News Archive

12th December 2015 

Mythical Ireland recently had a post about Ireland's "Stonehenge", a very impressive site that was destroyed in Co. Louth in the townland of Carnbeg. It got me thinking again about the missing stone circle at Lough Gur in Co. Limerick and I had another look at some of the evidence for it.
I had initially thought it was just north of Grange B (the large circle that most people would be familiar with at Lough Gur) from an old 1840s Ordnance Survey Map. (See below)

Grange D stone circle to the North of Grange B stone circle (still intact) © NMS

However from chatting to Tim Fitzgerald a number of years ago (the owner of the land on which Grange B is located) he indicated that there was a large crop mark in a field to the north-west of the circle (across the road). This is marked in the SMR as an embanked enclosure and you can see from some of the aerial photographs attached that it stands out pretty clearly.

Highlighted embanked circle © NMS

Highlighted embanked circle © Microsoft

In "On Certain Megalithic Remains Immediately Surrounding Lough Gur, County Limerick by Bertram C. A. Windle 1912 / 1913" - Windle goes into some detail about this missing circle known as Grange D. In the survey there is some confusion between whether the missing circle was to the north west or north of Grange C (and whether it was on the same side of the road or across the road from it). Are there in fact two large missing circles?

In the above Windle states "Professor Harkness says (p. 389): "A short distance northwards from this fine circle [i.e. circle ' B '] the remains of another are seen. This second one is entirely composed of blocks of stone. An old road runs through the western side of this second circle; the portions which remain are, however, sufficient to afford a knowledge of its original size. Its diameter is larger than the fine stone and earth circle at Grange Cottage, being 170 feet." Mr. Lynch says (p. 300): "About 30 yards north of the chief circle there is another circle with a diameter of 170 feet. It has no rath, and only six pillar stones are left. In Fitzgerald's time there were seventy-two stones in this circle, but about sixty-five years ago it was destroyed by Mr. Edward Croker, of Grange'. Finally Mr. Lewis (p. 524), who mentions the same facts as have just been alluded to, seems to have missed the remains which still exist, for he says : "It is said to have possessed seventy-two stones in 1826, but only sixty in 1828, and of these all but six were destroyed in 1830; if any of those six are left now, they are probably built into some of the stone fences, for I did not see them."

Windle goes on to say that there may be an issue with fitting Grange D beside Grange B. "From the segment which remains, Professor Alexander has been able to compute the diameter which the entire circle, if it were a circle, possessed, and this would have been 225 feet. Now, if a circle of this diameter were to be described on the plan, it would intersect circle C. Either, then, this was no part of a circle, or the stones have been so much disturbed as to make it impossible to draw any deductions respecting them."
So it seems that there were some stones remaining in 1830 and by tracing these (if they were a circle) they would run through Circle C (which still exists today). However I’ve tried this on google maps and if you take the diameter of the circle as being 170ft (as per Lynch above) it actually shows that the old 1840s OS map is to scale and a circle (with its western edge missing) would fit between Circle C and the field boundary.
Grange Circle D fitting between Circle C and boundary / old road if 175ft diameter © Google
Professor Alexander gives a diameter of 225ft based on remains when he inspected. However again using google maps I think a circle of this size could have fitted beside Circle C (see the mock up below). 
Grange Circle D fitting between Circle C and running through boundary / old road if 225ft diameter © Google
What is missing though is any crop mark for the circle. However as it states above it was “entirely composed of blocks of stone”, so I’m guessing that a stone only circle (without a bank) would have left a much fainter crop circle than an embanked circle? 

So the question remains, would it have been possible for a circle of 170ft diameter and between 72 and 60 stones to have existed to the north of Circle C? For comparison purposes Grange B is approx 153ft in diameter. From the google maps evidence it appears that yes it could have.
Mock up of possible Grange D stone circle beside Grange C
Another option is that the missing Circle existed 'across the road' where the crop marks exist today. There are some stones in this field and in Windle's survey they are described as an "Avenue". How they would relate to a potential stone circle I'm not sure - I've included a picture of some the stones from the avenue and the area of the field where the crop circle is (see below). This circle looks to be more of an oval rather than a circle and from google maps measures 326ft at its longer width and 243ft at its narrower width.
Some of the stones of the "Avenue" and the area of the field where the embanked stone circle would be.
In Windle he says of the Avenue “Harkness thought that they might have formed the western side of circle D but this is clearly impossible. Mr. Lynch thinks that it was the avenue leading to a completely destroyed circle in the same field. Harkness (p. 390), in his description, alludes to "a large cup-shaped depression about 210 paces in diameter ; but whether this is a natural or an artificial production there is not sufficient evidence at present to determine." Mr. Lynch also alludes (p. 300) to this depression, which he says has a diameter of 230 feet. He adds: "Not a stone is now left of this circle, the last having been taken away about sixty years ago. There are traces of this circle having been formerly surrounded by a rath." There certainly is a cup-shaped depression in the field ; but I think it better to agree with Professor Harkness that there is not sufficient evidence to say what it may have been, or indeed to decide upon its natural or artificial origin.”

Mock-up of what the embanked stone circle "might" have looked like - a lot of speculation here on my part!

So to conclude is the existing Grange B only the “baby” of two much larger monuments? Namely a 72 upright stone circle without a bank with a diameter of probably 170ft called Grange D and an unnamed embanked oval of 326ft? More detailed surveying of the area at Grange D would certainly go a long way to help figuring it out. 

Thanks to Microsoft & National Monuments of Ireland for use of their aerial photographs respectively.  

27th August

Picture of close to minor lunar standstill moonset at Carrigeen stone row. Unfortunately a big bank of cloud blocked the moon for most of the night and this pic was taken at least an hour before moonset so is inconclusive regarding where the moon would actually set within the landscape.

17th August 2015

A recent post over on Facebook Irish Archaeology Group reminded me about the "Rolls of Butter" bullaun stone near Bonane Heritage Park that I visited back in 2013. I recall reading that it is thought that on the winter solstice the sun rises (at around 9.46am according to the fact-sheet below) in a "rolling-sun" effect (similar to at Boheh in Co. Mayo) over the hill in the background from the position of the bullaun stone at Garranes / Feaghna graveyard.

The owner of the Bonane Heritage Park website has also put together this very interesting fact-sheet that is available for download here.

The Rolls of Butter bullaun stone
8th August 2015

I initially used the plan of the Knockcurraghbola Commons wedge-tomb in the Survey of Megalithic Tombs to calculate that it was aligned towards the May / Aug Cross-quarter sunrise. The Sun Seeker & Sun Surveyor apps seemed to confirm this. However this mornings visual observations suggest otherwise. It is more than likely due to the elevation of the hill that the sun rises over. It may be that due to this the sun might be a better "fit" at the Summer Solstice. Still the early morning rise wasn't a waste as the sun-rise was beautiful to watch and I really think the "cup-mark" on one of the stones within the tomb needs to be looked at by someone more qualified than myself.  

When I initially arrived there were beautiful pre-dawn colours.

I hooked up the tarp over the tomb to make it darker and possibly how it may have been with a mound over it.
From within the tomb with the tarp over it.

The "first sun" flash. I happened to be outside the tomb when it occurred.
Add caption

Sunrise from within the tomb.

I think this illustrates how far off the tomb is away from the Cross-quarter alignment, 
The sun's rays touching the interior of the tomb.

The tomb returned to it's natural state and the sun beginning to rise away to the right.

I really think that this is a cup-mark. 
29th July 2015 

Minor Lunar Standstill

2015 is the year of the Minor Lunar Standstill. Tonight appears to be a good night for viewing the moon setting at one end of its 18.6 year cycle. What is interesting is that many of the stone rows in Cork & Kerry are aligned towards this. 
I had checked out whether Barbaha / Carrigeen stone row in North Tipperary could be aligned to this event via and it seems very likely that it is. I did a check on it this evening using the sun surveyor app and again it looks very convincing (if a little bit confusing in the picture below). 
The last part to do is to head up there again at 3.45 in the morning to view it. It is of course weather dependent and also alarm clock dependent! 

27th July 2015
I had a query about the westward orientation of wedge-tombs and the fact that the wedge-tombs in the North Tipperary area mostly faced east. What I have since discovered is that the definition of orientation relates to the closing stone of each wedge-tomb. This in nearly 100% of cases faces to the west. Also any wedge-tombs that still have the enclosing mound intact, then it is the eastern end that appears to be covered. In other areas of Ireland if a wedge-tomb has been opened or is in a state of disrepair then it is this closing stone that has been opened. Unusually (I think) in North Tipp it seems that access to the tombs (whether by ancient vandalism or just the ravages of time) is at the eastern side. Of course if a tomb is oriented to the west at one end then the other end of it must be east facing.

13th July 2015

I have been researching the megalithic tombs of North Tipperary and have come across a curious feature.
These tombs are all located within a few square kilometres of each other and all face east towards the rising sun.
What is even more curious is that the Survey of Megalithic Tombs - Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick & Tipperary by Ruaidhri de Valera and Sean O Nuallain (1982) gives the following diagram which proports to show the orientation of the various megalithic tombs studied within the book. As you can see they all are facing to various degrees of west. However it seems to ignore any that face east which is curious indeed.

10th July 2015

This map from Michael Dames - Mythic Ireland has always fascinated me since I first purchased the book. It shows the August Cross-Quarter sunrise line from the Grange Lios and I think Dames may have been influenced by J F Lynchs piece called 'The myths and monuments of Loch Gair' Ser. 2, Vol. 3, No. 34-36 (1897) pp 332 - 360 in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.
link here….
In this Lynch refers to t...he Liagan Line - a series of standing stones that go from Lough Gur to High Park. A standing stone at High Park is know as Bans Stone and "denotes the first of February". "The Liagan Line then extends from Ardgort to the island of Dun Gair. There are two stones left between Bans Stone and that of the Buachaill, and six between the Buachaill and Knock Fennell" He then goes on to say "The Pillar, so called Brehon's chair, Ronadh, centre and cromlech, are in one line, and give the summer line from May-day to November-eve. Several of these stones, and these of Liagan Line, face in various ways, which must be taken into account. The passage is E.N.E and gives La Lugnasadh, or August 1st, when the oenach was held close by".
It is a bit confusing but it does show that Lough Gur and the Grange Lios were being considered astronomically from as early as 1897.

1st July 2015

Piece in the local newspaper - The Nenagh Guardian on my discovery at Baurnadoomeny

22nd June 2015

I was lucky enough to record the Summer Solstice sunrise within Baurnadoomeny wedge tomb in North Tipperary.

I posted some photos of it here on my facebook page.

The post has received over 30,000 views which I'm delighted with.

May 2015

I wrote a piece for Tom Nelligan's wonderful website titled "Rathurles and surrounds - A forgotten royal complex and a previously unrecognised henge?" 

25th February 2015

3d model of rock-art at Lisheentyrone - rediscovered by megalithic archaeo astronomy page owner Derek Ryan. The stone pair here is likely to be aligned to the equinox sun-set. (Best viewed using chrome)

5th February 2015

I was at the Grange Lios in Lough Gur again yesterday evening and with a clear sky I was treated to a beautiful near-Imbolc sunset.
I also discovered something very interesting (I think) from my observations - on the cross quarter day the shadow of the "horned" stones that mark the cross quarter, slowly cast a shadow that ends up touching the "entrance" stones. It didn't touch them exactly as the tree and the house were in the way but may have done so in antiquity.
As it was a day after the exact cross-quarter I did note that the sun did not align perfectly behind the "horned" stones but it wasn't a large discrepancy.

For more info and pictures see the following link

17th November 2014

Finished a Bing Map of where the various sites are located in Ireland.

Click Here 

23rd September 2014

Shrough Passage Tomb - Equinox sun-set. I was lucky to get any pictures at all as a big bank of cloud had settled in front of the setting-sun. Thankfully it broke through for about 2 mins and with my make-shift dome it illuminated one of the back-stones to the left-hand side. I think as it set further it would also have illuminated the back-stone to the right hand side and should set behind Knockfierna on which there is a cairn. Knockfierna is also know as the "Fairy hill of Donn Firinne" and the hill is steeped in folklore. Directly to the east of Shrough Passage Tomb is Slievenamon or the "Mountain of Women" another hill with a rich folklore. I had been up to this tomb at the Spring Equinox but the sun was a no show so it is great to be able to confirm this alignment.

For more information see here

Shevry - pond-barrow and stone pair. These two standing stones are aligned east - west towards a V shaped notch created by two hills. On it was proposed that they may have been aligned to the Equinox Sun-set and I decided it was worth a shot to try and confirm.
Unfortunately the sun-sets behind the hill to the left before it aligns in the V shaped 'notch' created by the two hills. Setting occurs at this location at approx. 6.50 while the official sun set on the 21st was 7.33.

20th September 2014

In March 2014 I had been researching whether a stone pair at Lisheentryone was aligned to the Equinox Sunrise / Sunset. While there I happened upon a large out-crop of stone with a large number of previously undiscovered prehistoric cup-marks. I was encouraged to write an article for Archaeology Ireland on it and other rock-art in North Tipperary and it was published in the Autumn volume of Archaeology Ireland.

This is a draft version of the article

Rock Art in North Tipperary
By Derek Ryan Bawn
When you review a map of the distribution of prehistoric rock-art in Ireland there has always been a large area, according to the Schedule of Monuments Record (SMR), where none occurs in the counties of Tipperary, Limerick, the northern sections of Cork & Kerry, most of Clare and most of Offaly & Laois (Fig.1). 
Fig. 1 Geographical distribution of Rock-art in Ireland (Lisheentyrone is highlighted in red) (courtesy of the National Monuments Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and the Gaeltacht).

Broadly speaking there are large concentrations in the south & west of Cork & Kerry, another concentration around Kilkenny, Carlow and Wicklow, there is some of the most famous rock-art in Meath (Bru Na Boinne & Loughcrew) and another concentration in Donegal / Derry. There are also some panels in Mayo, Sligo, Cavan, Louth and Westmeath.
Recently a new panel of cup-markings have been discovered in North Tipperary in the townland of Lisheentyrone near the village of Portroe (Fig. 2, Fig. 3 & Fig. 4). It is likely to be the oldest recorded artwork in all of Tipperary.
Fig. 2 Cup-marked stone at Lisheentyrone.

Fig. 3 Cup-marked stone at Lisheentyrone looking West.

Fig. 4 Cup-marked stone at Lisheentyrone looking East.

To date there has been evidence pointing towards the potential of rock-art in North Tipperary. Cup-marks were noted during the excavation of Baurnadoomeeny wedge-tomb near Rearcross and possible cup-marks have been noted on a kerb-stone of a barrow at Borrisnoe.
Excavations during the construction of the M8 motorway near Cashel in South Tipperary also revealed a pick-marked stone covering a cist at Windmill Hill.
Caimin O’Brien of the National Monuments Service has inspected the open air panel at Lisheentyrone and it has now been added to the Schedule of Recorded Monuments. The panel itself is part of a rock out-crop that is approximately 3.4m x 2.8m. It is adjacent to a standing stone pair and a large bowl barrow (Fig. 5 & F[ipk8uig. 6). On a previous visit to the stone pair in 2005, the rock out-crop was covered with grass. However on a visit in March of this year the grass covering had been eroded away and it was immediately clear that the stone was cup-marked. It was also noted that there were similar cup-marks on the eastern stone of the nearby stone pair. There are expansive views to the west (where Lough Derg is located) and also to the south-west, south and south-east.  To the north the view is limited by rising ground. The hill of Laghtea to the south-west seems to dominate the landscape from the cup marked panel and this hill was identified as the location of a hill-fort by Tom Condit in 1995 (Fig. 7). Unusually there are no views of Lough Derg from the panel.

Fig. 5 Illustrating the relationship between the rock-art panel and the stone pair.

Fig. 6 Illustrating the relationship between the rock-art panel and the bowl-barrow.

Fig. 7 Showing the relationship between the rock art panel and the hill-fort of Laghtea (centre of photo).

A revaluation of possible rock-art in the North Tipperary is now needed. It is very probable that the cup-marks on the kerb of the barrow at Borrisnoe are authentic (Fig. 8). They have been noted as being possible cup-marks as part of the description of the associated mound-barrow in the Archaeological Inventory of County Tipperary but have not been given an individual SMR number.  They are described in the SMR as “According to an OPW field report (30.12.77) there are cupmarks on the external faces of some of the kerbstones in the SE quad; these are now covered with lichen. A possible cupmark was noted on the internal face of a stone in the NNW quadrant and on the external face of a stone at ESE.” 
Figure 8 shows the kerbstone in the SE quadrant. There is approximately 15-20 cup-marks on this stone. Unusually there are also cup-marks on the horizontal edge of this stone.
Fig. 8 Cup-marks on kerb-stone at Borrisnoe.

Another possible location of rock-art in Tipperary is on a standing stone in the townland of Blackstairs in South Tipperary (Fig. 9). To date the markings on the standing stone have been described in the SMR “as traces of natural hollows on both surfaces which may be the result of natural erosion”.  However it is possible that these are in fact cup-marks rather than natural marking. Unusually there are cup-markings on both sides of the standing stone. The standing stone is located within a ditch and is 2.1m high with a thickness of 0.13m and a width of 1.25m. It has expansive views in all the directions.  It may be that this stone once formed part of another monument and was deposited in the ditch.
Fig. 9 Possible cup-marks on a standing stone at Blackstairs.

What is also worth noting is that each of the panels of rock-art is in close proximity of a barrow. Lisheentyrone is 30 metres from a bowl barrow, Borrisnoe is part of the kerb of a mound barrow and Blackstairs is within 600 metres of a ring-barrow.
The newly discovered panel of cup-marks at Lisheentyrone opens up the exciting possibility that there is more rock art waiting to be rediscovered in the mid-west region. We often see that once one instance of rock-art is discovered in a region, there are more in the locality. As each of the panels has been found in the vicinity of existing prehistoric monuments, it seems that the search for more should begin there. 

I would like to thank Chris Corlett for his advice and guidance with this article.  I would also like to thank Ken Williams and Ian Thompson whose photography and field walking have inspired me in my own. I would of course like to thank my wife and parents who supported me in writing this article. The photograph provided by National Monuments Service is much appreciated.

June 2006

I visited Callanish stone circle on the Isle of Lewis back in 2006 for the Major Lunar Standstill. The theory put forward by Margaret Curtis and her husband Gerard Pointing is that Callinish was built to frame the low transit of the moon at the Major Lunar Standstill along "Sleeping Beauty", a figure made from the hills to the south. For more info see here. I had a terrible digital camera and most of the pictures I took were blurry with the below being the best of a bad lot. The stone circle itself is awe inspiring and the whole journey had the feeling of a pilgrimage involving planes, ferries, hitching lifts and buses. I can't recommend the Scottish Isles enough, the people were so friendly and hospitable and scenery so ruggedly beautiful.   
Also see more from Julian Cope's The Modern Antiquarian on youtube here (From about 17mins on) 

Moon skirting along "Sleeping Beauty" to the south of Callinish Stone Circle.

Callinish Stone Circle