THE DIG IN DECEMBER 2011
In 2011 with no funds to excavate part of the medieval Hospitallers’ site at Mourne Abbey, Archaeologist Eamon Cotter and myself put feelers out for volunteers. With the help of The Corkman and The Cork Independent newspapers, a team of about thirty individuals were on hand to dig the site for about ten days. Some of the walling of the 13th/14th church was uncovered. Other finds included glazed clay floor tiles with floral and animal motifs. Eamon hopes to carry out further excavations in the future, to determine the layout and sequence of structures at the site.
THE AMAZING VOLUNTEERS
Thanks are extended to the many volunteers, who participated, which included Joe McCarthy (Bishopstown), John Desmond, Stephen Waugh (Kilbrittan), Albert Daly (Buttevant), Noel Linehan (Churchtown North), John Tierney (Ardmore), David Murphy (Ballincollig), Paul Prondelez (Belgium), Ewelina Chrobak (Poland), Myles Haywood (Mallow), Vladimir (Mallow), John Fitzgerald, Donal Vaughan, and Eddy Fitzgibbon (Cork City); also photographers Billy MacGill, and John F. O’Sullivan.
by Eamon Cotter
The medieval Hospitallers’ preceptory of Mourneabbey is located c. 6KM south of the town of Mallow in North Cork, in the sheltered valley of the Clyda River, a tributary of the Blackwater. Substantial remains of a large church survive, along with overgrown ruins of claustral buildings, all within a walled enclosure, portions of which survive, incorporating two towers. The preceptory appears to be an early thirteenth century foundation; with documentary sources suggesting it existed by at least 1212.
The surviving remains of the church comprise the nave (28m x 8m) and chancel (20m x 6m). Evidence noted during conservation work on the walls indicates that the chancel roof was at a higher level than that of the nave, and there may well have been a crossing tower at the junction of the two. Transept arches survive in the north and south walls of the nave but the transepts themselves have collapsed. Recent limited excavations have suggested that the south transept had an apsidal end. Other small-scale excavations carried out by the present author recovered numerous fragments of medieval decorated floor tiles within the church. A decorated grave-slab located immediately east of the chancel has been identified as a Hospitaller tombstone dating to the early 16th century.
The preceptory at Mourneabbey is just one of several significant and related medieval foundations in the immediate area. Approximately 1km to the northwest, holding a commanding hilltop position, is the medieval ring work castle and hall of Castle Barrett, identified by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland as dating to the late 12th/early 13th century. Directly northeast of the castle, nestling in its shadow on the riverbank, is the modern hamlet of Ballynamona, site of the medieval corporate borough of Mora (also called Monemore or Ballynamona). The adjacent 18th century Church of Ireland church is believed to occupy the site of its medieval forerunner. The borough of Mora was granted a market in 1252, a murage grant in 1317, and a reference to burgesses occurs in 1324. In the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries Mora was the baronial centre of the Cogan lordship, the most extensive lordship in County Cork.
While the medieval remains in this area have been individually recorded and described, no attempt has been made to date to study them as a whole. The cluster of medieval remains at Mourneabbey/Ballynamona represents the classic nexus of castle/town/parish church/monastery which is so typical of medieval urban settlement. As such it could be an ideal target for a case study of medieval landscape and urban settlement. The urban settlement here did not survive into the later medieval period, possibly due in part to the collapse of the founding dynasty, the Cogans. A perhaps fortunate consequence of this is that the area has experienced little of the modern development which has obliterated medieval remains in other towns.
HEADSTONE OF MCAULIFFE FAMILY GRAVE.
The name McAuliffe means ‘the son of Olaf’, which is a name of Viking origin; Olaf, King of Norway was killed in battle and became a saint. The MacCarthys and the MacAuliffes were of the same stock as the ruling tribe (until about the 11th century AD) in Munster, called the Eoghanacht. The McAuliffes inhabited north-west Cork, from around Newmarket to Mallow.
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