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


Standing Stones


In several parts of the country the gallaun is still considered by many of the people to be something weird, and, 'to be let alone'. The late E A Conwell, in his work on the supposed tomb of Ollamh Fodhla, points out that, about two miles north-west of Oldcastle, there is a townland called Fearan-na-gcloch (from fearan, land, and cloch, a stone), so called from two remarkable stone flags, still to be seen standing in it, popularly called Clocha labartha, the 'Speaking stones': and the green pasture-field in which they are situated is called Pairc-na-gclochalabartha, the 'Field of the speaking stones'.

'There can be little doubt, ' he proceeds, 'the pagan rites of incantation and divination had been practised at these stones, as their name, so curiously handed down to us, imports; for, in the traditions of the neighbourhood, it is even yet current that they have been consulted in cases where either man or beast was supposed to have been "overlooked"; that they were infallibly effective in curing the consequences of the "evil eye"; and that they were deemed to be unerring in naming the individual through whom these evil consequences came.

'Even up to a period not very remote, when anything happened to be lost or stolen, these stones were invariably consulted; and in cases where cattle, &c., had strayed away, the directions they gave for finding them were considered as certain to lead to the desired result. There was one peremptory inhibition, however, to be scrupulously observed in consulting these stones, viz. that they were never to be asked to give the same information a second time, as they, under no circumstances whatever, would repeat an answer.'

These conditions having, about seventy or eighty years ago, been violated by an ignorant inquirer who came from a distance, the 'speaking stones' became dumb, and have so remained ever since.

There were originally four of these stones: of the two that remain, the larger may be described as consisting of a thin slab of laminated sandy grit. Its dimensions are as follows:
total height above ground, very nearly 7 feet;
extreme breadth, 5 feet 8 inches;
breadth near summit, 3 feet 6 inches;
average thickness, about 8 inches.
In no part does it exhibit the mark of a chisel or hammer.

The height of the second remaining stone, above the present level of the ground, is 6 feet 4 inches;
it is in breadth, at base, 3 feet 4 inches, and near the top 1 foot more;
thickness at base, 14 inches.
The material, unlike that found in the generality of such monuments, is blue limestone.
From 'Wakeman's Handbook of Irish Antiquities', by John Cooke (1903).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th November 2009ce

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