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The Stuck Stone
The Stuck Stone, some comments, Part 1
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The “Stuck Stone” has become sort of a vague academic hobby, or a joy in old timey antiquarianism, since the end my first fieldwork stint in Ireland, in 1980. My fieldwork was a self-supported familiarization in folkloric fieldwork, focused on legends pertaining to archaeological sites. Days before I was to fly home I found this enigmatic name on the Ordnance Survey map for Co. Meath (half-inch scale) and rode my bicycle there and asked around the locale.

Although the local folk said that a "Stuck Stone" is supposed to be "somewhere," no one knew where it was. For as long as one informant and her father could remember, no "Stuck Stone" has ever existed at Stuck Stone Cross (the crossroad up the road from the informant). Some people thought that gold was beneath it (typical recent folklore motif). A Lord Brennen (Lennen, Landon, Brandon, Drommond? I could ctach the spelling) is supposed to have recorded its existence, according to the woman.

The woman also mentioned some knowledge of the lore of other standing-stones – how they were supposed to have been thrown from "this hill and that in bygone days." She added that she didn't believe that.

My friend Richard Senghas (1984, unpublished manuscript) also visited this site in 1984 at my special request (his fieldwork method was the same as mine: load a bicycle with camping gear and locate sites on the maps to investigate for legends) and found some information to add about circumstances, if not tradition, about the stone itself, unless one considers this to be tradition itself – the tradition of the lost stone?

Senghas recorded that Father Colm C. sent him to Tom H. (Collon, Co. Louth). Mr. H., a retired school teacher, said the name “Stuck Stone” might actually be “Stóc Stone”–the Irish word stóc meaning ‘cattle’, which might have been corrupted into English ‘stuck’. Later, Senghas met an old farmer, who told him the stone was called “carraig stóc” in Irish. [Ir. carraig ‘carrick’ means ‘stone’ in Irish.] The farmer sent him to another house (where he was attacked by the dogs!), and the woman there sent him to Jack F. Mr. F. said: “The stone was supposed to be on my property. It used to be Tommy D’s land. Tommy D. told me that the stone was at the top of the sand quarry. A hole was sunk below it, and the stone eventually fell in and was covered in. Perhaps it was a scratching post, but it was just a long stone.”

Senghas had recorded Mr. H. address, and I wrote him in the Autumn of 1993 but received no word back.

By chance I found an article by Michael Herity that might help explain this mystery, in the journal Studia Hibernica (1967). The article records the antiquarian pursuits in the area, among other things. The article suggests that a large amount of antiquarian work occurred in the area and cites extracts of letters from the antiquarians themselves. In one case Herrity tells of a site called Cloghlea, where a man found a circle of unhewn stones possibly 21 feet in diameter (measured by pacing). The man, a Mr. Pownall, wrote:

The stones are large and massive. and about 5 and 6 feet high. There remain 8 of these stones together in one part of the circle, 2 in another, and one by itself. One the left hand from the entrance into the circle, lies a large flat stone, which seems to have been either the top of a kistaven or a crómlech. ...This Druid circle now stands on the brink of a stone-quarry; and the labourers were at work close under it; so that in a year or 2 it may be undermined and thrown down.

The circle is said to be in Co. Meath, though the author seemed to imply around the Dowth passage-grave site. By 1836 the Ordinance Survey wrote that some stones still stood. By 1967, Herity notes that one stone stands. (New Grange also suffered from stone robbing, apparently [133]).

The loss of antiquities has been noted for some time. O’Donovan’s 1936 letters to the Ordnance Survey for Co. Meath mentions a well in the parish of Burry, which cultivation – “a constant foe to antiquities” – has obliterated (O’Flanagan 1928 published transliteration into typescript, p. 10, para. 26).

Thus, I suggest that either the Stuck Stone was a part of this site or another site like it. In other words, Richard's informant may have been relating good information when she said the quarriers knocked it down and covered it over. Or, there may be a tradition in this area (the Stuck Stone area is only a few miles from the Dowth/New Grange area, as well as an extensive local site of Neolithic mounds) of damage to sites through quarrying. Since the folk have beliefs about disturbing ancient sites, then their shock at removal of ancient monuments by workmen might well have worked its way into general historical tradition; thus any 'lost' stone is said to have been carried off by quarriers. Of course, as I said, the Stuck Stone may have suffered a similar fate as the "Druid circle" mentioned by the antiquarian, above.

A final bit of information came to light that suggests to me that (1) the stone did exist, (2) the women I spoke to as well as Senghas’s informant were correct–the stone is gone or hidden, (3) the informants Senghas spoke to continued the tradition but had forgotten the nature of the stone itself, and (4) the quarrying activity I mentioned above probably did make an end to it, possibly not long after 1840 or so. In 1998 I finally found a possible answer in the volume, “Letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the county of Meath collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1836” (there is a volume of field letters written for every country, sent from the field by John O’Donovan and others, but in 1928 typed, bound, and printed by Reverend Michael O’Flanagan, Bray). I found an entry for Killery (Cill Eire) Parish, for Hoardstown Townland (page 46, paragraph 116):

“There is a Patron held on the 10th of July in Hoardstown Townland called Patron na Cloiche Stucaigh from a stone called Clock Stucach, which stands on a small moat in the south east part of the Townland; about three and a half feet in height of the stone is visible above ground; the moat has been partly removed. This is the ancient name of this Patron; it is now generally called Patron a tSleibhe.”

The Irish meaning of Cloch Stucach is, as near as I can translate: “Cloch” means stone in both medieval and modern Gaelic, but can have various other meanings from fortress to road as well in modern Gaelic. “Stucach” is very hard to trace in modern Gaelic. The ‘-ach’ is a suffix and sometimes functions like our ‘-y’ as in rock/rocky; cloch/clochach=stony. What then is “stuc” transliterated by map-makers into “stuck”? Let us try variations on ‘stuc’: doesn’t work in the on-line Irish-to-English word list I consulted. Cattle = stock has to have the word “bo” in it = cow. However, the Dictionary of Old Irish shows ‘stoc’ is a loan word from the English, meaning our ‘stock’ and also ‘trumpet.’ But we also find modern Irish words also sounding good: stuacach = stubborn, conceited, and stuag = arch, bow, loop, used variously in ideas such as rainbow, tail of a meteor, or bent-like-a-bow describing a warrior, and many others related to bending, arching. Cattle Stone? Stubborn Stone? Bent/arched Stone?

Note that part of the moat (dirt circle) around the noted stone in the quotation above was already being removed ca. 1840. Custom or superstition generally prevented such acts, and Catholic ritual performed at the stone seemingly would have protected the stone as well. So, I wonder if a “strong farmer” (usually a large-scale farmer, often not a local man, hiring penniless locals on wages) was involved? The farmer may have been Protestant (often the richer sorts were given colonial history in this area) as well as nonsuperstitious or not beholden to local tradition of Catholic ethnicity. In any event, this is probably as close as I will come to filling out the history of this stone.

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Posted by Wade Tarzia
20th November 2018ce