Round Towers

So much has been written about these interesting remains of Irish antiquity, that to enumerate the various theories respecting them would rather embarrass the reader, than elucidate the subject; let it suffice to say that the opinions as to the origin, era, and uses of those beautiful but mysterious structures, whose history is hidden in the night of time, are so various, that, as to whether they were built for Pagan or Christian purposes, still remains a subject of antiquarian controversy.

In the county Dublin there are Round Towers at Lusk, Swords, and Clondalkin, and some remains of one near the old church of Rathmichael, between Killiney and Bray; and there was in former times a Round Tower situated in the “Street of the Sheep,” now Ship-street, quite convenient to the Castle of Dublin, but no traces of it now remain.

In the county Kildare there are five Round Towers still remaining, situated at the town of Kildare, Old Kilcullen, Castledermot, Oughterard, and Taghadoe (anglicised “Taptoo”).

In the reign of Lugaid Sriabhn-dearg, the 98th Monarch of Ireland, in the first century, the lake called Lough Neagh suddenly burst forth, and overwhelmed in its waters the surrounding plains, with all the houses and inhabitants; and Giraldus Cambrensis (who wrote in the twelfth century), speaking of the Round Towers, states that a tradition prevailed down to his time, that when the fishermen sailed over Lough Neagh, they could, in the clear lake, in calm weather, see beneath the waters the Round Towers which, with the towns, had been covered by its inundation; and this statement has been adduced as an argument to corroborate the vast antiquity attributed to the Round Towers. In one of the Irish Melodies, Moore thus alludes to the subject:—

“On Lough Neagh’s banks, as the fisherman strays,

When the calm clear eve’s declining,

He sees the Round Tower of other days

In the waves beneath him shining.”

The remains of antiquities in Ireland are very numerous, and extremely interesting, though much has been destroyed by the silent hand of time, but much more by the ruthless fury of fanaticism and war: The stones of many Druidical temples and cromleacs have been broken; sepulchral mounds and raths, the ramparts of ancient fortresses, and even walls of Cyclopean architecture have been levelled; cairns have been scattered; round towers have been barbarously thrown down, or shamefully suffered to fall into dilapidation and ruin; abbeys, churches, and castles have been demolished, and their materials placed in other buildings; stone crosses, sculptures, and statues have been broken and mutilated; golden and silver ornaments of massive size and beautiful workmanship, worn by ancient Irish kings, queens, and chieftains, have been carried off to other countries, or sold to goldsmiths, and melted down; and many other interesting remains of ancient art have been destroyed, which, as being memorials of the ancient past in Ireland, should, with unceasing veneration, be preserved to posterity, with the most sacred care.

Round Towers continued »