Irish Genius
Some Spared Stones of Ireland

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field guide

irish prehistoric tombs:





stone circles

(rock art)


stone forts, crannógs & souterrains

ogam-stones &

& cross-slabs

enigmas of the irish crosses


& the phallic continuum

satan in the groin


the earth-mother's

east of brittany:
megaliths of western and southern france










"Cloghadda" or The Long Stone, Tamnaharry, county Down


photographs and text by
Anthony Weir



The landscape of Ireland (littered with so much else)
is also littered with uncounted Standing-stones (also known as Menhirs*). Two thousand years ago there may have been ten times as many as there are today. Perhaps ten thousand now survive, ranging from less than one metre high to more than seven metres.

* Menhir is an antiquarian fake-Breton word for 'long stone' [compare Cloch Fháda in Irish] - the actual Breton for menhir being Peulvan or 'stone pillar'.

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Ballygilbert, county Antrim: just over one metre high

Often they have a name like "Cloghmore" from the Irish for 'big stone' (cloch mór), or "Cloghadda", from the Irish for long - or broad -stone (cloch fháda).

Sometimes their Irish name is translated and they are known as "The Long Stone".


The Long Stone, Forenaghts Great, county Kildare:
over 5 metres high.

Cloghstuckagh, Moyvoughly, county Westmeath

"Cloghstuckagh" means 'prominent stone'.

Not all stones are ancient: some were erected in the Christian period and were decorated with Christian (or perhaps non-Christian) motifs - and some were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries as Scratching-posts for cattle. On the other hand, one in County Down which is touchingly held steady by a steel hawser wrapped round a tree marked a Bronze Age burial of burnt bones.

Carrownacaw, county Down

Some Irish menhirs seem to have been altered, like the 'shouldered' stone at Barnmeen, county Down.

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Some of these are very likely the last stone of a portal-tomb to survive - the removal of which might well have brought ill-luck at the very least. This is likely in the case of "The Long Stone" at Ballybeen, and "Cloghmore" at Tamnaharry, county Down.

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Tamnaharry, county Down

A few might even be the sole survivor of a stone circle, an alignment,
or of a forecourt.

But others were obviously erected because of existing characteristics,
subsequently enhanced by further weathering.

Ardristan, county Carlow

In some cases, weather has actually split the stone into two or more parts.

Graigue, county Kerry

In others, lightning has struck - as happened recently at Ballyconry (between Tipperary town and the village of Emly), leaving traces of carbon

photographs by Derek Ryan

Quartzite stones were selected for their perceived numinous quality, and quartzite pebbles are often to be found in association with prehistoric and pre-Norman monuments in Ireland.

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Cregg, county Derry

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Pairs of stones also occur, of which one may be pointed or rounded, and the other flattened or grooved, suggesting male and female. Cattle were driven between these to encourage fertility.

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Boherboy, county Dublin

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Moneyslane, county Down

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Saval More private burying-ground, county Down

Alignments or Stone-rows are also numerous.

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Castlenalacht, county Cork

They are sometimes associated with stone circles.

Beaghmore, county Tyrone
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The stone circles associated with alignments are usually of small stones; at Beaghmore some are only a few centimetres high.

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Kealkil, county Cork

At Kealkil, as at Beaghmore, the alignment and circle are also accompanied by a circular low heap of stones.

Circles of tall stones, being sufficiently prominent, do not have associated alignments. But sometimes, as at Ardgroom Outward, they may have one or more outlier.

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Ardgroom Outward, county Cork - with outlier to right

When ogam writing was introduced to Ireland from Wales, just before Christianity arrived, some long-standing stones were used for inscriptions which were mostly memorials of named people. The word 'ogam' is derived from Oigmiú, the smith-god who became the script-god. Another aspect of the smith-god is Nuadú of the silver arm (and horned helmet) whose statue (formerly in Armagh Cathedral) is a motif of these pages.




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part two