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Glenroe “A Changing Landscape”

Gleann Rua “The Red Glen”

Daragh Gleann Rua “The Oaks of the Red Glen”

This place, generally called Daragh-Glenroe derives its name from an ancient and extensive forest of oaks, in the vale of Glenroe, extending from the hills of Glenosheen to the river at Towerelegan. Towards its north-west boundary are still some woods of oak, the remains of an ancient forest. Towards its south western extremity the road to Ballingarry crosses a small river, near the confluence of two streams, forming a boundary between the dioceses of Cloyne and Emly, and between this parish and the adjacent parishes of Ballylanders and Ballingarry.

Samuel Lewis, Topographer, 1837.

Glenroe derives its name from Darragh-Glenroe, The Oaks of the Red Valley. There was once an ancient and extensive forest of oaks in the valley of Glenroe.

The Red Chair crossroads marks the border with County Cork. This crossroads is the site of the murder of Mahon, King of Munster in 976. Mahon had been on a visit to Bruree when he was captured and killed by his rivals. He was succeeded by his younger brother Brian Boru, who later went on to become the High King of Ireland and died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The area is also connected with many of the legends of the Fianna. The Ballyhoura Mountains were the hunting grounds where the Fianna used to hunt the Liath na dTrá­ mBeann athe grey one of the three antlers. According to legend St Patrick visited the area about 460 and that he was shown around the region by one of the warriors of the Fianna, Caoilte.

Glenroe Graveyard has 144 memorials, all of which have been digitally surveyed and are viewable if you follow this link:  Glenroe Historic Graves, click here

AFTER THE ICE AGE

Until the end of the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago, glaciers over a kilometre deep covered Ireland and spread across the landscape as far as the Galtee and Ballyhoura Mountains. Then, changes in climate, gradually brought about a melting of the ice, which left behind a glacial till which forms the basis of the soils we have in Ireland today.

After the end of the Ice Age, more and more plants began to colonise the landscape. As temperatures increased, tundra plants were followed by grasses, junipers and then woodlands. Oaks were probably growing in this area around 9,000 years ago. Woodlands of oak, hazel and elm became established around 7,000 years ago and persisted for another 2,000 years until they were altered by a wave of disease similar to the outbreak of Dutch Elm Disease which spread across Europe in the late 20th century. This period could have been when Glenroe was covered with oaks.

FIRST HUMANS

The first humans came to this area in the Megalithic Period (7,000 to 4,500BC) and began to have an affect on the woodlands. Amongst the earliest evidence for people in the area is a stone axehead, which was found in Darragh graveyard around 1901, and is now in the National Museum of Ireland. A large stone, resembling a headstone, which may also bee seen in the graveyard, appears to have Rock Art (abstract images carved on stone), which may also date from the Megalithic or Neolithic periods.

Megalithic, meaning “Big Stone”, and Neolithic, meaning “New Stone”, are terms applied to the period from 7,000BC to about 2,500BC, when people used stone tools and burial monuments in stone.

Stone Age farmers were the first to clear forests for gardens and farming. In the beginning, soils were fertile, but after much clearing, the fertility deteriorated and so new clearings had to take place. The abandoned areas gradually turned into grasslands. Over time, with increased populations and increased stock numbers, clearings joined together and expanded into larger and larger grasslands.

BRONZE AGE

About 2,500BC, a new period “the Bronze Age” saw the introduction of bronze tools and weapons. This period has left many monuments in the Glenroe area, including several on Castle Gale (on the Slí Finn Drive). Other local sites from this period include the horse-show shaped mounds known as Fulachta Fiadha of which up to 100,000 are believed to exist throughout Ireland.

Fulachta Fiadha were popularly associated with the Fianna, Irelands ancient heroic warriors. They are usually found in wetland areas or near waterways. They consisted of a trough dug into the ground and lined with stone or wood. Beside it, a fire was lit and stones were placed into the fire. As the stones became hot, they were placed into the water that had filled the trough, until the water reached boiling point. A piece of meat, probably wrapped in straw, was placed into the water and then cooked. Only one hot stone, placed in the water about every 20 minutes, was required to keep the trough boiling. Many of these remarkable sites exist along the Valley. Another may be seen near a ringfort at Rupplagh.

Bronze Age people cleared the forests for farming and used timber at their cooking sites. There was also an increase in arable farming from around 1,300 to 800BC.

SINCE THE IRON AGE

More clearances and improved cultivation followed the beginning of the Iron Age, some 500BC. It was in this period that the iron plough was introduced, thus making it possible to speed up and improve important aspects of agricultural progress. Sites from the Iron Age and the Early Christian Period (400-1100AD) include ringforts, church sites, and cillini (small churches). A cillin at Ballyferode was used until modern times as a burying place for unbaptized children.

In this time, forests continued to be cleared for farmland. Agricultural expansion and the heavy demands on oakwoods led to a shortage of timber. Oaks were rare in the eighth century. The succeeding centuries contributed to the decline in woodlands.

20th CENTURY

In the mid-20th century, the dominant cow on Irish farms changed from Shorthorns and Kerry Cows, to Frisians. With increased mechanization and decreased labour requirements, dairying intensified and tillage farming largely disappeared.

During the last quarter of the 20th century, new woodlands have been planted on the Ballyhoura Mountains. These are not native oak or birch, but Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir introduced from other European countries.

The sites and monuments associated with the different periods in the prehistory and history of the area are part of the Sli Finn Drive. These include Darragh graveyard, Darragh bridge and Glenroe itself.