Nature`s Silent Music

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    Nature´s Silent Music

    In this book, Callahan shows how ”civilized” insanity is turning Ireland away from her naturally harmonious, aesthetically pleasing, sound practices. Why remove a thatched roof to replace it with galvanized tin, only to increase the heating bill? With insightful wisdom, Callahan also examines the mysterious power of round towers, ”magic spots” and healers such as Biddy Early. Callahan’s study of hedgerows, booley people and Ireland’s traditional form of agriculture can teach everyone the value of the land and why not to carelessly destroy it with toxic chemicals.

     

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    Lorcán Ó Ciaráin Of Magheramenagh Castle

    Following up on my article examining the last great battle of the War of Independence, the confrontation between a combined force of pro- and anti-treaty units of the Irish Republican Army and the British Occupation Forces in the “Pettigo and Belleek salient“ of counties Fermanagh and Donegal during the summer of 1922, Jim Greenan has provided some additional information about one of the eye-witnesses to the clashes, in two emails outlined below:

    “I was very interested in your comments on Fr. Lorcán Ó Ciaráin whom you described as a pro-treaty Sinn Féiner. This would have been at odds with what my father told me. My father was a taxi driver during the later years of Fr. Ó Ciaráin’s time in Belleek and he told a different story. He drove Fr. Ó Ciaráin to mass in Mulleek and Pettigo regularly and was very friendly with him. He told me and actually recorded on tape a few years before he died that Fr. Ó Ciaráin maintained he was against the Treaty and was not on good terms with Michael Collins and the government but after the June battles the British army and Specials gave him a very hard time and the curfew in the area made it impossible to do his duty. He made contact with Michael Collins to see what could be done to lift the curfew or allow him to carry out his duty to his parishioners. He arranged to meet Michael Collins at a priest house in County Cork on the day he (Michael Collins) was shot. The meeting didn’t take place but Michael Collins went to the house  and apparently was shot later that evening.

    Fr. Lorcán Ó Ciaráin told my father on his deathbed that he had to live with the belief that he was partly responsible for Collins death. Fr. Ó Ciaráin fell out with de Valera over the use of the Donegal corridor in WW2 with the allies stationed on Lough Erne.

    Regarding Belleek Fort my father bought it in 1961 and demolished most of it with gelignite that he bought from Donegal County Council [early 1962/63] and brought from Lifford in the boot of an Austin Farina. I sold the site in 2001.

    …there was an unholy row about the demolition of the Fort, Donegal County Council bought the stones from my father and used them as filling on the then new road in Ballyshannon which by-passed the Port road in the town.”

     

    That Old Kitchen Stove

    ‘That old kitchen stove, how my memory clings,
    As my thoughts turn back to the savory things
    That emerged from its oven, its pots and kettles
    When my mother was matron of those relishing victuals.

    With what a rattle and clatter and din,
    The table was loaded with the brightest of tin.
    The fire was given a punch and a poke,
    And the quaint stone chimney, how it would smoke!

    The embers on the hearth would sparkle and glow
    As if for the occasion they were anxious to go
    Enthused, as it were, by my mother’s desire,
    For she trusted completely on that old stove fire.’

    From That Old Kitchen Stove by David Harold Judd (1901). Pictures of the former gate lodge at Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh.

Fit for a New Bride


In Ireland today the name John B Keane is usually associated with a Kerry author of popular stage dramas. In the 19th century however, it would be more likely taken to refer to a successful architect. The date of John Benjamin Keane’s birth is unknown but by 1819-20 he was working as an assistant to Richard Morrison. In 1823 he was listed in Wilson’s Dublin Directory as practising under his own name and for the next two decades enjoyed a busy career. Among his most notable commissions was the design of St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, recently restored after a disastrous fire in 2009, and Queen’s College in Galway (now NUI Galway) in 1845. Keane’s winning design for the latter was described at the time as being ‘ a magnificent edifice in the style of Henry the Eight’s time.’ In addition to such public properties, he also designed a number of private residences, including Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh.





Magheramenagh belonged to a branch of the Johnston family, large numbers of whom had moved from Scotland to this part of the country in the early 17th century. Successive generations lived in the same area of Fermanagh, the estate being inherited in 1833 by James Johnston who five years later married Cecilia, daughter of Thomas Newcomen Edgeworth of County Longford. It would appear that around this time he commissioned from Keane the design of a home for his new bride. The building was much in the style then fashionable, a loose interpretation of Tudor Gothic indicated by the presence of blind gables, polygonal turrets, castellations and finials. Of two storeys other (than a three-floor square tower in the north-east corner) and all faced in crisp limestone, the main entrance was to the north, the southern front looking down on the river Erne. A large conservatory occupied much of the eastern end of the building while the service wing stood to the west, an enfilade of four reception rooms occupying the space between.





Ultimately neither Magheramenagh nor its architect had a happy ending. Keane’s career was wrecked by alcoholism, he fell into debt and was imprisoned in the Marshalsea Gaol (a debtor’s prison off Dublin’s south quays: it was demolished in 1975) before dying in 1859. Meanwhile James Johnston had died in 1873 and Magheramenagh passed to his son Robert. He in turn died just nine years later, leaving the estate to his son James Cecil Johnston, then aged less than two. James Cecil would be killed at Gallipoli in August 1915, Magheramenagh then occupied by his widow and two young daughters. Unable to manage, they left the property in 1921 and it was bought as a residence for the local Roman Catholic priest: the following May the house was briefly taken over by the members of the British armed forces. Reverting back to the parish, thereafter it remained in use as a presbytery until the 1950s when abandoned and unroofed. Afterwards a large part of the house was demolished: it can be seen what now remains on the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baltinglass Stones – connected to Turkey’s Gobkeli Tepe?
UPDATED 14 DECEMBER, 2021 – 15:18 DAVID HALPIN

Baltinglass Hill: Ireland’s Forgotten Gobekli Tepi?

Resting high upon the hills of Wicklow lies buried one of the most remarkable Neolithic sites in all of Europe. Strangely, even today many people are unaware of its existence.

Baltinglass Hill is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites consisting of what many believe to be an ancient observatory, a ruined stone circle , and structures which up until recently were called ‘tombs’ but are now much more likely to be ceremonial sites aligning the earth to the stars.

There are also structures and huge rectangular pillar-type slabs protruding from the earth around the ruins, some containing carvings which cannot be seen properly because they are still buried. These unexamined stones stretch across and down through the fields and woods from Baltinglass and lead towards Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle.

Stone at Baltinglass Hill, Wicklow, Ireland.

Stone at Baltinglass Hill, Wicklow, Ireland.

Links to Stellar Gods and Goddesses

At the foot of the Baltinglass complex in the opposite direction lie what may have once been huge entrance stones inscribed with markings that look similar to middle-east and Eurasian carvings.

Perhaps most impressive, in terms of what we can currently examine, is a magnificent ceremonial stone basin within one of the grottos at the pinnacle of the hill. Perhaps this granite font had a shamanistic purpose and was filled with psychoactive substances and would have been consumed during ritual ceremonies. This would also align to particular constellations illuminating the hillside where part of the astrotheological belief systems of the Druids meant that a particular star or astral body would infuse a ritual preparation with its link to stellar gods and goddesses.

(Photo © David Halpin)

Initially associated with Hill Forts, Baltinglass is now proving to be a much more enigmatic and important group of structures.

A common misconception amongst many people is that the Celts were the builders of Ireland’s great stone circles and monuments such as Newgrange, but this is not the case. The Celts arrival in Ireland, commonly agreed to be roughly 500 BC, is closer in time to us today than it is to the construction of Newgrange, for example.

Newgrange passage tombs, a prehistoric monument in Ireland, built during the Neolithic period around 3000 BC to 2500 BC. It is older than Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramids.

Newgrange passage tombs, a prehistoric monument in Ireland, built during the Neolithic period around 3000 BC to 2500 BC. It is older than Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramids

Many people in Ireland around 3500 BC were in fact from the southern Mediterranean and Eurasia which was proven as recently as December 2015 by Trinity College, Dublin and Queens University, Belfast.

Tantalizingly, a discovery by Dr. Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at IT Sligo, and Dr. Ruth Carden, a Research Associate with the National Museum of Ireland has shown that Ireland was populated much earlier than initially believed, and this allows us to anticipate much more exciting discoveries in the future in relation to who Ireland’s first people actually were.

Perhaps many of Ireland’s stone circles and monuments such as Baltinglass do not belong to the Neolithic at all and in fact connect more to the time of Gobekli Tepi in the Mesolithic; the DNA certainly allows for this possibility; in fact, it positively screams it out at us. However, the question would then have to be asked: do we have any similar themes or alignments to back this theory up?

Gobekli Tepe

Gobekli Tepi is currently dated to before 9000 BC, but with earlier levels still to be excavated this date will be pushed back in the near future. Currently, there are two main cases for constellation alignment; Orion and Cygnus.

Gobekli Tepe, found in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of modern-day Turkey, has been dated to before 9000 BC.

Gobekli Tepe, found in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of modern-day Turkey, has been dated to before 9000 BC. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Another reason to abandon the hill fort association is that Baltinglass Hill has no water supply, no weapons have been found, and evidence shows the populations did not fight in the way we are accustomed to seeing in movies, such as storming a structure from below. In fact, populations at this time were quite fragmented, and it is estimated that the population in Ireland was roughly 100,000 people, which is aligned to levels throughout the Neolithic.

Perhaps the most telling factor of all when it comes to the importance and breadth of Baltinglass as a ceremonial center is the extension of further stone circles and Dolmens overlooked by the hill itself.

Potential alignments exist at the circles of nearby Boleycarrigeen, Castleruddery, and Athgreany. A further unexplored alignment can be suggested at Haroldstown Dolmen where Baltinglass Hill and Boleycarrigeen stone circle are framed within the Dolmen portal itself.

Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle

Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle

Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle

Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle

Castleruddery Stone Circle

Castleruddery Stone Circle

Castleruddery Stone Circle

Castleruddery Stone Circle

The Move to Tombs

As is typical for sites which were forgotten for thousands of years and then rediscovered by later settlers, Baltinglass began to be used for burial purposes when it’s ritual and astronomical function had been lost.

When a small excavation was conducted in 1934, evidence of later cremations of at least three adults and a child were found. Also discovered were carbonized hazelnuts, wheat grains, and a saddle quern point.

 

Current dating places some of the Baltinglass structures at 3300 BC but this is expected to be revised to an even older date in the future. Our main problem of course is that carbon dating can only give us the date of the material on the stones and not the stones themselves. Ashes and bone were probably placed within the structures long after its original ritual purpose was forgotten.

Celestial Alignments

Local historian Turtle Bunbery has commented upon the pole star alignment on the summer solstice but there is potential new evidence for alignments with Cygnus and Ursa Major, which would be further proof of a connection to Newgrange which has had its Cygnus alignments well documented in recent years. My own research using computer software shows an alignment with Ursa Major to the north and Cygnus to the west at dawn on June 21st—the summer solstice.

Stones at Baltinglass Hill.

Stones at Baltinglass Hill.

Stones at Baltinglass Hill.

Stones at Baltinglass Hill.

However, with the sky mapping technology available to us today we can rediscover the alignments that took place on solstices and equinoxes in the past, as well as being able to use software to calculate star rises and constellation positions that connect to the site, irrespective of precession.

Could Baltinglass and Boleycarrigeen perhaps point to alignments linking these sites to the age of Taurus?

Stones at Boleycarrigeen

Stones at Boleycarrigeen

Coincidentally enough, Boleycarrigeen actually means the ‘bull grazing in stones’ and one of Ireland greatest mythological tales, The Tain, is about the theft of a legendary bull and also has many parallels and allegories relating to the passing of one astrological age into another.

Táin Bó Cúailnge, commonly known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin, is a legendary from early Irish literature.

Táin Bó Cúailnge, commonly known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin, is a legendary from early Irish literature. Illustration of Cú Chulainn in battle. ( Public Domain )

Currently, Baltinglass lies exposed and mostly unexplored, particularly the satellite stones and ruins which up until recently were covered by woodland.

Frustratingly, the potential connections to visually aligned nearby sites remain ignored, so the purpose and ritual significance of the chosen landscape is still a mystery.

Baltinglass Hill site

Baltinglass Hill site

Like Gobekli Tepi, many structures connected to the site remain buried and traverse what must have been seen as a sacred region connecting land and sky, stone and star for the enigmatic builders. Perhaps one day, after careful and considerate excavation and exploration, we will know more about Baltinglass and its lost astronomical and ceremonial purpose.

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