Interesting excavations have been made at Two-Mile-Borris, near the river behind Black Castle. A large central structure with surrounding huts has been discovered - houses for a chieftain and his family? There also seems to be evidence of some Iron Age technology - a water irrigation system... continues...
found from page 38 onwards of The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland
VOl XL 1910
Also information and a picture of the bullaun stone at Gortavoher in the Glen of Aherlow showing the 2nd Bullaun stone that is beside the river not just the one beside the road - page 60
Includes pictures, plans and descriptions from this time.
I cannot tell you how long it's taken me to track down the location of this site... variant spellings and unfamiliarity with the area did not help. But anyway it sounds superb so all this is worth the effort. I'd love to visit.
This is a naturally curious place, with a stream disappearing into the ground and reappearing: it's no wonder it's replete with folklore and Christianisation. I advise a glance at the Historic Environment Viewer map to see where the well, stream, 'bed', and bullauns all are.
About 30 yards east of the graveyard, a rapid stream which there issues from the ground is called St. Commaneth's Well. This stream flows from Ballinahinch, about two miles distant, and close beside the saint's bed; it is carried underground for nearly 200 yards, emerging at and forming the well; then, turning sharply by the south wall of the graveyard, it finally empties itself into the bog of Shower.
One of the legends told concerning the well is that long ago it was situated close by the stone known as St. Commaneth's Bed, but that some cattle having been accidentally allowed to sully its waters, the well in a single night moved down to its present site.
Two of the traditional trout said to frequent holy wells in Ireland are supposed to be here.
Over the well, completely shading its waters, are four ancient trees - one sallow, one whitethorn, and two ash. Those two last are in reality one enormous tree, which, near the lower part of the trunk, is divided in two, and its branches and the hollow by the well are covered with rags and votive offerings of every description, deposited by pilgrims who have made their rounds.
The summer of 1902 was exceptionally dry in North Tipperary, the month of August being phenomenally so. Springs, wells, and streams that in living memory had never been known to do so, ran dry; and St. Commaneth's Well formed no exception to the general rule, for it must be recorded that we failed to find even one drop of water within its usually brimming basin.
The rounds practised here are seven in number. Having taken seven pebbles from the stream running from the well, and having repeated the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary!, Creed, and Gloria, the pilgrim throws one of the pebbles back into the brook, and proceeds to walk round the well. Following the course of the water for a time "sunwards," through the field south of the stream, he crosses it by a small bridge and enters the graveyard by a gate at the extremity of the south wall. Proceeding along a well-worn pathway by its north and east sides, he quits its precincts by a stile, which brings him to the well again, where he kneels and prays, and so on, until the appointed number of rounds are performed. While Mr. Westropp and I were in the cemetery, a country woman and two children "were making their rounds."
Close by the spot where the water of the stream disappears for a space under ground rests the traditional bed of the saint, lying north of the stream, and nearer to the road than the graveyard and well. It is a large irregular block of brownish sandstone, 8 feet long, and 4 feet 9 inches wide, extreme measurements, and stands about 2 1/2 to 3 feet high. The highest end is to the west, and here is a large and deep bullaun. To the west of this is a shallow, dish-like bullaun, and there are traces of two or more basins. Two sets of scorings are to be found on the stone; that nearer the top consists of six irregular broad strokes, not ogamic in character, while the set lower down consists of four slight scores. These markings are reputed to represent the impressions of the saint's ribs and hands.
There's some extra folklorey information in Lives of the Irish Saints by John O'Hanlon. He mentions that the prayers at the well are good for "bodily and mental ailments."
He says of the trout: "The following is a local legend. A person of the neighbourhood, at one time, scorning to respect the well, took one of these trout home, and made an effort to roast it; nothing but blood appeared, and the rascal had to bring the trout back to the well; but from that day forward, the family has not had good luck."
He mentions of the bed: "About two hundred yards noth-east of the well, in the midst of hawthorn and alder trees, there is a great Druidic rock basin, of brown sandstone, quite unlike stone of the immediate place, which is limestone," and that the basins are "always full or half full of water."
I love the way he mixes Druids and saints. He says "There is no doubt, that the stone lay, in its present position, long before the period of the patron saint. On the conversion of the Druids, he may have used the basins for baptizing the early Christians of the place, and may have rested on it occasionally. There is nothing impossible or improbable in this presumption, and tradition may be perfectly correct."
Not far from the Rock of Thorm there is a hill called Slieve Muc. There is a great crack in the hill. My grandmother told me that there was a great pig roaming around Slieve Muc so Finn and the Fianna went to kill it. When they found the pig they surrounded it. Finn, the leader, approached it with his sword in his hand. The pig, upon seeing Finn, attacked him. Finn fought for some time and wounded the pig. Then when the pig was tired, Finn, raising his sword above his head, put all his strength to one mighty stroke. The sword descended with such force that it severed the pig's head from its body and also made a great hole in the hill. It was from this episode that the hill got the Irish name of Slieve na Muc.
From the Schools Collection of the 1930s, now being digitised at Duchas.ie
After all the stuff about fairies this seems rather mundane, it's more like historical stories (albeit pretty muddled in its mix of pagan Irish tribes, Danish invaders and Christian institutions). The piece is still entitled 'fairy forts' though, so I guess the fairies turned up as tenants in the end.
In a field owned by Mr James Lonergan lie two large forts. They are situated by the side of the river Aherlow and are in the townland of Ballymorris.
It is said that they were built by the old Irish and in one of them a great chief lived. All that now remains of them is a mound of clay with a few whitethorn bushes growing round in a ring around it but once it was a huge fort.
Inside was the great house in which the chief lived: outside this was a great wall of clay and outside was a deep trench with the water from the river flowing into it.
When the Danes came to Ireland they plundered the fort, killed the chief and put the Irish tribe out and went in themselves.
It is said that they plundered St Pecaun's church andtook some of the Sacred Vessels away and hid them in the fort. By now they were very strongly entrenched and they plundered every church school and monastery in the surrounding district.
The Irish at this time were fighting amongst themselves but after a while they united and drove the invader out of the fort and out of the district also. They restored the stolen treasures to the churches, schools and monasteries.