Local Heritage Matters

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grange1.jpg (15099 bytes) RUINS AT GRANGE (New Inn): The two parts of the building shown on the left are all that remain (above ground at least) of the monastery which is thought to have been inhabited by Cistercian monks several centuries ago. The Cistercians were introduced to Ireland by St. Malachy - with the help of St. Bernard at Clairvaux in France (where St. Malachy used to stay on his way to and from Rome). The first Cistercian settlement began in Ireland in 1142 at Mellifont (near Droheda). Between 1538 and 1542 many sites like those at Grange were looted and damaged by soldiers who took their instructions from King Henry VIII of England: a man who appears to have had few qualms about physical violence, and who had Anne Boleyn (his own wife) beheaded. Sometime during this 4 year period, it is thought that the monks at Grange may have suddenly fled in fear for their lives to nearby Derrynamanagh. The place-name Derrynamanagh is in all probability a corruption of the Celtic words Doire na Manach, meaning The Wood of the Monks. It is noted in at least one reference book that the Cistercian monks did have a liking for lonely wooded places. Parts of the village of New Inn can be seen in the background between the two stone columns above. Several members of the local Finnerty family are buried close to the ruins in the photograph above, including the oldest known member to have lived in the New Inn area; he was Michael Finnerty, who was born in 1796 and died in 1870. (For information on the older parts of Grange, please click  here.)

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grange_stone1.jpg (16619 bytes)QUERN STONE FOUND NEAR GRANGE: The item of cut-stone on the right was found some time ago within a short distance of the ruined building at Grange (shown above). It is believed that it belonged to the monks who once lived there. For the reasons given above the monks at Grange probably left in a great hurry: taking with them only their lighter and more valuable possessions. This stone is thought to be part of a hand-mill for grinding cereals of the kind used in bread making. In olden times it would have been called a quern. Monks of the time would normally be fully self-sufficient as far as the provision of food for their communities was concerned. The local person who found the stone expressed the thought that local school children might enjoy (and benefit) from seeing it, and consequently it is at present (May 2000) on display in one of Finnerty's shop windows. The wish has also been expressed that at some later date this stone might be returned to the area where it was found, possibly as part of a small, simple monument in memory of the community of monks who once lived and worked at Grange. The newly formed New Inn Local Community Council has been informed, and it is hoped that its members will give some thought to this idea. The person who found the stone would prefer to remain anonymous.

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portal2.jpg (17170 bytes)PORTAL TOMB?: Less than a mile from Grange, the stones shown on the left can be seen at a place called Cloonbenes. This place-name is thought to be derived from the Celtic words cluain binneas - literally "meadow sweet", but meaning "sweet meadow". They are just inside a gate by the roadside. It is thought that this collection of stones might be the collapsed remains of a portal tomb. Portal tombs are now believed to be above-ground burial chambers for the remains of people cremated in very ancient times. They normally consist of 3 to 7 upright stones which support one (or sometimes two) really heavy capstones. These monuments are also referred to as dolmens - a word which has evolved from the two Old Breton Celtic words "tol mén": which literally mean "table of stone". Some believe that dolmens were also used as alters by the Celtic druids of long ago. Several of the portal tombs examined scientifically are now believed to be in the region of 5,000 years old.

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cairn1.jpg (18294 bytes)CAIRN: The stones shown on the right, which are just by the roadside, are located 5 miles or so to the north east of New Inn village near a place called Alloon (which is close to Ballymacward). As there is a fairly large river in the area, Alloon is probably a corruption of the Celtic words Áth Lúain, meaning Luan's Ford. Some may be interested to know that a slightly different corruption of the same two words has produced the much better known Irish place-name Athlone. The stones in this photograph form a very small part of what is called a court cairn. Some archaeologists believe that court cairns may be the very oldest form of Irish burial monument.

hole1.jpg (15271 bytes)One hundred yards or so behind the mound with the stones shown immediately above, there is a piece of ground (approximately 12 feet in diameter) which appears to have sunk down to varying depths of between 1 to 3 feet roughly (please see photograph on left). When it rains heavily this depression takes in a flow of water (similar to a drain). This might indicate the presence of a partly collapsed subsidiary chamber of the kind often associated with court cairns. If there is a partly collapsed subsidiary chamber underneath, it may be linked underground to the main cairn mound, and it may be just one of a number of subsidiary chambers.

Radiocarbon tests (believed to be accurate to within a few hundred years) indicate that one such cairn at Ballymacdermot (Co. Armagh, in Northern Ireland), was constructed in 4975 B.C., making it somewhere in the region of 6,975 years old. This would mean that structures of this kind were being built in parts of Ireland (including Alloon?) well over 2,000 years before the first of the great pyramids of Egypt was constructed. The Pyramid Age, Dynasties III to VI, during which all of the really spectacular pyramids in Egypt are believed to have been built, was between 2686 B.C. and 2181 B.C..

In so far as we know, and as seems to be the case with dozens of other ancient monuments in the local area, there has never been any significant archaeological study of the cairn near Alloon. For those who are interested in seeing it, its exact location is shown on current editions of Map 46 in the Discovery Series of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (which is compiled, published and printed by The Ordnance Survey Office, Phoenix Park, Dublin). Many of the larger newsagents in the Republic of Ireland stock copies of this particular series of maps.

The Cairn at Alloon is listed under the name "Annagh an Teanach" (reference number 1026) on pages 4 and 5 of the book entitled "Archaeological Inventory of County Galway (Volume II)" - which was published in 1999 by the Government Stationary Office in Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. It is referred to using the word "Tumulus": suggesting that it is very old - possibly from the Neolithic period. Unfortunately, the part shown above on the right has been badly damaged, and this Government publication contains the following statement: " ... the SW half was completely removed in 1977 during road widening".

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Last update: December 21st 2000


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