Sunday, 17 March 2019
We came across this interesting oddity on a recent ruin hunt. Donnelly's Hollow derives it's name from a man called Dan Donnelly (1788-1820). The original name of this hollow was Belcher's Hollow but it was renamed in honour of Dan and his exploits here.
The Hollow like many in this beautiful area of The Curragh in Co Kildare forms an almost natural amphitheatre and was the perfect spot for an event in 1815.
Dan Donnelly had a reputation as a hard drinker and well able to hold his own in a brawl. A bout in a coffee shop brought him to the attention of Captain Kelly a local horse trainer who saw potential in Donnelly and so set him up training in Kilcullen as a boxer. His first recorded fight was against a prominent boxer Tom Hall in September of 1814 and it ended after 20 minutes in controversy and was eventually deemed a draw. His second fight is his most famous and took place in Belcher's Hollow with 20,000 spectators coming far and wide to see him beat English boxer George Cooper. Donnelly's triumph was seen at the time to be a torch for nationalism and made him famous. His fame however over the following few years saw him being the target of fraudsters and he eventually died penniless in 1820. His body was buried in Bully's Acre in Kilmainham, Dublin with an attending crowd of 70,000.
The story takes a weird turn when his body was stolen by graverobbers and ended up in the hands of an eminent surgeon named.Hall, who wanted to study the muscle structure of this famous pugilist.The surgeon removed the right arm and had Donnelly's body reburied. He took the arm to Scotland where it remained for several years until it was purchased by a carnival and displayed in a "Peep show".
The arm found its way back to Ireland and was eventually procured by a sportsman called Tom Donnelly who donated it to "The Hideout" pub in Kilcullen where it was macarbrely displayed in a glass case for many years. It drew a lot of custom to the pub but when the pub was sold in 1997 the arm was removed by the former owners Des and Josephine Byrne to protect it and it is now in the private ownership of Mrs Byrne. The current owners of the pub are still seeking to have it put back on display but nothing has come of it yet.
The monument that now stands on the spot of the Donnelly-Cooper fight states he was born in 1770 but this appears to be incorrect as most records state his year of birth as 1788.
Standing on the roadside and looking down into the hollow you can really sense how perfect a theatre this was for the event. We visited on a day in march that certainly had many weathers. Shortly after we left we were caught up in a hailstorm of biblical proportions which could have been most unpleasant if we had still been down in the Hollow. You can spot the incoming cloud in some of the photos.
Leading uphill from the monument are a series of approx 45 indentations in the ground which look like footprints. Legend has it that ardent followers of Donnelly dug out the footprints left by Donnelly as he strode victoriously upwards after the bout. They are still here today and it is custom to follow them up although some can be difficult at times. Donnelly was a giant of a man and these are also a testament to him. We moved on to our ruin hunting and after the storm we regained sunny weather thankfully but I'm glad we took time to visit here.
To find Donnelly's Hollow take the M7 motorway and exit at junction 12 onto the R413 for Athgarvan. Drive for approx 600m and you will pass through Lumville Cross. 500m later you pass through a smaller crossroads with the L7043. Approx 150m onwards look for the signpost on your right for Donnelly's Hollow. There is a small parking area here on the right hand side.
Thursday, 28 February 2019
actually a spiral staircase
to be a some sort of stocks.
Balrothery was basically founded when the Norman Robert de Rosel was granted the lands there and built the town. Balrothery translated means "Town of the Knights". The two towers that are extant here were thought to have been built circa 1500 but there is a print from 1890 by the artist J. S. Fleming which depicts both towers and dates them at 1343. Where the artist got this information is unsure. However the larger tower although partly ruinous is in very good shape and a church was added to it in the 19th century but is now out of use.The smaller tower is blocked up and overgrown with bushes and trees on private ground and is inaccessible.
When we first arrived we were impressed how imposing the tower looked sitting atop the hill and couldn't wait to get a closer view.
The churchyard is easily accessible and the tower really does dominate the site. What appeared to be a round tower on the North West corner I believe is not the case. It is in fact a turret with an internal spiral staircase and it tapers in size as it nears the top.
The tower is a three storey structure and has windows on all four walls on the top storey and a bell cote was added for church purposes on the East side.
There are a few oddities alongside the church wall such as a the top section of a font and what looks to be a set of stocks. What significance the stocks have here I have no idea.
Adjacent to the big tower a smaller tower lies hidden by trees and bushes on private land. We tried to get as close as we could up the laneway beside the churchyard but it is so overgrown in there. This tower although supposedly a four storey structure is not as tall as it's neighbour and is now blocked up. A pity.
To find the towers take the M1 heading north and exit at junction 5 for the R132. At the top of the ramp turn right on the roundabout and cross over the M1 Go straight through the roundabout on the other side and drive about 200m until you reach yet another roundabout. Follow the signs for the R132 to Balbriggan. Drive for approx 3.5KM until you enter Balrothery. You will spot the tower on the hill on your right. A little further on is a turn into the Balrothery Inn. You can park in the car park here and walk across to the tower.
P.S. I have updated the post on Kindlestown Castle Co Wicklow as we made another visit recently. You can find the post here. We also paid a second visit to Old Killadreenan Church. You can find the update here.
Thursday, 7 February 2019
This is probably one of the oldest ruins I've visited. This small parish church is dedicated to St. Manchan who founded a monastery here in 645AD. Nothing remains of the original monastery buildings but the church itself was constructed later between the 10th and 12th centuries.
The ruins are not particularly spectacular but there are a few interesting features to be seen here including a Romanesque window in the West wall and some grave slabs dating between the 8th and 10th centuries. An adjacent set of foundations are thought to be that of a priest's house dating back possibly to the 15th century.
People have visited this site for centuries mostly to visit the holy well which lies a short distance behind the graveyard. The well and a holy tree have brought many here to help with problems in their lives. It is said that if you circle the well three times and deposit a small token in the window of the church your prayers will be answered,
Probably the most interesting feature here for me is the remains of the ancient togher which is basically a stone lined pathway and you can walk along this to reach the well and further on the remains of a small oratory called St Mella's cell. St Mella was actually St Manchan's mother.
We spent a good while at these ruins taking in all the features and even found a couple of Bullaun stones, one at the well entrance and another at the road junction outside.
The ruins are little off the main roads but if in the area I would really recommend a visit.
To find the ruins and holy well take the junction 6 exit from the M6 for the R420 to Clara. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you have passed the Tubber GAA grounds on you right hand side. Take the next right hand turn onto the L2018 for Ballycumber. Follow this narrow road for approx 5KM until you reach a crossroads.Turn left here onto Station Road and then a short distance later turn right at the corner pub onto Strawberry Lane. About 1KM along there is a left hand turn onto the R436. Turn onto this road and drive for approx 4KM and you will see a sign for the L3002 for Pollagh. The ruins are on the corner of this junction on your left. Parking at the graveyard entrance is a bit tight so we left the car across the road on the R436.
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
This ancient passage tomb is part of the Boyne Valley network and heritage site which includes both Newgrange and nearby Knowth. While these two tombs are part of an organised tour, Dowth remains out on it's own, but public access to the site is permitted.
The tomb dates sometime between 2000BC to 2500BC and was only partly excavated in 1847 when dynamite was used and caused much damage to the original roof. This has been repaired with more modern concrete. While the interior is not open to be explored the site itself is a very atmospheric and interesting place to visit and walk around.
We found access from the road easily by way of a stile and a pathway. It is quite peaceful here and it's out of the way location ensures that you may only meet a handful of tourists at any given time. The mound itself is magnificent and can be climbed. Although the interior is locked you can get a good view in at the main passage entrance and truthfully I think you would have to enter crawling on hands and knees.The entrance stone appears to be some sort of super-bullaun as it is covered in cup marks. There are also some faint designs on it one being a spiral.Adjacent appears to be the remains of a holy well and a short walk will take you to nearby Dowth abbey ruins (see earlier post here)
As recently as July 2018 another tomb has been uncovered in the Dowth area and also the severe drought during that summer uncovered two henges near Newgrange that would not normally have been apparent. An exciting time for archaeologists then!
To find Dowth take the M1 heading North and at junction 10 just after the Boyne bridge take the exit for the N51 to Navan. Drive approx 1.8KM until you pass the gates of Townley Hall on your right. Take the next left hand turn onto the L1607. Drive down this road for about 1.8KM until you have passed two sharp bends to the right. Continue on for another 1.3KM and you will see the entrance stile on your left. There is room for a couple of cars to park here.