Céide fields

Much of our knowledge of early history depends on archaeological artefacts and the evidence of the landscape. A prime example of this is the "Céide Fields", located between Ballycastle and Belderrig in North Mayo which show evidence of human settlement in Mayo over 5000 years ago. This is the oldest known Neolithic field system in Europe and was discovered in 1934 by a local teacher, Patrick Caulfield, while cutting turf. Remains of stone walls beneath the blanket bog indicated the existence of an organised system of farming. Archaeological excavations were begun in 1969 by his son, Dr. Seamus Caulfield, who devised a system of tracing the lines of the stone walls without having to remove the covering of blanket bog. This is illustrated in the video clip below.

The following video clip has been taken from "Counties of Ireland series, Mayo", and appears here courtesy of Beaumex Ltd. Click on the relevant file to download clip.

Céide Fields
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Céide Fields
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The word dolmen comes from Breton and means "Stone table". Dolmens are types of megalithic tomb consisting of three or more standing stones supporting one large "capstone". The Ballina portal dolmen, situated on a low hill overlooking the River Moy, is known locally as the 'Four Maols'. Four former clerics, known as the 'four Maols', were buried here in the middle of the 6th century. They were said to have murdered the popular Bishop of Killala and were, in turn, murdered by the bishop's brother because of an intrigue over the succession to the kingship of Connaught. Today, the dolmen consists of three large upright stones, supporting a massive capstone. Another large stone lying nearby may have been the original fourth support.


Round Towers

Round towers are a prominent feature of the historical landscape all over the country. The original Old Irish word was "Cloigtheach", meaning bell tower. A characteristic of round towers is the positioning of the door well above ground level which suggests that they were used for refuge. Killala round tower stands 84 feet high with the doorway 11 feet above the ground. It was struck by lightening sometime in the nineteenth century and subsequently repaired. The monastic site to which it belongs of Killala.


1798 Rebellion

In Mayo, 1798 is known as "the year of the French" because of the part played in the rebellion of that year by the French expedition under General Humbert. The French forces, numbering just over 1,000 landed at Kilcummin Strand near Killala on August 22nd 1798 and proceeded to Castlebar via Killala and Ballina.

They travelled to Castlebar by a little-used route which took them through Lahardane and over the pass known as the Windy Gap. At an ensuing battle just outside Castlebar, the English forces were routed and put to flight in an incident which became known as the "Races of Castlebar". After this victory, Humbert moved further east but eventually was forced to surrender at Ballinamuck, Co. Longford, when faced with a vastly superior English force under General Lake.

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