A Monaghan Miscellany

The original intention with this tour was to find all the megalithic tombs in County Monaghan that I hadn’t yet seen. So I sat down one evening with all my reference books and made a list. However, as you will see, everything did not go to plan. There are about six megalithic tombs marked on the map to the south and west of Castleblaney. The first of these, which is a court tomb, is in Annagleve, about 3.5km SSW of the town.
I parked beside Anaglaive National School (H810166) which was built in 1873 and closed about 1963.It is a single-storey T-shaped building, which is now derelict. Upon enquiring at a nearby dwelling I was informed by the lady-of-the-house that she had never seen the court tomb but that if I went ‘up that lane, its somewhere in the field’. I immediately followed these directions but was unable to find the monument. I returned to the car for map and GPS and eventually located the tomb in the corner of the field. However it was so overgrown as to be almost invisible. I was able to make out only two stones which may be entrance stones or jamb stones. (H812167) The rest of the monument was hidden by bramble and gorse and buried in field boundaries on two sides. It is impossible to say how much of the original tomb still exists under all that cover. Not a good start to the day. However I can now strike it off my list of interesting places to visit in County Monaghan.
About 2km SSE of Annagleve, in Lackafin, are some megalithic remains, sheltering under a thorn bush. (H818146) One tall stone possibly1.5m high by 1m wide and 50cm thick tapering towards the top. Two other stones one about 50cm high by 30 by 30 and the other slightly lower has a flat sharped-edged top an appears to be a broken stone. There are many other small stones lying about but some of them may be modern field clearance. The monument presents a round rather than a long appearance which suggests a portal tomb rather than a court tomb or a wedge tomb. However the remains are sparse and not enough remains to classify the tomb. It has been suggested that the taller stone may be a backstone. This being so the smaller stones may be a pair of broken portal stones. If that is the case then we are dealing with the remains of a tripod dolmen. The height of the portal stones would have been greater than the backstone, adding the thickness of a capstone, we would have had a dolmen possibly up to 3m high. Quite an impressive structure! However, in its present condition, the monument is far from impressive and its main interest lies in what might have been. So far the megalithic remains had been unimpressive but I decided to persevere. However, I began to have second thoughts when I failed to locate the court tomb at Lagan, about 2km WNW of Lackafin. My lack of success is partly due to differences between the mark on the Ordnance Survey Map, the reference given in The Archaeological Survey of County Monaghan and the reference given in the list of megalithic tombs in Ireland. I may return to that site at a later date and try again. By this time the enthusiasm for the hunt had almost disappeared. To cheer myself up I decided to revisit the court tomb at Drumguillew Lower and obtain some fresh photographs. My luck was still out. It is not the proper thing to disturb resting farm animals just to get more photos. By this time hunger began to enter the equation. I headed for Rockcorry, which is about 12.5km WNW of Drumguillew Lower, for a picnic lunch. Rockcorry is a small mill and market town. The market house stands at the main road junction near the centre of the town. It was built in 1805 by Thomas C Stewart Corry. It is a two-storey building with a pedimented front and may originally have had open single-bay arcades on three sides. It was used for many years by Campbells who appear to have been general merchants. At present the building to not appear to be occupied although Campbells would seem to have some premises at the rear.
Elsewhere in the town there are some remains of the mill including a chimney. There are also some old farm implements on display. About 3km WNW of Rockcorry, in Edergole , is a small graveyard. (H615197) It contains both ancient and modern gravestones. Among them are some fine 18th century stones. Four of these are of a design found in many old graveyards in Monaghan and along the Erne Valley. The upper portion of the stone is round with small projections at the sides and the top. This gives it the appearance of a small ring-headed cross with stumpy arms. One side is carved a skull-and-crossbones, surrounded by the symbols of mortality, such as the bell, hour-glass and coffin. On the other face of the stone is the inscription.
Two of these stones have a very clear raised-letter inscription. One of the stones is to P McMahon died May 24 1726 aged 64 and the other is to Mary Reilly died December 20 1724 aged 19 years. Another stone has the skull-and-crossbones but it is rectangular. Two other stones to members of the McCarney Family have no decoration apart from a clear inscription. They date to the later 18th century. About 200m W of the graveyard are the extensive remains of a court tomb. A gallery about 8m long is incorporated into a field boundary. Although none of the court stones have survived there is a good entrance surmounted by a large lintel. The interior of the gallery is filled with rubble which may mask some of the details. Some of the side stones on the S edge of the gallery are missing or may be hidden by the field boundary. About 13km NW of Edergole is Clones where St Tigernach founded a monastery. He succeeded St McCartan as Bishop of Clogher in 506 and he moved his see to Clones where his monastery may have already been built. The next three bishops seem to have resided at Clones but the fourth, St Ultan, was buried at Clogher in 563.St Tigernach died in 550. The monastery was destroyed at least twice before 1100.In the 12th century it became the Abbey of SS Peter and Paul under the Augustinian Canons.
The main remnants of an early foundation are a Round Tower and a High Cross. The Round Tower stands near one edge of an old graveyard. It is almost intact and stands about 23m high. The top is damaged but the four top windows are almost complete. The window lintels at S and W are missing. There are three other small windows. The lintelled doorway is about 1.6m above present ground level and is about 1.6m high. Close to the Round Tower is a church-shaped tomb. It is said to mark the grave of the saint and is known as St Tigernach’s Shrine. It is modelled on an early Irish church complete with crossed finials. It was originally carved from one stone but is now broken in two. On one gable is a greatly weathered carving of a figure with outstretched arms. In the graveyard there are many 18th gravestones including some skull-and-crossbones stones similar to those seen earlier at Edergole. However the inscriptions on these stones are greatly inferior to those seen at Edergole. A short distance from this graveyard is another smaller graveyard which also has some skull-and-crossbones stones. In the middle of this graveyard is the nave of a small nave-and-chancel. It probably dates from the 12th century when the Augustinian Abbey was first established. It has a small round-headed window and a chancel arch, from which all decorated stone has been removed. One the outside of the wall is a small relief carving of a high cross.
In the Diamond at the centre of the town is Clones High Cross. It is a composite of two sandstone crosses, the head is much too small for the shaft. It is richly carved with biblical scenes. These include, on the S face, the Fall of Man, Sacrifice of Isaac, and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. The scenes on the N face include the Wedding at Cana, and the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. The cross is probably of a similar 9th or 10th date to the Round Tower. About 8.5km ENE of Clones, at Templetate, are some remains of the Ulster Canal. The idea of linking Lough Erne with Lough Neagh was first mentioned in 1814, but the Ulster Canal was not completed until 1841. By this time the railways were beginning to be built all over Ireland and the canal could not be considered to be a commercial success. The last commercial boat went through in1929 and the canal was abandoned in 1931. Much of the route of the canal has now disappeared under various roads and buildings but some of the locks and lock-keeper’s houses can still be seen. There is a very good example at Templetate. (H578297)
It is a single-storey T-shaped building with a five-sided projection facing the canal. It is in surprisingly good condition considering the length of time it has been derelict. It has an interesting octagonal chimney-stack but there is some damage to the roof. Although most of the canal has been filled in at the location some of the stonework of the lock can be seen about 100m distant from the house. There is a canal bridge a short distance in the opposite direction but it is packed underneath with rubble. A short distance NE of the bridge is Magherarny National School which was built in 1820. It closed in the 1960s. It is a fine single-storey T-shaped building in good condition. Its main claim to fame in the modern world lies in the fact that it was in this building that the former World Boxing Champion, Barry McGuigan, trained when he was a member of Smithborough Boxing Club. About 9km NNE of Monaghan and 1km SW of Glaslough is Donagh Graveyard. (H704409)
The most notable structure is a small ring-headed cross. It stands on a modern base and is less than 1.5m high. On one side is a simple Crucifixion with the arms of Christ being unusually long. The ring is unpierced and is decorated with a dog-tooth design in relief. The reverse face is plain. Elsewhere in the graveyard are two pyramidal cross bases. The church ruin is unremarkable. There are many interesting gravestones. The oldest is a large slab laid horizontally on four pillars. It is a memorial to Phelemy Makkenna who died April 15 1666. The inscription is in raised lettering and covers about half the surface of the stone which is rectangular with a raised edge. The other type of memorial, of which there are several example, is rectangular with a curvilinear top. On one face is a coat-of-arms with a tree flanked by figures below it. On the other face is an inscription with a larger tree flanked by figures below it. This carving may represent The Fall of Man. The smaller tree may be a pre-fall representation of Eden. It is thought by many scholars that these coats-of-arms may not be the genuine article. They may have been supplied by the stone carver to people with pretensions to greatness. Along the narrow edges and sometimes over the top of some of these stones are carvings of figures in long pleated robes. These may serve the same function as the weepers on the great effigy tombs of the 15th century. More pretensions to greatness perhaps! Similar stones to these are found elsewhere in Co Monaghan as well as in Clonfeacle and Clogher, Co Tyrone. The village of Glaslough sits at the edge of the Castle Leslie Estate. Castle Leslie was built in 1870 but incorporates part of an earlier house. In 1800 Colonel Charles Powell Leslie succeeded to the estate and by the time that the house was rebuilt he and his sons built a series of gate lodges of varying designs. Four of these can be seen within a short distance of the village. The earliest is the Gothick Entrance which was designed by John Nash in 1812. About 2.5km S of the village is New Mills Bridge. (H718388)
The mill is a three-storey five-bay structure with an added, slightly lower, three-storey four-bay section. There are several lower additions at the rear of the building. Although the building was locked on this occasion part of the internal water-wheel is visible. From a previous visit (1985) it is known that this wheel is about 4m diameter. It is also known that there were two sets of millstones and that there was a drying-kiln at the rear of the building. On this visit it could be seen that one of the smaller extensions houses what appears to be a boiler of some kind. This may be associated with the drying-kiln or possibly a subsidiary steam engine. The millrace can be seen stretching for some distance from the rear of the mill but it was not followed as far as the mill dam. There will be more exploration in the future.