Wakeman: A Survey of Antiquarian Remains On The Island Of Inismurray

Pdf Wakeman, W.F., A Survey of Antiquarian Remains On The Island Of Inismurray, London: William & Norgate, 1892
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A Survey of Antiquarian Remains On The Island Of Inismurray by William Frederirck Wakeman (1822-1900) first published 1892 is a study of the monastic ruins on the uninhabited island of Inishmurrary off the coast of Co. Sligo. A monastic community now in ruins was established there by St. Molaise in the 6th century.

Christianity arrived in pagan Ireland via Roman Britain. It is believed that some Christians were already on the island before St. Patrick, a former slave, began his evangelical mission. Within a few centuries a sophisticated network of monastic communities were established the length and breadth of the country. Some monks chose to live as hermits away from the mainland on islands along the west coast of Ireland.

The community on the island of Inishmurray dating from the 6th century was probably established so the community could live in solitude and prayer. In time though many monsasteries became wealthy with powerful abbots from Gaelic aristocratic familes and became well known in Europe as centres of learning. Beginning in the 9th century these communities became the target for pagan Vikings in search of plunder. The monastary at Inishmurray was first attacked by Vikings in the year 807.

The most obvious evidence that Inishmurray was the target of raiders is an impressive stone wall that encloses the ruins of the monastery that is almost 5m tall and 3m thick. Inside the oval shaped enclosure are a group of church buildings that include an oratory with a stone roof, two churches and a clochans or dry stone huts usually called 'bee-hive' whih were used as prayer cells.

There is evidence of foreign influences including cross slabs that are different from the construction normally seen at Irish monastic sites. All the ruins are built using locally available limestone rock.

In the late 19th century there was still a small peasant community on the island but by 1948 decline had led to the permanent abandonment of Inishmurray. The ruins of a dozen houses and a school remain while old fields are marked by boundary stone walls.

William Frederirck Wakeman was born in 1822 in Dublin. His father was a publisher and the family were comfortably wealthy. Wakeman was a student of George Petrie (1790-1866) who an artist, musician, archaeologist and antiquarian.

Employed by the Ordnance Survey, Wake specialised in pen and pencil drawings of landscapes and these works are still retained by the Royal Irish Academy but when the topography department closed he became a teacher. Later he began a career in archaeology.

Wakeman died in 1900.


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