Barnachoge Stone Fort, Charlestown in Co. Mayo

The Fort

A few miles from Charlestown near Knock International Airport on a grassy knoll within a bow-shaped ring of hills stands Barnachoge Stone Fort. This field monument is an excellent example of the small-fortified enclosures in use from the late Iron Age (circa 500 A. D.) and may have been inhabited as late as the 1700’s. There are a number of other forts or caiseals in the area many of which also contain souterrains (a cave like feature which was a stone lined chamber used for the storage of food items or as a refuge in times of strife.)

Encircling the flat summit are the remains of a wall some 5ft thick and about 50ft in diameter. Within the shelter of these massive walls would have been thatched dwellings of mud and wattle, and pens into which livestock could have been herded when threatened by raiders.

The practice of herding has survived over the centuries and the area has been transformed into a quilt of small pastures. There are fine examples of dry-stoned walls, which form the boundaries of these enclosures. These enclosures had no gate as such, so when a farmer moved his livestock he simply took down the portion of the wall and replaced it when the animals had gone through.

By Brian Hoban

Discovery Of The Fort

In 1976, my Mother, Delia Henry was appointed as a temporary assistant in Barnacogue National School. She went back to the School where she was a pupil and where she had taught some fifty years before.

In the Spring of 1977 an item of interest in the "focloir" of the area that I had learned then, was what was known as the Castle in McDermotts land to the east of the School. My mother had no idea of what it consisted, but she was curious to find out. Caiseal Cluain Meirg was the name given to it by the old people and handed down from generation to generation. On an agreed Sunday, my mother, myself and her pupils visited the place.

On top of a hill was situated a ring of mighty boulders piled over each other to about five feet high. The centre was overgrown with weeds. In the east wall was an opening and outside it on the grass, a linted stone rested. It was long, with grey lichen and moss partially covering it. Here was history, if it could be elicited or extracted. I notified the Board of Works about the find and I requested a visit by an Archaeologist to assess it. This was complied with and without delay a date was fixed for the inspection.

With great expectation we accompanied the Archaeologist to the site and were not disappointed. He pronounced it a fine example of a Ringed Fort, dating back to the 7th or 8th Century. The McDermott family, owners of the land, agreed with us that it should be preserved. A settlement was reached with the Board of Works and it is in their possession now, fenced off and sign posted for posterity.

© Cathal Henry 16th April 2002

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