Topographies Part 1

Souterrain Topographies Chapter: Part 1


This chapter looks at what is known about the whereabouts of Celtic monasteries, hermitages and their demesnes across South Munster. It attempts to construct a viewpoint which says that souterrains are indicators of their whereabouts and that in turn this explains the distributions of souterrains and their class types. References in ordinary place name elements such as physical topography e.g. a hill (cnoc) or a fording place (áth), agricultural terms such as for individual land unit types (achaid, mín, cluain, corcach, inch, garrai, gurrane/garrane, gort, etc), social topography such as baile, bothar, dún, lios, rath, cill, dangan, cluain (as monastery) which replicate across the many civil parishes of South Munster may reflect the remnants of those monasteries, hermitages, their demesne lands and farms/outfarms (farran – later granges) which opened up, planted, named, divided and defined their lands areas according to agricultural as well as religious needs and practices across time since these landscape areas were first extracted from the natural environment. In so doing would it be any wonder that many basic elements of terminology about the agricultural workings of everyday life, the lives of persons in holy orders and those not so, would be replicated in some degree from one monastic house to another; especially if it is the local monastery which comes to hold much of the land in a tribal territory through inheritance, setting land areas aside for its own needs and dividing the rest for use by tenants/clients to farm, to quarry, to exploit whatever other natural resources it contains.

Were such corporate activities by the principal monasteries the driving force behind land area clearances, decisions on land qualities, divisioning according to suitable use, naming and zoning, the creation of their rent rolls and the placement of hermitages both in wildernesses (deserts) and in places of dense settlement to act, as both their administrative and spiritual representatives at local level? Was this the hierarchy of control and development for the great monastic estates of he Celtic church? How much of its was eremitical? How much of it was cenobitic? How much of it was semi-cenobitic? How did it all evolve and strengthen itself from the earliest of Christian times in South Munster. How was the use of underground space an expression of its ways, its norms and its origins?

Territorial Devisions

Within the Kingdom of Desmond (Deas Mumhan meaning South Munster) as defined in 1118 AD at Glanmire there were many minor kingdoms as overlords to to petty kingdoms (tuathas) and clan families. Each tuatha had its hermitages, cells, temples, and monasteries large or small. Some large monasteries would dominate several tuathas and some traditional tribe lands as secular blended into religious and religious into secular. The dynamics of these minor kingdoms had expanded and shrunk, over the previous centuries since Iron Age times. As the impact of 12th century church reforms took effect large diocese would overlay old bishopricks, some hermitages/cells would become the sites of parish churches and their graveyards as the dynamics of local demographics fluctuated, as hermitages and cell required survived and those which were not were abandoned as ‘seana’ (old) cells and cluains (anglicised as e.g. shanacloon, kilshannig) to join others abandoned after Viking raids or earlier perhaps after Whitby. The status of persons within graveyard termons sometimes differing from those without, the saints of earlier times become part of a relics culture.

It would be useful to have statistical and locational information regarding what land areas were in secular ownership and which were in ecclesiastical ownership at different period of time prior to the Suppression of the Monasteries in England and Ireland by King Henry VIII of England in the 16th century AD. It would be particularly interesting to know this in regard to those civil parishes and townlands where many souterrains have so far been discovered. It would also be interesting to know the barony densities for known souterrain distributions and where precisely within the boundaries of those baronies the souterrain distributions are present. Why would some baronies have very few, why would others have many? Why would certain areas of baronies have them and other not? What earlier religious and secular geographies did the creation of the baronies overlay? It would also be interesting to know more about the earlier (14th/15th century?) dissolution of Lyra/Lyre monasteries (or hermitages e.g. lyrenavarrig meaning of the men, lyrenamon meaning of the women) both in Ireland and England. Did they play a role in a revival of eremitical traditions at some time after the 12th century? Were the above named places, at the headwaters of the East Cork river Bride, earlier and associated with Cluain Maoile (Clonmult ) and its Donickmore place?

To an extent the Norman overlay of baronies would absorb a changing ecclesiastical geography, its new diocese and parishes, as the century progressed – and afterwards, is an ongoing source of enquiry. But the territories of baronies had to be taken by the sword to validate what was granted in theory. However how much of a cultural shift actually took place, how much was church driven and how much was secular, how successful some baronies were in creating change, how failed others were, is an interesting question. How changed at ‘grass roots’ level some landscapes were as time progressed, how unchanged others remained, how much in the way of split cultural identities existed at local level within these landscapes, is a subject for consideration if one reflects on the social levels and social group types connected with the use of souterrains.

The issue of the impact of Norman settlement overlay and ecclesiastical reforms overlay during the 12th to 13th centuries is one which I think has much relevance in relation to understanding the large Dunisky rock-cut souterrain(McCarthy 2003, 15-30). Was there a monastic cell at the site prior to the erection of a Norman ‘motte and bailey’ timber castle there; a castle  connected to the Knight Milo deCogan, a small parish church there being dedicated to Aghadoe, a great Celtic monastery in county Kerry where he went on a three day pilgrimage in 1177AD? Did the upper part of the castle enclose the existing cell and its souterrain? Was the souterrain originally in the style of multi-cell tunnelled souterrain in Fanlobbus or Desertserges parishes to the south and part of Kinneigh’s landscape? Was it modified and expanded during Norman occupation of the site? Dunisky is discussed in more detail below.

Beacon Towers and Kingdom Boundaries

The Toor (túr, toureen) placename has an interesting set of occurrences in the locality of the Fir Maige kingdom. What does the word mean? In an eastern context the word Tur refers to a monastery watch tower e.g. the early monastery of Tur Abdin in Turkey (Palmer 1990). If one assumes that early Christianity in Ireland was significantly influenced by that from the cradle lands of Christendom in the eastern Mediterranean, then is it not also possible that placenames and object names from there were transposed to a christianised Irish landscape. It is interesting to look at the distribution of surviving Toor (Túr) placenames occurring as townland names within certain civil parishes in the approximate locality of the Fir Maige kingdom; bearing in mind that some occurrences of this placename may never have survived in the form of a townland name, instead, surviving for a time as a field name or sub-unit name which were not recorded by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland during the early 19th century.

Of these which survive as townland names it is of interest to note that the name does not occur in all civil parishes occupying the territory of this kingdom and neither is it associated with all ecclesiastical site evidence in the territory i.e. cluain, lyra, teampaill. Those civil parishes which do contain the placename form, either by co-incidence or design, an arc stretching from Templemolagga Parish to Brigown to Kilworth to Clondulane to Rathconmac to Ardnageehy to Monanimy (Móin an ime, pasture of the butter?). Four of these parishes have a direct religious association in its name i.e. the temple of St.Molagga, Brigown a foundation of St Finchú, Kilworth i.e. Cill Uird (Órd) meaning the Cell of an Order of churchmen and Clondulane (Cluain dá lann) the cluain of two ‘lann’ oratories and also the site of a ‘civitates’ where a nunnery of St. Flanaid was founded. If one where to regard these toors as monastic watchtowers ( in the eastern sense) then what was the need for them. Were they places in the landscape that were inter-visible from each other if tall structures existed upon them? In  ‘dark sky’ context might they have functioned as beacons?

If one were to interlink the above occurrences of the placename toor into a notional circular boundary line what agricultural and settlement forms were contained within this ring? Moving from Glanworth and DunMahon parishes to TempleMolagga to Brigown (Mitchelstown) to Kilworth to Clondulane to Rathcormac to Ardnageehy (high place of the winds?) to Monanimy and at all townland names within the boundary of such a ring of inter-visible(?) towers, an interesting topography emerges. A perusal of  Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary for Ireland (1837) reveals at Dunmahon a village or hamlet (baile) with a dún and a farm (farran) or outfarm (farran). At Glanworth 13 villages, two grazing plains, a rath, an orchard, two cluain hermitages and a caher. At Templemolagga a cell at a cluain, a tower and a field of furrows (cullenagh). At Kilgullane a hamlet/village with a cell, a lios and some grazing land (curragh). At Killeenemer (Emer’s Cell) one townland is a civil parish and this is the place of the cell. At Kilphelan on the eastern side of Emer’s Cell is Phelan’s Cell with a hamlet, a caher and the cell land. Abutting these parishes on their northern boundaries are Templemolagga and Gullane’s Cell (Killgullane). It is interesting to ask if the cells of Emer, Phelan and Gullane partly encircle Molagga’s temple with its early church site and legend of St. Molagga’s grave.

Moving from Kilphelan to Brigown where a mill, 5 hamlets, 2 cluains, 2 cuile (land patches), 3 curraghs, a ‘furrow’, a plough field, an orchard, a garden, 5 cells and a tower (watchtower) are indicated by the placenames: Marshalstown parish abutting it has a Killaclug (cell of the bell) townland. Southwards of Brigown lies Kilworth which has a ‘thorny’ pasture, a marshy glen and a bothar roadway. Kilcrumper (cell of the Presbyter) parish lies on Kilworth’s western side and has 6 hamlets, a bother – perhaps a continuation of that in Kilworth and perhaps a branch of the Cliadh Dubh running from a fording place on the Blackwater River at Ballyhooly (Baile na hUlla i.e. ford of the apples) towards the great ecclesiastical highway from Ardmore to Cashel called the Rian Bó Phadraig. It also has an orchard and a “downing” (domhnach?) placename and a Lisnasallagh i.e. the lios of the willows or lios of the ‘dirt’ with ‘dirt’ meaning sins and implying the lios of a confessor and perhaps pardoner. One wonders to what extent some  ditched fences, radial configurations of land divisions still exist embedded within the older field systems of Munster, encircling raths, lioses, duns and church sites; especially as such patterns seem to have been present when the Ordnance Survey first mapped the Irish landscape in the parish of Aglish (County Cork) in the Kingdom of the Muscraige.

On the western side of Kilcrumper is Glanworth again which also has the bothar (cow-way) roadway, which also has a rath, a cell and perhaps a continuation of Kilcrumper’s orchard lands. Given that apples were a prized fruit in some Medieval monasteries and that the slow ripening of apples after the harvest season requires the use of apple cellars, one wonders if such cellars are present in the architectural form recorded there i.e. Class A1 souterrains in Cork, or at least some of them. Given similarities with traditional root cellars in use in various countries, i.e. low entrances to chambers to reduce air movement and temperature variation, a stepped entrance, children usually sent to fetch the produce etc. is this what some examples of this class were designed for?

it is curious to ask if apple cellars had a role to play in the medieval ecclesiastical landscape of the Fir Maige, with apples for cider making and eating at monastery market fairs and on festival days? Part of Kilcrumper stretches south of the Blackwater River where its important northern tributary the Funchion meets with it. The Funchion links the parish of Brigown to the Blackwater at this  point with the parish of Clondulane on the south side. O’Carrigáin (2013-14) identifies three ecclesiastical estates within the Fir Maige kingdom i.e. that of St. Molagga, that of St Fionnchú at Brigown and that of St Cranat, a female saint who blinded herself when her brother the king of the Fir Maige attempted to marry her to another king, disregarding the fact that she had already entered the religious life. On the southern boundary of Clondulane is the single townland parish of Coole where 2 oratories (lann) are found and a memory of a civitates community. Clondulane has four hamlets, a tower, a cluain hermitage, a pasture, a garden, a gearagh marshland, a lios a rath and also a ‘sean’ meaning ‘old’, cluain. It is here that St. Flanaid is said to have had her nunnery.

On the west side of this parish is that of Fermoy (Fir Maige) where 2 hamlets (bailes), 2 cuile (‘corner”) land patches, a plough field, a dún and a grange are found. On the south side of the parish is that of Castlelyons with 6 hamlets, a farm (outfarm), a grazing plain, 5 cells, a rath and a watchtower. Moving westward again lies Rathcormac (Cormac’s Rath) parish and this has 6 hamlets one of which is old/abandoned, 2 corner (cuile) land patches, a garden, a marsh, 3 cells including an ‘old cell’, a lios, 2 raths, a tower and a plain for grazing. On the north side of Rathcormac lies Littir Parish (CastleHyde) where a ‘cuile’ land patch, a plough field and a temple were located with Littir referring to sloping ground. The next parish to Littir (sloping land) westward in Killathy (Cill Aichidh) where 4 hamlets, a ‘cuile’ land patch, an orchard, and a lios are found. Ballyhooly Parish (Beal Átha hÚlla) is next where a ford exists on the Blackwater River with a hamlet and an orchard.

The folktale of St. Mochuda (Carthage or Carthach) finding a magic apple floating on the river at a ford which he used to heal the withered arm of the king of Fermoy’s daughter Flanaid (later St; Flanaid) is said to be in this locality. It is notable that the orchards of Glanworth and Kilcrumper Parishes are not distant from here as well as the Bothar. Westward past Ballyhooly is Kilcummer (Cill Chomair) Parish and one looks southwestwards from here to Kilshannig (old cells) Parish to the south of the Blackwater River towards the great Medieval monastic centre of Donoughmore in the lands of the Muscraige people and note that it was somewhere around here that St. Goblait on her white horse crossed the Blackwater on her way to Kilshannig before eventually coming to Abbán’s final cluain at Ballyvourney beside a northern tributary of the River Lee; Abbán is also regarded as the founder of the Christian community at Kilcumper/Clondulane. Kilcummer (Cill Chomair) contained a hamlet and 2 cells. Bridgetown Parish of 13th century Bridgetown Priory fame is on its west side and in it lies Kilquane townland (Cill Chuáin meaning cell of the hollow?) Connected to the parish further east of that name?

Bridgetown Priory lies at the confluence of the Awbey (Abha Beag meaning little river) with the Blackwater where a medieval bridge once stood across the Blackwater. Either in the river as a pool or as a pit along its banks lay Poll Cormac (Cormac’s pit or was it his cell?) Did an earlier church foundation lead to the presence of 13th century Bridgetown Priory being in its present location; as also happened at Kilcrea in Muskerry by the Bride River tributary of the Lee or at Fermoy on the Blackwater with its Cistercian Abbey?  Beyond Bridgetown lies Monanimy Parish (Móin an Ime) an interesting name if the practice of butter churning while praying is considered. It has 5 hamlets, a ‘Beann an skete?’ i.e. were ‘skehy’ to have derive from skete meaning an Egyptian hermitage of Sketis style, a plain of the dogs or hound, a cell of the mill and another and 2 towers (large and little). On the south side of the Killathy (Cill Aichidh or cill an tí or Cill Íta) to Monanimy Parish grouping lies Ardnageehy Parish (a windy high place). It has a hamlet, a ‘chimney field’ (souterrain?), a Bishop’s Island, an inch, 2 cells, a lyra monastery for men and a watchtower. Beneath the landscape area above the dry masonry constructed beehive dome souterrain form predominates. Licklash (Leic Ghlais) in Clondalane Parish and Killavullen (Cell of the mill) both beside the Blackwater River have caves which have been occupied over the centuries, a recent study of the archaeology of Irish caves has been published by Dowd (2015). Perhaps, to some extent, a perusal of Mary Rotha Clay’s work on English cave hermitages (Clay 2014) might be useful in this regard as also the work of Sabine Baring Gould (1911). What agricultural lands did the mill at Killavullen (Cill an Mhuillin) serve? Why was the mill associated with a cell? Was it a monastic mill with a miller monk to tend to it? Was the use of the caves part of the activities of the mill? Has a souterrain ever been discovered in Cork in association with a mill? Souterrain have been found at Glenawillin and in the souterrain parishes of Aghabulloge and Abbeystrowry. Were cells at places like Connanagh associated with mills and with those who tended them dependants of great monasteries nearby, as working parts of their economies? Did they also tend to the crossing places and bridges of rivers having their cells beside such places and what would be the nature of such cells? ‘Hovels’ at surface level or subterranean?

One wonders to what extent if any labouring artisan and slave classes within Gaelic society may once have occupied and modified such natural spaces as well as constructing artificial ‘caves’ as tig faoi talaimh distinct from the several forms of subterranean monuments created for religious uses. All of these land unit names, and others, are found as townland names in which souterrains of one architectural form or another have been found. Cluain refers to a meadow though it appears more specifically to refer to a spiritual meadow (hermitage). Words like Garrane/Gurrane refer to ploughlands. Cuile (Cool) refers to a particular patch of land and it is interesting to note that in Count Antrim at Coolcran (land patch or corner of the trees?) ‘an earth cut souterrain its chambers lined with the remnants of oak timbers has been dated to the 9th century AD’ ( Williams 1985, 69). Should one envision something similar for Ballyknock North and Knockshanawee in Cork? Garraí refers to garden lands, gort refers to orchard land though in specific circumstances it may by Úll gort meaning apple orchard.  Sometimes when anglicised it takes the form of Aulgort. When it has an applehouse (cellar?) perhaps it can be Aultygort (úll teach gort?) or Aultagh. Dineen’s Dictionary can give several meanings for the range of land unit names above; resulting in difficulty deciding what the original placename implied. A gort for example can also refer to a field, a workable piece of land for arable or grazing purposes. My approach is to decide which meaning is the most likely original meaning and then regarding the other meanings as evidence of variation in land use – and crop changes, through the centuries.

In Fr. Dineen’s Irish Dictionary there is a curious phrase quoted as a means of explaining the word Tur (tuar). It is Túr faoi Talaimh i.e. tower beneath the ground. If considered as a metaphor what does it mean? Anchorites such as St. Simeon Stylites of Syria were much admired in the Early Irish Church and he was said to have been observed by persons from many countries in his day including Britons.  Lynch (2013) sees the Irish Round Tower as a place equivalent to the column of a stelite i.e. a hermit who lives on top of a stone column. In this concept there is perhaps an element of John Climacus’s Stairway to Heaven. In the case of desert hermits occupying their ‘cave’ habitations this concept of a stairway to Heaven also exists from such places. If so, then, was the cave, as cell, the equivalent of towers on a stairway to Heaven? given that Cloigtheach (Bell House) meaning a Round Tower maybe a Cill Clugh (Bell Cell) underground.If so, then Túr faoi Talaimh is not as strange an expression as it otherwise might appear to be. Palmer (1990) suggests that at Tut Abdin anchorites in their ‘cave tombs’ – of which there are many locally, ‘intentionally imitated the dead by the form of their dwellings’. Was Brigown’s Round tower its Túr. One is reminded of St. Fionnchú (Fanahan) of Brigown (Mithcelstown, Cork) and his reputation for ‘sleeping with the dead’. How Antiocene or Syrian in influence was this practice of Fionnchú?

In attempting to give a topographical meaning in english for the word Túr, Fr. Dineen (of North Cork origin) explains it as meaning simply a high place, an eminence where there is rough ground or sheep graze. But this explanation reflects what is in living memory at the time the dictionary was compiled during the early 20th century. Bur, what of a thousand or more years before that? What archaeological work has been done at such places? A Túr may have functioned as an eminence where a beacon fire was lit, as a place of prayer and meditation without any other structure being present. It may have had a structure, or structures, either of stone, mud or timber; what traces, if any, would survive? and yet the ‘functional’ name of the place would survive simply because that was the only term known locally for that place over the progress of time and nothing else ever happened there to change it.

The civil parish of Lismore and Mocollop, occupying the North Western portion of Déise lands (Waterford), is a place where the west to east course of the Blackwater River turns southwards to the sea at Youghal. Prior to circa 830 AD it is thought that it did not do so but continued to the south east reaching the sea at Whiting Bay on the west side of the Ardmore peninsula, where the pre-Patrician saint, Declán of the Déise people, founded his cell and subsequent monastery. The place at which the Blackwater turns southwards today is Cappoquin. A short distance North East of Cappoquin lies Glenshelane a wooded river valley. The Glenshelane river is one of the northern tributaries of the Blackwater River. Following the river valley northwards one comes to a fork in the river where the Glenshelane River and is joined by another river composed of the Monavugga and Glenfalla rivers. Between these two rivers lies the townland of Lyre East. Lyre, I’m of the view, references a Lyra/Lyre monastery or hermitage; perhaps a pre-Norman foundation subsequently aligned as a Lyra. To the Eastern side of the river fork lies Cluttahina and on the western side lies Tintur. Cluttahina, for which there is a souterrain on record, is translated at as ‘cloch dá thine’ i.e. the stone building of two fires or beacons perhaps. Cloch is either cloch (stone or stone building or even a souterrain), or if the anglicisation is truer to the pronunciation of the original Irish it may be cluthar (Dineen) which refers to a recess or shelter; perhaps in a cliff as one of these rivers is the Glenfalla (glen of the cliffs or walls). Dá thine means  two fires. Does it refer to beacons in this townland overlooking the valley and visible from the Blackwater at one time? On the opposite side of the valley lies the townland of Tintur which translates as Tig an Toir (túr?) i.e. house/tower of the fire beacon perhaps – as I would see ‘tin’ being an anglicisation of the Gaelic word ‘tine’ meaning fire, and therefore Tine Túr (fire tower or beacon).  Tintur is a townland in the civil parish of Lismore and Mocollop while Cluttahina is in the civil parish of Affane (Aith Mhéain).

The use of beacon towers as a means of defining land boundaries, and of making communication across distances, has a long standing history; the most famous western example being Hadrian’s Wall in the Britain of Roman times. Was such a concept used, copied, by local kingdoms and carried on into the early medieval period, either in the form of walled enclosures or simply as signal towers / beacon towers (of stone or wood or just a fire-hearth), inter-visible from each other and without any intervening walls or boundary delineations as a means of defining and protecting the boundaries of a local kingdom or monastic space? Was there an element of such thinking, through reduced in scale, in the construction of Kells Priory, County Kilkenny in later times, otherwise known as Seven Castles because of its towers? Was the Rian Bó Phadraigh an ecclesiastical road connecting Ardmore to Lismore to Cashel in imitation of Roman roads? If so what other borrowings were made for use in Munster’s tuatha kingdoms? Was it with the intention of joining the the Rian that led the young Mochuda and his charioteer to stop midway in a fording place of the Blackwater, perhaps by Beal Átha na hÚlla (Ballyhooly, the Ford of the Apples), to retrieve a special apple floating in the river? From there did he follow a routeway (traces remembered centuries later) along the northern bank of the Blackwater to the residence of the King of Fermoy at Manning where the special apple healed the withered hand of the king’s daughter Flanaid (Flanait) who would subsequently become St. Flanaid of Clondalane nearby. Did Mochuda then travel on to the Rian and follow it to Cashel where he performed as a bard? A romantic folktale indeed; but one wonders if there are any fragments of a ‘once upon a time’ topographic truth in it?

It is interesting to note that a clustering of small civil parishes lies on the east and south east side of Lismore and Mocollop (Maige Cholpa meaning the plain of Colpa?). Mocollop townland lies between Fermoy and Lismore i.e on its west side, and it is beside the Blackwater. Did it divide the monastic centre of Kilcrumper/Clondalane in the Fermoy Kingdom from that of Lismore. Flanaid was of the Fermoy kingdom and her mentor, in his and her early years, was Mochuda (Mo Chutu meaning ‘our Chutu’  aka Carthach the Younger, Carthach meaning ‘kindness’, from which MacCarthaigh, Carthach the Elder being a monk who trained him). Mochuda founded Lismore (the great monastic enclosure i.e. lios) near the end of his life having left Rahan, County Offaly, the monastery where he was abbot, with a large group of monks after a dispute. Was this dispute in any way connected with growing tensions between the Hibernian and Roman factions within the Irish Church? The Rahan monastery was a place located to the north of where Ciaráin’s great monastery at Saighir (Seighir?) was situated. The one time young bard at the court of Cashel before his religious life began, Mochuda died circa 639 AD. Might such a history of connections have dictated a relationship between beehive dome souterrains in Leinster, such as at the Roestown souterrain complex, and those in the Fermoy kingdom?

If the ecclesiastical settlement (civitates) founded by St. Abbán at Kilcrumper/Clondalane – perhaps founded in the context of an existing secular settlement, waned as the ecclesiastical settlement of Lismore and its schola rose to fame, was this something which happened due to an influence derived from the Whitby Synod which occurred about 25 years after Mochuda’s death? Why would the Fermoy kingdom, apparently, have no ogham stones, while the hinterland of Lismore did at places like Seemochuda and Seskinane?

Within the cluster of civil parishes east of Lismore lies the parish of Seskinane or Knockboy, a place of six ogham stones and a place for which no known patron saint answers to Seskin. Perhaps its parish graveyard was once, in early medieval times, a hermitage of six heads (seisúr ceann, anglicised as seskin) rather than a hermitage in a ‘seskin’ meaning bogland. Might there be a souterrain beneath the mounded layers of accumulating burials through the centuries? If so, such discoveries would not be out of context in the souterrain record for South Munster e.g. Dunbulloge, Drimoleague, Dunisky in Cork, among others.

Glenshelane lies on the southern foothills of the Knockmaeldown mountains. A short distance to the west of it lies Seemochuda (Mochuda’s Seat or hermitage where ogham stones remain) which connects to St. Flanaid’s (Flanait) Clondalane/ Kilcrumper via the Araglin tributary of the Blackwater close by Rathealy where the family of Brigown’s (Mitchelstown) St Finchú were given a rath which to occupy. It is interesting to speculate about a ring of fire towers on the eastern side of the Fermoy kingdom and another spread of towers to include Glenshelane, perhaps of the great monastic demesne of Lismore.

What was the early Medieval ecclesiastical landscape of South Munster like?

It appears to have been ecclesiastically much more extensively settled than one might imagine from the evidence provided by the ruins of the larger laura monasteries of the Celtic Church with their round towers. Instead, it was a landscape not only of great monastic centres and their demesnes but also one of many hermitages (cluains) and cells (cills) as stations networked across the topographies of the South Munster landscape. Across its fabric lay shrines, confessor places, holy wells, preaching places, mass places baptism places, Domhnachs, saint’s caves, tower places, gathering places for Sundays, holy days and festival days; a rich tapestry of Christian local geographies of cliff crosses, market crosses, miller monks, beacon monks, metal worker monks, ferry and weir monks, bridge toll monks and may other identities of monks and of lay monks not having taken higher vows. All suffused into the weave of human life and daily activity, commerce and communications of settlement architectures in vernacular style, agriculture and industry; Gregory’s policy of inculturation and absorption of an older history of heathendom. A world view, in the goblet of each parochial entity, centred upon Christ. Almost, perhaps, not totally removed from scenes of village life in later times in the Netherlands north of Francia, west of the Schottenkloster, as represented in the art of Hieronymous Bosch.

The early formation of great Celtic monastic houses

At an early stage in time did the Caher (as a dray stone circular enclosure for simple monastic buildings) act as the radial centre of a semi-cenobitic desert (meaning a green wilderness in Ireland be it a lake island, a sea island, a bog island, a thorny scrub land (through which to run to experience the pain of Christ’s crown of thorns)? Is this what Caherdesert (the caher of the desert) as a place name refers to? Because they are a central place in the orientation of a scattered semi-cenobitic monastic settlement do some become the ‘Sunday place’, the place of Dé Domhnaigh, the Greek Kyrakon or Irish Domhnach where this scattered community gather from their subterranean cells and surface habitations at weekends and holy festival times for religious services and rituals performed by their priest or bishop, deacon or presbyter? Is it to this place that the local people of God (Ceile Dé) gather for worship and pastoral as well as medicinal care? As time progresses do progresses are the communities of some Cahers gathered together under a higher level of religious administration with some cahers becoming Domnach sites and evolving into large Celtic monasteries though still partly semi-cenobitic in the laura style? How visibly not out of place would it have seemed to someone visiting from Mount Athos in Greece?

Caher to Domhnach/Laura to Monastic City : Demesnes and hinterlands

As the larger desert cities (cahers) of the Irish landscape grew how large did their landholding become? How zoned were their landscapes and how economically allocated were the lands? Was there a phase when all of the population administered to, the paruchia, was partly within the landholdings of the monastery and partly secular? Was there a time when ongoing endowments of land by gift and/ or by the inheritances of those choosing the religious life – or secular inheritances of monastic titles, led to vast estates/demesne lands under a monastery’s control? Was the idea of tenancy of monastic lands a long standing concept from the earliest times or was it of later introduction? Was Fionnbarr’s father a metalworking farmer occupying a farran farmland independent of a monastery or as a tenant of one? Did laura monasteries in the Irish landscape allocate certain zones of their demesnes for cell and religious activities of those who embarked upon the lives of solitaries or hermitage occupants? Were some such places older, the predecessors of the larger monastery, its Kill Shannig (old cells)?

One is reminded of a story of a change from semi-cenobitic to cenobitic monasticism at the great Ukrainian monastery of Hilarion and Anthony called the monastery of the caves and resistance to the point where older monks would continue to dig caves with their bare hands rather than move to a cenobitic way of living attractive to younger monks. Did the local government issues such as tax taking, the working of the land and husbandry of livestock, woodland exploitation, river navigation, metal working, quarrying and built landscape construction, masonry and carpentry, metalworking and glassmaking and so much more among unskilled and artisan groups play out across the centuries during which these monastic estates grew to wealth and power, interacting continuously with the European mainland and a Christianised Mediterranean sea, drawing an abundance of influences of wisdom, knowledge and applied skills to embed within the landscape, its human topographies, while the Empire of Rome crumbled in the West, as new empires arose there and as the Empire of the East continued.

Clonmult, Donickmore and the Ballyknock Ogham Stones

Clonmult where the townland of Donickmore is situated lies 16 kilometres south of the Bride (East Cork) river. In attempting to profile what the landscapes of Celtic monasteries as semi-cenobitic entities (with dependent hermitages, perhaps the temples of priests and the cells of solitaries) in South Munster were like, perhaps Clonmult in East Cork might provide a useful example for further investigation. Clonmult which is now in the diocese of Cloyne lies to the North East of Midletown County Cork.

Clonmult and its surrounding civil parishes are situated to the east of a number of parishes, which contain the place name element Temple. The following is a distribution map of these Temple civil parishes. What point in time do they appear and how might they relate to the geography of Cills and Lyras which lie east of Templenacarraige i.e. the Clonmult locality? Do they represent events subsequent to the ecclesiastical life span of Clonmult or where they part of it? By 1977 there were no souterrains on record for Killaspugmullane (cell of Bishop Mullan), one undocumented site at Kilquane, two from Oldcourt and one from Monaleague both townlands in Templeboden/Templebodan, two from Glenawillin of which one was an A2 class site and one from Templenacarraiga both townlands being in Templenacarragia parish, Templerobin parish had two sites from Cobh Island discovered but no details, Templebreedy had two from Ballinluska but no details, Templeusque had one site at Sarsfield’s Court.

Map showing distribution of Temple parish in East Cork (using block outlines to designate the parish areas)

Parishes in the Cork Harbour area which contain the place name element Temple, compare with similar scenario at Clonakilty Bay.

Clonmult translates to Gaelic as Cluain Maoile i.e. the abandoned cluain. By looking at the townland land place name elements in the immediately surrounding parishes it is possible to build a profile of human landscape activities in past times using such place names while being aware that much of what was at field and sub-denomination level is now lost. Within these was an area of chapter lands lands belonging to Cloyne monastery and diocese.


Map showing Ecclesiastical and Baile elements in the townland names by parish in the vicinity of Clonmult and Donickmore

Parishes and Cills in the periphery of Clonmult parish, Co. Cork. Donickmore townland lies in Clonmult parish. Ballyknock North and its 15 ogham stones from a ringfort souterrain lies in Ballynoe Parish.

Focusing more closely on Clonmult (Cluain Maoilte) which holds Donickmore (Domhnach Mór) and its neighbouring parish Ballynoe where at Ballyknock in a ringfort souterrain 15 oghamstones were discovered in a clay walled 3 chamber souterrain acting as capstones, the following map shows the relationship of Cluain Maoile and its Domhnach Mór to those surrounding cells (hermitages) which have townlands with cill (kil) place name elements.

The souterrain discoveries, as of my 1977 research, from the parishes shown above on the map were Ballycullane from Mogeely with no details recorded, from Ballynoe parish there were Ballyknock North with a C3 form of souterrain but roofed with ogham stones and Kilphillibeen for which no details were available, from Clonmult there was one reported for Condonstown but no details and three from Garryduff but no details also. Castlelyons had two sites an A1 class at Ballyarra and an A2 class site  from Deerpark. None of the other parishes above had produced a souterrain discovery. It is of interest that Mogeely, Castlelyons, Ballynoe are all parishes which contain cill placenames as well as souterrains. It is of interest that Clonmult has a cluain and that both Clonmult and Mogeely -which has souterrains, both have Lyre place names also.

Cluains such as Shanacluian at Ballyvourney, Cork have produced ogham stone i.e. Abban’s reputed grave site and ogham stones beside it. Hermitages have produced ogham stones such as at Seemochuda, Waterford  associated with St. Mochuda of Lismore. Speaking of retirement (sometimes to a hermitage) for bishops and church superiors Ó Corráin (2017, 31) translates a 9th century Gaelic monastic poem

Let the folly which protects me

amid enclosures of churches

be a pleasant little plot,

holy with memorial stones

and that I should be alone there.

One wonders : an eremetical wish, a little plot of ground, a garraí, the enclosures of ‘churches’ (oratory chapels) and memorial stones….a 9th century scenario, a hermitage, Eithne’s cell and cluain, a ringfort with an oratory, ogham memorial stones unburied, a doorway to a hovel below.

If my view that ogham stones as commemorative gravestones, either above burials plots or as cenotaphs, came to be seen as relics of local church founders (and their immediate as well as later followers) is this the rationale for the Ballyknock stones? At some point in time were they collected from the surrounding cells of the Cluain of Donickmore (within a certain radius being where the cells lay beyond the monastery precincts) and incorporated into souterrain constructions as a form of divine protection? What would have spurred this activity? Viking raids? Something earlier? Norman conquest? Was there a relationship between Donickmore, Clonmult and Cloyne? Did Cloyne absorb Donickmore leaving as an abandoned (maoile) cluain ts structures and surface evidence gradually vanishing?  Was the parish of Britway once a major part of Clonmult’s story?

The dedication names (Macalister 1945) of persons recorded on the Ballyknock Ogham stones (Barry 1890-91, 516)  are as follows.

Mailaguro, Lamadulicci, Eracobi, Grilagni, Cliucoanas, Drutiquli,  e.g, Bogai, Cronun, Blategsi, Acto, Ercaidana, Dommo, Meddogeni, Covaluti.

Who were they? Were Cronun and Branan native Irish? Were the others of British or European continental origin e.g. Italian, Roman? Were they native, secular migrants or missionaries? Were they secular or ecclesiastical persons?  Were they secular persons who lived exemplary Christian lives? How often in early literature/hagiography are early church persons from Britain, Rome or elsewhere mentioned accompanying bishops such as Patrick or Paladius? How many of his early converts are named?

DownmacPadraig (The Old Head at the tip of the Headland of the Romans?): meaning either the Dún or the Domhnach of Patrick with the Dún the outcome in the 12th century of De Coursey fortifying the promontory island connected to it by a narrow strip of land. As such the island like many islands further along the coast was ideal for an early monastic site with a narrow neck of land connecting it to the mainland of the promontory similar to Islandkane and others as noted by Canon Power in Waterford (Tramore area). If it was an ecclesiastical settlement with t Domhnach gathering function, then if Paleo-Christian was it a place of Roman christians, a place of the chrism oil of Baptism as described by Tertullian of Carthage, a place of joy and delight for converts is Cearmna refers to joy rather than to a mythical king who conquered the southern half of Ireland? Was it the Domhnach of Cearmna i.e. the domhnach of Chrism oil anointing and the Baptism/Confirmation by a bishop of converts/neophytes? In such a scenario how does it relate to Lios Padraigh on the peninsula? Why does the Domhnach refer to a son of Partick? Does this imply that Patrick left a spiritual son of his on the island, connected to the peninsula, where he used a lios for his initial foundation before journeying with his mission inland? As a Bishop of Rome in a land of Roman Christians seeking a Bishop to baptise and confirm does he leave his first foundation in a Romanised Christian promontory under a spiritual director of his choosing before travelling inland to the other provinces of Ireland; the South Munster landscape being already Christianised but in the hands of what are today seen as lost and forgotten Christainities, some of whom agreed to align with the Romanised Christianity and Patriarchate of Rome (the Church of the West) while others have deferred to their origins in the Greek Church tradition of Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean churches and remaining loyal for may centuries to come: the people of God, the Céile Dé, the Culdee with a different Easter; the Skellig lists echoing? Does one become heretic to the other as centuries unfold and the Latin Church drifts in memory from its unity and connectivity with the Byzantine one? Does the Byzantine tradition become Chríostanna Fallsa?

Other South Munster Domhnachs of Christianised tribelands

The question to what extent do the souterrain distributions as currently known fall within the demesne lands of Celtic monastic estates and their predecessors is one which requires further study in the field. Across South Munster from Ardpatrick in South East County Limerick, to Tipperary’s South Riding, to Ardmore along the Waterford coastline, to Finbarr’s monastery at Cork to Timoleague with Aghmainister (and its spital), to Roscarberry to Abbestrowry all in Cork County, to Kinneigh, to Aghadoe in County Kerry there are many sites which I’m inclined to think contextualise a dense distribution pattern of souterrains, the one time homes, shrines and penitential places of hermits and solitaries which has not as yet been fully revealed.  Why is this so perhaps the answer lies in the fact that normally souterrain discoveries are chance discoveries rather than the outcome of strategic research activities by academic disciplines. Also how many discoveries have been made, reports of which have never found their way into the literature of local history or archaeology? How many antiquarian and archaeological reports record only those parts of sites which are accessible, leaving subsequent research to speculate as to the full nature and class of the site discovered?

The Monastic houses with early origins which are known survivals

The Synod of Rathbreasail took place in 1111 AD. The following based on a list of monastic houses in  County Kerry ( gives an interesting profile of the impact of this, and related synods.

At least 38 houses were founded before the date of the synod. 26% at least are known to be of 6/7th century date. 21% are built on islands within sea or lake. 36% use the Kil (Cill) element in their placenames. 50% have anchorite associations.  5% have Gaelic nuns associations. 5% were elevated to diocesan or cathedral status. One site was named for sins (Cill Peácan), one for a graveyard (relig), one for a termon, one for a taempaill, one for a caher. So a large number of cells and early monastic houses were lost/abandoned (maoile) as a result of Rathbreasail, some perhaps already destroyed in the preceding centuries due to Viking raids with or without native support. Some continue as parish churches. The Cistercians arrive after 1120 AD [check] and build some monasteries on green field sites others in the vicinity of older ones. . Franciscans arrive and build on or in close proximity to older sites from circa 1250 AD onwards. Large local populations are absorbed, some hermitages are abandoned.

From Cronody (cave of the scholars) to Roovesmore

Cronody Townland lies in Aglish Parish (église in French meaning church, eaglais in Irish meaning church). Cronody lies in that part of Aglish Parish which is north of the River Lee. The rest of Aglish is south of it and is bounded on its southern side by the Bride River (Muskerry). The Bride River flows beneath a medievall bridge opening upon the site of Kilcrea (cell of Cré or Ciara) Abbey named for her earlier foundation somewhere in that locality. On the return journey from his final visit to where he began his spiritual life at Gougane, Barra, St Finbarr journeying homeward to his monastery at the Marshes (Cork city today) became ill and was brought to a place called Kilnacloona (cell of the cluains). This area of land is shown on the Down Survey parish map for Aglish where it appears as an east west running band across the centre of Ballineadig Townland on the south side of the River Lee. Its identity appears to have been lost because it was a subdenomination of Ballineadig. It is there according to tradition that Finbarr died tended to by his old friend Faima, a hermit residing closebye in a landscape area which would be known as the Parish of Desertmore (the big disert or wilderness). From there Finbarr’s funeral, which was followed by a large procession, journeyed to his monastery at Cork! Inis Luinge lies on the northern bank of the River Lee somewhat opposite to Ballineadig on the south side of the townlands in that portion of Aglish which lies south of the Lee have produced souterrains. the townlands of Curraghaly and Garryhesty which lie beside the Bride River opposite Kilcrea Abbey have long been known; Curraghaly, a rock-cut souterrain was surveyed by Richard Rolt Brash. Knockshanawee (hill of the old plain), said to be the highest point in the landscape with commanding views, had a ringfort in which s souterrain was discovered. Six Ogham stones were used in the construction of what was a single chamber souterrain in an unwalled clay-cut trench.

Both roadways and field patterns in Aglish as seen on the first edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch map suggest to me patterns of land partitioning which focus on Knockshanawee and other eminences in this part of the parish’s landscape. North of Knockshanawee townland lies Roovesmore townland and there at what again appears to be a focal point in the landscape a second souterrain with Ogham stones used in its construction was found and excavated during the mid 19th century by Col Augustus Henry Lane Fox (later to become Pitt-Rivers, the father of Modern British Archaeology see Twohig 1987,34-46). Three Ogham stones were found in that ringfort souterrain used in its construction; a single chamber without dry masonry being used for the trench walls (Lane-Fox 1867,123).


Given that ogham stone discoveries are predominantly South Munster phenomenon, it is interesting to note that a significant number of the Cork discoveries have a focus on the Aglish area spreading northwards to Donoughmore locality; suggesting perhaps a demesne or ecclesiastical landscape stretching from Kilshannig (Old Cells) by the Blackwater River, southwards to Donoughmore where Gortdonoughmore (the orchards of the Domhnach Mór monastery and Dromatimore (Ridge of the Big House – monastic) are townland names. Were the old cells abandoned for a cenobitic style monastery as its wealth grew or was it 12th century reforms which made a change? If so, how resonant would such a story be with that of the Cave Monastery of Kiev, Ukraine where such a change caused consternation? St. Finbarr’s monastery at Cork was also a cave focused monastery (De Antro) originally. The Kiev story occurs later in time and within the Orthodox tradition and it is interesting to note that use of the original monastery’s ‘earth-caves’ was banned during the 18th century (Schublin 2001) with some monasteries complying and other not doing so.

From Donoughmore, the land corridor between the Boggeragh and Nagle Mountainss stretches south to Dripley where a small ‘desert’ lies at Dishert, then crosses the River Lee into the southern part of Aglish and ends at the Bride River where to the south east Desertmore lies. Does this define an ecclesiastical landscape of Muskerry Mittine? Out of the total corpus of Ogham stone discoveries across Waterford, Cork and Kerry how large a proportion has this locality produced? If the use of ciphering already had a tradition in the Roman world and was familiar to some European tribes, seeking refuge then settling here, then how might 50 scholars from that world, bringing Christianity and literacy, have blended a cipher code with Latin literacy, a need for funerary inscriptions, a record of the identity of certain persons, Celtic names given Latin forms? How might they have created or emulated a tradition already practiced in South Munster, as about 40 of them spread out from Inish Luinge to found their cells and cluains?

Underlying all this, did it all begin with the missions of St. Paul to create Christian communities in the West centuries before; arriving in Britannia circa 69 AD, giving rise to a house church at a Roman villa in Lullingstone C100 AD though its house church below ground is dated to the 4th century AD – ornamented with Christian murals, carried to Ireland by refugees, military veterans, merchants and others out of Britannia after 76 AD, carried out of mainland Europe, out of the Levant, our of Greece and Turkey, out of Egypt and Carthage, all within the economic world of Ancient Rome, seeking a homeland in the far west beyond where Roman arms were in force, beyond its garrisons, towns and country villas, beyond its administration? Was it the outcome of such a scenario which created the ground work for the growth of nascent Christian communities along the shorelines, islands, river banks and boglands of Ireland? Did their ‘prophet’ leaders at a time before priesthood, abbots, deacons, bishops came to be as offices, give Eoghan Mór the use of their fiteccs encased by ramparts (dangans or dúns) at some time in the 2nd or 3rd century AD as places in which to store arms (bronze or iron) and food in anticipation of three years of famine and ensuing social unrest?

Souterrain cluster near an ancient parish church

In Cullen Parish (Duhallow) which is in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, the Medieval parish church lies in the townland of Mullaghroe (the red hill). This townland has a souterrain. Bordering this townland are the townlands of Gortnacreha, Knocknageeha (hill of the winds), Ardnageeha (High place of the winds), Knocka garrane (Hill of the ploughland) and finally Eughlanne.

In Gaelic Euglaune is Éaglann. If this placename consists of two words i.e. ‘Éag’ meaning extinct or dead and ‘lann’ meaning church, then does it signify and early church site once forming part of Mullaghroe? In Mullaghroe is the holy well of St. Laserian, a sister of St Berihert of Tullylease. The townland of Euglaune has reports of two souterrain discoveries. The townland of Ahane borders with Euglaune and it also borders with the townlands of Lisaniska, Lisnaboy and Lislehane. All three imply the existence of a ringfort at some time. All of the above townlands had a souterrain discovery reported for them by 1977. However, none of these sites have a survey description except for Knocknageeha which has a report of a souterrain consisting of four ‘beehive’ chambers in one of which a block of oak with five holes in it suggesting a candle holder was found (Broker 1937, p. 51).

Given that a total of 12 souterrains are reported for this cluster area – and none for elsewhere in the parish, what likelihood is there that these souterrains represent a semi-cenobitic ‘laura’ monastery connected with St Laserian,i.e. a cluster of cells around her cell/oratory and Well? Close by to the south lies the Blackwater River flowing eastwards by the kingdom of Fir Maige, Lismore’s great monastery and prior to the 9th century AD flowing to the sea beside Ardmore.

Drishane Parish Souterrains

This parish has a multitude of souterrain reports on record i.e. 45 sites in 1977. some of its townlands have 4 sites such as Annagloor & Dooneens.Some have 3 sites such as Ballydaly, Claraghmore, Coolanarney, Knocknakilla (Hill of the cells) and some have 2 sites such as Ballyvouskill, Garryduff, Gortavehy and Liscahane. Out of the total number of townlands for the parish about 50% have reports of souterrain discoveries. The distribution area for souterrain townlands spreads across the northern half of the parish and then south eastward. There is mountain land on the southwest and Mushera Mountain at the south. In the southwest quadrant of the parish is the townland of Kilmeedy. According to local sources this was the original name of Drishane Parish (Mary Hackett – where Kilmeedy Castle controlled the mountain pass from Macroom to Killarney. Tullig at the south east is by the foothills of Mushera and to the south of it Clondrohid (Cluain of the Bridge) on the Blackwater River. The latter is of interest in so far as hermits were known to provide services at bridges and other river crossings. Though no souterrains are reported for them other townlands of interest in this parish are Killowen (Owen’s Cell) and Lyredaowen (Lyra monastery of two Eoins?), Kylmichan ans a former name for Ballydaly Townland beside Kilmeedy (Hackett above). Other Drishane townlands in Cork such as near Dunbeacon and Castlehaven are of interest in relation to souterrain in those localities.

The Blackwater River (Munster Blackwater) rises in the Mullaghareirk Mountains in Kerry. Drishane Castle lies on the south bank of the river near where the Finnow River joins the Blackwater. On the Down Survey maps of the parish from 1670 AD the land qualities from pasture to coarse land are shown ( when this area of land forfeited was being assessed for disposal.

The parish of Cullen lies immediately north of that of Drishane. Cullen borders with Kilmeen Parish on east side( i.e. the Cell of Meen or of the flat land) on the north which connects to the Cluain of Meen (clonmeen) on the east has 3 reports of souterrains present 1 at Glen South and 2 for Lyre Townland; of which there is just a part description for one of them being a fragment of a drystone built chamber. The rest are unsurveyed. Kilmeen had 6 sites with one one i.e. Cloonkirgeen being surveyed (Twohig 1976, 28-31). It is a 4 chambered clay-cut site with no obvious surface association. so, for Cluain Meen and Cil Meen there are a total of 9 souterrains on record. As Cluain Meen is both attached to Cullen and just north east of Drishane, one might ask to what extent is the souterrain at Cluain Kirgeen reflective of many of the forms of other souterrains (about 66 sites) in the combined parishes of Drishane, Cullen, Kilmeen and Cloonmeen which remain unsurveyed? Cloonmeen is also known as Knocktemple and the presence of a Lyre (Lyra) townland there is of interest given the association of the word Lyra with monasteries.

Though tangential to this text it would be interesting to investigate to what extent the ecclesiastical gopography of these 4 parishes reflect the topography of cell lands and cluains associated with a Cuile (Cullen) place beyond which lies the Drishane (thorny place) of coarse mountain land; to what extent before the advent of a parish system these lands had a singular unity of ecclesiastical activity and demesne lands.

It would also be interesting to consider what, if any, ecclesiastical distinctions existed between Laura, Lyra and Cluain places. Drishane’s surveyed souterrains tell some interesting facts about the number of souterrains which can be found clustered in a single townland; and about the variety of souterrain types which can be found in a single townland. Annagloor has 4 sites of which that surveyed is a A2 Class drystone built site i.e. a T or L shaped site similar to Kilclogh (Cill Clug) or Ballyanly in Muskerry. Claraghmore had 3 sites with 2 surveyed i.e.  a B1 (drystone beehive chamber and passage) and a B2 (2 or 3 beehive chambers). Both types are common further east along the Blackwater River and along its northern tributary, the Funcheon. Coolanarney had 3 sites that surveyed being just a fragment in a ringfort consisting of 2 ‘arched passages’ and cut in clay. At Ferm a single (A1) chamber site was found with clay sides and a slabbed roof supported in part by a column of stones at one side. It had no surface context except for being in a field called Páirc na Cnaimh (field of the bones). Rathduane (Duane’s Rath?) had a souterrain in a ringfort consisting of a drystone built chamber and passage. It is not clear from the meagre report if this might have been a B1 type site.

Other examples of souterrains where clay-cut sides and a slabbed roof was used have been found in Aglish Parish south of the river Lee at Roovesmore and Knockshanawee as well as at Ballyknock North in East Cork. All of these sites used Ogham Stones for roof construction and all are in ringforts. At Coolgarrif in Aghinagh Parish in Muskerry an unusual B1 site which was partly clay-cut and partly drystone built, with two distinct lengths of passageway one a possible ante-room expansion before entering the Cell was found though no ogham stones were noted (Coleman 1945,112-114) Coolgarrif is by Bealnamorrive (mouth of the dead) Village in Aghinagh Parish on the south side of Aghabulloge in Muskerry. As a B1 Class site it seems to be very much an outlier connected with Donoughmore’s great monastic estate rather than the East Cork and Fir Maige or the Drishane/Cullen lands where the B Class (beehive chamber and passage souterrains) are common.

Summary of Drishane and Cullen Parishes.

Therefore combining Cullen and Drishane Parishes, along with those of Kilmeen and Cloonmeen the total number of souterrains reported for this area of NW Cork up to 1977 was 66 sites. It would be of considerable interest to know how many of these sites could have been residential; rather than places of storage, shrines, penitential cells or anchorite cells given the presence of Cill Cluaisi (Inclusi) not too far distant in the lands of the Fir Maige also on the Blackwater River. It would also be on interest to know if any Ogham stones are present in the construction of these souterrains given the view that Ogham stones do not occur north of the Blackwater; instead having their main distribution to the south i.e. from the lands of the Déise people to the Uí Mochaill, to the Muscraige and Corcú Laoidhe peoples. Tradition associates Cullen with St Laserian one of three sisters of St Berihert and Mushera Mountain is associated with this brother John a hermit holyman who may not have been unlike those of Syria as described by Browne [Peter Browne Syrian Holymen article ref.] Also Berhert’s three sisters story is resonant of the later text known as the Ancrene Rewl (Anchorite Rule) written in the … century for three sisters. Berihert is said to have spent his early years with his sisters before beginning his own mission taking him to Tullylease further north and to the east of Cullen and then to Kyleberihert in the Glen of Aherlow. Folk tradition relates that after the Synod of Whitby taking place in 664 AD, Berihert along with somewhere from 600 to 800 Saxon monks founded a monastery at Tullylease.

They represented the winning faction at the Synod in a debate between those favouring the Saxon xhurch under Rome verses those favouring the traditional Hibernian church. The land area around Tullylease became known as Tuatha Saxon (Saxon petty kingdom). Tullylease is on a spur of the  Boggerah Mountains overlooking a large plain which runs … and is bounded on its east side by the Nagle Mountains which in turn open to the SE of County Limerick where Cush and Raheennamaddra lie and where there is also a concentration of souterrains close to the Slieve Reagh/Harps of Cliu locality, before moving eastwards to those souterrains concentrated on the Suir River in north Waterford south Tipperary, south Kilkenny and along the course of the Nore river.

Whether or not Tullylease (in Tuatha Saxon) had any direct association with TiSaxon (Saxon House) by Kinsale and on the Bandon River is unclear. Berihert is believed to be buried at the ruins of the Medieval parish church at Tullylease where his name occurs on a slab. The site is famous for the presence of St. Beriherts cross slab. Such items have not been found elsewhere to the south.

One wonders if Berihert left Cullen for Whitby to represent the Roman (Saxon) faction and returned with monks and a Christian tradition different from that of the Hibernians who sought to retain their version of Christianity and that of the Céile Dé (Culdee) movement i.e. people of God movement an name which resonates with the writings of the Early Church, the Berber, Bishop Augustine of Hippo in Algeria where an ancient bishoprick once was? If so, one wonders how many of these imitative ‘desert lands’ monasteries, still oriented towards the Patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria along with early civitates Christian communities, emerging in the South Munster landscape prior to the 7th century existed. Given the spread of Islam through these patriarchates, by conquest, during the first half of the 7th century what might have made the Irish Céile Dé communities so retentive of eastern Christian traditions while others favoured those of Roman and its dominance of Christianity in the Western Empire’s lands, as this part of the Empire fell into chaos before the Byzantine Empire clashed with Islam? It is in this time phase that Emperor Justinian seeks unsuccessfully to reunite with the empire in the west, that the use of ciphers is banned by him, (see King, The Ciphers of the Monks), Ogham being a form of cipher, that Benedict of Nursia writes his Rule and describes the various types of monks in existence, that Popes of Syrian origin sit in Rome, that Pilgrimages to the Holy Land cease, that the economic ‘global’ nature of what the empire once was ruptures as East and West increasingly culturally and psychologically separated from each other. In such a world how did the South `munster landscape accommodate the Christian traditions of the East with those of the West(and Rome)? How Christian traditions of varying origins embed themselves across the Irish landscape as the 7th century progress? This was a floruit century (Cahill 1995). for the Church in Ireland, a time when its great ‘Celtic’ monasteries were founded, its schools became famous, its missionaries spread east as well as west, its great saints spread their cluains, cills holy wells and many other local associations which overtime would become parts of townlands and civil parishes as defined in later centuries.

Finally, it would be of considerable interest to be able to pursue the souterrains beyond the townland name level, and thereby drill down to sub-denomination and fieldname level. Unfortunately such information is generally not available.

The barony survey theses work produced by Cork Archaeology MA students up to the 1950s along with the work of Canon Power for Waterford and East Cork a range of early articles in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society and works such as Grove White’s Historical and Topographical Sketches ( all contribute towards filling this gap as do the Tithe Applotment Books on occasion. But no single comprehensive listing for the whole of South Munster exists below townland level. Were this otherwise, it would be useful to know if names like Chimney field, Tig-faoi-talaimh, Poll talmhain, Cill, Cluain, Lios, Rath etc., or agricultural land use names, associated with fields or subdenominations might enlighten us as to why a souterrain was created beneath a particular piece of ground either before, or after, this land patch received its remembered name.

Ecclesiastical Clustering at Clonakilty Bay

The landscape around Clonakilty Bay and again further west to Rosscarbery Bay and Glandore and Castlehaven and beyond the Ilen Estuary is also broken up into ‘kil’ townlands and parishes. But at Clonakilty Bay there is a cluster of Temples, a Desert and Donaghmore. It is interesting to note that the distribution of Teampall placenames in the southern counties of Ireland (Flanagan and Flanagan 2002, 149) shows an absence of this placename element in the south west. Is this in someway to do with a geography of teampaill sites overlay in South Munster; while in the deeper south west the rationale for the use of such a name does not penetrate or overlay a landscape of Cill places which already exist? Was Rosscarbery the furtherest west it went excepting an outlier by Kenmare?

Quantities of Oghams used in souterrains

Why in Southwest Cork is the use of 3 Ogham stones or more in a souterrain not common when 3 or 6 is common in Muskerry (Aglish, Donoughmore, Aghabulloge) and then in E. Cork/W. Waterford are much larger quantities of Oghams are used i.e. Ballyknock and Drumlohan. Has this to do with land quality and with conquests, as well as church reforms? When placing them, either underground, or in the masonry work of surface buildings, was common in West Waterford to Mid Cork were they left in their original locations in SW Cork Iveragh and Dingle? Out of a total of 300 ogham stone discoveries in Ireland, taking a figure of 84 ogham stones known for County Cork,  50+% of these discoveries come from souterrain constructions.

The highest number which is 21 stones (containing 22 inscriptions i.e. a Ballyhank stone has two inscriptions) are from the lands of Muskerry. The great Celtic monastery of Muskerry was Donoughmore and according to legend it was from Inis Luinge (island of the ships) in Muskerry (Inniscara/Dripsey area) that 50 scholars from the continent came to St. Senan some 40 of whom left him to found their own cells presumably in the surrounding landscape. In the south west of Cork the baronies of Muskerry and Carbery have produced 27 ogham stone discoveries with 28 inscriptions. Muskerry and Carberry are contiguous baronies and they are also ancient tribal lands retaining their tribe name identity as baronies. If Barrets barony is seen as part of Muskerry land originally then Burnfort adds another inscription to the total.

In East Cork  the majority of known ogham stones are from Kinatalloon barony and from one site there i.e. Ballyknock North. I’m of the view that this collection of ogham stones represents an arc of small Cill placename parishes/townlands which are in close proximity to Donickmore (a domhnach or Sunday place). Taken together with its contiguous baronies of Barrymore and Imokilly the total number of ogham stones discovered is 18 with a second inscription on one at Glenawillin. Prior to the Norman Invasion what kingdom or tribal territory situated to the south of the Fermoy kingdom did the lands of Kinnataloon and Barrymore belong and how might that earlier geography explain their presence and distribution and a potential association with hermitage places/cells connected with its periphery lands?

A Connonagh Conundrum perhaps.

Going westward between Clonakilty and Skibbereen one passes through the parish of Kilmacabea; it is tempting to see a reference to a Macabee in this English translation but the Gaelic version i.e. its original name is probably far more indicative of the placename’s meaning. In Irish (Gaelic) it is  Mac Abaidh (Cell of the son of the abbot/abba?). Within this parish lies Connonagh hamlet, once the site of a mill on the Roughty River. gives An Chananach (na Cananaí) as the Gaelic version of Connonagh and suggests that a ‘common’ land area in implied. However, Dineen translates Canán (Canáin) as urchin. The record also says Connonagh ‘beside’ Baile na gCóirneach. Dineen translates cóirneach as tonsured, a cleric or a friar. If the homeplace (baile) of the friars/clerics is beside the place of the urchins what interpretation should be given to the placename? What connection would friars have with a mill, and its origins at that place? Where would the friars, humble and poor, with their urchins live in its vicinity? Would a humble place of dwelling, a hovel be associated with them or a storage place? One wonders if the lower cell in the hermit mountain image has such (John Climacus). One also wonders about the instructions for receiving children into monasteries as in the Rule of Benedict is instructive in this regard be they children of the living or orphans?  What souterrains nearby might have housed them? What souterrains in sloping fields or elsewhere, doorways of later use and purpose?

Souterrains of the Three Sister Rivers

What explains the high densities of souterrains along the banks of the east/western course of the Suir River, What explains the high density of souterrains along the Nore River and what explains the minimal presence of souterrains along the Barrow River? Are the explanations to do with tribes and clans or ecclesiastical matters or a combination of both? How influential was the great monastic site of Ardpatrick on the souterrain distribution west of the Suir in South Limerick? What would have caused a major clustering along the banks of the Nore?

The Ringfort as Monastic Site

Why do many ringforts have souterrains of one class or another? Why do souterrains occur in uni, bi and tri-vallate ringforts as well as in drystone ‘ringforts’ such as cahers and cashels? When certain souterrain forms are located in ringforts does that mean that the site either existed before the souterrain and was therefore a later intrusion into its structure or does it means that the ringfort was built to contain the souterrain(s)? Does it mean that when there are no souterrains in a ringfort that ringfort was never assigned to serve an ecclesiastical  purpose? Are those ringforts which contain souterrains of a date later than those which do not? Were ringforts with souterrains and ringforts without souterrains built at the same time? Are ringforts without souterrains, particularly in the South West, older than ringforts elsewhere and an expression of the territories occupancy of certain tribal peoples in pre-Christian times? There are many questions of this nature which may to focus on the geography of Christian overlay in South Munster and its period of activity. In this context it is well to note St. Fachtna of Rosscarbery preaching in a ringfort at Burgatia (the burg of the houses, a hamlet, a township?) and the folk story of Michael at Kilmichael parish, Cork.


The Cahers

Caher as Cathair

When translated in to English the Gaelic word Caher, – as often found across the places names of South Munster and so frequently interpreted in Archaeological literature as a drystone wall enclosure – is used in Modern Irish to refer to a City as in Cathair Corcaí meaning Cork City. However, it is interesting to reflect on how the name for a drystone enclosure could be transformed into the word used for an urban centre. Traditional Irish society is understood to have been rural rather than urban, in the Roman sense, prior to the arrival of Viking ports and perhaps earlier settled groups with a maritime focus in their lives and a need for coastal trading stations. What concepts, understandings would give rise to a circular enclosure be it large (Caher Mór) or small being identified as a City?  Perhaps there is a rationale for understanding in the concept of a Desert City (see Chitty 1966) as an alternative to an Urban City: a city of God versus the city of man, – city of scattered cells and habitations across a landscape with a focal point for meeting regularly and a place to store communal goods – versus a City of Man like Rome – or any city where there is a dense clustering of habitations within boundary walls. It is notable that some Irish scholars have defined Caher to mean a monastic enclosure. It is curious that one gets the place-name CaherDesert i.e. the Caher of the Desert (spiritual wilderness) a souterrain site in North East Cork. In South Munster the Caher placename is mostly found in the the regions of Cork, Kerry and Limerick and South Tipperary as well as in Clare, Galway along the west coast almost like a continuation of a south to west coast distribution pattern (Flanagan and Flanagan, 2002, 46-47). Finally it is interesting to note that at the monastic city of Glendalough, County Wicklow the original monastery (hermitage) is thought to have been at the caher by the lake there, the later development being beside Laragh (láithreach a place of meeting and perhaps a laura reference.

The Caher placename in Cork

One eighth of Cork Civil parishes have one or more Caher trownland names to which suffixes attach ranging from personal names to topographical features to site characteristics. It is not known as to how many such names at the subtownland level have been lost.

I suspect after reading (Chitty, 1966 ) about early monasticism in the Egyptian desert – and their communities of semi-cenobitic or solitary or cenobitic categories of monks, that the central repository for shared items or gatherings or small cenobia or hermitages was an enclosure, a confined, restricted or partitioned off space in a landscape. Such enclosures are referred to in Arabic as Qasr, a loan work form the Latin work Castrum meaning a ‘castle’, palace, village but not in the later Medieval sense i.e. something more rudimentary in architectural style and function, though evolving over time due to security issues as ‘city’ fortresses or monastic fortresses.

At Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, St. Kevin’s original monastic setting beside the lake, with towering cliff hermitages on either side, has a picturesquely situated Caher beside the lake. This, some believe, was the original ‘monastery’ i.e. the central space for hermits in the surrounding landscape of lake cliffs and heights etc/. before the large scale development of the ‘monastic city’ just beyond it with a laragh *(laithreach i.e. gathering) place beside that later development.When the Irish placename Caher is translated to English its meaning is ‘city’ but at face value such a term seems our of place when used for a drystone built, univallate enclosure or perhaps, in cases, an earthern, single bank enclosure i.e. a lios of Rath. But, if one considers the ‘Caher’ as just the Qasr or Castrum of a semi-cenobitic gathering of hermits individually, or in small Skete-like groups occupying the surrounding locality, perhaps growing over time to substantial numbers, as in the Egyptian desert ‘monasteries’, then the Caher, as the central point of a ‘desert city’ (as described in Chitty) then the translation of the meaning of the Gaelic work Caher to the English work city makes sense. In East Cork lies Caherdesert Townland i.e. the ‘city’ of the ‘desert’. It is a townland in which two souterrains have been discovered, one surveyed by the author i.e. a three cell, beehive dome site (B2 class).

At Knockdrum  , a drystone caher enclosure with a Greek cross on a pillar stone by its entrance, there is the footprint of a rectangular structure occupying a central position in its interior, from one side of which internally a three chambered souterrain runs. Knockdrum is on a ridge in Farranday (outfarm of dá abha? Townland overlooking Castlehaven Harbour. One is left wondering if Qasr or Caher, in its simple meaning of a central enclosure place or dangan (secure, stronghold place), was at one time as much associated with drystone built enclosures as with bank and ditch earthen ones; depending on the nature of surrounding topohgraphies or pre-existing structures. Is this why some `medieval churches were constructed in ringforts e.g. Kilmichael or Kilbrogan, noting that these churches have ‘Kill’ i.e. Ceall meaning Cell placenames rather than Teampaill manes, at lease, as they now survive. Might some cell enclosures have developed teampaill oratories to be replaced by Medieval churches while others did not, to eventually become abandoned places as time moved on in the 7th or 12 centuries or later? The ‘enclosure’ was a very important part of monastic /hermitage life since the days of the Desert Fathers in Egypt. Perhaps sections of the 6th century Rule of St. Benedict have much to tell about the Life in Early Medieval Ireland. Both Díseart, Domhnach, Cluain and Laura and Teampaill are far less frequently found placenames in our surviving corpus of townland, sub-townland and civil parish names. Might this be because Caher and Cill (Kill) words are older and to do with an initial phase rather than a more developed phase of Early Medieval Irish Christianity.

Or is it a reflective of a landscape in which the Dísearts, Domhnachs, Cluains, Lauras and Teampaills are or have become subordinate elements of emerging larger monasteries and their demesnes and paruchiae, say from the 7th century onwards as the Roman/Saxon cause is won over the `Hibernian’ at Whitby, as the Rule of Benedict grows in popularity, as the Islamic conquest is underway in the East and N. Africa, as the use of Ogham stone inscriptions fades away, as the Anglo-saxon prince Berihert arrives at Tullylease with 800 Saxon monks and a beautiful, ornate cross slab is carved for his grave, as the Culdees (Céile Dé, the People of God) revolt and seek remoteness from more developed social landscapes and communities choosing the aescetic rather than the secular church to seek Augustine’s De Civitate Dei in the wilderness lands of the SW rather than the Civitates of Fermoy’s Clondalane and the foundations of St. Abbán, or both work together, the ‘wilderness’ being the Third Order, open to the few who attained the higher spiritual level of piety and saintliness after many years amongst cenobitic and civitates Christian communities?  Some isolated cells in glens, hill sides, lake sides, islands being dedicated to such saintly persons or name-sakes of theirs, others used for short-term retreats and having topographical or general names applied as suffixes to the cill word.

The Cluains, their locations and souterrains nearby, their tig faoi talaimh

e.g. Abbán and Gobnait at Ballyvourney

The Book of Fermoy also called The Book of Roche is an Irish manuscripts consisting of fragments of medieval treatises dated from the 14 – 16th centuries. As translated by Todd (1868, 48) it contains an entry about Cill Eithne (Eithne’s Cell) which I have summarised as follows:

Eithne wandering… at length she came to a walled garden; in which stood what seemed to her a dwelling house [so a walled garden is a hermitage and Ceasair goes and makes a new one] A man, in a garb which was now to her, sat at the door and was reading a book. She spoke to him, and told him her history. He received her kindly, and brought her to St. Patrick by whom she was instructed and baptised. One day she was sitting at the church of the recluse on the Boyne …She died … and was buried with due honour in the little church of the recluse, which from that time received the name of Cill-Eithne, or Eithne’s church.

The hermit’s name was Ceasar; he was son of the King of Scotland and one of St. Patrick’s priests. He abandoned his little church on the death of Eithne, and retired to the wood of Fich-Gaibhle, in Leinster, where he cleared for himself a field, in which he built another hermitage, called, from his name, Cluain-Ceasair.

Is it possibly possible to see a parallel story in that of Abbán and Gobnait at Ballyvourney in Cork? If so do souterrain cells lie in the vicinity of the Cilleens nearby? To date there is only one Cluian named Cork souterrain site which is Cluian Creigín (Cloonkirgeen) surveyed by Dermot Twohig  and located in a Kilmeen (Cill Mhín) parish in East Carbery, West Cork (Twohig 1976, 28-31 which is available online via Digital JCHAS at corkhist,ie

to view).

The Cills of the Cluains and their souterrains and shrines and penance places e.g. Kilmichael or Burgatia

Applying the narrative of the Cell of Eithne to the Cluain of Abbán at Ballyvourney

Eithne/Ceasar Abban/Gobnait
Eithne visits the cell of the Hermit/Recluse,

(cell of the Recluse on the Boyne River). His hermitage

Abban creates his final Cluain (hermitage) at Shanacluain in Ballyvourney beside the Sullane River
Eithne dies there and is buried there because it becomes known as her cell afterwards (Cill Eithne) It has all of the structural elements of both of Ceasar’s hermitage i.e. enclosure, dwelling, garden/meadow, orchard, a well for baptism and water needs
The original owner of the Cell, the Recluse, is called Ceasar. He moves away and create another hermitage which is then known as his Cluain Gobnait, his sister comes to him after visiting other hermitages and foundations on the way. He gives her a piece of land just beyond his cluain and beside the Sullane, 9 white deer grazed there.
What was Ceasar’s original hermitage was a walled garder with a ‘dwelling’ and visible ‘doorway’ Abban dies and they bury him at his cluain placing his grave close to the everlasting waters of the well. They place an Ogam inscribed stone above him. The Cluain in abandoned and becomes a holy place. On N side of river other hermits live at the Killeens. Some buried beside Abban and get Ogam memorials until tradition changes. Gobnaits Cell then rises to prominence and later becomes Parish Church.
Gort can mean a garden of a certain type. It can also mean a monastic ‘cloister garth’. It can mean an orchard or a herb garden. (Dineen).
Hermit’s live within their enclosures and rarely leave.

The Cells and their Cuiles (Coolys)

Cúile and Civitates

If cúile, in Irish placenames, is a borrowing from the same origin as the Cuile of Sardinia, – and refers to transhumance farming, beehive huts and drystone stockyard enclosures, then why would this word appear as a name for Coole Abbey near Fermoy in Cork. Coole Abbey forms, the southern boundary of Clondalane Parish (the cluain of two chapels) and it has a holy well and the ruins of two small chapels. It is a single townland which also has the status of a parish. the Holy Well is still a place of veneration. Is it plausible to suggest that Coole Abbey was once the Cúile of the Cluain (monastic land) of Clondalane? When Warham St.Leger (a family in later times of Doneraile nearby) was given the task by King Henry VIII of England to oversee the Dissolution of Monasteries in Ireland did that part of Clondalane which contained the chapels and holy well along with associated pilgrimage practices become set aside as church land precincts while the rest of the land of Clondalane was sold off for secular use? Was the situation similar at Dunisky near Macroom i.e. the Teampail Aghadoe portion was defined as church land while the rest of that townland and also a parish in itself became secular land? But, why would Coole Abbey (Cúile) if named in the context of transhumance farming be located beside a religious cluain (both meadowland and spiritual meadow)? Unless the cúile came to be the location for Clondalane’s chapels, well and pilgrimages. Coole is on the south side by a stream, of rising land on its north side beyond which Clondalane sweeps down to the Blackwater River and crosses it into Kilcrumper (Cell of the Presbyter) in which a clustering of beehive domed souterrains occurs and a king’s residence once stood in Manning townland. Beehive domed churches, cells and houses in mud and drystone examples were part of the vernacular, as well as formal architectural traditions of the Byzantine world and its one time influences in the West; particularly as the Islamic world unfurled its banners in the East.

It is curious to read in Dipasquale and Mecca (2009,114  – available online as Earthen Domes and Habitats at ) that in Sardinia, though connected to transhumance farming in subsequent times, the origin of the Cuile according to folklore lies with Byzantine monks and that these places were connected with subsequent traditions of pilgrimage. Are they also a reflection of the Bories structures (Village des Bories) of the Provence region of France an area to which St. John Cassian introduced Egyptian style monasticism in the early 5th century AD?

Finally, when one looks across the townland names for the civil parishes (pre-Reformation) parishes of South Munster it is noteworthy that the Anglicised form of the Gaelic word cúile (cool as a prefix, suffix or by itself as well as in the form cooly) is so common. When it does not occur, one may ask, does this mean that that land area did not have a cúile, that the associated cúile came to be allocated to a different parish that it is a lost sub unit of the townland, that the land area was never used for such a purpose.

Perhaps, as scholarship investigating the relationship of the development of agricultural practices to early monastic groups in Egypt and the Levant, continues to grow particularly for the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, it may be possible to understand how an arrival of such influences in South ~Munster, through St. Ciaráin and other Irish pre patrician saints, impacted on the development of agriculture and monastery farms here. On a signpost beside Coole Abbey, an unreferenced statement is made to a ‘Civitates’ once existing there. This word is often used to refer to a settlement in the Roman world. If whatever historical tradition underlies the use of the word at Coole Abbey recollects a settlement at Clondalane (and Kilcrumper?) then was it large, was it influenced by the Roman world and its Christianity or by that of the Byzantine world? If its origins were pre patrician did it lend its voice to those who requested a bishop from Rome (to preach, ordain, confer, baptise and convert) in the early 5th century? Was it a place where the shepherd and his flock would gather as shepherds gathered their flocks into the cuile enclosures in Sardinia?

Cúile, Transhumance farming and the Clochán.

In the vernacular architecture of Sardinia, the word Cuile is used for a stockyard connected with a dry stone corbel domed hut. The hut is called a pinnettas and is understood to have derived from the tradition of nuragic drystone huts. The tradition may have been brought to Sardinia by Byzantine monks who settled there. These places were associated with rural sanctuaries and pilgrimages to worship local saints. They were also associated with transhumance farming. Herders of cattle or sheep had to stay in rich pasture areas during the summer months. these temporary residences consisted of a cluster of structures called a cuile. Situated in a central position, sometimes behind a river, they were enclosed by a drystone wall. During Winter the herders brought sheep and cattle down from the mountains to warmer areas near the sea coast. The cuile was also a place for cheese making and cheese as well as other dairy produce is a suitable product for temporary underground storage.

Transhumance farming had a very long tradition in the rural life of West Waterford, Southwest Cork, Iveragh and Dingle. In South Munster the Gaelic work cúile (translated as cool) is very common as an element of townland names across its civil parishes e.g. Coolarney, Coolnacrannagh. Souterrains are often discovered in cúile townlands. In Lisnabrinny (Lios na Bruíne) in Kilmeen Parish, East Carbery, a souterrain was discovered with steps leading down to it from inside a clochán (Irish drymasonry corbel dome hut). The souterrain had 3 or more chambers and a passage. Other examples of souterrains connected to clochauns are notable at the large settlement at Fahan on the Dingle Peninsula where its clocháns are now being rebuilt. Are there similarities between Lisnabrinny and the cuile of Sardinia? Did the lios act as an alternative to a drystone wall stockyard? Do the Sardinian sites have cellars beneath their huts?

The Deserts and their souterrains (Díseart, Dishart etc)

While there are smaller deserts from the Beara Peninsula to East Cork such as the big deserts (Desert Serges and Desert More with the Bishopstown Bog) and the little deserts of the Donaghmore locality, what was the importance of these ‘deserts’ i.e. green wildernesses be they bogs, drishanes (thorny places), islands to the life of hermitages and   great monasteries? The word desert (diseart) is an Irish import from the Egypt and Eastern Christian traditions one which resonates of imitations of Christ and John the Baptism in the wilderness and many others less of lesser fame. Who was the Sergius of Desertserges? Did the monks of Kinneigh’s monastic estate name it for a Pope or an early martyr? Who was Faima a friend who was at St. Fionnbarr’s deathbed in Cill na Cluainna at Aglish by the Lee? What was his life like in Desertmore in the boglands of the many streams of the Sabrann River, was his cell a Cill na Glóire, a shiny lamp there, resonant of something also in the Christian deserts of Egypt?

The Ogham stone tribelands

Cork souterrain Site Classes associated with Ogham discoveries.

Who were the people named in these ogham inscriptions and what were their relationships, during their lives, to the clans and tribes of the localities in which the inscriptions have been found?

BALLYHANK A3 ? 5/6 Unclear. Capstones?
AHALISKEY III C3 tunnelled 3 2 capstones and 1 pillar. Ogham on 4th and 7th capstones
BALLYKNOCK NORTH C3 tunnelled 15 1 pillar and rest were capstones. Clay walled site
BARRAHAURIN I ? stonebuilt 1 No details
BURNFORT II B1 stonebuilt 1 No details
CARHOOVAULER I C3 tunnelled 3 All pillars
COOLINEAGH ? ? 1 No details
COOLDORRAGHA A2 stonebuilt 1 2nd capstone from entrance
GARRANES A1 part tunnelled part stonebuilt 1 No details
GLENAWILLIN A2? stonebuilt 2 1 capstone with Ogham in each chamber
KILMARTIN LOWER A2 stonebuilt 1 Innermost capstone
KNOCKSHANAWEE A1 part tunnelled part stonebuilt 6 5 capstones and one pillar stone
MONATAGGART A1 stonebuilt 4 No details
RATHCANNING B1 stonebuilt 1 Capstone in passage
ROOVESMORE A1 part tunnelled part stonebuilt 3 All capstones
UNDERHILL C3 tunnelled 3 2 capstones. 1 pillar. Capstones were no. 2 and 5 from entrance

Overlaying the Heathen topographies of clans and tribes

In the early years, either driven by an increasing native conversion to the Faith, by the work of incoming or native leaders or by significant migrant settlement due to various social upheavals abroad, how quickly did the Irish landscape become overlaid by Christendom in either one or several forms?

Were ringforts occupied where available or given as conversion progressed and as syncretism took place? Did churches and graveyards overlay pagan clan burial grounds and scared palces? Did sacred wells become holy wells, their pagan rituals and festival days becoming Christian ones? Were Breed (Bríde, Brigit) and other goddesses re-branded as saints? Were brehons such Erc and druids such as Ibar and bards such as Mochuda to find vocations as leaders of Cristian communities? Did their homes, places of penance, their baptising wells with votives offering for healing, their places of pilgrimage to mountain sites of the old gods now converted to heaven become the tracks and trails of the faithful, their tig faoi talaimh traditions being absorbed into the Christian and monastic way of life?  Was it a mixture of Christianities of different origins which led St. Benedict to comment about monks in his reforming rule, a desire to unify, to order, to structure and shape physically as well as doctrinally what had come to be. As the centuries unfolded following the collapse of the Western Empire and as the influence of Rome in leading and shaping the Western church took place, did the Whitby Synod of 664 AD have a major impact upon the Irish landscape? Did its cause loss, defiance, abandonment to the deep recesses and remote places of Ireland’s South West, resulting in survivals of the older ways and customs of earlier times, among religious person who retained a belief in the ways of earlier formations of the People of God, the Céile Dé, the Culdee and did some compromise, retain a status within newer institutional forms as canons, as distinct minor monastic houses? Had this chapter of Irish Christian history begun to close on the eve of a rising Viking Age as in his monastery the 8/9th century monk Oengus the Culdee put pen to parchment and wrote about ‘The Downfall of Heathendom’ (Riordan 2014, 41-42) in Ireland.