Liathmore – New(ish) to the party

Every now and then, a new round tower gets added to the list of known towers. In 2018, some mortar from a ruined tower in the grounds of a grammar school in Derry were radiocarbon dated. It had been thought that the tower was a ruined windmill but the analysis of the mortar revealed it to be an older building. Evidence suggests it could quite likely be a round tower that had been known to have stood in the area.

The rediscovery of the tower at Liathmore, Co. Tipperary took place nearly 50 years before this. In 1969-70 Dr. Robin E. Glasscock from Queens University, Belfast led excavations at this site. The foundations of the tower were found, along with some worked ashlars which were later used to reconstruct the base. The foundations went to a depth of 2.6 metres which is unusually deep for a round tower. As to why the tower vanished and was forgotten about, that’s anybody’s guess. Subsequent to the excavations, the Office of Public Works (OPW) reconstructed the base of the tower using the material found during the dig. The base is surrounded by a larger circular stone wall, constructed by the OPW to protect it from cattle.

The reconstructed base of Liathmore Round Tower. To its north is the smaller and older of the two churches here.

The monastery here was founded by St. Mochoemóg in the early 7th century. Tradition has it that he is buried in the larger church. And in a blurring of fact and fiction, he features in some versions of the Children of Lir story as the monk who baptised the four swans and turned them back into humans. Local folklore has it that every four years, four swans return to the area and spend a week here.

The tower base is situated almost half way between two ruined churches. Apart from these, there is evidence of a settlement which once existed here, perhaps until the 16th or 17th century. These lumps and bumps in the ground are easily visible in the area around the larger church

Aerial photo of the tower base and the two churches.

The smaller of the two is an 11th-century oratory. The larger church dates from the 12th century, though it was modified after that. Alterations made in the 15th century are quite noticeable here. There is a loft and steps that access the roof. This church has some interesting features, including some carved heads over the doorway and a Sheela-na-Gig that’s a little hard to find unless you know where to look (fnar). I visited this site on a sunny summer’s evening and wasn’t able to get a decent picture of said exhibitionist. So if you’re curious, there are pics on the “Ireland’s Síle na Gigs” website.

This site wouldn’t make it onto my “must see” list but it was a pleasant way to spend a sunny summer’s evening. The larger church in particular is interesting to look at. Because it’s a much altered building, there are random carvings set into doorways and masonry to look at inside.

Heads!

Getting There

This site is trickier to find than most of the others because it is on private farmland and isn’t signposted from the main road. The entrance to the farm, and the farm track out to the site, look a bit different to the 2009 Google Streetview imagery. Other online accounts of visiting this site mention the mud and advise wearing wellies, so I left my visit to this one until we’d had a dry spell of weather.

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