Kilcrea Ring fort http://www.flickr.com/photos/itallian_chauffeur/6271480422/

There are a series of documents in the Pitt-Rivers papers at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, P1-P4. These have been transcribed or the contents noted and a copy of these notes and transcriptions is attached here. Please note that parts of P4 were difficult to read and the first part of the paper is now lost. There seems to be no record (that has been found to date) of this talk actually being delivered, or published. It is not known when exactly it was written either, but it seems clear that it must have been written during or very shortly after his period of service in Ireland (1862-1866). We are very grateful to Charlotte Diffey for allowing us to use these transcriptions and her notes on this website.

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P1 – Iron spear head, ferrule, and a piece of iron probably part of a knife. Found by Lt. Col A Lane Fox in a Fort near Kilcrea Abbey in April 1864. (3 pictures of the above objects). This Fort was circular and was cut through in the formation of the Cork and Macroom railway. These implements were found about 3 feet below the surface in a layer of ashes with particles of burnt bones and teeth of a ruminant of which all but the enamel had decayed, they were within a few feet of the outside of the crypt.

P1a – Plan and 2 sections of Kilcrea Ring Fort.

P2 – Fig 1. and 2. - Plan and section of a fort in the townland of Milane (sic. Possibly Mylane which Lane Fox was supposed to have excavated with Sir Thomas Tobin) near Ballincollig.

Fig 3 – Plan of Caves (presumably at Milane)

Fig 4 – Diagram showing position of caves in relation to the fort. Dated to May 1865.

P3 – A series of sketches showing the fortifications of Doon, below the Finger Tower at Eask near Dingle.

Fig 1. – Map of Doonmore

Fig 2. – Section of the rampart at Doonmore

Fig 3. – Plan of the Doon peninsular

Fig 4. – Section of ditches at Doon

Fig 5. – Plan showing the original arrangement of the ditches and parapets at Doon.

P4 – (Seems to start on page 21, the paper is not titled.).

Without sufficient data, that a trick of the middle ages, a cipher, based upon the Latin alphabet, should have been so widely accepted as to leave its traces upon monuments in all parts of Ireland, in Devonshire, Wales, Scotland and the Western Isles. (possibly talking about ogham inscriptions.)

p. 22 So little is known, or has been attempted, (respecting?) the Forts which are so numerous in all parts of Ireland that I venture to think a brief description of them from personal observation may not be out of place in connection with Roovesmore.

In speaking of Forts I only adopt the term in general use for them by the country people. It is not however by any means determined that they ought all of them to be regarded as fortifications, although unquestionably many of them, from their situation, must have been constructed with a view to defence. Other on the contrary are so commanded, within arrow shot from the exterior, that it is difficult to believe, even in the most primitive state of warfare, that defence could have been the principal object the builders had in view in the formation of them. I have noticed that they are almost invariably found in close proximity

p. 23 to a good spring, which circumstance alone, of other evidence were wanting, would be sufficient to prove they were inhabited.

They are found thickest, in the most fertile patches in the valleys. The barren, mountainous, tracts in the west of Cork and south of Kerry are almost devoid of them, while they abound in Dallauns and cromlechs. This is favourable to the supposition that they belonged to a pastoral and agricultural people, and the fact of a number of small querns having been found at various times in the parapets and ditches, together with numerous bones of animals, seems to confirm this opinion*

I have observed that upon the round topped hill of the Country of Cork, they are more usually found upon the shoulders, than on the summits of the hills. In such a position they could see into the valleys below, where probably their flocks on their fields were situated. Facilities for obtaining water would also

* Foot note: I have found bones of cow, horse and pig but I have never seen, nor have I heard of bones of the sheep being found.

p. 24 have influenced them in selecting this position in preference to the summits.

It has been affirmed, that they are arranged in threes, and that they are situated so as to be within sight of each other, and keep up a continuous communication throughout the country. Having been constantly on the look out for this peculiarity during three years that my occupation as Asst. Quarter Master General led me frequently to travel over the country with the ordnance maps, I not only failed to discover any especial distribution with a view to continuity of signals, but I am pretty confidently of opinion that, in the south west of Ireland, to which my observations have been chiefly confined, no such arrangement existed. Had this been the object, an infinite number of spots might be pointed out which would have been preferable to those actually chosen. The forts are so numerous, that there are very few valleys in which two or more of them are not necessarily within sight of each other, and it is quite possible that on this account, communications, by means of fires or

p. 25 otherwise, might have extended throughout a considerable distance; but as regards the selection of sites, my observations lead me to believe they were influenced chiefly by the fertility of the soil, and water supply. Very rarely, two forts may be found with their circles cutting each other, as at (Tara?). Occasionally one or more small circles are found near the ditch of a larger work, as if they have belonged, or been dependant on it, but there is no uniformity observable in the arrangement of these out posts with respect to the main fort, or of these again in relation to each other.

In so far as the South West of Ireland is concerned, they may be classified under two heads. The square, rectangular or quadrilateral: and the oval or circular. The ovals are rare, and the circles present sufficient irregularity to prove that they must have been laid out by the eye. These last may be again divided into such as have simple ditch and parapet, and those which are surrounded by two or more concentric circles of parapets with ditches between.

p. 26 Viewed solely by the light if their construction, the circular Forts have all the characteristics of being more ancient than the others. The circle is the most primitive form. All savage nations have adopted it in the construction of their dwellings. Livingstone mentions, that he found it impossible to teach the nation of South Africa to build anything square; they invariably reverted to the circle when not watched. The circular villages of the Bassutos (sic. Basutos) and Kaffirs, enclosing the space set apart for their cattle, which they regard as sacred, and in which they bury their dead; replaced by villages of rectangular form with those that have yielded to European influence. The circular entrenchments of the Shoua (possibly Shuwa) arabs, strongly defended by stakes*¹, in which they dwell with their cattle, women, and children, living in small beehive shaped houses of clay or rushes*², exactly

* Foot notes: ¹ Denham and Clapperton; travels. p. 267. (possibly ‘Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa) Irish whites have supposed that the raths were defended by stakes.² Clapperton; Journey to Kourka. p. 7.

p. 27 as the ancient Irish appear to have done. The oval entrenchments in which the Assyrians pitched their tents*, the circular Forts in the Mississippi valley: all testify to the circle or oval having been the forms invariably adopted by primitive nations in the construction of their dwellings, and their entrenchments. The circular forts in Ireland are of various sizes. Smith – History of Waterford, - says, that the larger ones in that county, termed Raths, are not usually more than 40 or 50 feet in diameter: the smallest called ‘Lis being from 10 to 15 years in diameter. In the County of Cork, they average from 120 to 150 and 200 feet. The layout I know of, in the neighbourhood of Blarney, called Lis-na-raha is 280 feet in diameter measured between the crests of the parapet. It has a ditch of 30 feet wide, by 12 deep. The Giant’s ring at Belfast is 590 feet in diameter but this, having no present trace of a ditch on the outside, and having a cromlech nearly in the centre, may very possibly be classed amongst those earthworks that were constructed for religious purposes. The same probably applies to a large work

* Foot note: Rawlinson: Ancient Monarchies Vol. II p. 72.

p. 28 near the Curragh that has its ditch on the inner side of the rampart. Rath Maeve near Tara, and Rath na Riog on Tara Hill, are quite exceptional in point of size as defensive works. The former being 720, and the latter 775 feet in diameter. Rath Maeve appears to have been the most important work in a defensive point of view, its exterior slope measuring from 30 to 40 feet on the western side. All these however are exceeded, in point of interior size, by Cashel Fort in the South of Ireland: about 3 miles N. W. of (1 illegible word). This differs from all the smaller double and treble banked raths, in having a detached inner line of entrenchment. In the smaller raths, the parapets and ditches; when these are more than one; succeed each other in close (1 word illegible) opposition, the slopes of the parapets being much a continuation of the scarps and counterscarps of the ditches. It is very rarely that, in this present (1 word illegible) condition, any trace of banquette or covered way can be seen, and the very slight command which the interior parapets have, in some cases, over those beyond, leave it almost a matter of doubt

p. 29 whether they were really intended as successive lines of defence, or constructed for some other object. Here however, the position of the inner entrenchment 60 paces in rear of the outer, confounds those with modern notions of a second, or reserve line, to which the defendants might retreat about the outer line had been taken. Neither of the Entrenchments of Cashel Fort have any very considerable relief, which circumstance, coupled with the absence of any tradition that I have heard of, respecting so extensive a work, leads me to believe it may have arisen from some temporary concentration of tribes for the purposes of defence, and may not have figured prominently in the history of the country. On the other hand, the celebrated entrenchments on Tara Hill have no greater relief than these, and the word “Cashel”, implies a fortress of some significance. It is situated on the summit of a line of hills which would form an important feature in the defence of the country in the present day, extending from Cork harbour, along the left bank of the Owenboy, and commanding the whole of the country to the South, by which an enemy, having landed on the coast; would endeavour to penetrate

p. 30 into the interior. I could only observe one small stream by which it could have been supplied with water, without descending into the valley below. There is a small cairn on the top of the hill in the centre of the work. The whole interior space is now overgrown with heather, but beneath this, there are evidently numerous collections of stones and rubbish which might serve to throw some light on the locality if the heather were cleared away. As far as I can ascertain this place does not appear to have received from Irish archaeologists, the attention which, as the largest defensive work in the country, it deserves.

The most ordinary form of circular fort is that of Roovesmore, having two parapets, with a ditch between, the inner one commanding a similar outer bank is common in the quadrilateral forts, which have never more than one ditch. There was formerly a square fort in the neighbourhood of Cashel fort; with an inner square keep in one corner; it is marked in the ordnance survey but has since been levelled. The quadrilateral forts have occasionally wet ditches, formed by converting a stream

p. 31 into them: this I have never observed in the circular forts. The faces of the square forts vary from 60 to 150 feet, which is rarely exceeded; but on average, they appear to contain nearly the same interior space as the circular ones.

Although some of the circular forts have now more than two entrances, I have more frequently observed that number than any other. They are not confined to any particular point of the compass. In this respect also Roovesmore may be regarded as a typical fort. The circular camps of the Shoua arabs called Dwera, plural of Dower, a circle, have two openings, one for the entrance, and one for the exit of these cattle.

The best specimen of a circular multi-banked fort, is Ballycatteen fort, near Ballinspittle, south-west of Kinsale, and within two miles of Courtmacsherry bay. It has four parapets; including the small outer one which is beyond the furthest ditch; and three ditches 20 to 30 feet wide. It is in a commanding position on the top of a hillock. The interior diameter is 218 feet; and the ditches and outer parapets occupy 100 feet, making 418 feet, exterior diameter. It has now 3 entrances, one to the north, one to the

p. 32 west; and a third to the south east. The inner parapet is now much destroyed but could never have had a great command over the others. Close by, is Tobereen-ri-downey (?), round this well, is a circle of 24 feet diameter, a path has been worn a foot deep in the ground by the people who (1 word illegible) around it three times on certain occasions, praying to it also in three places, within the circle, a small bush covered with (rags?) in which are deposited the ailments of the devotees, and near the bush a small heap of white quartz pebbles. Not long ago, I learnt from a country man, a neighbour attempted to remove this well but; the ever recurring old story -: he was immediately sieved by all the pains and cramps appertaining to the rags from which he never afterwards recovered, and the pious people have therefore continued their devotions to the spirit of the waters as in the good times of yore. This was the “Kings Sunday Well” my informant told me; and the king lived in the Fort above.

As a general rule the earthworks in the cultivated parts of the country have no revetment, in one instance only, north of Macroom, I found an earthen fort in

p. 33 which the interior slope of the rampart had a 6 foot revetment of stones. For the ascent, there was a ramp, also revetted, entering the rampart at right angles, and making a bend to the left in its ascent to the terreplein which was 10 feet 6 inches in width, and had a parapet on the outer side, with an exterior slope of 10 feet. Caher Dargan near Kilmacader, Dingle is the only other example of a revetted earthwork I know of. It has an interior diameter of 100 feet; the interior slope is ascended all round by three steps, diminishing in breadth towards the top, being 1 foot , one foot and 9 inches respectively, there are traces of three hut circles in the interior.

Where forts are found in the (1 word illegible) county, which is very seldom, the earthworks are replaced by circular parapets of moderate sized stones, which are found in immense numbers (slewed?) over the surface of the ground. Of these, which are known by the name of Cahir, Stague (sic. Staigue) Fort, in the County of Kerry with is cyclopean doorway and regularly built stairs on the interior, is by far the most remarkable specimen in this, or indeed any part of Ireland. I have not had an opportunity of examining it but it has been frequently described. No trace of mortar has been found in the construction

p. 34 of these cahirs, they have frequently the remains of hut circles in the interior. Several of them may be seen near Dingle.

Many of the circular forts have underground chambers, and all are believed by the country people to possess these, concealed beneath the surface. Smith, in his history of Cork says, that the entrance to these chambers is on the east-side, that they generally (turn?) spirally for two, or three, or four turns, and terminate in a square room in the centre. After examining a number of them however, I have been unable to ascertain that their entrances are more frequently on the East than any other side. It is difficult to ascertain now, without careful excavation, where the original entrance to these caves really was, as the present opening to them is frequently in places where the roof of a gallery has been opened, or has fallen in, and not by the original entrance. I have however on one to two occasions traced an entrance

p. 35 unquestionably to the ditch on the south side: others I have found to the north, and some appear to have been entered in the interior of the forts.

Not long ago, the construction of the Macroom Railway laid bare the interior of one of these forts near Kilcrea. It consisted of a winding gallery 50 feet long, running north and south; commencing at 9 feet from the ditch on the south where it was closed by a large slab. It evidently communicated originally with the ditch, the 9 feet of earth having been caused by the fall of the parapet. At the entrance, the gallery was only 2 feet square, but it increased gradually to 3.3 by 3.8 at the other end where all further trace of it was lost. The sides were built up with unknown stones, over-lapping as they ascended so as to approach each other towards the top, which was roofed with large horizontal slabs. About half way, the gallery was partly closed by a small doorway

p. 36 formed by two upright unhewn stones on either side as jambs with a lintel on the top, leaving an opening one foot ten inches in width by two feet high. In the centre of the fort; a small beehive shaped crypt was discovered. The ground plan of this chamber was an irregular square 5 feet 8 inches by 6 feet 6 inches. The stones at the sides overlapped so as to form a dome 4 feet 6 inches high closed by a flay at the top which was 1 foot 3 inches below the surface of the ground. The interstices between the stones were in some places filled with what appeared to be lime and very small stones and the floor was strewed with the same, showing that in all probability the interior of the chamber must have been lined with a concrete of this material: but it had no consistency when discovered. There were also traces of burnt lime in other parts of the fort. On the north of the chamber a small drain like opening 2 feet square and topped with a slab, communicated with another chamber of nearly the same dimensions. This, contracted on its northern side into a small gallery, which ascended towards the surface.

The most ordinary from of chamber in these parts, is an oblong, rounded at the corners, 9 feet long by 3 ½ to 4 feet high,

p. 37 the sides lined with rough stones rising perpendicularly for a foot and a half or two feet and then closing gradually to about 2 ½ feet at the top which is flagged over. The communications with other chambers are usually at the bottom, either at the end or sides of the oblong. They are flagged over and average from 1 ½ to 2 feet square, some however are so small that an ordinary sized man is unable to squeeze himself through without assistance, even by placing his shoulders diagonally across the opening. When these communications are upon the floor, it is probable that they may sometimes have been reduced to less than their original dimensions by the accumulation of rubbish, but I happened to discover one of these chambers under the south eastern parapet of a fort in the townland of Garraune between Knockencragh and Bailock rocks County Cork. The end of this chamber was 6 feet from the ditch and had one these little squeezeways outwards, evidently communicating originally with the ditch, although it was then closed up with earth. Its dimensions were on foot in height by one foot 2 inches broad and as it was not upon the floor, but at the top of the chamber, and was regularly built with stones it is evident that these were its original dimensions. There were other chambers, communicating with this one in the interior of the fort.

p. 38 I have observed that the outside entrance is frequently smaller than any of the other communications as at Roovesmore, Kilcrea fort and others*¹ - but if this was the opening by which the set of chambers had it communication with the external air they must certainly have been inhabited by a very diminutive race, as no ordinary sized man of the present day could by and probability have squeezed himself through it. When the soil is retentive, the chambers are frequently excavated in the natural earth. Of this description, a fort in the townland of Milane, Co. Cork affords a good specimen. The dimensions are given in (figs. 1, 2, 3, & 4. Pl. 4). The entrance is on the north; the tops of the chambers and the squeezeways are rounded. Altogether they resemble more the burrow of an animal than the work of man. The chambers follow on continuously and branch off in all directions undermining the interior of the fort, some of them have fallen in and are not given in the plan, others are closed with stones. It was not without some difficulty that I forced by body through one of these openings and a stouter man than myself jammed in the middle and had to be pulled back. In other places I have met with communications that I was unable to pass through*². The chambers frequently run


¹ Since writing the above, it has come to my knowledge that this peculiarity vis. the smallness of the entrances has been noticed in the subterraneous (1 word illegible) Pict’s houses and Burghs of Sutherland, Caithness the Orkney and other Scotch islands, and has been supposed to be intended for concealment. See – notice of underground chambers in Forfarshire by John Stuart esq. – Proceedings of the Antiquarians of Scotland Vol III p. 466.

² another fort in the townland of Milane was explored by Sir Thomas Tobin and myself. It consisted of a similar set of unrevetted chambers communicating with the ditch on the south. In the centre of the fort within a few inches of the surface a line of slabs placed side by side with the edges touching appeared, from the marks of fire and the bones of animals found on it, to have been a hearth.

p. 39 under the parapet. In a fort called Derrycahir on the road from Tralee to Dingle about a mile and a half beyond Adagh. I traced a line of chambers across the centre of the fort to the foot of the parapet on the south side, from which place, a small gallery ascended to another chamber 8 feet by 3 and 2’9 high placed lengthwise in the body of the parapet. The main entrance to the chambers appear to more frequently in the ditch than elsewhere.

The caves are not confined to the forts, but are also found in the fields where there are no traces of entrenchments. The natives call them pol fa talla (?) meaning thereby; as I understand; a hole into a house or hall. In the townland of Garane parish of Donamore. I happened to meet with one of these in a field which had just been broken into by the labourers in ploughing. It was of the usual shape, lined with stones, and had marks of fire all over the sides and roof. Smith in his history of Cork mentions, that in the neighbourhood of Ross Carbery, a cave was found having similar traces of fire in the interior, and he states that, in all probability, this was the effect of fires lighted by enemies at the mouth of the cave for the purpose of smoking the

p. 40 inhabitants out, and he says that the Irish M.S.S make mentions of such a practice having been adopted in Ireland in ancient times. It is quite possible that such might have been the case, as it would have been impossible for any animal to have existed with a fire in such a place, nor were there any traces of fire in the numerous other caves which I examine, which could lead to a supposition that fires were habitually lighted in them, though ashes and marks of fire are frequently found in the ground about them. At Lisnaraha; the large rath before mentioned; near Blarney, some excavations on a small scale were conducted by Dr Caulfield F. S. A. and myself, which resulted in discovering the remains of one of these human burrows which had fallen in. Upon what appeared to have been the floor were found, ashes, and numerous minute fragments of burnt bones apparently human. Burnt lime is of frequent occurrence in these forts but, with the excavation of Kilcrea, I have never found a chamber which appeared to have been plastered with lime. On one occasion, in what appeared to have been a small kiln at Coolowen, I found a

p. 41 number of small lumps of mortar in which there were quantities of small fragments of calcined oyster shells: they were mixed with bones of the horse, cow, pig, and numerous small animals, including birds. I was led by this discovery to believe that mortar may in very early times have been made in this way. Since then, I have had a description of Stague fort by Mr Bland in the Dublin Philosophical Journal of March 1825, in which he mentions an ancient building in Kerry, of very uncommon description, built with lime “made from calcised oyster shells”. Very small kilns are sometimes seen in the parapets of raths, but whether constructed during occupation, or subsequently, I have no means of ascertaining: there is no doubt that in modern times kilns have sometimes been built in the parapets of raths which is remarkable considering the dislike the people have to meddle with them in general.

Respecting the objects for which the caves were constructed, I believe that little or nothing has been arrived at with certainty. Some believe them to have been built for containing grain; the tradition of the country is favourable to this view: but they appear to be ill adapted for such a purpose. Others have supposed them to be the cells of hermits but, if so, hermits must have formed a large proportion of the population.

To those archaeologists who are wedded to

p. 42 the notion of an extraordinary advance in civilization, to which the Irish had attained in pre-“Saxon” times; these caves can hardly be expected to afford an (1 word illegible) subject of enquiry. O’Brien in his treatise on the round towers of Ireland alludes to them, but only to include them amongst, - “historical monuments of splendour departed surviving the ravages of time and decay”, - But I think that all who have sat, crouched up in these chambers, or have squeezed through their passages upon the belly, will be disposed to agree with Col Montmorency who describes them as - “those miserable caves, surpassing in dreariness everything in the imagination of man.” – It is indeed scarcely conceivable that they could have been inhabited, and quite beyond belief, that the builders of the round towers could have constructed them for any purpose whatever.

But there is much concurrent evidence in favour of the supposition that they were inhabited by a race of Troglodytes. Smith in his history of Cork goes so far as to affirm that they may be attributed to the Farbolges, “which name signifies no more

p. 43 than a creeping (?) man or one who lived in a cave,” and he quotes several authorities to prove that the Irish anciently occupied caves; amongst others, Gildas, who speaks of “the Irish, daubed with red, creeping out of their caves.” There is no evidence that I am aware of to show whether the caves are more ancient than the Forts, but when associated with them, I am disposed to think they were entered chiefly by the ditch, and that the interior of the fort may have been devoted to the cattle.

In the cahirs, in the stony country, and especially about Dingle, these caves are replaced by stone huts called cloghauns, which are both long, and circular, and communicate with each other by similar drain like passages, built with rough stones, with the sides approaching towards the top, and in all respects similar both in size, and construction, to the caves; except being above, instead of below the surface; to which they were compelled by the rocky nature of the ground. Many of them however are covered with earth on the top, showing that their mole like habits did not desert them even when driven to the surface. On one occasion only, I found a cave in conjunction with a cloghaun in the same fort. These cloghauns also are not confined

p. 44 to the forts, but like the caves may be seen in great numbers in the surrounding fields. The cloghauns appear to bear the same relationship to the caves that the cromlechs do to the sepulchral chambers in the tumuli, which resemble them so closely as to lead some archaeologists to suppose they must all have been originally covered with tumuli, that had been removed by treasure seekers or others in past times.

Unlike the caves however the entrance to the cloghauns when standing alone almost is invariably to the east but when they communicate by narrow passages with each other the entrances are made to face each other. The circular cloghauns; which are the most numerous near Dingle; vary from 6 to 8 feet in diameter. One very perfectly built one, is 16 feet in diameter. It has a small side chamber in the thickness of the wall 11 feet by 3 feet 2 inches, entered from the interior of the cloghaun by a passage 1’3 in width by 2’9 high. The top of the building has fallen in. Some of the larger cloghauns have a cyclopean doorway with jambs and lintel, the opening being narrowed at the top.

p. 45 That the caves were occasionally used as sepulchres, appears from the fact of human bones having been sometimes found in them but there is no reasons to believe that they were invariably, or even generally used for that purpose. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, like many savage races they may have lived in these dwellings*. There are no tumuli in the South West of Ireland while they are numerous in the north and east. I have never seen a cave in a quadrilateral fort, nor have I ever heard an authentic instance of one having been found.

It is very rarely that anything is found in the caves, close to the crypt at Kilcrea fort at about 4 feet below the surface in the midst of a quantity of ashes and some teeth of the cow, I found what had evidently been the iron, pointed ferrule of a lance. It had the slit at the side of the socket, which is common in the Anglo Saxon and modern African spearheads, it was very much corroded and has since broken in 3 pieces; near it was another piece of iron which may probably have been the head of the lance, but was too much corroded to be distinguished as such. At Milane fort I also found, at the mouth of a rabbit hole, the iron point of an arrow. I have also in my possession an iron axe head which is said to have been found in a rath. These weapons prove that however accidentally they may have been constructed

*Foot note: The Esquemaux whose igloos or yourts so much resemble the Irish cloghauns build one of these for their dying relatives and having closed up the door leave them there to perish. Hall, life with the Esquemaux.

p. 46 the forts must certainly have been occupied within the iron period.

One of the border of Lough-Gur, Co. Limerick, there is an earthwork which appears to connect the forms with the stone circles, which are so numerous in these parts. It consists of a circular entrenchment 145 feet in diameter, the parapet being 37 feet thick and having a slight trace of ditch on the outside. The interior slope is line with 62 upright stones, some of them of great-size, composed of conglomerate, which is not found in this neighbourhood, and must have been carried from a distance; several old thorn trees grow up between the intervals of the stones. This must in all probability have been a place devoted to religious purposes. There are several stone circles close by of the same kind of stone, but without parapets*. Without doubt some of the ordinary forts must also have been places of worship, as we find the early Christians built their chapels in them and it was their invariable custom to consecrate places of pagan worship to the uses of Christian Church. One of these is called St Michaels, north of Cork,

*Foot note: In the hills of the neighbourhood of Macroom, I took plans of 7 small stone circles, each of which had 5 stones. Five, is the prevailing number hereabouts, but it not invariable.

p. 47 and another near Blarney has a rectangular mud hovel in it, with a rough stone altar a the east end which was used as a chapel within the memory of persons now living.

p. 48 Some idea of the great quantities of these forts with this distribution and the proportionate numbers of each kind, may be gathered from the following table which is collected from the ordnance survey scale of six inches, in which nearly every vestige of antiquity in the country has been marked.


Circular or oval with simple ditch and parapet.

Circular with two or more parapets and ditches.

Square, rectangular or quadrilateral.

















Total in the four counties.




In Tipperary the forts abound in nearly the same ratio as the other counties, but

p. 49 the proportion of quadrilateral and irregular shaped forts is greater.

Taking the whole of Munster, the total number of all kind may be set down at 10,000 with very tolerable approach to accuracy, but many of them have been destroyed since the survey was taken. It will be seen that the circular, especially the single circles; very far outnumber the quadrilateral, which are confined chiefly to the central counties. It is worthy of remark that the quadrilateral forts are distributed over the same lines of country that are now traversed by the principal railways, and which must at all times have constituted the main highways of the inhabitants. They are for the most part in clusters of two of more at what appear to have been the principal stations in the districts over which they extend.

From Limerick and Cashel, in the neighbourhood of which latter place they abound; they extend to Charleville and Milford, and from thence in a belt, southwards, bounded

p. 50 By the meridian of Cork on the east and that of Milford and Clonakilty on the west. From Milford and Charleville they run S. E. to Liscarrol, Buttervant Mallow. Ballynamona, Whitechurch and Cork and from thence chiefly in a south westerly direction, in a belt, passing south of Ballincollig and north of Innishannon by Cashel Fort, to the sea near Clonakilty. There are none west of Clonakilty, none near Macroom or Millstreet, none in the neighbourhood of Youghal, and only one near Fermoy.

In the county of Waterford, there is a cluster of these near the sea at Minehead and from thence, two chains of isolated forts may be traced at from 8 to 10 miles distant, running N. W. to Mitchelstwon and Charleville, and north to Clonmel and Cashel. There are none between Dungarvan and Waterford.

Towards the direction of Kerry they

p. 51 leave the main stem in the neighbourhood of Buttervant and, avoiding always the hilly tracts, they run to (1 illegible word), Boherboy, Killarney, and from that place upwards to Tralec and Kerry head. They also run from Limerick along the south side of the Shannon to Kerry head.*¹ Between Killarney and the Shannon, northwards, the circular forts are thicker than in any part of Cork, but there are only 11 quadrilateral forts in Kerry, while Cork contain 90*². I have already attempted to show that the square forts, from their construction, the absence of caves, and other circumstances appear to be older than the round ones. Spencer writing about the year 1590 says that the square and round forts were erected by two separate races. The former were called Folke-motes, and were used as places of assembly, having been built by the Saxons, and the round forts he


¹ I found two in the peninsular of Corcaguiney stationed at the only equal intervals, on the side of the road from Tralee to Dingle which are not marked in the map.

² in proportion to the acreage the number of circular forts in Kerry exceeds that of Cork by about 300. As however there are very few forts in the hilly country south of Killarney. Whilst those in Cork are more equally distributed, the number in the upper half of Kerry must nearly double that of similar area in Cork.

p. 52 attributes to the Danes. Dr Plot in his natural history of Oxfordshire, at the close of the seventeenth century adopts this view, which is also quoted in Smith’s history of Waterford. During the plantation of Ulster in 1609, the English and Scottish settlers were directed to build upon the lands allotted to them, - Bauns – a term derived from the Irish word - badhun- signifying a fortress for cows; and these were invariably square* they were built at first of earth and subsequently of stone, developing afterwards into square forts flanked with towers which retained the same name. But the fact of Spencer having speculated upon the origin of them, proves that the use of square bauns could not have originated in his time, or within the memory of persons then living, and they must probably have been as much a mystery to them as to us. But without necessarily adopting Spencer’s opinion as to their having been constructed by either the Danes, or Saxons. The whole distribution of them in the South west of Ireland, leads to the belief that they must have belonged to

*Footnote: notes of Bauns by T Lee in a Ulster Journal of Archaeology April 1858.

p. 53 distinct races and the fact of the square forts being abundant towards the north and east, while in the south and west they are only found in belts along the principal thoroughfares, favours the hypothesis that they represent an intruding race, (1 illegible word) amongst those by whom the circular raths were constructed. The dominant races always (1 word illegible) onwards from the east would force the original inhabitants to the south and west of Ireland. Men of like habits with their predecessors (?), the intruding race would follow on the same lines and occupy the same tracts of country, building those earthworks after their own fashion as they advanced.* Leaving their forts in the counties of Cork and Limerick, and avoiding the hilly and unproductive country in the South of Kerry, the circular fort builders would concentrate in the northern half of that county, where their entrenchments are now found in unusual numbers. Followed further by the quadrilateral fort builders they would ultimately retire (1 illegible word) the peninsular of Corcaguiny where in the almost inaccessible passes about Dingle they would make a stand before being driven to the sea.

*Foot note: I happened to come upon a square fort in the neighbourhood of Knocklong the outer bank of which had just been removed by the owner. He found it composed almost entirely of the bones of animals and amongst them the top stone of a quern. The bones were so numerous that he spread them over his field as manure. Search about, I found amongst them teeth of the cow and pig. If this was “kitchen midden” of the fort, which seems probable, it shows, the inhabitants must have lived in much the same style as the circular fort builders.

p. 54 In the traditions of the country, Dingle was the last holding ground of the Danes, or of whatever race, under the name of Danes, the forts are supposed by the country people to have been erected, and the great number of there remains which still exist in very perfect condition prove that they must have crowded into this locality and continued there up to the time when Christianity was first introduced amongst them. Even at the present time the inhabitants of this region are centuries in arrears of their countrymen on the mainland. Crowded in small patches of villages that are dotted about in the valleys, they may be seen squatted on their haunches and surrounded by their animals that live with them under the same roof; in home spun clothing; speaking exclusively their own tongue, paddling about in wicker work canvas, cultivating with their ace of spade shaped shovel, the most impossible patches of the side of the hills, and essentially pagan in all the main features of their religion, these people give to their locality all the appearance of being still a stronghold of barbarism, and prove that; as it is the westernmost, so it remains to this day the most benighted spot in Europe

p. 55 But besides the evidence afforded by tradition, by its ruins, and the present condition of its inhabitants, the peculiar construction of several of the forts in this neighbourhood shows in all probability that they were erected by a people that had been driven to the last extremity, and forced to make a stand against their enemies upon the very last scrap of territory that remained to them after being driven to the coast.

I have already mentioned that throughout the southern districts of Ireland the forts are situated upon the most fertile tracts of land and were evidently located so as to facilitate the operations of agriculture. Such as practice is entirely consistent with what is found to prevail in other countries where the people lived in entrenched camps. It is natural to suppose that from the first ages when the attention of mankind was attracted to the cultivation of the soil, they began to defend their dwellings with the same material and accordingly we find that in New Zealand, in Africa, in America, wherever ancient entrenchments are found, they are invariably associated with the traces of agriculture. Many of these however show a considerable advance in the act of war and the entrenchments of

p. 56 of the Mississippi valley more especially as they are represented in the Smithsonian contributions to knowledge, afford a perfect study from the ingenuity they display in the selection of sites the conformation of their outlines to the geological features of the ground, and the defence of their gateways by means of mounts, demilunes (1 word illegible) and second lines; so curiously resembling the gateway of the Roman encampments that are found in England. But in Ireland the art of fortifications at least in the central districts was of a very inferior order, and their defences, of such as they are to be considered, must have been made entirely subservient (?) to the interests of agriculture or the herding of their cattle. You nowhere meet with the bend of a river cut off by an entrenchment, a flank applied upon an inaccessible cliff, or an entrance judiciously laid out for defence, even in the crannogs in the north of Ireland, where they were driven into the lakes, they appear to have been still wedded to the circle. Along the whole south west coast, from the Shannon to the (1 illegible word), and probably in the remaining cast that I have not had an opportunity of examining there is no example

p. 57 of a promontory or bluff headland, which has been cut off by an entrenchment marked upon the ordnance map, with the exception of Dingle. Here upon the south coast of the peninsular, the three forts, called Doon, Doonmore, and Doonbeg (represented in Pls 5-6) are, I believe, the only examples of this class of defence in Ireland and, as such merit those particular more particular description.

Doonmore to the east of Dingle consists of a single line of entrenchment across the isthmus of a peninsular, which is surrounded on its remaining sides by an inaccessible sea cliff. It is nor further remarkable for anything but the great size of its embankment, and the ditch which is upwards of 30 feet wide. Two roadways appear to have passed it along the cliffs at either flank, and it is along the cliffs at either flank, and it is nowhere commanded from without. Doon is the next of these cliff forts. It is to the west of the entrance to the Dingle harbour, upon a rocky headland with precipitous sides. Jutting out into the sea immediately below the hill on which the finer-tower is situated. Its defences consists, firstly of a straight line of wall, composed of large

p. 58 unhewn stones, built with a smooth facing to the front, across the neck of the peninsular, the flanks resting on the precipices on either side. Its present height averages about 6 feet, but it is in a very ruinous condition. Outside this are two lines of earthen parapet, and three ditches from 11 to 20 feet wide, with the traces of a third parapet to the right of the road. The entrance is in the left half of the work and a roadway runs from the entrance through the outer banks. The parapets are so arranged, that the line of parapet on one side the road way, is continued by a line of ditch on the other, and vise [sic] versa. By this arrangement, the ends of the parapets, abutting upon the roadway, alternate, and are continued to overlap, so that the roadway must originally have wound zigzag fashion round the ends of the parapets in such a manner that the opening in front was commanded, and enfiladed, by a parapet in rear. The parapets and ditches are of course much reduced and jumbled, but enough remains to show clearly the design of this very ingenious contrivance, by means of which the

p. 59 roadway must have been completely defiladed from the enemy, without the assistance of bridges of which they probably had little knowledge.* The only other example of this kind of entrance that I know of in Ireland is in a treble banked rath near Dunbar which is figured in Louthiance by T. Wright. This has two entrances in both of which the parapet of the second line is made to enfilade the entrance through the first by placing the openings in “Echelon”. The ingenuity displayed in the construction of the entrance of the fort of Doon, in the more remarkable from its very defective position at the foot of the Hill of Eask, which towers above it on the north, and completely commands the whole of the interior space, within arrow shot. The want of water also, must soon have accomplished for the besiegers anything which they may have been unable to effect by force, and the whole aspect of the locality leads one to suppose that nothing but

*Foot note: all the communications across the ditches of the Irish raths are by means of embankments.

p. 60 dire necessity would have induced the defenders to entrench themselves upon so inhospitable a spot. Doonbeg, between Vently Harbour and Dunmore head is the westernmost, and most remarkable of the cliff forts. It consists of a straight line of wall cutting off the base of a triangular headland, having precipitous dies, as in the proceeding cases. The wall is defended by two banks, and three ditches, on its exterior, with an additional bank and ditch to the left of the roadway. Unlike Doon the lines of ditch and parapet correspond on both sides of the road way, which runs straight through them from the entrance, near the middle of the wall, and was liable to be swept by the arrows of the enemy right up to the gateway. The outer banks and ditches fall back slightly from the roadway towards the flanks, giving the work on the outside, the form of very obtuse fleche, the roadway passing, so to speak,

p. 61 along the “Capital” of the work. The stone wall at the back does not partake of this fleche form but is quite straight from end to end. The first bank throws back its flanks but slightly, the second more so, and the third, which is on the left side, more still. The angle thus increasing in the outer works. The wall is 204 feet in length, and its total thickness at the base 21 feet. Its present height from 8 to 9 feet. The entrance through the wall is by a small converse cyclopean doorway on the outside, 3 feet wide at the bottom, and 2 feet 2 inches at the top, and 3 feet 6 inches high, with a slab for a lintel overhead. At about three feet from the entrance, two small drain like passages one foot square, lead on each side to chambers in the body of the wall, but I was unable to pass through these passages. At about the same distance from the inner end, two other passages lead to similar chambers right and left, one of these was open at the top, and I found its dimensions to be 11 feet by 3 and 4 feet high. On the interior

p. 62 slope of the rampart, which was in a very ruinous condition, there were traces of steps similar to those which have been already described in other works.

In the interior of the fort, there were two cloghauns communicating with each other by a 5 foot passage. The smallest of these was 9 foot 10 inches, interior length, by 2 feet 6 inches wide. The largest was 17 feet long by 5 wide. They were composed of comparatively large stones and better built than the average of cloghauns. In one of the ditches on the outside, I found a holed stone, it was a slab 4 feet in length, and at one end, a hole had been bored from both faces, the outer diameter of which was 6, and the interior 3 inches. Two similar stones are in the churchyard at Kilmacader.

But the most remarkable feature in this work was the double lining to the wall and entranceway. The optimal width of the entrance has been 7 feet 5 inches, but an inner lining of 2 feet 10 inches on the right side has reduced the present width to 4 feet 7 inches. The small passages to the chambers are continued through this lining, thereby proving, that it was an addition of the ancient builders, made while the chambers

p. 63 were still in use, and not a modern addition. The total thickness of the wall is 21 feet; the stones of the front facing are very evenly built; and are made to fit each other with the case that is always observable in cyclopean buildings, but the interior portion of the wall is composed of stones heaped up irregularly, and without order. I need hardly ay that there is no trace of mortar anywhere. But besides the outer facing, there is a second similar facing in the body of the wall 6 feet behind the fort, throughout its (1 word illegible) length. This second facing is evenly built, with the stones fitting like the first, and behind it again the stones are piled up irregularly. The second facing of the wall extends through the inner lining of the entranceway, but there is no trace of the larger opening of the entrance on the outer facing of the wall, and the lintel of the cyclopean doorway on the outer facing, is not long enough to have covered the larger openings. This proves that the entrance must have been reduced before, or at the same time, the outer facing was added to the work. I was at first led to suppose that the reduction of the gateway, might have been

p. 64 consequent on the breaking of one of the lintels, which is now sat in its broken condition resting on the inner lining. But I have since read Mr Bland’s description of Stague fort, in which he notices a very similar contrivance in this work: he says, “There was a singular contrivance to facilitate the introduction of materials to the interior of the structure, during the time of its erection. A large space was left open on one side which was evidently filled up after the rest of the work was completed. This would have been very effectual for the introduction of wheeled carriages, as it is on that side from which they could best approach it.” As the entrance at Doonbeg is the only place through which the materials for construction are likely to have been conveyed, I think it very probable, it may have been left larger at first for that object, and, when the interior was completed, it may have been reduced to its present size, and the double facing added to the front of the wall. For this double facing two (1 word illegible) may be assigned. Either the wall was found to be too thin, and a six foot addition subsequently made to it, or it may have been part of the original design, with the view of preserving the main wall

p. 65 intact, after the outer facing had been battered down. Forty five feet of the outer facing to the right of the gateway has been so battered down at some time, but the wall is still supported by its inner facing, and offers, for all purposes of defence, a perpendicular front to the enemy. I have not met with any notice of a second facing at Stague fort, but, in the drawing of that building which is given in the catalogue of the Royal Irish Academy, I find a line is shown along the centre of the top of the wall, which can represent nothing but a similar second facing to that of Doonbeg. If so, it confirms my notion that it was part of the original plan, designed to facilitate the repair of a breech that might easily be effected by the besiegers pulling out a few stones in the uncemented material of the outer facing. It displays an amount of cleverness which is quite unparalleled by anything in the way of defence that I have seen in the interior of the country, and shows that in all probability, the art of war must have began

Seems to missing p. 66.

p. 67 intended for the defence of the coast, they would have commanded the landing places. Had they been the work of a maritime people, landing on the coast, for the invasion of the country, they would have selected sheltered positions in the harbours of Ventry, Dingle, or Smerwick, close by, where they could have easy access their vessels. But they are situated on the most exposed headlands, where the waves of the Atlantic dash with full fury on the inaccessible cliffs, by which their flanks and rear are encompassed, and Doon especially, has been the scene of many a shipwreck. No hope of retreat could ever have entered into the heads of the defenders in such positions, and the fate to which they were exposed, must have been precisely that, which is described by the ancient Britons in their appeal to the Consul Aetius. “The Barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned.”

P5: Seems to be rough and neat copies of the same document. (no page numbers though)

The spot is well worth a visit from any one interested in Irish antiquities. At the distance of about 120 paces to the S. W. is another stone, 4½ feet high and about 3 in breadth facing NE and SW. It has no line upon it, both this and the proceeding of this old (1 word illegible) of the country. Within from two to three hundred yards to the eastward are three circular forts. In one of which, now (1 word illegible), there are the remains of two crypts or chambers faced with stone and beehive shaped joined by a passage which communicated with the outside of the fort on the north.

Still further to the eastward on the farm of Coolowen is another circular enclosure. Marked Shanatempleen on the ordnance survey, containing within it the traces of two quadrilateral structures and surrounded formerly by an uncemented wall parts of which have been recently disclosed by digging.

The place is held in great reverence by the people of the neighbourhood, by whom as is usual in such localities marvellous events are said to have occurred within its sacred precincts, untold treasure of gold lays buried beneath the soil, the exact position of which has been put beyond (1 word illegible) by the dreams of sundry old ladies in the neighbourhood, but who have been deterred from profiting by the revelation this made to them by a wholesome dread of the (1 word illegible, possibly Cleuricorn). Here an inscription in animal characters was discovered many years ago recording matters of import in the history of the county. The stone has unfortunately been destroyed but (1 word illegible) been wrongly from Dublin, but also from France, America (?) and other favoured places, like the magi of old, have been attracted to this spot in search of it. Finally it is said to have been a church and a graveyard, but with what truth appears doubtful. No spade had ever desecrated this ground until the other day when through the kind permission of Mr McLeviney the owner, to the (2 words illegible) of the inhabitants, and not withstanding the death of two calves which took place in the adjoining farm immediately the subject was mooted. I commenced an excavation in a cavity at the top of a small mound forming the eastern extremity of one of the rectangular buildings above mentioned. The cavity was popularly supposed to have contained holy water and also served as a pulpit for preaching.

Commencing at the bottom of the holy water basin which was covered with (1 word illegible) and fern, we removed a quantity of loose stones and earth and disclosed a pit 3 feet 9 inches in depth and from 2 to 2.5 in circumference nearly faced with stone but not cemented or built in courses towards the bottom some black earth was found which might have been burnt-turf but there were no traces of charcoal. At the bottom of the pit running in the direction of the interior of the building, a passage or “shore” as it is called by the natives 1’9 in height by 6’10 in width and flagged once by two large flat stones was found to be completely filled with the bones of animals mixed with stones and (1 word illegible)

[Transcribed by Charlotte Diffey, Excavating Pitt-Rivers project, February 2013]

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