[High Cross, Clonmacnoise]

Artist(s) : J.A. Wheeler (Engraver)

View of the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnoise, with the cathedral in the background, and Temple Doolin and the South Cross further away and to the right. Two figures are kneeling reverently before the cross, amongst several gravestones tilting haphazardly in the uneven ground.

Inscribed in Image

  • Signature – Wheeler sc.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Wood engravings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites
Geographical Location
  • Clonmacnoise - Named locality
  • Offaly - County
  • Leinster - Province
Keywords(s) Archaeological sites, Cemeteries, Churches, High crosses, People, Ruins, Sculpture, Tombs & sepulchral monuments
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 7 cm x 5.6 cm
Published / created 1839

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A tour in Connaught
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 67
Source copy National Library of Ireland J 91412
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

Proceeding from M'Dermott's church, our attention was directed to a very fine stone cross, the largest in the place, formed of one piece, and covered with [p. 83] carvings in bas relievo and inscriptions, which, had I the ability, my time would not allow me to decipher. "Come, my good woman," said I, "tell what may be the stories told of these figures?" "Why, then, myself cannot tell you any thing about them, they are all out ancient; may be Darby Claffy yonder, the ouldest man about the churches, could tell you somewhat." Now Darby Claffy was standing idle, leaning not far off, against the wall of Dowling's church, looking up at O'Rourke's tower; and a finer studio for a sketcher than the head, face, and form of the venerable looking, man could not be seen; eighty winters had dropped their flakes as light as snow feathers on his head, and there he stood with his hat off, his fine Guido countenance and expressive face, a living accompaniment to all the grey venerability that was around. "Come over here, Darby Claffy, honest man, and tell the strange gintleman all you know about them crosses and things musha, myself forgets at any rate, I must run and show Judy Delaney, the simple crathur, where to find her father's grave heaven be widyees, gintlemen, and don't forget poor Judy." A shilling given to her seemed a source of unutterable joy; her little son that was beside her, appearing as if he never saw so large a coin, snatched it in raptures from his mammy, and danced about the grave-stones in triumph. I was pleased to buy human joy so cheap. The old man did not belie his fine countenance; his mind was stored with traditionary recollections concerning Clonmacnoise, which, if not according to recorded facts, were founded on them; and he spoke [p. 84] with perfect assurance in the truth of what he said, and of the sanctity of all around. "Can you, my honest fellow, tell us any thing about the figures carved on this cross?" " A little, plase your honour; but sartain I'm no scholar: come here now, Mister, do you see that figure with the keys, that is St. Pether; and that there beside him is St. Kieran, do you see a book in his hand ? that is the Gospel of St. Matthew which Kieran learned so well from holy Finnian, of Clonard, in the county Meath, where in ould times there was a great school, somewhat the same as Maynooth now is, whence young Father Finnerty has just come home, edicated; well, plase your honours, Kieran was called Kieran of St. Matthew,* because [p. 85] he knew that Gospel so well; and do now look below Peter and Kieran, and don't you notice young men smiling, and one playing the bagpipes? Well, this represents the young priests that Kieran brought with him to Clonmacnoise; and as well becomes the divil, he must needs envy their devotions, and he used to come by night and play his bagpipes to divart them there, and draw them off from their vesper duties and up they'd get from their knees when the ould boy, in the shape of a piper, would play a planxty, and set about (they could'nt for the life help it) jigging it away; now, St. Pether, in heaven, saw to be sure, all this, and so he comes down to tell Kieran of it; and, moreover, he falls upon Satan in a thrice; don't you see him there how he has tumbled the enemy of man ? And, as you see there, is sending him headlong to hell." There was certainly something like a man playing the pipes cut on the cross, and a representation of two persons contending, and one getting the better of the other; but whether old Claffy was right in his reading I cannot say. This cross is certainly one of the finest I have seen in Ireland; I question whether it is even inferior to those immense ones that are at Monaster Boice, in the county of Louth. [pp. 82-85]
High Cross, Clonmacnoise