The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Stone Circle (Destroyed)


And so to Whiteleas. Sometimes I wonder why we do this: what is it that pulls us through muddy fields, over barbed wire fences, calls us to tread and traipse across land that's unwelcoming, ungracious, bitter. East of here are the Wicklow hills, free and unfettered, peat-covered, wild and uneasy. But down here is order; straight lines and permissions. Well excuse me to all that. There was a stone circle here once and I'm going to find out what, if anything, remains. Lorg na gcloch indeed.

I parked at Ballysize, Bealach Saghas, the road to god knows where. About face and back across the N81, up the road towards Broadleas and Ballymore Eustace, over the first field gate on the left and back into Kildare. The ground is marshy, reedy and there are two streams to ford.

This is a search for traces. The heroes of the various archaeological surveys have kept at it, pulling together a disparate range of sources, from folklore to old maps, aerial archives and fieldwork. 50 years of the Archaeological Survey of Ireland was recently celebrated with, amongst other things, a supplement in Archaeology Ireland magazine. It contains a short piece about he NMS public viewer, a highly addictive resource for the likes of us here, and I would never have been able to investigate this ruin without it.

Go to the red dot that marks the site and what does remain is a slightly raised platform and two pillar-like stones, one embedded flat into the turf, beside a gate in a large pasture field. It has probably been used as a tillage field in the past. Beyond the platform to the south-east the ground starts to slope quite rapidly down, ending in a boggy swamp over the field wall that is bordered by massive and, in their own way, ancient beech and birch trees.

Face south-east from the platform, for the views in any other direction are flat and obscure, and the eye is pulled towards the cleavage-like display of Sleivecorragh and Church Mountains. Slievecorragh is 418 metres high, Church Mountain is 544 metres high, but the illusion created from our viewing place shows them to be of equal height. Both have cairns. I've been to the top of Sleivecorragh and have seen that its cairn has been robbed out and mostly denuded, so its nipple is less prominent than its neighbour.

Broughills Hill, visible further east may well have been the mother's head, placed as it is in the landscape, but I think we can leave that speculation aside and definitively say why the circle was built here.

When Walshe visited the site in 1931 it was already in ruins. Today it's nothing but a memory, a trace, with 2 possible circle stones left (why?). What happened? I don't really know, but sometime between 1931 and 1985 the circle was destroyed. That is the deliberately neutral view. The biased view is that some ignoramus of a landowner, either maliciously or thoughtlessly rode over this place of heritage, smashed all traces of the old (I hesitate to use the word) temple and nearly erased the memory of a people that worshipped the land, the very land from which he sought to wring a few more dollars or shekels or beads. But sure who am I to judge his actions? Isn't there always hunger? But Slievecorragh remains, and so does Church Mountain, testament enough.

1.  hallmark(m1)
2.  imprint(n m1)(impression, mark)
3.  impression(m1)(of stamp, seal)
4.  print(n m1)(mark)
5.  seek(vt)
6.  scent(m1)(track)
7.  trace(n m1)
8.  trail(n m1)(tracks)
9.  track(m1)(mark, of suspect, animal)
ryaner Posted by ryaner
27th March 2014ce

Comments (2)

To normal people it probably seems a bit mad, dancing across marshy ground, shredding your clothes on barbed wire, dodging large animals etc. and all to finally stand in a field where someone's ripped out the very stones you'd come to see. But I thought your writing sums it up very well, or that it echoes with me anyway - that it's often about trying to catch something quite intangible, to sense any traces that are left. Not just poking around for any stones there might still be there, but also being there in the spot, so you feel the shape of the landscape and feel the cold, and as you say, see where your eye is drawn. I'm sure the builders would be chuffed if they could know you'd made the effort. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th March 2014ce
Thanks Rhiannon. It's funny how I felt a greater sense of place here than I would normally feel at sites that have kept more of their original structure, as if there was nothing else for the senses to do than to look externally. ryaner Posted by ryaner
29th March 2014ce
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