BALLYNEETY “An Antique & Storied Land”
Baile an Fhaothaigh “Whites Town”
Prehistoric earthworks, Early Christian graveyards, Norman castles and vernacular houses provide a kaleidoscope of places to seek out and explore in the neighbourhood of Ballyneety. Some local interesting buildings include a Sessions House built of stone in the 19th century and a traditional thatched cottage.
Ballyneety graveyard has 154 memorials, all of which have been digitally surveyed and are viewable if you follow this link: Ballyneety Historic Graves click here | Ballyneety (Ludden) Historic Graves, click here
Folklore records that the Fianna, ancient Irelands legendary warriors led by Fionn Mac Cumhill, visited a house at Cahernarry Hill. On their arrival, they were met by a chieftain named Cuanna, a beautiful young woman, a twelve-eyed old man, an old woman dressed in a cloak and a ram.
A meal was prepared for the guests, but the ram spoke and stated that the portions of pork were unfairly served. He thereupon ate Fionns pork, for which the Fianna tried but failed to capture him. The old man, without any difficulty, caught the ram and removed it from the house. The old woman then threw her cloak over the Fianna. They were transformed into old men but when she removed the cloak, they returned to normal.
Cuanna then told Fionn that the ram symbolised humanity and the old man who rejected it represented the world. The old woman symbolised old age. The young woman beauty – could move farther in the flick of an eye than an ordinary person could travel in 40 years. Cuanna then told Fionn that he hoped he would use the experience to learn a lesson from his night in Cahernarry.
Archaeological excavations on a four-hectare site at Knockea Hill, 1.5 kilometres east of Ballyneety, uncovered considerable evidence of human activity some 1,500 years ago.
An assemblage of earthworks and at least 66 human burials were discovered. These burials were in an east-west direction, indicating that they probably dated from the Early Christian period 400-1100AD. However, evidence suggested that the site might have been used in an earlier period.
Other sites excavated nearby included a location known as House H, where archaeologists found a knife from the Early Christian period, as well as a glass bead, bone pins and a jet bracelet. The discovery of animal bones including oxen, sheep, pigs and a horse, provided clues about the activities of its occupants. The skeletons of at least four adults, a number of children and infants, were also found at House H.
RATHUAIRD CASTLE & RATH
The 13th century Rathuaird Castle is rare because its exterior is circular in shape. However, it is a square structure on the inside. Probably one of the oldest castles in the county, it is also in remarkable condition and, unusually for Ireland, has been occupied during most of its history.
Seward Minuter, who was Mayor of Limerick in 1214, probably built this castle. It went through many changes of ownership until the mid-1600’s, when it became the property of the Frend family who remained owners of Rathuaird for the next 200 years. The Ryan family currently owns this castle, which is a private home and not open to the public.
Lickadoon Castle was first mentioned in 1336, when it was owned by Bishop Maurice de Roupefort. Dermot O’Hurley, Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, was said to have been born in the castle in 1519. He was executed for treason in 1584. Later owners included Dominic Roche, Mayor of Limerick in 1616, 1618 and 1621. The castle was leased to Henry Hunt in 1715. His descendants remained there until 1779. However, within a century, the castle had been largely demolished and its stones used to build a school.
Raheen means “Little Fort” a reference to the castle that stood there and, perhaps, to a nearby stone fort of prehistoric origin. In 1623, Raheen became part of the estates of Jordan Roche, who had the misfortune to be executed after Cromwells siege of Limerick in 1651. A small village also stood there in medieval times but this has entirely disappeared. Of some curiosity is its ancient parish church, of which some low walls may be seen in Raheen graveyard. The ruins of Friarstown Friary, a 13th century Franciscan foundation, are located in fields west of Raheen.
HUNT COAT OF ARMS
An interesting feature of Raheen graveyard is its Hunt vault, with an impressive coat of arms carved in limestone. The Hunts came to Ireland from Essex in the 16th century. Coats of arms were only granted to gentlemen and the nobility. In the Irish heraldic tradition, women were not granted coats of arms in their own right, but in certain circumstances, could use their fathers or husbands heraldic shield. Otherwise, coats of arms were strictly intended for the use of the direct descendants of those to whom they were granted and not just by anyone who happened to share the same surname!
The spire of Cahernarry Church of Ireland parish church catches the eye as one approaches its graveyard. In 1862, just 53 years after it was built, Cahernarry Church suffered the same fate as hundreds of other churches closed between the 1850’s and mid-1950’s, when everything, except its spire, was demolished. The second sight that catches the eye at Cahernarry is a structure of sublime beauty. The obelisk-topped Howly Vault, which has a mixture of Egyptian and Greek styles, is one of the best 19th century burial vaults in County Limerick. A stone plaque beside the vault, readable only from the roadside, refers to the building of another obelisk on Cahernarry Hill in 1821, also by John Howly.