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How much preservation does National Monument status, or state ownership provide? Is it as loosely graded as Irish potatoes? A recent visit to Circle O, a state-owned part of the Lough Gur complex in Co. Limerick (National Monument No.247) proved to be an instructive experience.
The internal kerbed cairn with the eastern section of the earthen bank to the rear - both heavily overgrown.

The internal kerbed cairn with the eastern section of the earthen bank to the rear - both heavily overgrown.

According to Helen Roche this is “… an embanked stone circle enclosing a kerbed cairn.” and she contends that “Although there are no associated finds at this site the similarity to both Grange and Circle P would indicate that it dates to the Late Bronze Age.” Circle P is another kerbed cairn, 30m to the south. The famous and fastidiously maintained, Grange embanked circle is across the lake to the west southwest. This site, defined by standing slabs on both sides of its earthen bank and with an internal ditch, is almost identical in size to the latter.

Circle O is little known and very overgrown, the remains of a great Bronze Age sepulchre or ritual site, 56m in overall diameter. Its shape is still discernible, if you happen to know what you’re looking for, but is slowly declining in a terrible, wild, scrub advance. The guttery trenches, cut in parts of the bank, indicate where heavy animals make regular entry to the open parts of the interior. Nature, both flora and fauna, is inexorable, if there is no will left to stand in the way.

One of the points at which livestock make access through the bank.

One of the points at which livestock make access through the bank.

The recent Condition and Management Survey of the Agricultural Resource, in Northern Ireland, found agricultural activity and the growth of vegetation to be the greatest contributing factors to the 48% of the more complete, substantial or definable sites that were damaged there, over the five year period of the survey:

“The survey established that the greatest risk to our archaeological resource is gradual piecemeal damage caused by livestock poaching and trampling in and around earthwork monuments”

You would not be surprised, therefore, to witness this type of gradual erosion at the average, lazily neglected, Irish site, but this is a National Monument, in an archaeologically significant area. All one can think is, how careless, how unnecessary, that it is being pummelled and rooted back into the ground. Can you wander here and not imagine some vast, despoiled Scavi?

Modern posts and wire now cut right through the centre of the monument, as a replacement for what A.L. Lewis refers to as “… the fence which runs through the circles.” He continues; “This fence I was told was constructed “when the bad times came”, it being thought desirable to divide what was then one farm between two brothers.” This division seems to further extend to whatever conservation arrangement, if any, exists between these landowners and the state, with the great circle falling quietly into the gap.

Lewis' map of the Lough Gur area. Circle O is here marked 'M', on the eastern side of the lake. Grange is marked 'C', on the western side.

Lewis' map of the Lough Gur area. Circle O is here marked 'M', on the eastern side of the lake. Grange is marked 'C', on the western side.

 

Click to access Appendix2.pdf

Gormley S., Donnelly C., Hartwell B. & Bell J. [2009] ‘Monumental Change?’ in Archaeology Ireland Vol.23, No.2, Issue No.88, 12-13 ISBN 0790-892x

Lewis A.L. [1909] ‘Some Stone Circles in Ireland’ in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.39, 523

O’Kelly M.J & C. [2004] Illustrated Guide to Lough Gur, Co. Limerick, Houston, 28

Roche H. [2004] ‘The Dating of the Embanked Stone Circle at Grange, Co. Limerick’ in Roche H., Grogan E., Bradley J., Coles J. & Raftery B. eds; From Megaliths to Metals: Essays in Honour of George Eogan, Oxbow, 115 ISBN 1-84217-151-8

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