The DOAGH Stone – 'The Love/Betrothal Stone'
Hosting by Aabaco Web Hosting
This fantastic holed stone is situated on a small mound-like hill in the town-land of
Doagh, (*Dumhach, meaning ‘mound’), c.0.6km from the village, 3km SW of
Ballyclare, (*Bealach Cláir, meaning ‘way/pass of the plain’), 17.5km NNW of Belfast
(*Béal Feirste, meaning ‘the mouth of the sandbank or crossing). There are quite a few
interpretations concerning the purpose of the hole but the most commonly cited is that
it was connected to the ceremony of betrothal or the taking of oaths. The stone,
orientated NNW-SSE, is a tall, pillar-like basalt stone, curving to a narrow taper at the
top. It measures 1.39m in height, 0.80m in width at the base, tapering to 0.20m at the
top and 0.24m in depth. The hole is 0.90m above the base at the east & 0.23m from the
south-side, with an internal measurement of 0.075m. Even today, the local tradition,
that can be traced back to at least 1830, whereby couples used to promise marriage by
clasping hands through the hole in the stone, continues, and evidence of these ‘oaths’
can be seen scattered around the hill in the form of flowers from bridal bouquets on a
weekly basis. W.G. Wood-Martin in 1902 believed that 'it was anciently connected with
aphrodisiac customs'. Many antiquaries from Frazer, O’Laverty & D’Arcy have written
about the stone and the forgotten betrothal tradition but perhaps the most poignant
remarks made regarding the stone, is that of H. C. Lawlor in the Irish Naturalists
Journal in 1930: 'to this day' he wrote, 'through all the changes of race and peoples
that have occurred in Antrim, particularly south Antrim, the tradition that the
Holestone is a betrothal if not a marriage token remains unbroken and couples from
all the district around still plight their troths by clasping their fingers through the ring
or hole in the stone' (p. 108). And long may it continue.

Lawlor, H.C., ‘On Three Ancient Monuments in Northern Ireland’ (Irish Naturalists
Journal Vol. III (1930)
O.S. Field Report No.279  
O.S. Mem Kilbride:1839
* 2017