even murders; for instance James Brennan was shot to death by the Moonlighters because his brother had gone against the rent strike and paid his rent. Many were arrested for this crime but because no evidence could be found against them there was no prosecution.

    An arrest at Roscommon Station in 1866.

    Meetings were often dealt with by force by the RIC and after the reading of the Riot Act people had only a few minutes to disappear;

    This is part of a report on a meeting that took place at Ballybeg, Tulsk.

    Cattle-driving—Speech by Mr. J. Keaveney at 


     04 May 1908 vol 187 From Hansard (the English Parliamentary Record)

    "To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been drawn to the speech delivered on Sunday, 19th April last, at a public meeting in Tulsk, County Roscommon, by a Mr. J. Keaveney, in the course of which he recommended the people to keep up the fight wherever there was a grazier or rancher, let them make the place a small little hell for him, let the young men show fight and they would make it hot for England; whether Keaveney is a Justice of the Peace; and, if so, has the attention of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland been called to this incitement to cattle-driving; and what action, if any, the Law Officers have taken".
    (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) "My attention has been called to a newspaper report of a speech said to have been delivered by Mr. Keaveney to the effect stated in the Question. Mr. Keaveney is a. Justice of the Peace ex officio. The matter has been brought to the notice of the Lord Chancellor and is under his consideration. No other action has been taken in the case".

    This is a meeting dated June 8th 1914.

    Licensing laws have always been a huge part of Petty Sessions, the granting, the renewal, the revoking of….Here is a tale of people power. 

    This report from the petty court, from the Freeman’s Journal of January 14, 1914,  shows how easily butter became a contentious issue. The quality of the butter would determine the price and the water content was one way for a ‘country customer’ to make the butter go further. Butter was made in almost every home in rural areas. The churn would stand on the kitchen table and a morning set aside. The standardizing of the contents had been brought in over the last half of the 19th century and, as it says in the piece, even though it was recognized no attempt was made by the shopkeeper to defraud, he was still fined a substantial amount. It was around 1914 that the dairy co-operatives began and the individual sale of butter to shops started to decline.

    Most of these stories came from our fellow blogger, the 
    Compiled by B. D'Alton

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    Irish Stew

    Serves 4-6

    ·         1-1½ kg neck or shoulder of lamb
    ·         Bouquet of parsley, thyme and bay leaf (tied together with twine)
    ·         3 large onions, finely chopped
    ·         Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    ·         3-4 carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    ·         1 leek, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    ·         1 small turnip, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    ·         Some small new potatoes, peeled and quartered, or large potatoes, peeled and chopped
    ·         75-100g cabbage, shredded
    ·         Finely chopped parsley and dash of Worcester Sauce


    Remove the meat from the bone, trim off all the fat and cut into cubes. Keep the bones, place the meat in a pot, cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse the lamb. In a fresh pot put the meat, bones, bouquet of herbs, onions, seasoning, carrots, leeks and turnip and cover with water. Simmer gently for one hour. Skim off the foam as it rises. (this is very important for the final flavour and appearance of the stew.) Add the potatoes and continue cooking for 25 minutes. For the last 5 minutes add in the cabbage. When the meat and vegetables are cooked remove the bones and bouquet of herbs. Stir in the chopped parsley and a dash of Worcester sauce.

    Serve in deep bowls with homemade brown bread.

    Which we will have recipe for next week

    Brian & Marie @ Rathcroghan Café

    Rathcroghan Monuments Spotlight No. 4 - Caran Fort: An example of medieval interaction with Bronze Age burials

    Caran Fort, is recorded as Rath Carrain by John O'Donovan in 1848. The name, translated using comparable placename evidence countrywide, appears to refer to the curved nature of the eastern bank of the enclosure, if not the burial mound situated nearby. Interestingly, O'Donovan records in his 1837 Ordnance Survey Letters that 'Caran Fort... contained a cave'. 

    Caran Fort is a D-shaped enclosure with maximum external dimensions of 50m NNE/SSW and 48m WNW/ESE, with corresponding internal dimensions of 42m and 41m respectively. It is of clear ditch-and-bank construction. The banks average between 1.3m in height on the eastern side, with a width of 4m to the remaining ditch which is quite shallow containing a width of about 2m. There is no remaining evidence of the recorded cave, or souterrain, this, however, does not rule out its earlier presence.

    Satellite image of Caran Fort, with associated burial mound 
    to the north. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

    The monument, if studied in isolation, does not seem to be of great importance. However, if this sie is considered with regard to the features that exists adjacent to it, namely the Bronze Age burial mound and bullaun stone, then a theory as to the possible function of the site becomes visible. 

    As with many of the site in the complex, Caran Fort seems to have provided some sort of ritual or ceremonial function. If the monument was at some point associated with a souterrain then it provides us with a certain amount of knowledge regarding its period of use, namely the first millenium AD. The bullaun stone, in this case a specimen of coarse-grained sandstone with a single carved hollow, has folkloric significance surrounding the use of any collected water in such stones for the purpose of healing. The origins of this tradition seem to disappear into prehistory eventhough their use continues well into the Christian period. It has also been suggested that the Bronze Age burial mound to the north of Caran Fort, in its location, mirrors the position of Dáithí's Mound on the south slope of Rathcroghan Mound. If this sort of dualism was deliberate, it provides an interesting note as to the way in which later interactions with the complex may have been organised. It, therefore, could be plausible that structures were constructed with specific thought given to the complex as a whole and each monument's place within. 
    Daniel Curley

    On this edited map, Caran Fort is marked with the black dot in the extreme north of the complex

    • Waddell, J., Fenwick, J., & Barton, K., Rathcroghan: Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape, (Wordwell, 2009)
    • Hind, J. et al, 'The Rathcroghan Archaeological Complex Conservation Study' for Dept. of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, July 2007

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    Game Pie

    Want to eat like a medieval lord? With the hunting season in full swing, here is a great recipe for traditional game pie which can also be topped with mash potatoes for a real hearty warm winter meal.
    Preparation method
    1. Heat a tablespoon of the oil and brown the game in batches until well browned. Keep on one side.
    2. Heat the rest of the oil and cook the onions for five minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic, bacon and mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
    3. Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes. Season well and stir in the bay leaf, orange zest and juice, redcurrant jelly, stock and wine.
    4. Bring to the boil, add the meat and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until the meat is tender. Cool.
    5. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
    6. Put the meat mixture in a pie dish. Roll out the pastry to make a lid and attach to the dish. Decorate with the pastry trimmings and cut a steam hole in the centre. Glaze with beaten egg.
    7. Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas 4 for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and risen and the filling is piping hot.
    8. Enjoy with nice glass of red wine!!!!

    From Brian and Marie at the Rathcroghan Café