[Court tomb, Ballyglass]

Ground plan of the 'Giant's Grave', the larger of the two court tombs at Ballyglass, near Ballycastle, Co. Mayo.

Image Details

Genre Scientific or Technical illustration
Technique Wood engravings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture
Geographical Location
  • Ballyglass, near Ballycastle - Named locality
  • Mayo - County
  • Connaught - Province
Keywords(s) Archaeological sites, Plans, Tombs & sepulchral monuments
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 5.8 cm x 2.8 cm
Published / created 1841

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account Sketches in Erris and Tyrawly
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 269
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 914123 o 2
Alternative source

This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.

Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

Passing through a village called Ballyglass, I [p. 269] observed in a corn field adjoining a congeries of grey stones. I was off the car in a moment.
"What's that?" says I, speaking to a labouring man and pointing to the rocks.
"Oh, that's a giant's grave."
"What giant?"
"Faix, myself don't know. One of the ould ones entirely; some big body belonging to Fin M'Coul, they say; but myself don't mind who it was."
In a minute the three of us were in the enclosure, and a curious one indeed it is; unlike any cromleach, Druidical circle, or giant's grave, I had ever before observed. Here were the massive and moss covered stones, not in a circle but an oval, as in the annexed cut; at either end of the oval were two square enclos-
ures or chambers, one connected by a narrow passage with the other; they had been originally covered like cromleachs, or rather like what in the Irish popular phrase are called Darby and Grana's beds. The covering stones were thrown off and were lying either broken or entire on either side; the entrance was on the south side of the oval, and opposite to the entrance was another enclosure or chamber that had [p. 270] been also covered, but was single. There was nothing worthy of remark in the size of the stones forming the monument, or the extent of the ground it covered; but there was, certainly, in the arrangement of its parts.* I had met nothing like it before, [p. 271] and it struck me and my companions greatly. I have since met with another in the county of Donegal, exactly similar, but of much larger dimensions, and altogether a much more important work. But enough of this, until I return to the county of Donegal, from whence I first started as a sketcher, and to which when I return I may as well have done.
I am at a loss to account for the character of this monument—was it a temple or place of sepulture? About three hundred yards off to the south there is a monument, evidently the work of the same people; it is a small circle of stones not unlike one of those numerous ones at Carrowmore, in the county of Sligo. But I may say I am in the line of country where these remains are in abundance; all along the north-western coast they are found, and not far from the sea. I, a casual and hasty tourist, have met with many that have never been before noticed, as for instance, this one which is not even laid down in the ordnance sur- [p. 272] vey. I am obliged to my learned and all-engrossing friend, Mr. Petrie, for allowing me to be the first to notice these remains in Erris, Tyrawly and Donegal. I am sorry to say that the people pay little respect to such ancient monuments—they feel no interest about them; and it is only their fears as supposing such grey stones to belong peculiarly to the "Gentry," that hinder them from obliterating them altogether; as for a Connaught landlord, it has not yet entered his head to care for these things. [pp. 268-272]

[Note] [p. 270] * The combinations I have noticed in the monument of Ballyglass, I find is not unusual in other countries, where the Celtic race had at one time dominion. The enclosures which appear in the annexed sketch at each end of the oval are to all appearance the same as what are called kistvaens in Wales; and it seems that in the West of France, and even in Persia and in Arabia, they are to be found.
I copy the following remarks from Mr. Kitto's Pictorial History of Palestine:—
"Concerning the Kistvaen, the diversity of opinion has been as great as concerning the cromleach. It consists of two or three or more sides or uprights, and a back stone occasionally, and over the whole is placed a top or covering stone. In general a cell is thus formed, closed on three sides, and covered at top, but open now in front. The name kistvaen is Welch, and means a stone chest. Kistvaens are commonly found in the middle of stone circles, near the cromleach, and sometimes without any cromleach near: they are also found isolated, like the cromleachs, though other Druidical monuments seem to be in the neighbourhood; they are sometimes arranged in circles, with or without a cromleach in the centre. But we are aware of no instance in which the reverse occurs,—namely, in which a kistvaen stands in a circle of cromleachs; but there are instances in which a circle is formed by kistvaens, with intervening upright stones. A remarkable example of this last description is exhibited in the Druidical circle in Jersey.

How far the cromleachs and kistvaens contribute to the illustration of the altars of unhewn stone and the high places mentioned in Scripture is a point which we may perhaps take another opportunity to consider; meanwhile it may be noticed, that monuments of this and other classes still exist in Palestine, especially in the country beyond Jordan, although scarcely any of them have been described. Mr. Farran has probably given more information on the subject [p. 271] than any other person. In his letter to Lord Lindsay he says,— 'On the eastern side of the hills of Jordan, and over the plains of Manasseh and Gad, monuments like those of the Druid age of England still illustrate the rural superstitions of the dim ages which, denounced in Holy Writ, were probably imparted to us from them.' And Lord Lindsay himself, in one of his letters, remarks,— 'Mr. Farran tells me that there are some Phoenician monuments near Souf, one of which he showed me a drawing of, as decidedly Druidical as Stonehenge.' Some of the monuments thus referred to are doubtless the same which attracted the attention of Captains Irby and Mangles, near the river Jordan. They state,—'On the banks of the Jordan, at the foot of the mountains, we observed some very singular, interesting, and certainly very ancient tombs, composed of rough stones, resembling Kit's Cotty House in Kent.' Kit's Cotty House is one of the largest cromleachs in the British Isles." [pp. 270-271]
Court tomb, Ballyglass