The ‘Rath’ in Rathmichael

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On Saturday, 23rd April 2022, Rob Goodbody was leading a walk for members of Rathmichael Historical Society to the ‘Rath’ in Rathmichael and even though our membership had lapsed, we were tempted back by this intriguing prospect.

We had only ever gone to talks at the school house, just a turn off the long and syncopatedly red-lighted N11 so that the hidden countryside beyond was a new and total wonder to us.

Here we were, in glorious blue-sky sunshine, on a shady little boreen full of flowers and birdsong which, Rob told us, was a still-surviving part of an ancient roadway – now truncated by Rathmichael Road – that used to link the Rathmichael Monastic Site with the other early Christian-era monasteries of the area. 

Rathmichael Monastic Site, with its remains of a round tower and beautifully decorated grave slabs had evidently been a very important monastery. It was founded by St Comgall of Bangor in the 6th century but its later history and even its name has been obscured under layers of Viking and Anglo-Norman occupation. Part of the old cashel wall still survives.

Our boreen stopped at the locked gate of a farm and, despite the ‘beware of the bull’ sign, we followed Rob and climbed over. Luckily we were wearing hiking boots as it was about to get even more adventurous when we had to go through a short but very wet and swampy area. However, nobody got stuck in the mud and needed a piggy-back and we continued onward and upward to the Rath itself.

This is a really big Rath with a marvellous panoramic view over a vast area – out to sea over Dalkey Island and Killiney Hill to the north and Bray Head and the Little Sugar Loaf and sweeping around to the Dublin Mountains to the south and west. To our surprise, Tony and I found ourselves just below the Ballycorus Lead Mines with which we are very familiar, but we get to it from the other side.

We came down by a different pathway and came to the 12th century granite cross which has a crucified Christ figure on both sides. This is the Fassore Cross which used to be the Tarmon Cross at the entrance to the Rathmichael Monastic Site.

From start to finish, this was a delightful and very pleasurably sociable tour – so very welcome as we emerge from Covid isolation. Rob, as ever, enriched us all by generously sharing his extensive knowledge and lore. And, we discovered (shhh, don’t tell) that we can get home to Rathgar by a shorter and much more pleasant route via Kilternan.

Written by Mary McCarrick       

Rathmichael Outing 14th May 2022

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On Sat. 14th May, our outdoor programme of events planned for this Summer continued, in glorious sunshine, and once again in the company of a really lovely group of approx. 20 members. Another wonderful day for Rathmichael, this time in the hands of the fascinating Anthony Murphy – spinner of myth and recounter of ancient lore, with his retelling of ancient tales related to the world famous Neolithic sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

We had the most magical day with Anthony. Our members were spellbound by the extent of his knowledge, and by the manner in which he could seamlessly interweave his solid archaeological knowledge with the ancient stories related to the sites.

Members also enjoyed a lovely picnic beneath the towering mound of Dowth – sustenance for both body and soul, and time to digest the many fascinating insights shared with us by Anthony concerning the connections between the known history and the mythology.

Having said goodbye to Anthony, and purchased many of his books; it was hard to leave this landscape, so members spent time visiting the peaceful adjacent ruined Dowth Abbey and burial ground containing the impressive memorial to John Boyle O’Reilly.

Check out Anthony’s very popular blog Megalithic Ireland, and see the additional photographs of our lovely visit, on his Facebook page. Thank you Anthony for such a wonderful day hugely enjoyed by all.

Written by Adrienne Hume

Photographer: Robert Nicholson

One of the highlights of the visit to Newgrange and Dowth, described above, was the reading of the following very appropriate poem by poet, Moya Cannon, as we stood on top of the tumulus at Dowth:

Flowers at Loughcrew

We have no key with which to enter
this chamber of the dead
so must peer through an iron gate
along the stone passage
to where a rising sun at equinox
will flash its torch
on flowers and suns –
a seeding and reaping calendar –
like suns and flowers
in a child’s copybook.

A friend tells me
that fossil pollen is found
in the earliest burials.
He says this is what makes us humans as much as stone tools –
our ceremony of grief,
attended by what is most beautiful,
most fragrant on this earth.

Today is the last day of our winter.
Ice lingers under the stone lintel
but a brilliant sun reaches far
into the passage,
lights a corner of the backstone faintly,
gives us one carved flower,
picked out in white.

A family plays among the ruined cairns.
The father photographs them,
then gathers them to go
calling on the youngest,
to come along –
“Bríd, Bríd.”

Tomorrow is St. Bridget’s Day.
We drive home through soft pastureland.
In a low corner of a field
grow patches of greening rushes
and, near an old farmhouse,
on a slope,
strong clumps of snowdrops.

Moya Cannon

Guided tour of the National Maritime Museum of Ireland

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In June 2022 Rathmichael Historical Society members will have the opportunity to avail of a guided tour of Ireland’s National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire

The museum showcases a wide range of objects, instruments, pictures, paintings and documents relating to Ireland’s colourful maritime heritage, from the early days to modern times.

This is a member’s only events, anyone wishing to join the society can do so here: Rathmichael Historical Society Membership.

The Rathmichael Historical Society is 50 Years Old

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This year marks 50 years since the foundation of the Society in 1972. To celebrate this significant year we have organized a number of special events.

The first of these was a walk on Saturday, April 23rd, led by Rob Goodbody to visit the old Rathmicheal Church and Graveyard and the nearby Fort (Rathmichael itself!). Rob has been a member of the Society since the beginning and has served it in so many ways, including as President.

Two lectures in the Autumn will commemorate the founding; one, also by Rob Goodbody, will tell the history of the Society while the second is a repeat of an early lecture by Pól Ó Duibhir with the title “The French are on the Sea”. These talks will take place in the Rathmichael Parish Hall on Oct 5th and Nov 2nd.

Summer Lecture Series 2022

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Rathmichael Historical Society is delighted to announce that this year’s Summer Lecture Series will take place between 15th -19th August 2022.

The theme this year will be: The Monasteries of St. Colmcille.

Guest speakers will include Dr. Cormac Bourke, Dr. Brian Lacey, Dr. Dan McCarthy, Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien and Dr. Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel.

All lectures will take place at 8pm in Rathmichael School Hall, Stonebridge Road, Shankill, Co. Dublin. Doors open at 7pm. Lectures will also be available online via Zoom.

Admission fee:

RHS Members – free.
Non-members – €5 per lecture.

Tea, coffee and biscuits after each lecture.

Rathmichael Outing 23rd April 2022

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On Sat. 23rd April 2022, Rathmichael Historical Society celebrated not only its 50th Anniversary, but also its return to ‘in person’ outings, with a truly significant walk to its spiritual home in the (as always) expert hands of the legend that is Rob Goodbody.

Rob is a longstanding stalwart of our society, an ex-President and a regular contributor to both our lecture programme and our outings, and we are very lucky that he is always willing to share with us his vast knowledge of all things local.

The Society felt that it was appropriate in the circumstances, to re-visit what the historian Ball considered “the most attractive site of a Celtic religious foundation in the Southern portion of Co – Dublin” (Kathleen Turner – If you Seek Monuments) – the evocative ruins of Rathmichael church situated “on a height in the middle of the graveyard, the whole enclosed by a rath of earth and stone”, the existing ruins dating to between the 9th and 12th Centuries.

Our group, of approx. 20  most interested and interesting individuals, who happily traipsed through mud and over stiles and gates in the wake of Rob, stood transfixed as he elucidated for us, what is known of the mysterious Rathdown Slabs, attached to the walls of the church for security.

In a tiny laneway close to the church, we marvelled at the survival into present times, of a “crude little cross of granite with a solid circular head… the Crucifixion carved on both faces – on one side in high relief, on the other in low relief”. The recent addition of small ‘covid stones’ a poignant reminder of the trials of the last 2 years.

We also visited what remains of the once monumental Rathmichael hill-fort “with two or perhaps three rings, on the hill behind the old Rathmichael graveyard”. In the past, students of the Rathmichael Historical Society’s Field Archaeology Course had made a survey of this fort.

Time passed surprisingly quickly for our little group of pilgrims, beguiled by this ancient landscape through which we traipsed, and the hints of life in the Iron age and early Christian period which Rob brought so vividly to life for us all.

Our group comprised both new and established members, and it was wonderful to be amongst such like-minded individuals for our first of many returns to face-to-face explorations. We returned to ‘the present’, our spirits raised, our imaginations stirred and our hearts filled with wonder, though our feet were a little muddied, looking forward to our next adventures into the past.

As always, huge thanks to Rob for his ongoing kindness in sharing his vast knowledge with all of us.

Written by Adrienne Hume 

1st May 2022   

Photographers: Robert Nicholson and Tony Fitzmaurice.

Summer Outings 2022

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The Rathmichael Historical Society is delighted to confirm the resumption of summer outings for it’s members in 2022.

These will include:

April – a walk to Rathmichael Church in April to commemorate Rathmichael Historical Society’s 50th anniversary

May – a guided tour of Newgrange and Dowth exploring the myths and lore of the area

June – a guided walking tour (places still available) of Georgian Dublin

June – a guided visit to Ireland’s National Maritime Museum

July – a guided visit at the National Museum of Ireland

These are member only events, anyone wishing to join the society can do so here: Rathmichael Historical Society Membership.

Live Lectures Return

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From Wednesday, 2nd March, the Society will be returning to live lectures in the school hall for the first time in two years. Attendees should wear face masks and should not participate if they are not vaccinated. The windows will be open to allow for adequate ventilation, so wrap up well!

The lectures from now on will also be available via Zoom and can be booked online. While we have done tests in the hall to ensure that a hybrid approach will work, please bear with us if there are technical or procedural hitches in the initial stages.

The fee for non-members is €5 either live in the hall or via Zoom. This may be paid in advance online or on entry to the hall.