'Kyle Cemetery' : Bullaun Stone

TownlandClonfertmulloe
CountyLaois
Grid RefS 233 901
GPSS 23310 90116 (5m)
Longitude7° 39' 11.07" W
Latitude52° 57' 40.89" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownBorris in Ossory (3 Km)
OS Sheet54
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 22nd February 2004

The cemetery was 'done up' between 1999 and 2001. This massive bullaun stone would have made an impressive 'centre piece' but instead it is pushed up against the wall, out of the way, just inside the gate. Perhaps it has always been there, but I doubt it. I presume it originally stood nearer to the stream that runs 300m to the west.

This is not a pretty stone. It is a large flat-topped lump of conglomerate - a very unsuitable stone for a bullaun. Looks like a megalithic scab with holes in, to be brutally honest. Large fisures run through it and even through some of the bullauns themselves. The stone is 1.5m in length, about 1m across and 50cm thick. Two very large (30cm+ diam) bullauns are intact, while three others break the edge of the stone, one of these is barely discernable.

Only the bullaun nearest to the wall was holding water when I arrive, but the other complete one proved capable of holding water too, as did two of the others ... just.

The original purpose of bullan stones is not really known, but they have an undisputable association with water and Brigid worship. A 'bullaun' is a deep hemispherical cup hollowed out of a rock. Bullaun Stone refers to the rock itself, which can have many bullauns in it, although many are single.

It is generally thought that they date from the Bronze Age, but I personally believe there is a much old provenance to them and that there is a relationship to prehistoric rock art, for a good example of this see Glassamucky Mountain (County Dublin).

Ritual use of some bullaun stones has continued well into the Christian period and many are found in association with early churches (The Deer Stone (Glendalough D) (County Wicklow) is just one of many at Glendalough (County Wicklow)) and holy wells. Their presence at so many early Christian sites, to me, places them as being of massive importance to the pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland and something the church was very eager to assimilate.

The beautiful example at St Brigit's Stone (County Cavan) still has its 'cure' or 'curse' stones. These would be used to by a visitor turning them whilst praying for (or cursing) someboby.

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Marked Sites

Miscellanea

ST. M'LOO'S STONE. - In the district of Ryle (sic) in the Queen's County in Ireland there exist a grave, a trough, and a stone with which the name of St. M'Loo is connected. His grave and his trough are in a small old burial-ground, in the middle of which stands a ruin, apparently of a chapel, but there seems to be no tradition connecting the name of the saint with this ruin.

The grave is 11 ft. long, and faces differently from the graves around. On the assumption that St. M'Loo was the priest, two explanations of this are given in the locality - the one that the priest may more easily stand in front of his flock to present them on the Resurrection Day ; the other, that he may occupy the most conspicuous place to bear the Divine indignation should he have proved unfaithful to his trust.

St. M'Loo's grave is at one end of the burialground, and his trough at the other. The trough is of hewn stone, 2 ft. long by 1 ft. broad, and is overshadowed by a small white-thorn tree. Many resort to this trough to be cured by its holy water of their various diseases, and every one who comes attaches a piece of rag to the little tree. The trough is never empty, and is said to be miraculously filled. Interments still take place in Ryle graveyard, and often at Roman Catholic funerals, when the body has been laid in the grave, all the mourners gather round the trough and pray there.

St. M'Loo's stone lies in the middle of a field opposite to the burial-ground, from which it is separated by the high road. Tradition states that the saint knelt so often upon the stone to weep and pray that he wore five holes in its surface - two by his knees, one by his clasped hands, and two by his tears. The holes worn by his tears are on the right side of the stone. The circumference of the stone is 15 ft. 11 in., its length 5 ft. 7 in., its breadth 4 ft., and its depth 3 ft. There are on the sides traces of what appear to have been cup and ring marks. The usual unwillingness to disturb such relics prevails, and the people believe that a blight would fall upon any one who ventured upon such desecration. Who, then, was St. M'Loo ? W.

From Notes and Queries, June 10, 1882. (Taken from a post on The Modern Antiquarian by Rhiannon)

Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Bullaun Stones

About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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