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Scoil Naomh Molaise, Grange, Co. Sligo

Ard na Glass Ring Fort and Children's Graveyard



Two fields behind our house there is an old ring fort, which contains an old children’s graveyard.

Before 1948 if a child died before they were baptised they were not allowed to be buried on consecrated (holy) ground. Therefore they would be buried in a children’s graveyard like the one in Ard Na Glass, often in the middle of the night. It was very sad.

The ring fort, in which the children’s graveyard is located, owned by Francis and Patricia Brennan, was a common sight along the west coast of Ireland between 560 and 900 AD. The ring fort or cashel was a high area surrounded by stones for defence. There was a small often wooden and clay dwelling inside but the main reason for them was to protect the occupants’ cattle from being stolen. The cattle also lived inside the enclosure. The cattle were vital to the owners and they were used mainly for their milk. Only the young male calves were used for meat. The sheep which lived outside the cashel were used for meat and wool.

The cashel was also surrounded by hawthorn bushes, again which were used for defence to keep people out. However, people now associate these bushes with fairies and farmers rarely interfere --with cashels surrounded by them as it’s believed this would disturb the fairies and bring bad luck.

Another feature associated with the cashel is a Holy Well. There is also one in the field beside Ard Na Glass ring fort. It is called St Patrick’s Well. It is believed that St Patrick kneeled on a stone at the well and left the imprint of his knees on it. There were 14 little holes around it for the 14 Stations of the Cross. People would place objects in the holes. Wealthier people would leave medals, while those less fortunate would leave stones. Some people believed that the well water had healing powers.

Close to the well there was an old flax mill which was in operation in Grange until the 1840’s.

It is amazing to think there is so much history in the area. Thank you to Sean O’Brien, Tamlyn McHugh and Leo Leydon who explained all about it to me. Thanks also to Patricia and Francis Brennan for letting me into their fields to learn all about the history beside my house.

Captions for photos:

Escape route: If the owners were being raided for their cattle they could escape through a hidden route like the one between these stones.