MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS
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KILMACLENINE WEDGE TOMB & CAIRN
CO-ORDINATES
52 12' 4.011"N...8 42' 27.739"W
This monument, in the town-land of Kilmaclenine (*Cill Mhic Léinín meaning
'Lenine's church) and marked as 'Acuthoge' on the 1842 & 1905 editions of the OS
6-inch maps, is situated on gently rolling pasture land, about 4 km. south-west of
Buttevant or more anciently Killenemallagh (*Cill na Mallach, meaning 'the church of
the little hills'), mid-way between Mallow (*Mala meaning 'plain of (the) rock') and
Liscarroll (*Lios Cearúill meaning 'Carroll's fort'). It stands on a low ridge
overlooked, at the north-east, by the Ballyhoura Mountains (*An Sliabh Riabhach
meaning 'the grey mountains'). Westward from the site the ground falls to a small
shallow valley beyond which are Kilmaclenine church and castle. The monument, first
described by Brash in 1853, had been opened 15 years previously by a Rev. Connery, the
parish-priest of Buttevant. It consists of the remains of a large, apparently circular,
mound of earth and stones, at present some 36m in max. dimension. The chamber sides
are each of single slabs and the eastern end is closed by an inset back-stone. The
chamber floor has been dug away and the base of the northern side-stone is exposed.
The top edges of both side-stones slope downwards from west to east. The stone at the
north is 3m in length, 0.35m in width and 1.90m in max. height. The opposite
side-stone is 3.20m in length, 0.25m in width and 1.85m in max. height. The back-stone
leans inwards. It is 1.30 m in length, 0.45 m in width and 1.65 m in height. The
roof-stone rests on both side-stones but not on the back-stone. It measures 3.0m in
length and 2.15m in width and is 0.30m in depth. The chamber, which is 2.20 m in
length, decreases in height and width from west to east. It is 1.50 m in width and is
c.1.70m in height at the west and is 1.40m in width and c.1.40m in height at the east.
Brash in his early account of the monument states that he had 'not been able to
ascertain what was found at the opening of the tomb. The chamber is so like those
numerous wedge-tombs, built of single slabs, found elsewhere in Munster, that it can
hardly be excluded from that class. The huge mound would be most unusual in such a
tomb and it must be allowed that this could be a secondary feature' (Brash, p.272-3).
Brash states that 'the local farmers were carting away the materials of the mound'
during his time and that 'the maximum height of the mound was then about 18 feet'
(ibid). The Rev. Thomas Olden, in an account published in 1881, records a local
tradition of the mound having been opened some 60 years earlier and notes that 'a
skeleton with a sword by its side and some beads was found in the chamber' (Olden,
p.119). Colonel James Grove White in his 'Historical Notes' (1913), quotes an account
of the monument by a Dr. Caulfield which states that some 60 years earlier 'a few
fragments of bones, a bronze sword and a bead or amulet were found in the chamber'
(White, p.313-314). He also states that a 'Mr. John Connell of Knockaunavaddreen told
me he saw an iron sword in the tomb when he was a boy. Mr. Arthur B. Jones of
Doneraile heard that some broken coins were found in the cist, and that the hilt of the
iron sword had a running ball on it' (ibid). Olden also identifies Cuthoge with
'Knockán glass enet' of the 'Pipa Colmani' (The Pipe Roll of Cloyne), which he
interprets as an Anglo-Norman attempt at the Old Irish name of 'Cnocán glas aenaigh'
meaning 'the green hillock of the fair'. Olden also identified an alternative name for
the mound in the Pipe Roll as 'Knokán lepotes' which Olden believes is 'Cnocán lepa
tes' meaning 'the hillock of the south tomb' (ibid). However, O'Donovan in his field
notes, states that this 'meaning of the word "Cuthoague" is doubtful' (OSL). And
White states that 'the locality at the entrance is known locally as the city' (ibid). The
classification of this monument as a 'wedge tomb' must be doubtful however. Some
characteristics of this monument type: a box-like, wedge shaped chamber, with a
westerly orientation, are present but these are tenuous at best. For such large size
side-stones & back-stone, one would expect abutments and/or outer-walling, with a
semi-circular or horse-shoe shaped cairn but these are absent and no evidence that they
were ever present. There is also the question of the large slabs used in its construction
and how it is at odds with other examples within the region. Of the several tombs
within a 20km radius of the site, Labbacallee (CO027-086) 25km ESE, Island
(CO042-056001) 15km SSE & Beenamweel East (CO041-116) 16km SSW, all are of a
classical wedge tomb format, with several roof-slabs, side-stones, outer-walling,
ante-chamber & remnants of either horse-shoe or elongated cairns. The evidence for
Kilmaclenine as a wedge tomb, is of a large, box-like chamber, orientated E-W
(opening at the east) and covered with a substantial round cairn of stone & earth. This
mound over the stone slabs that Brash regarded as a 'secondary feature', may have
been part of the original structure. He alluded to the fact that 'nearly in the centre is a
rude cist, which is now entirely uncovered. It is rectangular, formed of four upright
stones composing the sides and ends, with a massive table stone covering all. It at
present rests but on two sides and an end, the other end having been forced out by the
riflers' (ibid). This is more like a description of a 'chambered cairn' similar that of
Tomb 51 (Lios a tSeagail - SL014-209022) in Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery in
County Sligo, although that is of Neolithic date. The numerous, recalled accounts from
several first-hand & second-hand sources of 'human' remains and a bronze/iron
sword, along with other metal objects, would suggest a much later date, perhaps Late
Bronze Age-Early Iron Age (1,100-500 BC). This would tend to indicate that the
monument was either a 'cist' or a 'barrow'. Unfortunately, as with so many tumuli or
mounds, gold-diggers, 'riflers', grave-diggers, which ever name you chose to use, have
been pillaging such monuments for centuries and take with them irreplaceable
artefacts & archaeological knowledge that would answer this most basic yet
fundamental of questions.

Sources:
Borlase, W., 'The Dolmens of Ireland' (1897)
Brash, R., 'An Account of Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Buttevant, in the
County of Cork.' JKAS, Vol. II, (1853).
O'Donovan, OS Letters, Cork (1840)
Olden, Rev. T., P.R.I.A., Vol II. (1879-1888)
White, J., 'Historical and Topographical Notes on Buttevant' Vol. III (1913)
* Placenames Database of Ireland 2016
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