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Folklore Posts by Rhiannon

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St Columkille's Stones (Cup Marked Stone)

One time the landlord Danny Hewittson of the Lough Veagh estate was erecting a mill in his yard and he sent some of his men to the old abbey in Gartan for a stone which he thought suitable for putting under the upright shaft. This stone was round in shape and there was a hollow in the centre. It was supposed to have been used by Colmcille for holding holy water in his abbey.
When the mill was complete he told the men to bring the horses along and [?] it but all the horses on the estate could not drive it. They removed the stone and put it back in the abbey and substituted another stone. The mill then worked perfectly.
Sounds a bit like a bullaun stone to me. St Columkille / Colmcille certainly had a lot of stones.
From the Losad / Losset volume of The Schools' Collection, transcribed online at Duchas.ie. I can't make out the [?] though.

Dun Carloway (Broch)

A warning in case you were thinking of doing some laundry in the sea loch to the north of the Dun. Although conceivably it could refer to somewhere similarly named - phonetic attempts in English to name Gaelic places are still pretty confusing 300 years later.
There are several Springs and Fountains of curious Effects [on Lewis]; such as that at Loch-Carlvay, that never whitens Linen, which hath often been try'd by the Inhabitants.
From Martin Martin's 'Description of the Western Isles of Scotland' (second edition of 1716).

Lud's Church (Natural Rock Feature)

... One comes unexpectedly to Lud Church entrance at which, on payment of threepence, with a reduction for quantity, in this case numbers, one passes through a rough wooden gate to the right and down worn steps into a long narrow chasm whose rocky sides vary between 30 and 50 feet in height.

The dank, damp air, moss-grown boulders, and air of desolation, produce an eerie atmosphere which is borne out by the history of this place. A ship's figurehead fixed high up in the rocks and known as the statue of Alice de Lud-Auk, or our lady of Lud, but in spite of the owners collecting dues from visitors this statue now lies merely a shapeless piece of wood on the floor of the defile.
So a part of history lies uncared for and some of us would wish that something had been done to preserve this most interesting feature.

Lud Church is also known as Traffords Leap because one Squire Trafford of Swythamley Hall, whilst hunting one day found himself on the brink of the chasm without opportunity of turning his horse and to save his life he made his horse leap across. Several hounds were killed as they failed to clear the cleft and fell upon the rocks below.

A popular superstition or legend avers that the redoubtable Friar Tuck here conducted services for Robin Hood and his merry men and it is certain that Lud Church has afforded sanctuary for outlaws and criminals.

It is also established that some of the Lollards held services and meetings for worship here during the persecutions of the reign of Henry V. At the upper end of the cleft is a cave which was used for those services of the Lollards, whose leader was Walter de Lud-Auk, and the story goes that soldiers surprised them during one of their meetings and attempted to fight their way into the cave.

Whilst the soldiers were being held at bay by Montair - a member of the sect - the rest tried to escape from the other end of the cleft. In this engagement, Alice, the beautiful daughter of Walter de Lud-Auk was shot by a bolt from a crossbow aimed by a soldier at Montair. Montair escaped to France and the rest of the Lollards were arrested. Walter de Lud-Auk died in prison.

The wooden effigy which used to commemorate Alice is said to have been the figurehead from a ship named "Swythamley" after the estate in which Lud Church is situated, which was taken after the ship was wrecked and erected in Lud Church in 1860.

Still another story claims that the figure represents Alice Lud who was shot by soldiers when they surprised a meeting of Luddites. Alice Lud was the leader of a band who met in Lud Church to make their decisions.

There have been attempts to explore the cave in which the meetings were held but falling stones have prevented any definite conclusion. The cave is estimated to have been 200 yards long and 100 yards deep.

[...] And just one more story, about Bonny Prince Charlie. The Prince had become separated from his army owing to a delay at Manchester, and was hurrying across the moors to meet his army which was expected to be below the Roches. Darkness had fallen when he reached Swythamley and so he and his bodyguard decided to sleep in Lud Church. Waking early next morning Prince Charlie was surprised to find a beautiful girl watching him. The girl ran away as soon as she saw he had woken but, when later he made a thorough search of the cleft, he discovered to his great delight that she was Flora MacDonald who had disguised herself as a member of his bodyguard in order to be near him.
From a piece in the Sheffield Independent, 30th September 1938.
TO PLEASURE PARTIES.
Visitors to Buxton are respectfully informed that E. ROBINSON, Dane Cottage, Quarnford, has permission from the owner, P. Brocklehurst, Esq. of Swithamley Hall, to SHOW LUDCHURCH. Refreshments may be had at the Cottage.

Buxton Advertiser. 8th September 1875.
LUDCHURCH. Tourists can be provided (Sundays excepted) with TEA, &c.; also with Milk, at the Manor Farm, Quarnford. Good Stabling.

Buxton Advertiser. 25th September 1880.

Dun Dornadilla (Broch)

Dun Dornghil, erroneously called Dornadilla, is represented at the termination of this Chapter. It was, in the memory of man, about thirty feet high, but is now much dilapidated. Not a stone of this fabric "is moulded by a hammer, nor is there any fog or other material used to fill up the interstices among the stone; yet the stones are most artfully laid together, seem to exclude the air, and have been piled with great mathematical exactness."
The following verse concerning it, is repeated by the inhabitants.
Dun Dornghil Mac Duiff
Or an taobh ri meira don strha
Scheht mille o manir
Er an rod a racha na fir do Gholen.


Translation.
The Dun of Dornghiall, son of Duff,
Built on the side of the strath next to Rea,
Seven miles from the ocean,
And in the way by which the warriors travel to Caithness.*

* Rev. A. Pope, in Archaeologia, v.
From 'The Scottish Gael; or, Celtic manners, as preserved among the Highlanders' by James Logan (first published 1831).

Broadleas (Stone Circle)

After a little delay, the remainder of the journey was accomplished to the next regular stoppage, at a place called "The Piper's Stones." here, again, Lord Walter Fitzgerald had some information prepared for the members, which he read out at the spot. He explained that the existing objects of antiquarian interest lying a short distance to the south-west of Ballymore-Eustace are three in number. In the first place there are the large boulders of graite placed in a circle 31ft. in diameter in the townland of Broadleas Commons, called "The Piper's Stones." They are now 29 in number. Formerly they made up a complete circle of closely placed boulders, though now there are large gaps in the ring showing where in times past many had been broken up and carried away for building purposes.

At a place called Athgreney, there is another similar circle of stones, and in the Deerpark, near Blessington, formerly there was a third one, each called "The Piper's Stones," but this latter was demolished years ago for building purposes.

[...] The name, "Piper's Stones," was often applied to this class of monument, and must have its origin in some now forgotten legend. The only explanation the old people give for the name is that bagpipe music, played by the "good people" or fairies, is still occasionally heard at the spot.

A quarter of a mile to the north-east of "The Piper's Stones" are the remains of a Pagan sepulchral moat, called Knockshee, meaning "the fairy hill." Little of it is now left, three-quarters of it having been demolished years ago, probably by some farmers, for the purpose of top-dressing the adjoining lands.

[...] Half a mile to the north-west of "The Piper's Stones" is a prostrate granite monolith, known as "The Long Stone." It formerly stood in a small rath-like enclosure now levelled, and which was thrown down in the year 1836.
From the Kildare Archaeological Society's annual excursion reported in the Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 22nd September 1900.

Moyvoughly (Round Barrow(s))

Somewhere in the vicinity of this site is or was a holy well and a bullaun stone:
St Patrick, the great local saint, is commemorated at the present day by a holy well and "knee" situated in the field (locally known as the Street Park) lying west of the school-house. It was usual for an old resident (in the barracks) to make daily pilgrimages to the well. Some of the older residents believed that St. Patrick left the impress of his knee on a rock not far from the well. However, it is quite possible that the "knee" was a mixing place for cattle medicines. It was also usual for sufferers to drop some coins, pins or trifles into the knee. Superstition had it that the ailment would be relieved in this manner. If anyone should take any of these offerings out of the knee, he should be afflicted by warts.
From information recorded for the Schools Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s, online at Duchas.ie.

The information for the site on the Historic Environment Viewer says that there are exposed blocks of limestone visible in places in the bank of the barrow here. The local landowner pointed out that major drainage operations had taken place here over the years, so large parts of the ground were previously marshy or fully flooded, immediately to NE and E of the barrow. The holy well and bullaun are said to be about 400m to its east.

Duffcastle (Portal Tomb)

There is a field near my home on Mrs Joe McGlelland's farm in Duffcastle, a large stone standing on four smaller ones. It is supposed to be an ancient druid's altar. It has been told that long ago two men dug under these stones and unearthed one of the smaller pillars in search of gold. When they went back to their home they found that the healthy baby they had left in the cradle was now a sickly child. It seemed to have changed in appearance too. It was said that they had done wrong and the change in the child was their punishment. This child lived for years but never grew any bigger.

In Mr John Magovern's field just at Duffcastle crossroads there is a long stone standing upright.
There are five marks on it supposed to represent the fingermarks of some ancient warrior.
There are some strokes and dots on the bottom of the stone. It is supposed that this is Ogham writing.
There are many forts near my home but there is not much known about them.
Recounted by James Tweedle for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Digitised at Duchas.ie.

Fieldstown (Cairn(s))

There is a cromlech in Byrne's field on Fieldstown Hill. The field is called Lios Dubh. Fionn Mac Cumhaill is supposed to be buried there. The cromlech is on the top of the hill. There are some stones standing upright in the ground and a large flat stone on the top of them. The stones are almost covered with clay and the place is overgrown with briars. Within the grave are bones.
Recounted by James Winters for the 1930s Schools' Collection of folklore in Ireland. Online at Duchas.ie.

Skregg (Passage Grave)

Another name for this Cromlech is "Lopa-Erma." It is said that this name was got from the giant that put it up.
Under the cross stones of the cromlech there is said to be stone steps for a long way down in the ground and it is said to be closed up by the chieftain O'Kelly some years ago.
From Charles Fuery, a 60 year old local farmer, recorded for the Schools' Collection of Irish folklore in the 1930s. Online at Duchas.ie

Fiddler's Hill (Round Barrow(s))

Legend of Fiddler's Hill
Does Warham Discovery Prove Old Legend True.

Is the old legend of Fiddler's Hill, Warham, true?
What appears to be surprising confirmation of it has been brought to light by Norfolk County Council men working on the roads. They have discovered in a mound at the crossing of the Wighton and Stiffkey road and the Binham and Warham road the skeletons of a man and a dog.

For generations the cross-roads have been known as Fiddler's Hill because of the old folk story of the fiddler. Centuries ago there was a secret passage joining Walsingham Abbey to Binham Priory. One day a fiddler and his dog, runs the legend, attempted to walk from the Abbey to the Priory by way of the old secret tunnel. Their progress was followed by some friends above ground, for as he walked, the fiddler played. The strains of the music were plainly heard slowly moving away from Walsingham towards Fiddler's Hill. Then they ceased. The fiddler and his dog were never seen again, but mysterious music, it is sometimes heard at midnight.

The bones have been handed over to the police, who took them to Dr. Hicks, of Wells, for examination. Later they may be seen by an anthropologist.
From the Thetford and Watton Times, 15th April 1933.

Beacon Hill (Hillfort)

Beacon Fire- Mr. Langham, of "Needless Inn," informs me that he well remembers that thirty-four years ago there stood, on the highest point of Beacon, an erection of rude and ancient masonry, about six feet high, of a round form, and having in its centre a cavity about a yard deep and a yard in diameter, the sides of which were very thickly covered with burnt pitch. This, he says, had all the appearance of having been used for holding the beacon fires. He remembers, too, that at that period, the entrenchments were much more visible than they are now [...]
History and Antiquities of Charnwood Forest, T.R. Potter, 1842, p48.

Beacon Hill. - Not satisfied with my single opinion of these extraordinary remains, I requested Mr. Lester, a highly intelligent farmer and surveyor, who lives at the foot of Beacon, to examine them. He was perfectly astonished. Though long resident, almost upon the spot, and aware of the remains described as lying on the south-west side of the hill, it had never occurred to him that there were others. "Often," says he," as I have crossed that wonderful hill, and always with the feeling that it was a charmed spot, I have been either so occupied with the distant prospects, or so circumscribed in my immediate view by the inequalities of the surface, that I have never before once noticed the most remarkable fortifications to which you have directed me."
Potter, p49.

Wake at Nanpantan. - The Annual Wake, now kept on Nanpantan, but formerly kept on Beacon, the origin of which is lost in obscurity, may be a remnant of [a Druidical] festival.
Potter, p45.
I'll take the Druidical festival with a pinch of salt, but the Beacon must have seen its fair share of revels. I totally understand the farmer not being able to look round for "inequalities of the surface" - that often affects me. And I like his italicisation of charmed... it hints at a fairyish spot.

Collected into 'County Folk-lore: Printed extracts no. 3, Leicestershire and Rutland' by C.J. Billson (1895).

Cadbury Castle (Hillfort)

From the church we walked up to the Roman encampment of "Cadbury Castle," which is most interesting. It was partially excavated in 1848, and on the previous evening we had been shown many interesting relics taken from it. The most valuable of these is a large ring of debased silver. On an intaglio of a light green antique paste is engraved an object supposed to be connected with the sacrifices of Apollo or Hercules. There are, besides, some smaller rings, some armlets, reminding one singularly of the present fashionable bangles, and making one remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Both the workmanship and design of these are singularly delicate. There were glass and enamel beads, horses' teeth, fragments of pottery, &c.

All these had been taken from a well in the centre of the camp. There has been an attempt to fill up this well, but it persistently sinks down in the centre. There is a tradition that there is an underground passage from the top of Cadbury Castle to Dolberry Hill (Killerton). Risdon gives us the following couplet:-

"If Cadbury Castle and Dolberry Hill down delved were,
Then Denshire might plow with a golden coulter and eare with a guilded sheer."

From the same source we learn "that a dragon, forsooth!" is supposed to guard these treasures.

The views from Cadbury Castle are both extensive and beautiful. The Dartmouth Tors were all plainly visible, and we saw Cawsand white with snow. Farther to the left our eyes rested on Exmouth and its Bar, and on the other side we saw the range of hills at Wellington, in Somersetshire.
By 'Volo non Valeo' in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 29th May 1885. Tristram Risdon wrote his 'Survey of the County of Devon' in 1632.

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle)

I don't understand how the traditional rhyme isn't already written here. So I don't apologise for the length of the following:
[...] Folklore and science, romance and archaeology, the unlearned and the learned, have all contributed answers [to the meaning of the stones]. From the folklore of the neighbourhood we have gleaned the story of the stones which has undoubtedly proved the most popular, and which will probably be attached to them as long as they stand. Indeed it is probable that if we searched the whole of England we should not find a site in which the folklore is a more living thing.

The story is well-enough known, but here it is:--
A certain King set out to conquer all England and had arrived at the head of his forces at the hill on which Rollright stands. He had almost reached its crest when a witch who claimed the ground appeared and stopped him with the words -

Seven long strides shalt thou take and
If Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalt be.

Exulting greatly, thinking his victory assured, the King called out -

Stick, stock, stone,
As King of England I'll be known.

and took the seven long strides, when, lo! there arose before him a mound of earth, which at the completion of the strides prevented him from seeing the village of Long Compton below. The witch then pronounced the doom --

As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalt not be,
Rise up stick, stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalt be none.
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an eldern tree.

And so it came about.

[...] The elder is abundant all around the stones and several bushes have been pointed out as that embodying the witch. If you find the right one and cut it her blood oozes out, and the stones are seen to shiver, in an endeavour to come to life, for when the witch's blood is drawn her spell is broken and the King and his army will pursue their triumphant march.

On Midsummer eve, when the elder was in bloom it was formerly the custom for people to come to the King Stone and stand in a circle. Then an elder bush near by was cut and those present have affirmed that the King moved his head. The inhabitants of the district have, however, a dread of breaking the spell, and the writer was told, not so long ago, that those of Long Compton will not burn elder sticks in their grates.

The fairies dance round the King Stone of nights. One Will Hughes, of Long Compton, now gathered to his fathers, had seen them. They were little folk, he said, like little girls to look at. His wife's mother, who had been murdered as a witch, remembered a hole in the bank out of which the fairies came, and she and her playmates had often placed a flat stone over the opening to keep them in, but it had always been turned over before the morning. Folklore and religion blend in the attitude felt towards the spot and Sir Arthur Evans tells of a labourer who always went to the stones on Good Friday, for there he would be on Holy ground.

Away to the south-east on the edge of the large field in which the circle is situated, is a rather jumbled group of five large stones, called the Whispering Knights, which are said to be five treacherous officers who had detached themselves from the King's army and were plotting treason when the spell operated. They have their own particular piece of folklore and at midnight are said to run down the hill to drink at a spring in little Rollright spinney, every night according to some, only at special seasons according to others. At dusk, it is said, you can hear them whispering to each other.

Many of the stories attached to Rollright are to be found in other parts of Europe, and it is evident that we have in them something more than local superstition, but the subject is too great to be discussed here.

Another legend says that the stones become men at midnight, join hands and dance round in a circle and in Cornwall the name "Stone Dance" is attached to such circles as Rollright, the explanation there being that they are dancers turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

[...] Rollright and its kindred circles were to the prehistoric people who erected and used them, places as sacred as our cathedrals and churches are to us to-day. That it should come, as it did yesterday afternoon, under the auctioneer's hammer in a public saleroom, would have filled our ancestors, could they have foreseen and understood such a contingency, with the same kind of horror we should feel if the same auctioneers were to offer Westminster Abbey to the highest bidder.
From an article in the Banbury Guardian, 30th June 1927.

Men Amber (Natural Rock Feature)

To the Editor of the West Briton.

[...] In the year 1851 I was induced to visit Prospidnick village and hill, particularly the latter, by reading in Norden's Speculi Britanniae Pars, &c., 1584, an account, accompanied by an engraving, of a singular mass of rocks that is in the neighbourhood; and, on making inquiries, was informed that Men Amber was still in existence, but not in the same state as when sketched by Norden, whose description is here given verbatim:

"Mayne Amber, certain huge stones so sett and subtillye combined, not by art as I take it, but by nature, as a childe may move, the upper stone beinge of a huge bignes, with one finger, so equallie balanced it is, and the forces of menie strong men enjoyned, can do no more in moving it. It is to be imagined that theis stones were thus lefte at the general floude, when the earth was washed awaye, and the massie stones remayned, as are mightye rockes uncovered, standing upon lofty hills."

The following is from Carew, 1602:- "More certain though less wonderful, and yet for the strangeness well worth the viewing, Mayn Amber is a rock; Amber as some say signyfieth Ambrose, and a great rock the same is, advanced upon some others of a meaner size, with so equal a counterpoise, that the push of a finger will sensibly move it to and fro, but further to remove it the united forces of many shoulders over weak. Wherefore the Cornish wonder-gatherer thus describeth the same:--

"Be those thy mother Nature's work,
Or proof of Giant's might,
Worthless and ragged though thou show,
Yet art thou worth the sight.

This hugy rock one finger's force
Apparently will move,
But to remove it many strengths
Shall all like feeble prove."

Mr. Scawen, whose family had been established for a long time at Molenick, in St. Germans, tells us in his MSS., written in the latter part of the 17th century, when and by whom this logan stone was thrown down. Complaining of the mischief done by strangers, he writes:-

"Here, too, we may add what wrong another sort of strangers has done to us, especially in the civil wars, and in particular by destroying Mineamber, a famous monument, being a rock of infinite weight, which as a burden was laid upon other great stonesn; and yet so equally thereon poised up by Nature only, as a little child could instantly move it, but no one man or many remove it. This natural monument all travellers that came that way desired to behold, but in the time of Oliver's usurpation, when all monumental things became despicable, one Shrubsall, one of Oliver's heroes, then governor of Pendennis, by labour and much ado caused to be undermined and thrown down, to the great grief of the country, but to his own great glory as he thought, doing it, as he said, with a small cane in his hand. I myself have heard him boast of this act, being a prisoner then under him."

There was a tradition or prophecy, current at the time, that Mineamber, so called by Scawen, should stand as long as England had a king; its overthrow by Shrubsall seems to have been for the purpose of showing the loyal Cornish that kings were to reign no longer.

Borlase's account is as follows:-
"In the parish of Sithney stood the famous Logan stone, commonly called Men-amber; it is 11 foot long from east to west, four foot deep, wide six foot; there is no bason on the surface, but on the stone B there is one plain one. This top stone was so nicely poised that, as Mr. Seawen in his MSS. says, &c. There are some marks of the tool upon this stone, the surface, C D, being wrought into a wavy place, as in the Icon; and by its quadrangular shape I should judge it to have been dedicated to Mercury, as by a bason cut in the under stone B, I judge the stone A to be placed on the top of this karn by human art.

However that be, certain it is that the vulgar used to resort to this place at particular times of the year, and pay'd to this stone more respect than was thought becoming good christians, which was the reason that by cleaving off part of the stone B, the top stone A was lay'd along in its present reclined posture and its wonderful property of moving easily to a certain point destroyed. It was the top stone, therefore, of this Cragg which drew the common people together and raised their admiration; and I find that in the Cornish language Mea-an-bar signifies the top stone, and I do not at all doubt but that Men-amber is a corruption of Men-an-bar, and signifies nothing either relating to Ambrosius Aurelius, King of Britain, or to the Petrae Ambrosiae of the Ancients, as some learned men have thought." - Antiquities, 1754.

The letters in the last extract refer to a plan of the rock.[...]

Yours obediently,
Δ
From a letter in the West Briton newspaper, 20th January 1870. He signs himself as a capital Delta. I guess the 1870 equivalent of an internet name perhaps?!

Killian (Bullaun Stone)

The "Wart Stone," or "Font," appears on the Ordnance Survey Map, No. 26, as "Doughnambraher Font." Thinking it very unlikely that there should be a font without a church, I came to the conclusion that there might be a bullaun at the spot marked. It is about three-quarters of a mile from Drummeen, or Barrycarroll Castle, and there is a sort of road all the way to it. We turned aside to visit the Castle, and so had to cross the fields to get to the bullaun.

We made inquiries once or twice from the inhabitants, and found out that the name of the place was Kyleane (three syllables), Killian on map; and that there was a stone there which would cure warts.

When we reached the place they pointed out, we soon found a large bullaun, of which I send a sketch. My friends thought it lay in a sort of fort, or enclosure, but I am not so sure. It is a large, flat sandstone, with one large basin in it, and something which looks like the beginning of a second. There are nine round stones in it which make part of the charm against warts: I suppose to turn them round like the Killeany stones.

We measured it as carefully as we could. The length of the stone is about 5 feet 7 inches, the width 3 feet 4 inches, while the basin is 1 foot 8 inches long, and 1 foot 3 inches wide. [...]
Miss G C Stacpoole reports in the 1904 volume of the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
The information via the Historic Environment Viewer describes the bullaun and its stones. It says the stone is also known locally as 'Jack Baker's Well' and is made of Old Red Sandstone. It contains 'seven water-rolled 'cursing' stones'. Situated in the basin of a ballaun stone lying in the perimeter of an ecclesiastical enclosure. Seven 'fist-sized' egg-shaped water-rolled stones lie in the basin which is sometimes waterfilled and associated with the cure of warts. There were previously ten stones although the number seems to vary up and down over time. Stacpoole includes nine stones in his [her!] drawing. 'Rounds' performed here involved rubbing each stone against the afflicted part of the body and placing an offering of some sort under the bullaun. In February 1993 this practice continued. While stones of this type are generally classified as cursing stones there is no known evidence of their use for that purpose in this instance.

Ballyard (Bullaun Stone)

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.

This is an extract from an article on 'The antiquities of the Parish of Kilcomenty' in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries for 1904:
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."

Weston Hill (Henge)

The Hertfordshire HER says there is a (probable) henge here, with its entrances east and west, and a diameter of 85m. There used to be a dene hole inside it, in which Neolithic arrow heads were found. The hole was also known as being 'Jack O'Legs's Cave' (dully, it's now filled in). But you can't help thinking that a henge with built-in cave would be a rather marvellous thing.

On Jack O'Legs:
At Weston, two stones in the churchyard, 14ft. 7 inches apart, are said to be the head and foot stones of the giant Jack o' Legs, who is there buried with his body doubled up. He lived at Baldock, - where, as he walked along the street, he would look in at the first-floor windows, - and thence he shot an arrow, saying that where it fell he wished to be buried. It fell in Weston Churchyard, and, in its flight, knocked away a corner of the church tower. (Told in 1883).
From 'Scraps of folklore collected by John Philipps Emslie', C.S. Burne, in 'Folklore' v26, no. 2 (June 1915).

Likewise he's mentioned in 'Handbook to Hitchin and the neighbourhood' by Charles Bishop (1875):
On the Great North Road, near the village of Graveley, is a considerable elevation which goes by the name of "Jack's Hill," from its having been the scene of depradations on travellers by a noted highwayman called "Jack o' Legs." [...]
In fact if you're interested, there's a whole book about this character by W.B. Gerish (1905). It suggests the cave was filled in around 1850.

Sudbrook (Cliff Fort)

The Camp At Portskewett.
(From a Correspondent).

[...] Thanks to the members of the corps - about 20 in number - who, under the command of Captain Williams, proceeded to the camp on Saturday last, a sufficient number of tents had been pitched for our accommodation before our arrival en masse on Monday.

[...] There is nothing which indicates the whereabouts of the "soldiery" until one is as it were in the midst of them. The tents are completely hidden from view by the high ramparts which extend from the north-east to the south. The piece of ground enclosed within the ramparts is of a triangular form, the eastern line being formed by the waters of the Severn. Coming suddenly into a deep moat without the ramparts, one is as suddenly confronted by a sentry, marching with a soldier-like air, a guard-room, or rather a guard tent, and a number of the guard lounging about.

Immediately in front of the guard tent, there is a gap, cut right in the angle of the encampment, and looking through this the whole of the tents and their occupants within are at once visible, presenting to the visitor a lively and picturesque scene, of which, two minutes before, he could have had no perception.

[...] The weather has been glorious throughout the week, but the heat, which would be exceedingly oppressive in town, is rendered delightful here, with a stiff fresh breeze flowing across the water. Each day the men have worked and drilled with a subordination that would be creditable even to a soldier of long service, and order has been maintained night and day. Heavy gun drill has been gone into most zealously, and some good practice has been made [...]

Ghost stories are not wanting in the guard room, for one good reason. On the north-east are the ruins of an old Roman chapel known as the chapel of the Holy Trinity, and no doubt was connected with the Roman encampment. Sundry remains of the genus homo in decay have been found in this spot, although the outline of the graveyard which adjoined the chapel has been effaced. A sentry is posted in the vicinity of the old chapel, and more than one have felt a chill creep over him during the still hours; but it is unnecessary to mention the little rumours which have currency during the last couple of days.

I have forgotten to mention that the immediate vicinity of the camp is called Sudbrook, and also that the advantages of the spot were utilised as a place to land, conceal, and protect his soldiers by Oliver Cromwell before he stormed Caldicott Castle. The place is in the highest degree classic and historic ground, and is well worth visiting.[...]
From the Western Mail, 4th August 1871.

Beltany (Stone Circle)

The Druid's Circle is situated two miles from Raphoe at Beltony. It is composed of sixty seven stones all standing erect in a circle.
South of this circle there is a large stone where all the victims were hung for there is a trace of a chain on it.

From this circle a giant threw a large stone to Nagherahane where a giant's grave now lies. Another grave is to be found in Mrs Craig's land. On top of it there is a large stone standing erect.
There is gold to be found at the Druid's Circle. Many tourists came from Derry to dig for the gold but found none.

Adjacent to this circle there is the 'Old Wind Mill' where a number of giants were buried.
The druids worshipped the sun or fire Bael teine - "fire of Bael".

Giants' graves are numerous in Ireland so that shows us there were a great many giants in olden times.

Molly McClean (age 14)
Collected for the Schools Collection of the 1930s, now being transcribed at Duchas.ie.

Ballyglass (Court Tomb)

Within 20 perches of where I live in Ballyglass is a Druidical circle formed of a big pile of stones each about 10 cwt. To the North of this circle is something like a rude altar composed of stones and also to the South end of the altar is another one.

Antiquarians who visit this place describe it as where the Druids offered up their sacrifice to their Gods in pre Christian times. Outside the Northern end of the circle are huge stones sunk in the earth and separated from each other. Antiquarians describe them as graves which are marked by these huge stones. Notwithstanding that it is of Druidical Origin the local people hold it very sacred and wouldn't interfere with it for their untold lives.

An old man who once lived in the vicinity of the Druidical Circle found himself on a Sunday morning without a razor to shave himself to go to Mass. It been on a fine Summer's day instead of going to Mass he entered the Druidical Circle and knelt down on a cromlech which is supposed to be the grave of some chief and said his prayers as he could not attend Mass. When he had his prayers said he lay down on the cromlech and fell asleep. When he awoke he found a razor by his side. It was so good that it would shave all the people in Mayo without an edge.

For about a hundred years it was an heirloom of the family until some young man stole it some years ago.
Collected by Thomas Pryal from Andrew Pryal in the 1930s, for the Schools Collection (now being transcribed at Duchas.ie.
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This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.


...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.


I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:
http://wiltshirewandering.blogspot.co.uk/

and I've been helping digitise the Schools' Collection of the National Folklore Collection of Ireland... you can also at
http://www.duchas.ie/en

Some interesting websites with landscape and fairy folklore:
http://earthworks-m.blogspot.co.uk
http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.co.uk

My TMA Content: