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.