|KILMOGUE / HARRISTOWN PORTAL TOMB
(LEAC NA SCAIL)
|This spectacular portal tomb, also known as ‘Kilmogue Portal Tomb’ is located 100m
north-east of a head water of the River Pollanassa (Abhainn Pholl an Easa) a small
tributary of the Black Water River (An Abhainn Dubh) which it turn merges with the
River Suir (An tSiúr or Abhainn na Siúire) and is marked on all editions of the OSI
map as ‘Leac na Scáil’. It is sited in a wide valley surrounded by low hills to the east
and north and by Carricktriss Hill to the north-west, Garryduff Hill to the west and
Corbally Hill to the south. NE of the town of Mullin vat ‘Muileann an Bhata’ (meaning
‘the Mill of the Stick’). The most striking feature of this portal tomb is it’s very steeply
inclined top capstone, which measures nearly 5m in length, 3.6m in width & 0.6m in
depth, so its front edge is nearly 5m above ground-level and rests on two massive portal
stones, 3.6m in height, at the entrance and on the lower capstone at the rear. The lower
capstone, side-stones and back-stone, form a box-like chamber 3m in length and 2m in
width, with the side and end stones 1.3m in height. The full door-stone, measuring 2.7
m in height and set between the portal stones at the entrance, facing north. There is
some evidence of a cairn and if there was, it most likely only covered the lower part of
the tomb leaving the strikingly prominent capstone very visible for all to see, as it was
surely meant. According to Graves ‘a circular embankment, or rath, formerly
surrounded the spot where this dolmen stands’ (Graves, p.131). It is known locally as
'Lachan Schal', (The Great Altar) and 'Cill Mhóg, (Church of Móg) in reference to
Móg, the Celtic God of the Underworld, although the ‘Celts’ would not inhabit the area
for another 3,000 years. Most recent translations suggest it means 'the stone of the
champion or hero' although some may translate it as 'stone of the shelter or shade'
give the great shade from the capstone. Tighe calls it Lachan Schal, and says that ‘this
dolmen is the most remarkable in the County of Kilkenny. The upper stone is 45 feet in
circumference, and is supported before upon three upright stones, two of which are 1 2
feet high, and one 9 feet high, being further in. The other end rests on an horizontal
stone, propped up by others, forming a small enclosure under the lower part of the
great stone, which is 6 feet from the ground at the lower end, and 15 feet at the upper.
It slopes to the SSW. The stones are all silicious breccia’ (Tighe, pp.621, 624). Mason
calls it ‘Leac-an-Sgail’, ‘the name is derived from leac, a “flagstone” and seal, a
“champion’. He also says that it is ‘the most stupendous work of this nature, as well as
the most perfect, is that called Leac-an-sgail. The vast altar-stone is supported by high
rocks, standing upright on their edges, in such a manner as to strike every beholder
with awe and astonishment’ (Mason, pp. 364-365). Eugene O'Curry in the Ord. Survey
Letters describes this dolmen as ‘the finest he ever saw’. The tomb has been sketched
on many occasions, most notably by George Du Noyer & William. F. Wakeman.
Graves, Rev. James ‘Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society Vol. 1, No. 2
(1850, pp. 129-132).
O’Curry E. ‘Ord. Survey Letters, Kilkenny, (p.208).
Tighe, W., ‘Statistical Account of the County of Kilkenny’ (pp. 621, 624).
Wakeman, William F., - ‘Handbook of Irish Antiquities’ (1903).
‘Statistical Account of the Union of Fiddown’ by J. Sandys in (Mason’s Survey of
Ireland’ vol. 1 pp. 364, 365).
52 24’ 11.334”N…7 15’ 44.529”W