Roscam – Never finished?

A recent trip to Galway afforded me the opportunity to “bag” another round tower. And so, I went in search of the tower at Roscam, which is on the outskirts of the city, overlooking Oranmore Bay. It’s a beautiful location, though the view is hampered somewhat by the inevitable development on the other side of the bay.

Very little is known about the monastery which once stood here. It is thought it may have been established here in the 5th century, which would make it one of the oldest monastic settlements in Ireland. It has been associated with St. Patrick (yep, that one) and with Odran, brother to St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise. In 807, the site was attacked by those serial monastery pillagers, the Vikings. The monastery might also be where the bones of King Brión mac Echach Muigmedóin were brought to by Saint Aedus. There are question marks as to whether King Brión ever actually existed so you can make up your own mind.

The putlock holes are still visible on the tower

The tower stands 10.98m tall and is unusual for two reasons. One is that the lintelled doorway is quite low to the ground. The other is that the tower still has numerous putlock (or putlog) holes on its external walls. These were used to support scaffolding while the towers were being built, but were covered up afterwards. The presence of these holes in the tower raises doubts as to whether this particular one was ever finished. There is just one window in the tower, directly over the door. At some point afterwards, somebody attempted to add some height to the tower but the new stonework is not of the quality of what went before.

The church, and some company…

Close to the tower are the ruins of a medieval church. I wasn’t able to get near them because of the extensive stone walls and unclimbable gates in the area. Some of these are the remnants of ancient fortifications and they’re still doing their work effectively in 2021!

Far more interesting is the ancient graveyard which overlooks the bay. It doesn’t appear to be still in use but it looks like it was used extensively over the centuries. It’s populated with lots of broken, illegible headstones and rocks and it’s wonderful. There are two large bullaun stones in there as well, one of which is associated with St. Patrick. It seems the great snake banisher was also a dab hand at making round dents in big rocks.

One of the bullaun stones in the grave yard

By a long shot, this was the trickiest round tower to get to. For better or worse, I accessed it by driving along the Rosshill Road, then walked (carefully!) along the rocky beach that runs south of the site. Then some clambering over stone walls and navigating electric fences came into the equation. The tower is in the middle of a working farm, so naturally the animals come first.