[Ground plan of antique remains]

Artist(s) : George Crampton (Draughtsman)

Plan of archaeological site on Innisglora. Probably from a sketch by George Crampton, who visited the island on behalf of Otway.

Image Details

Genre Scientific or Technical illustration
Technique Wood engravings
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Architecture
Geographical Location
  • Inishglora - Island
  • Mayo - County
  • Connaught - Province
Keywords(s) Antiquities, Archaeological sites, Plans
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 7 cm x 12.5 cm
Published / created 1841

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account Sketches in Erris and Tyrawly
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 99
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

Unable to proceed to lnnisgloria myself, I commissioned my friend, Mr. Crampton, to go and report for me, and he has done as follows, as much, I hope, to the satisfaction of the reader, as to mine:— "Somewhat to the southward of the old church of Cross runs (at low water) a long point into the sea, which reaches within a short distance of the island of Innisgloria. Tradition says, that once this point was above high water, and extended so near the island, that a plank completed the connection. In process of time a ferry boat was used, in which passengers could pass and repass by means of a rope stretched from shore to shore; the island was a favourite place for interment, but has not, of late, been much resorted to, in consequence of the increasing difficulty of approach; however, even yet, pious individuals who are desirous that their bodies should rest in 'glory,' and, for the sake of their souls, insist on being buried in this island of saints; the funerals always approach the island along the point mentioned above; and it is very interesting to see // the solemn procession slowly pursuing the retreating tide, and to hear the wild cry of the mourners mingling with the murmurs of the ocean. This custom still continuing, seems to corroborate the tradition as to the near junction of the mainland and island. The remnants of antiquity here are two churches, viz. 'Tempel na Far' and 'Tempel na More,' the Chapel of St. Brenain,* the seven // leachtas, the well, the 'aigh,' and the three thorrows, none of which seem of pagan origin, the very names seem to indicate their Christian character; the first two are, the church of the men and the church of the women—that of the men seems the older, exhibiting traces of Cyclopean architecture in one of its walls. Perhaps it was some time before the good friars discovered that the persuasive voice of woman was necessary to ensure the efficacy of // their prayers. The chapel of St. Brenain (who is said to have erected all the buildings in the island) is a very rude structure, about fourteen feet long by eight or nine wide, and from the inclination of the upper part of the walls, it would seem that formerly it had a stone roof. It contains the statue of the saint (of which I send the sketch), and the altar. The statue seems to have been once a good specimen of carving, and is said to have been painted, but // time and weather have sadly defaced it. It is regarded with great veneration, and worshipped by devotees who come here to perform stations, and it is regularly kissed by every Roman Catholic visitant, whether on a station or not. The stations are performed round the seven leachtas, or monuments— the penitent going round each, on his knees thrice; and upright, thrice. The most respected of these leachtas is that called 'Leachta rillik Wurragh,' or the monument of the reliques of Mary; this is seated on a mound which seems artificial, and in which I am strongly of opinion there are more of those 'thurrows.' Indeed, this leachta, besides its cognomen of 'rillik Wurragh,' has also that of ' thurrow.' If this opinion be the correct one, it would seem to argue that these ' beehive' structures were merely sepulchres. That containing the remains of the saint, having a monument raised over it, and called the 'monument of the Thurrow of the reliques of Mary,'—besides the statue of the saint in the chapel, are the remains of his altar, of timber also, once painted, but now loose and clumsily put up, so as to look like a stool. The well, 'tubber,' is remarkable for growing bloody whenever a woman goes to draw water from it. As long as that idea holds, no Roman Catholic girl will cause its waters to blush. The 'aigh' I don't know what to make of; it has greatly the appearance of a kiln, very circular, and having a small door into it on a level with the ground. The princess, who was the swan, calls upon 'cleri aigh' to obey her injunctions; cleri is a clerk, but of 'aigh' I do not know the meaning (quere agios, holy). But the most extraordi- // nary of all the antiquities are the 'thurrows,' like enormous beehives: the base of the 'thurrow more' (or great) is an irregular circle, whose diameters vary from about fourteen to sixteen feet; about twelve feet in height, with an aperture at top of about three feet diameter; its sides are composed of layers, or courses of stone, or rather flags, pretty regularly laid, so that after the height of about three feet, each succeeding course projects over that immediately under it, and so on to the top. The 'thurrow beg' (or small) which opens from the large one, is a more irregular circle, its diameters varying from about ten to seven feet; and its height about eight feet: it seems greatly inclined to fall. The 'thurrow mhule' is still more ruinous—its roof is entirely fallen in: the plans I send you will give you a better idea of these buildings than any description; people seem to have no idea as to their use. There exists still a curious custom of breaking bread; people going there always bring some bread with them, and in the 'thurrow more' each person breaks with the person next him. I have noticed every thing in the island now but some stone graves or 'corp teacth' similar to those in the sandy banks, and situated as marked in the plan. No rat or mouse has ever been found in the island;—people say they would not live if put on it, and that the clay of the island would destroy them elsewhere. This seems decisive against this island ever having been actually attached to the main. There is a family living on the island, which is the property of Major Bingham. The enchanted // land or 'Thalow tha whaoy Dhruidhaigh,' is once in seven years seen from it. It is described as a fine, arable, and wooded country—not like Erris. There exists an opinion that a coal of fire would break the enchantment and restore the land, as it did Innisboffin. There is also seen a large building called 'Monaster Ladhra,' described as adorned with turrets and battlements, fortified with a moat and drawbridge, and inhabited. Horsemen fully caparisoned being seen to issue from it. It is situated between Inniskea and Innisgloria."

*Having made some scrutiny in Colgan, Messingham, Lanigan, and other Hibernian hagiologists for this St. Brenain, I can find no such name. I therefore feel assured that it is St. Brendan who is held in worship here,—the famous Bishop of Clonfert, the most interesting of Irish saints,—the incidents of whose life are so romantic as to be the theme of many a legend and holy poem. He who, in fact, was the veritable discoverer of America, nine hundred years before Columbus- set his sail. We are informed that Brendan, hearing of the previous voyage of his cousin Barinthus in the western ocean, and obtaining an account from him of the happy isles he had landed on in the far west, determined, under the strong desire of winning heathen souls to Christ, to undertake a voyage of discovery himself. And aware that all along the western coast of Ireland there were many traditions respecting the existence of a western land, he proceeded to the islands of Arran, and there remained for some time, holding communication with the venerable St. Enda, and obtaining from him much information on what his mind was bent. There can be little doubt that he proceeded northward along the coast of Mayo, and made inquiry among its bays and islands of the remnants of the Tuatha Danaan people, that once were so expert in naval affairs, and who acquired from the more stupid Milesians or Scots that overcame them, the character of being magicians for their superior knowledge. At Inniskea, then, and Innisgloria, Brendan set up his cross; and, in after times, in his honour were erected those curious remains that still exist. Having prosecuted his inquiries with all diligence, Brendan returned to his native Kerry; and, from a bay sheltered by the lofty mountain that is now known by his name, he set sail for the Atlantic land; and, directing his course towards // the south west, in order to meet the summer solstice, or what we would call the tropic—after a long and rough voyage, his little barks being well provisioned,—he came to summer seas, where he was carried along without the aid of sail or oar for many a long day. This, it is to be presumed, was the great gulf stream, and which brought his three vessels to shore somewhere about the Virginia capes, or where the American coast trends eastward and forms the New England states. Here landing, he and his companions marched steadily into the interior for fifteen days, and then came to a large river flowing from east to west: this evidently was the river Ohio. And this the holy adventurer was about to cross, when he was accosted by a person of noble presence—but whether a real or visionary man does not appear—who told him he had gone far enough; that further discoveries were reserved for other men, who would in due time come and Christianize all that pleasant land. The above, when tested by common sense, clearly shows that Brendan landed on a continent, and went a good way into the interior, met a great river running in a different direction from those he heretofore crossed; and here, from the difficulty of transit or want of provisions, or deterred by increasing difficulties, he turned back; and no doubt in a dream he saw some such vision which embodied his own previous thought, and satisfied him that it was expedient to return home. It is said he remained seven years away and returned to set up a college of 3000 monks at Clonfert—and he then died in the odour of sanctity. May not the three graceful swans mentioned in the legend of Innisgloria, be the three vessels with white sails that carried Brendan and his family over the western main? and may not their condemnation to go forth and breast the strongest stream of the ocean, be a dark announcement of the long voyage on the bosom of the Florida Gulf stream? The wonder is, that that most ingenious of antiquarians, General Vallancey, did not make as much of this legend and allegory, as he has done of others not half so beautiful or so substantial. See the Life of St. Brendan in the MS. Codex Kilkenniensis in Marsh's Library. [pp. 97-107]
Ground plan of antique remains