« PreviousContinue »
at the other narrowing into a passage of five feet in extent, and in span at first about two feet and a half square, but gradually widening as it points in the direction of the river and church, until it opens into another room, measuring 18 feet in length by nine in its centre breadth, for it narrows at both ends. Within it a man can stand erect, and the whole is covered by three very large flags, wearing the appearance of a flat-bottomed boat turned upside down." These caves are all constructed without mortar, the archings being turned on geometric principles; the cells, most usually circular, are about five feet high, and as many in diameter, while the connecting galleries, of varying length, have their sides made of stones laid flat upon each other, and covered with flags, projecting gradually until closed by one range at top. The use, to which these structures were applied, is extremely doubtful, but, as they were evidently too small and narrow for the reception of human beings, they would seem rather designed for the convenient disposal of stores, arms, provisions, and other such warlike necessaries as were then of use, which in these places might be kept secure from the weather, ready for use, and inaccessible to plunderers. That they were not used for habitations is made more probable, by their having no passages for light or smoke, while their use as granaries is confirmed by Giraldus Cambrensis in his “ Conquest of Ireland” (lib. ii. c. 17), where he says, that the natives of this province, when Connaught wasinvaded by
Milo de Cogan, burned all before him, their townsand villages, as well as all the provisions, which they were unable to hide in their subterranean galleries, “quæ hypogeis subterraneis abscondere non poterant.” Possibly, too, in cases of actual attack, these cavern passages and cells might be employed to shelter the women and children, and offer a dernier resort for the men when all else was hopeless ; a last retreat, where a few might retard a multitude, and probably, by secret outlets, effect their ultimate escape. The “ Antiquitates Celto-Scandinaviæ” (p. 14) seem to furnish a highly interesting testimony of this their application, and such, in the primitive times, may have been “ the dens on the mountains, and caves and strongholds,” which, as related in “Judges” (vi. 2), the children of Israel constructed, when the hand of Midian prevailed against then. It may also be remarked, that Tacitus(a) mentions caves as used among the Germans for granaries, as well as for places of retreat. Hirtius(6) speaks of the same in Africa ; and their generality is more extensively established in King's “ Munimenta Antiqua (vol. i. p. 45,&c.) In Ireland they are usually based on sand or gravel, so that no water can rest on them. A fine specimen is to be seen near Dublin within the hill of Knock-an-ard-ousk, “ the hill of the high water,” which rises immediately over the pictu
(a) De Moribus Germanorum, c. xvi. (6) De Bell. Africano, sect. 57.
resquely situated village of Lucan; this is said to run a considerable distance under ground, linking in its course a series of little circular vaults. In removing some of the fine mould about this cave, several stone implements of war and husbandry, an ancient spur, and a piece of curiously carved bone, were discovered. The summit of this bold eminence is rounded into a fine rath, half of whose circumference is almost impregnable by nature, while the other half is defended by smooth, steep outworks of earth. In a hill near Castle Connor, in the County of Sligo, there is a yet more curious subterranean passage, running in a circle, and in its diameter opening on quadrangular chambers, built of vast arched stones. Ware, in his “ Antiquities” has given a ground view of this latter cavern (Pl. I. No. 5). Those near Portaferry,—at Kilbixy,—and others, especially in the County Mayo, seem also referrible to this class, and Sampson, in his “ Memoirs of Londonderry" (p. 330), mentions several as existing in that county.
The southern section of the parish of Boyle, in which all the scenes heretofore described occur, is further embellished by some fine funeral mounts, or
doos," as they are here sometimes termed, the word dua” signifying, in Irish, a high mound. One of these is raised to a perpendicular height of about forty feet above an eminence called Knockmelliagh, situated within the demesne of Rockingham, and from the foot of which the annexed view was taken. It was once fossed, but the fosse is now scarcely tracea