Cullentra Woodland Site, County Sligo; Archaeological Report

2.11.1 Introduction Location
This site is located approximately 10km south-east of Sligo town on the southern shores of Lough Gill, Co. Sligo (Figure 36). This site is located within both a 'Special Area of Conservation' (SAC) and a 'Natural Heritage Area' (NHA).

2.11.2 Receiving Environment Placenames
County Sligo, named from the river: "Sligeach" [Sliggagh] F.M., 'Shelly River' ("slig", a shell) (Joyce 1856, 45). Sligo; "Sligeach" meaning 'abounding in shells' (Flanaghan & Flanaghan 1994, 255).

Killerry: In Killerry the forest so called "Cullentra" derives from "Cullentragh" or "Cullenagh" meaning 'a place producing holly' (Joyce 1856, 48).

Tirerrill: no place name derivation could be found for this barony. However, "Tir" or "Ter", in Irish known as "Tír" meaning "land or district" (Joyce 1995ed, 54).

Killerry: In Killerry the forest so called "Cullentra" derives from "Cullentragh" or "Cullenagh" meaning 'a place producing holly' (Joyce 1856, 48). Topography
The topography of the site comprises three components:
(i) Parcel A (to north-east): relatively flat over most of the area, sloping steeply to the north to the shores of Lough Gill.
(ii) Parcel B (to west): Boggy, sloping north to lakeshore.
(iii) Parcel C (to south-east): Relatively flat and wet, higher, drier ground to the SW. Cartographic Sources
An analysis of Ordnance Survey maps from the early nineteenth century to date gives a picture of the development of the townland over time. For ease of reference, each parcel of land or forest site will be dealt with separately through an examination of the Ordnance Survey maps. The Down Survey map c.1656 will be dealt with first examining all three sites given the nature of the scale involved and the detail gleaned from this map source. The three forest sites are divided between two 6" Ordnance Survey sheets for county Sligo. Parcel A is located on O.S. sheet 15 while Parcel B and Parcel C are located between sheets 15 and 21 respectively.

The Down Survey map c.1656 shows the barony of 'Tirraril' and the parish of 'Killery' (Figure 38). The area in which the forest site is located is indicated on the shores of 'Lough Gilly'. However, no detail exists within this parish as it comprises Protestant lands which were unsurveyed. It is described on the Down Survey as 'The Lordship of Ballentogher and other Protestant Lands'.

Parcel A
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) shows Parcel A as partially wooded on the eastern side of the forest site (Figure 39). The area to the west is open land and appears marshy in nature. The area of forest borders Lough Gill to the north and Tawane bay on its western side. The area to the south-east of the forest site is laid out in irregular field plots with some houses in evidence.

The 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1909-1912) shows the forest site as completely wooded (Figure 40). The area of the forest site curves around in an arc around the shores of Lough Gill to the north within the townland of Killerry. On the northern point of the forest site on the shores of Lough Gill, a feature is denoted called 'Bald Rock' while to the west on the shores of Tawane Bay a 'Landing place' is marked. The 'Bonet River' forms the eastern boundary of this portion of the forest site. The area is also referred to as 'Cullentra' between 1909 an 1912. In addition the area to the south of the forest site called 'Cullentra' is laid out in a grid like pattern at this point with the area to the east forming small rectilinear field plots running east-west while the area to the west forms large rectilinear plots running north-west/south-east.

Parcel B
This forest site is rectilinear in plan and is located to the west of the two other forest sites. The forest site borders Lough Gill to the north and is located within the townland of Killerry.

On the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) the forest site is not forested. The land appears poor in quality. The area to the west is open land while on the east, the land has been divided into rectilinear field plots with houses attached. A trail or pathway exits to the south of the forest site and runs short of 'Upper Lough' to the south.

On the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map the forest site is divided between two 6" O.S. sheets (15 and 21) dated 1909-1912 and 1910-1913 respectively. The forest site appears very much as it is today on this map with the eastern portion of the site laid out in square to rectilinear field plots while the area on the east is open comprising poor quality land. There is no forest present in this portion of the site.

Parcel C
The forest site is irregular in plan and located to the south-east of Parcel B and to the south-west of Parcel A. Its north-western side borders Tawane Bay while the majority is located within Killerry townland.

On the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) the site does not appear forested. The majority of the land appears as open land with the area on the east having been subdivided into rectilinear field plots with houses marked on.

The 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1910-1913) shows little change to that of today. The entire forest site shows no woodland cover and consists of well laid out rectilinear field plots throughout. The field plots in the northern half are small and orientated north-west south-east while the southern half comprises larger irregular plots. The land appears to be of poor marshy quality. History
An early account of the parish of Killerry is gained from Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland during his travels in the early nineteenth century:
"Killerry, a parish in the barony of Tirerril, county of Sligo and province of Connaught, four miles south west from Dromahaire on the road from that place to Collooney and on Lough Gill; contains 2,969 inhabitants. It comprises 9,135 statute acres, as applotted under the Tithe Act. The land is of good quality, principally under tillage and there is some bog and excellent limestone. Fairs are held at Ballintogher on January 22nd, June 8th, July 28th, October 17th and December 8th; and a manorial court is held there occasionally. Oldcastle, the seat of Earl Loftus Neynoe, Esq., was erected on the site of the old castle of Kingsfort; near it is a strong chalybeate spa. It is a vicarage in the diocese of Ardagh, united to that of Killenumery, the rectory here is impropriate in M. Baker Esq. The tithes amount to £96.18.6, of which one third is payable to the impropriate or, and two thirds to the vicar. The church is a plain building erected in 1715. In the Roman Catholic division it forms part of the district of Killenumery and has a chapel at Ballintobber. About 140 children are educated in two public schools, and 110 children in two private schools. There are some remains of the old church of Killerry with a large burial ground and of an ancient castle at Drumcondra" (Lewis 1839, 25).

The Barony of Tirerrill is bounded on the north by Galway, on the west by Leyney and Carran, on the south by Roscommon and on the east by Leitrim. The name "Tirerrill" is a corruption of "Tir-Aill-Ailill" territory, son of Ecohy Moyrane, King of Ireland in A.D. 358-365. The most notable families of the barony include the MacDonnchadha and MacDiarmada (Kilgammon 1926, 229). "The western and most northern parts of the barony are well wooded, especially Union Wood which are naturally the finest" (Kilgammon 1926, 230).

"Killerry Parish; the district was formerly a natural forest as is still the portion of it called "Slishwood". There are portions of the old church, scene of a sacrilegious outrage in 1346; Valgany O' Roche having fled there for sanctuary while he was pursued by the O' Connor's and the McDonaghs, who set fire to the building and killed O' Roche, as he was endeavouring to escape the flames. There is a stone in the graveyard attached to the church in which are two stones called "Straining Thread" (Kilgammon 1926, 231).

In 1824 a body was found in a bog in Killerry parish with clothing dating to the fifteenth century (Kilgammon 1926, 233). "Lying on the ground in the graveyard of the old church in Killerry is a thin flagstone, 3 feet square; seven oval stones which must be deemed part of the other" (Wood-Martin 1892, 364-5). "There is a well called "Tobernawanny"" located within the parish of Killerry (Wood-Martin 1892, 377).

"The district was formerly a natural forest as is still the portion of it called Slish Wood, with its hardy oaks, all of mature planting rising from the waters edge and clothing the precipitous mountain side of Shaunda-Errigal mountain up to the top of the range. Most of the parish was covered 300 years ago as the Down Survey of 1633 shows much was still covered by dale to Sligo" (O' Roche 1888, 318).

There were no notable houses identified in the vicinity of the forest during field work or research. Folklore The following isa legend regarding the Isle of Inishfree, north of the forest sites:
"An interesting legend, concerning the little island of Inishfree or the heathery island, is related as having occurred in these primitive times.
On the islet, though small in size, grow the most lucious of fruit which was however exclusively reserved for the use of the deities, who had placed a great monster or dragon as guard on their orchard. The daughter of the chief of the district required her lover, a young warrior named Free, to procure for her some of the forbidden fruit as proof of his affection and valour. Free landed on the isle, succeeded in slaying the monster placed to guard the trees; but on regaining the frail canoe in which had obtained access to the island, weak and exhausted by his exertions, and feeling need of refreshment, he tasted some of the stolen fruit.

The effect on mortal constitution was fatal. He had but just strength to row to the shore, when he fell dying at the feet of his mistress. He exerted his remaining powers sufficiently to acquaint her with the course of his fate, and the damsel, filled with remorse, immediately herself ate of the stolen fruit, and fell dead across his corpse. The two lovers were buried in the island which had proved so fatal to them. The graves are said to form two ridges.

Note: This diminutive islet, which contains only half an acre, is mentioned in history. The Four Masters state that in A.D. 1124, Conor MacTiernan murdered a brother chief, named Fergal Maccadane, on Inishfraeich, now anglicised Inishfree. At that date it was probably an island fortress" (Wood-Martin 1882, 64). Folklore Archive Collection, UCD
The following references refer to excerpts from the Irish Folklore Commission held within the Department of Irish Folklore. These include two main archival sources: (i) Irish Manuscript Collection (IFC.M) and (ii) Irish Schools Collection (IFC.S). The excerpts refer to accounts by locals of popular belief, customs, local place names and incidents that occurred in the parish as follows:

IFC.S 178:1937-1938
There is a reference to" a valuable treasure buried in a bog".

Another account of the treasure:
"Fifty years ago three men dreamt three times. No one told the other and all three planned to find the treasure. All three met at same time and began digging and came across a flat flagstone and surround. They decided not to remove it. The treasure was supposed to have consisted of a large pot of gold and several beautiful vessels".

"A man near Ballintober didn't believe in fairies or anything. One Halloween he ploughed an old fort. At 11pm that night from the dun a small red-hooded lady came into the hall. She said, now my man you shall suffer for your blackguarding. She threw a clothes brush at him. It hit him between the eyes and he bled for ever more".

IFC.M 1757:18
Transcript of James Healy, Ballinakill, Co. Sligo.
"There was the body of a man found below in Killerry six feet this was in 1822 I think, under the bog and the clothes that was on the body was well-preserved and they called in a magistrate. And there was an inquest on the body and the clothes on the body as fresh as the day they were made: and them clothes above in the Museum in Dublin. I asked men below in Killerry that was reared in it and their father before them was reared in it, they never heard about it".

IFC.M 1744:223-225
The following refers to SMR SL021:011 (Ecclesiastical Remains):
"This tradition refers to seven stones which are clearly rounded and smoothed by water action but rather from river action and are brown and which be like loop-sized eggs in a nest on a moss covered flat boulder or headstone in Killerry graveyard. A short upright stone contains the "Straining Threads" looped or simply draped over this stone.

To effect a cure of a sprain or strain on man or animal, a person must bring a "straining thread" which can be a bit of twine, coloured or plain. From the stone a thread already there, one is removed and replaced by the thread which the person had brought. The thread is then tied around the sprain. As well the stones have to be around or over once; same said times or seven times.

It is claimed that although the threads tie on the stone, they are exposed to the weather and cure they never not".

"Holy well on the shores of Lough Gill between Sligo and Ballintogher. Garland Sunday occurred on the last Sunday in July. Mass was said at the well and later there was a dance at the Lree. The Lree stands outside the entrance to the great recess in the cliffs which contains the well and stream. Mass said by local from monastery".

IFC.M 1758:146-162
"There's one of those stones the same as in Killerry, where they used to take the Straining Thread: it's a kind of a nearly square stone but three is a rounded flange on it, 3 inches wide. This stone is the only stone that's left in The Relig. None of the rounded seven stones as in Killerry known to have existed in The Relig".

2.11.3 Field Inspection Cullentra is a large site encompassing over 52 hectares and consists of three separate parcels. The largest of these, Parcel A, includes an oak forest covering the lakeshore (Plate 36) on the peninsula jutting into Lough Gill. No archaeological sites or other structures/remains were located within this parcel. This parcel consists of mature and possibly ancient oak forest (Plate 37) with thick undergrowth (Plate 38). Passage through these areas was very difficult and visibility was low. These woods could potentially yield any number of archaeological sites.

Parcel B consists of boggy land currently under high grass and recently planted with conifers. It is directly opposite the famous Lake Isle of Innisfree (Plate 39). The remains of two vernacular buildings (Plates 40 and 41), clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey maps were located. A circular mound of stones (Plate 42) to the west of the houses was also identified. Mostly mossed over, it consists of loose stones, larger towards the base. It is between 5m and 6 metres wide and 1.5m high. The stones at the base do not appear to be earthfast. The mound is quite likely the result of past field clearance. No archaeological sites were identified.

Parcel C consists of a large, relatively flat and boggy area recently clear cut (Plate 43). Due to a combination of clearfelling and the boggy nature of the ground, traversing the site was quite difficult. The higher ground to the SW was drier and still covered with mature conifers and was more accessible. No archaeological sites were identified. New Sites
There were no new archaeological sites identified as part of the forest survey.

2.11.4 Desk Study The Recorded Monuments (Figure 37)
The Sites and Monuments record (SMR) of Dúchas-The Heritage Service, Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands refers to the following sites within and in the environs of Cullentra Woodland, County Sligo.

From the 6" Ordnance Survey maps, a list of the archaeological sites and their proximity to the woodland site was compiled.

SMR No. Distance to Cullentra Woodland Site Type
SL015:097 60m N Miscellaneous
SL021:005 460m S Enclosure possible
SL021:008 In excess of 1000m S Enclosure
SL021:009 In excess of 1000m S Enclosure
SL021:010 In excess of 1000m S Enclosure
SL021:011 In excess of 1000m S Ecclesiastical Remains
SL021:011/01 In excess of 1000m S Church
SL021:011/02 In excess of 1000m S Graveyard
SL021:011/03 In excess of 1000m S Miscellaneous

There are no recorded archaeological sites within Cullentra Woodland.

Within the environs of Cullentra Woodland the following SMR sites are recorded:

SMR No. SL015:097
Townland Island of Inishfree
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Miscellaneous
NGR 17670/33314
Height O.D. Not indicated
Description The site is not marked on any edition of the Ordnance Survey maps (1837 or 1913).
"On Inishfree island, there are two raised ridges, each about four feet wide by twelve feet long. Tradition says that these are graves but of whom is not known" (Faughnan 1942). These ridges refer to folklore about the island referred to above in section
Classification C/D
Area of Interest 30m
Distance 60m N

SMR No. SL021:005
Townland Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Enclosure possible
NGR 17792/33240
Height O.D. 50' O.D.
Description The site is not marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) but does appear on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1913). The site is located in a low-lying area where the land rises to the west. The site is in poor condition. The area is impenetrably overgrown with a slight trace of a raised enclosing element visible under the overgrowth but it is impossible to ascertain if this is an archaeological site.
Classification C
Area of Interest 30m
Distance 460m S

SMR No. SL021:008
Townland Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Enclosure
NGR 17751/33104
Height O.D. 50'-100'
Description The site does not appear on the 1st (1837) or 3rd (1913) editions of the Ordnance Survey maps. The word "Fort" is denoted on the National Museum of Ireland's 1st edition map. The site is located on a raised area in undulating rough pasture. Higher ridges are located to the east and west with good views to the south. The monument is in poor condition and much overgrown. The area encircled for investigation on 6" O.S. field map produced no evidence for an enclosure. The site described below is located across the road to the south-east. It seems likely that its location has been incorrectly marked on the map.
The site appears as a dense growth of hawthorn covering a roughly circular area. Traces of an encircling bank seem to survive only on the north and north-east side (0.50m to 0.80m high externally with only a slight internal lip). It was not possible to measure the diameter but is approximately 20m.
Classification C
Area of Interest 30m
Distance In excess of 1000m S

SMR No. SL021:009
Townland Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Enclosure
NGR 17747/33082
Height O.D. 50'-100'
Description The site is not marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) or on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1913). The word "Fort" is written on the National Museum of Ireland's 1st edition map. The site is located in an area of undulating pasture. There is no visible surface trace of the monument.
Classification C
Area of Interest 30m
Distance In excess of 1000m S

SMR No. SL021:010
Townland Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Enclosure
NGR 17725/33058
Height O.D. 100'-200'
Description The site is not marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) or on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1913). However the site is referred to on the National Museum of Ireland's (NMI) 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as "Fort". The site appears on this map as a slightly arced double line of hachures. The site is located on a south facing slope of a ridge. The only feature which corresponds to this in the field is a lined depression, probably quarried, on the steep slope of the hill. If an enclosure once existed in this area it is more likely to have been located further down slope on a level area where a modern bungalow has been built. The area adjacent to the bungalow is overgrown and planted with trees. No trace of an enclosure could be seen. There is currently no visible surface trace of the monument.
Classification C
Area of Interest 30m
Distance In excess of 1000m S

SMR No. SL021:011
Townland Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
Site Type Ecclesiastical Remains
01/ Church
02/ Graveyard
03/ Miscellaneous
NGR 17764/33068
Height O.D. 50'-100'
Description The site is marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (1837) and on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map (1913). The site is situated on a low ridge in undulating pastureland. Higher ridge to west, ground level falls to east of site with good views of the surrounding area. It is in fair condition with the graveyard quite overgrown and only two side walls of the east gable upstanding of the church in ruins.
SL021:011/01: Church The church is rectangular in plan incorporated into south wall of a trapezoidal graveyard enclosure. The north wall of the church is 16.20m long and survives to a height of 2.60m. The south wall is of similar height but has been incorporated into the enclosure wall of the graveyard. The east gable survives to a height of 5.50m to 6m. It contains a large window (1.60m wide by 2m high) with a low segmental arch. The western and the foundations can still be traced. There are remnants of a low internal dividing wall within the church. This subdivision created a smaller chamber at the west end of the church, 5.20m long east-west.

The internal width of the church is 6.20m constructed of uncut, mortared stones.
SL021:011/02: Graveyard The graveyard is trapezoidal in plan and is enclosed by a stone wall 60m east-west on south by 55m north-south at widest side (on east). There is a large table tomb placed centrally within. The graveyard is covered in long grass.
SL021:011/03: Straining Stones They are situated off centre to the north within the graveyard. They consist of a large flat slab which has been broken and the pieces arranged in a semi circle. There are seven rounded stones in all. Two of the round stones partially overlap the flat slab. Also overlying the flat slab is a small angular stone. A small rectangular stone (c.0.30m long) lies adjacent to the slab and has a piece of string tied around it. These stones formed part of a ritual which allegedly cured sprains. The straining stones are fourteenth to eighteenth century in date and are referred to by the church in the Annals of the Four Masters.
References "Killerry Parish is called in Irish Cill Eire. In Killerry Townland there is an old church in ruins, about which tradition is silent" (O' Donovan 1836, 253).
Classification C
Area of Interest 100m
Distance In excess of 1000m S The desk study revealed no recorded archaeological sites within the forest and six known archaeological sites within the surrounding townlands. Stray finds
The Topographical Files of the National Museum of Ireland were examined in which all stray finds are provenanced to townland. The following is a list of the townlands within and in the environs of Cullentra forest.

Townland Proximity to Forest
Cullentra Within
Greenaun South Adjacent to East
Killerry Adjacent to South
Slishwood To South-West

There is one stray find recorded from the adjacent townland of Killerry to the south of the forest. This comprises woollen garments and leather shoes described below There are no stray finds recorded from other adjacent and surrounding townlands in the vicinity of Cullentra forest site.

Townland Bog at Killerry
Barony Tirerrill
Parish Killerry
6" Co-Ordinates Not Indicated
Registration No. W1-3 and W16-17
Find(s) Woollen garments and leather shoes
Acquisition Not Indicated
Description Not Indicated

2.11.5 Predicted Impacts
The scale of works planned for this site will involve both clearfelling and planting. Both of these processes are inherently destructive with ground disturbances associated with the use of heavy machinery (for tree removal) and preparation of the land for planting (with the excavation of drainage ditches).

While the areas to be affected have been surveyed in an attempt at locating and identifying previously unknown archaeological sites, no new sites were revealed. However, it must be borne in mind that archaeological remains with little above ground surface expression may survive below the ground surface. Such features would only be revealed during earthmoving and ground preparation works where such archaeological sites would be directly compromised by these subsequent works. Please see the mitigations and recommendation section in volume 1 for suggested mitigations.

*Please note that it was not possible to reproduce figures for inclusion on the website version of the reports.