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Drumcliff Round Tower, Co. Clare
Drumcliff Round Tower
O.S. Map 58
Visited May 21, 2006
Location: About two km northwest of Ennis. Follow the N 85 west from Ennis,
taking the first small road on the right. This should be signposted to Drumcliff. Continue
through the first crossroads and within a kilometer, the road diverges in a wide "Y'.
There is a cemetery on both sides of the road and a large car park here. The old
cemetery is across the street from this car park and the round tower and old church
are near the very top of the relatively steep path on the extreme right edge as you
enter the cemetery. The tower is difficult to see coming from this direction, but easily
seen from the car park.
Dimensions: Because a farm field abuts the tower on the north side, a field
fence and a major lowering of the ground level on the field side make it difficult to
observe much from that side of the tower. If an offset were visible, it would be from
this north side, but none was evident at the time of visit. The cemetery ground
sits considerably higher inside the fence and the round tower and church sit on higher
ground still, with a sunken path running between them. The base of the tower is
approximately 4.9 m in diameter and it stands 11 meters above the lowest
ground point. On the lower and more level south side, the tower reaches a mere
2.4 meters above the ground at its base, and 3.4 meters from the lowest ground outside
the cemetery. There is no door, and the windows no longer exist.
Features: While there are no doors or windows in this tower, the large
breach offers a fine view into the construction of this tower. Most of the
courses of stone are quite even and the interior stone is dressed quite smoothly.
The traditional "sandwiching" of an outer and inner wall filled with rubble is
quite evident, as are the floor corbels on at least one floor.
Comments: While the cemetery is situated on a fairly steep hill, the round
tower and the 15th century church ruin are on almost level ground. The cemetery
rises less sharply beyond this level. It is a very windy place, but also - oddly
enough - a quiet calm place. From the old cemetery, two grassy cairns can be seen
atop the opposite hill above the new cemetery. These are reservoirs. There must
be some significance to the large white quartz boulders cemented into both the old
church wall and the wall of the newer cemetery near the road. Both the boulders
are pure white and rounded as if much-weathered, about the size of a football. White
quartz has been held sacred since prehistory, but I have not seen them used in a
modern cemetery wall before this.
History: This may be the monastic settlement around Drumcliff, it has been
suggested, that was possibly founded by St.Conall. The existing church ruins are
from the 15th century with bits of 10th and 12th century architecture incorporated
into it, suggesting it was built on the site of at least one earlier church. Pelham's
grand jury map of 1787 depicts the monastic monuments here and the graveyard is noted
in the first OS maps of 1842. The graveyard was expanded after 1882 due to overcrowding
and it was also fenced in at this time. It was feared that without a fence, grazing
livestock might damage the graves. A 19th century map shows the roundtower standing
proud on its ridge, and a drawing and report from 1808 show a door and three windows
existing at that time.
Other Items of Interest: Stand just SSW of the tower on the opposite side of the sunken
path is the ruin of a 15th century church incorporating bits of 12th and 10th century
architecture. As this was the main cemetery for the Ennis area, it contains a pauper's
graveyard (probably used by the local workhouse), a famine and cholera gravesite - being mass
graves, and an aesthetically pleasing variety of 18th & 19th century headstones. The
grounds also contain a wide variety of mature trees and a plethora of wildflowers & plants.