Page images
PDF
EPUB

the stone had heen so long concealed, the burial place was traditionally called after Brecan,1 Bishop of Aran. Under the slab was found a waterworn stone inscribed—

-(op drt,ran ^U^ber

}%i op ap bpan n ailichop,
Pray for Bran* the Pilgrim.

It is in the Petrie collection.

[graphic][ocr errors]

1 Brecan was son of the Dalcassian prince, Eochy Ballderg, King of Thomond, who had been baptized by St. Futrick at Singland. He founded the first church in county Clare, at Kilbreckun, near Clare Castle (of which the lower part of the walls, built of huge blocks, renwins), and also churches at Doora and Clooney, in adjoining parishes, in the district of Magh Adhair, early in the sixth century. A manuscript of 1443 (T.C.D.) and the "Book of Lecau" agree in this statement, and identify him with the founder of Aidbraccan in Mealh. There is some contusion about his day, probably springing from his having a nephew, Brecan, son of Aengus, eon of Eochy Ballderg. Thus he was of the kin of St. Moluu and St. Flannan of Killaloe.

* Bran, or "Brecan," as Petrie suggests in "Round Towers," p. 140. The Rev. Maxwell H. Close makes the following suggestion as to this name :—"It is excessively improbable that the proper name, Brecan, would be contracled; and if it were, it would not be contracted into bpan. If the inscription be really 1 A prayer for Bran the Pilgrim,' as certainly seems by far the most probable, the following becomes worthy of consideration :—

"O'Donovan, in 'Galway Letters,' vol. iii., p. 180, mentions that there is a small island on the west side of Aran Island which is called by the people Oiledn Dd bpandg. This could mean 'The island of the two little ravens.' But it could also

Another stone, with a neat incised cross, has the legend "Comap ap." The illustration is from a ruhbing by Mr. D. Griffith Davies.

Leaba Brecain (Brecan's Bed or Grave), filled with loose stones, and

overgrown with ivy and wild garlic, stands west of the church. At the west end is set the shaft of a rich and lovely cross covered on both sides with interlacings (p. 255); it has also part of a figure of our Lord on the west face.

The broken fragments of another ornate cross (p. 254) lie prostrate on the rocks above the church. The fret in the upper part is very similar to that on the capitals on the Nuns' Church at Clonmacnoise, and other carvings of the later twelfth century. The curious latelooking crucifix, and the surrounding guilloche ornament, seem to have been after-thoughts. It possesses the singular characteristic that the existing segments of the ring belong to a circle whose centre is much below the intersection of the arms. When sketched for Miss Stokes' "Early Architecture in Ireland," one of the upper segments of the ring remained.

The monastic buildings are of little interest; they form an enclosure

[graphic]

Cross at Temple Brecan.

[graphic][merged small]

mean quite as easily and naturally, 'The island of thy little Bran.' St. Bran (and there was such a saint, probably two or three) could be called in accordance with common usage Branog, little Bran; and Mobhranog, my little Bran; and Dabhranog, thy little Bran; as terms of affection and endearment.

"Now, it seems perfectly possible that the island was called the Island of Dabhranog, after a hermit, Bran, who lived on it, and that he was the person to whom the inscribed stone was made."

[graphic]

Cross, now prostrate, adjoining Temple Brecan. Drawn by T. J. Westiopp, from a rubbing by D. Griffith Davies.

north of the church. Those to the north (34 feet x by 16 feet) and east have nearly perished; that to the west has two doors to the east and west, and is 36 feet x 12 feet 6 inches. Near the west gablo of the church are traces of a building, with an arch, the head formed of two huge stones; another fragment of wall, with a door, lies farther to the west. Some other foundations have been cleared out and restored by the Board of Works; they are mostly late fifteenth-century Gothic houses.

TEAMPuLL-A-PHOiLr,, probably " the church of the hollow," standing in a cleft of the rock, is an uninteresting fifteenth-century building, 26 feet x 13 feet 7 inches. North of the churches is Sean Caislean, the base of a strong tower, 33 feet x 29 feet; walls 9 feet thick.

Dun Onaght (Eoghanacht).—The village of Onacht runs along the crags; south of it can be seen this fine stone fort. O'Donovan suggests

[graphic]

St. Brecans Bed, 1878. that the name is connected with Engus, King of Cashel, and head of the Eoghanachts, who gave the island to Enda; or, as in the days of that saint, Aran was peopled with "pagans from Corcomroe," and the northern part of that district was also called Eoghanacht Ninuis,1 the settlers from the mainland may have so named it. It is a nearly circular cashel, 91 feet north and south, 90 feet cast and west. The wall consists of three sections, 4 feet, 4 feet, and 8 feet thick, 12 feet to 16 feet high. The door is nearly destroyed; it faced S.E., and the wall near it was of large stones; it has no outworks. Half a mile west are two cloghauns, and half way between the churches and

[ocr errors]

Kilmurvey, to the north of the road, near Sruffaun, is a more accessible and perfect one, oval, with doors facing east and west, and a south window. Petrie figures and describes this in his "Round Towers,"

[graphic][merged small]

p. 129, as Clochan-na-Carraige; but neither O'Donovan nor the 6-inch Ordnance Surrey Map notices it.1 It measures 19 feet x 7 feet 6 inches, and is 8 feet high.

Dun Jengds, the central point of interest in the islands, and one of the finest prehistoric forts of western Europe, stands on the very edge of a cliff, nearly 300 feet high, above the village of Kilmurvey; much of it has fallen with the solid rocks on which it stood, undermined by the sapping of the "gnawing white-toothed waves." But we cannot be so sure as some have been that it originally consisted of three entire rings; for among the forts of county Clare is one (described at the last January Meeting of our Society) wonderfully similar to Dun jEngus, though standing on an inland cliff over a valley.

The great fort of -Engus, son of Huamore, was in 1839 generally known by the natives as Dunmore; one old man of Cromwellian descent alone knew it as Dun Innees; but the vague though striking description of Roderic O'Flaherty would have sufficed to identify it:—

"On the south side stands Dun Engus, a large fortified place on the brim of a high clift, a hundred fathoms deep, being a great wall of bare stones, without any mortar, in compass as big as a large castle bawn, with several long stones on the outside, erected slopewise against any assault. It is named of Engus mac Anathmor of the reliques of the Belg men in

1 O'Flaherty (" Ogygia," p. 75) writes: "They have cloghans, a kind of building of stones, laid one upon another, which are brought to a roof without any manner of mortar, ... So ancient, that no one knows how long ago any of them were made."

« PreviousContinue »