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X. Particulars relative to a Human Skeleton, and the Garments that were found thereon, when dug out of a Bog at the Foot of Drumkeragh, a Mountain in the County of Down, and Barony of Kinalearty, on Lord Moira's Estate, in the Autumn of 1780. In a Letter to the Hon. John Theophilus Rawdon, by the Countess of Moira; communicated by Mr. Barrington

  • Moira

In the spring of the year 1781 lord Moira; having ordered a survey to be made of a farm on his estate, his surveyor brought me a plait of hair, informing, me that it was, taken from the scull of a skeleton that had been long dug up by the tenant in the autumn of 1780. I lost no time in making an inquiry into the particulars of such a discovery, and the result of that inquiry was as follows:

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page 90 note [a] Pronounced Drumkera.

page 91 note [b] Sliabh in Irish signifies a mountain, and Croobh the paw of an animal, or a fist; and the present Irish say it took its name from the impression of the deers feet which were seen upon it. But as on its summit still remain the vestiges of Druid worship, the rude altars, and the sacred well, and that during the æra of Druidical government their priests were not only the judges, but executioners of those who were doomed to death either as delinquents, or victims for sacrifice, I am inclined to suspect, that it was antiently styled sliabh cro abh; cro signifying death, and abh the point or termination of a weapon, or of a territory—and as a spot destined for human slaughter, might bear the appellation of the mountain of final death. A stone hatchet (similar to one in Sir Ashton Lever's Collection) and undoubtedly a sacrifical one belonging to the Druids, Was dug up at the foot of this mountain few years ago, and is in lord Moira's possession.

page 91 note [c] I had these sought for, but they could not be found, and it was positively denied by the tenants that they bore any signs of an inscription.

page 91 note [d] Term for the place where they cut turf.

page 92 note [e] It seems but candid to seize any opportunity of relating what the antient Irish endured from the English, since the cruelties of the former are generally stated as not having arisen from a provocation. The author I shall quote in respect to the point of famine, being private secretary to Charles Blount lord Montjoy (afterwards earl of Devonshire) lord deputy of Ireland, cannot be supposed to give an aggravated description of that scene.

In Mr. Fynes Moryson's History of Ireland, vol. II. p. 282 and 284, the following passages may be met with—“Now as I have often, made mention formerly, “of our destroying, the rebels' corn, and using all means to famish them, “let me, by two or three examples, shew the miserable state they were thereby “brought to. Sir Arthur Chichester, Sir Richard Moryson (the author's brother), “and the other commanders of the forces sent against M Art into Killultagh “(the country about Glenevy) returning homeward, saw a horrid spectacle “of three children, the eldest above ten years old, all eating, and gnawing “with their teeth, the entrails of their, dead mother, upon whose flesh they had “fed twenty days past, and having eaten all from the feet upwards, to the bare “bones, roasting it continually by a slow fire, were now come to the eating of “her said entrails in like sort half roasted, but not divided from her body, as “being yet raw.” He adds, that “the common sort were driven to extremities “almost beyond the record of any history he had ever read;” relates that “some “women were executed at Newry for killing and eating children; and no spectacle,” “writes he, “was more frequent in the ditches of towns, and especially in “wasted countries, than to see multitudes of poor people dead, with their mouths “all coloured green by eating docks, and all things they could rend from the “ground.”

page 94 note [f] This man's apprehensions are to be accounted for as follows: six or seven years ago, a report prevailed, and gained general belief, that a man in the neighbouring mountains had found and possessed himself of a treasure, consisting of a copper vessel, thinly lined with gold, a quantity of ingots of the same metal, and a plate and mug (as it was called) of gold with a number of handles. Those who had any knowledge of antiquities conceived these must be sacrifical vessels; supposed the first a cauldron, the second a patera, and the third a cup for libation or to take oaths upon. The man from poverty grew into all the appearance of affluence, maintaining a fair and unsuspected character. The common people, who were witnesses of his supposed good fortune, were seized with a phrenzy, and ransacked and overturned every heap of stones and karn they could meet with. At length the discoverer was taken up, but made no confessions, and was set at liberty. Yet some time after a watch-maker, to whom it was said he had confided his good fortune, produced his notes for money received, without any intimation of what it was for, and threw him into prison, where he was when I last heard of him, yet living at his ease and in plenty. The watch-maker affirmed he had lent him that money, on his only telling him he had found a treasure; this was not thought probable. The watch-maker had been in very low circumstances, and suddenly was in a state of easy ones. It was therefore suspected that he took advantage of the man's caution, in not specifying on what account he had received the sums for which he had given his notes, to lay him in gaol till he obliged him to come into what terms he might impose. This event, after having been the subject of much conversation in the neighbourhood, like other reports dyed away. The common people, seeing the object of their envy led to a gaol by what was the object of their pursuits, directly dropt them, and were as apprehensive of being supposed to be fortunate, as a short time before they had been eager for being so.

page 96 note [g] Encyclopedie.

page 96 note [h] Dictionnaire des origines.

page 96 note [i] Roman Antiquities, p. 309.

page 97 note [k] This ornament was known in Europe by the name of falbala, and furbelow. As a distinction of rank with us, it is preserved in the different rows of ermine and lace affixed to the robes of peers. In the Parthian war, during the reign of Valerian, the Romans had carried this fashion of these enemies to that excess in their cloathing, that the emperor thought it requisite to restrain the use or abuse of it by a law.

page 98 note [*] Plate VII. fig. 1, 2.

page 99 note [l] The tribute paid by Ulster, Leinster, and Connaught to Bryan Boiroimhe (Borovey) for the maintenance of his house and state at Ceannehora (Kincora) was from each yearly 2670 beeves, 1,370,420 loads or tuns of iron, 500 mantles, 365 tuns of red wine from the Danes of Limerick, and from the Danes of Dublin 150 pipes of white wine. From the Munster Book of Rights.

Amidst his other tributes, the number of mantles from Concomruadh were 200, from Tuatharu 200 green mantles. Irish Book of Rights.

Leinster, as an additional tribute for his having assisted against Leath-Cuerin, paid him 300 coloured mantles. By the yearly rights of the house of Cashell that king received 400 mantles yearly; and amongst the gifts he made to his tributaries when he collected them for battle, or to attend him to the assembly of the monarch, he gave the prince of Raith-leann 10 blue and 10 red mantles.

The king of Ulster of the race of Nial or O'Neil received likewise an ample tribute of the same cloathing; and when he called the prince of Boghaine to the field, he gave him 6 horses, 6 shields, 6 swords, 6 cups, 6 blue mantles, 16 green outside coats. On the prince of Craoible joining him, he gave him 3 green mantles.

When the monarch of Ireland called the king of Ulster to the field or to a public assembly, he gave him 10 ships, 11 cups, 50 horses, 50 swords, 50 large robes, 50 coats of mail, 50 mantles, 50 knives, 10 greyhounds, 20 handful of leeks, and 20 swan eggs. The mantles the king of Ulster received from his tributaries were as follows: from the prince of Maighline 500, from the prince of Seimhnu 150, from the prince of Crotraidhe 100, from the prince of Forthnathawarda 100. This list might be continued; but what has already been transcribed seems sufficient.

page 100 note [*] See plate VII. fig. 3, 4.

page 101 note [m] Antiquities of France, plate IX.

page 102 note [n] I never could gain any information as to the length of this piece of drapery which satisfied me, though I was most particular as to that point; as long again, or thrice as long again as the remnant I procured, was the only answer I could obtain. If a veil, it must have been of greater length.

page 103 note [o] In a letter from Mr. Andrew Paschall (dated in December 2, 1689), to Mr. John Aubrey a fellow of the Royal Society, he informs him of a tomb found deep under ground in the year 1674 in the isle of Athelney, in which were found a scull and some other bones, earth, dust, and some cloathing, and that he sent him a fragment of the latter, but that he cannot imagine what it can be made of, unless of some foreign fine hair. See Miscellanies on several curious subjects now first published from their respective originals, printed 1723.

page 103 note [p] Preface to Keating's History of Ireland where there is a print of the cap or crown.

page 104 note [q] Stone Henge restored by Inigo Jones, fol. p. 17.

page 104 note [r] It should seem the nature of hair to gain that yellowish hue in the grave; as queen Guinever (if it was her sepulchre) having been married in the beginning of the sixth century, could hardly escape being grey-haired at the conclusion of it. Neither was Humphrey duke of Gloucester a young man, and his hair was exactly of the colour of the plait taken from the scull of the skeleton.

page 105 note [s] See Archaeologia, vol. III. p. 380—385.

page 107 note [t] Translations from Sir John Sebright's Collection by Major Vallancy.

page 107 note [u] The scarlet and purple linen used by Moses in the construction of the Tabernacle, and the uses of linen by the Jewish priesthood, were Egyptian manufactures and modes. The saffron coloured linen tunics, in which Camden mentions O'Neil and his followers to have paid their visits to Elizabeth, were not dyed in saffron, but a kind of lichen that grows upon the rocks, and is prepared by the Irish as archil. I have seen of the dye, and it resembles saffron in the mass, that shade of yellow which borders upon a dark brown.

page 108 note [w] A note to Hearne's Life of Alfred.

page 108 note [x] The stone hatchets were generally employed on these occasions.

page 108 note [y] Quoted from Toland's History of the Druids by Borlase, History of Cornwall, p. 129.

page 109 note [z] One of the first printed books contains the receipt for the preparation of archil, which produced the blue purples alone (according to Pliny's account) antiently: they have lately attained to making reds from it. I take this to have been the colour our kings formerly wore, under the name of blue, as that colour produced from woad must have been too common and too dull a one to have gained a royal choice. To a corrosion of lead the antient purple or crimson owed its beauty; like as at this day, our brightest colours owe theirs to solutions of metals. I have endeavoured to revive both colours, and do conceive that it is so far possible to succeed, as to ascertain what they were.

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