The Almanac of Ireland

Irish Folk Art Project

Im really excited that Irish Folk Art project will feature on this weeks episode of the The Almanac of Ireland radio program presented by Manchán Magan and produced by Colette Kinsella.

The program will feature the  carvings of the cats with two  tails and stone  heads in  Co Tipperary.

imageedit_6_3288377806 Cat with Two Tails at  the Swiss Cottage Cahir Co Tipperary

You can catch the series on  Wednesday at 10.30pm on RTÉ Radio 1
or  Sunday at 10.30am  on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra
It will also be available as podcast

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The Almanac of Ireland

Im really excited that Irish Folk Art project will feature on this weeks episode of the The Almanac of Ireland radio program presented by Manchán Magan and produced by Colette Kinsella.

The program will feature the  carvings of the cats with two  tails and stone  heads in  Co Tipperary.


Cat with Two Tails at  the Swiss Cottage Cahir Co Tipperary

You can catch the series on  Wednesday at 10.30pm on RTÉ Radio 1
or  Sunday at 10.30am  on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra
It will also be available as podcast

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Stories from the Landscape: The Cat with Two Tails

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Originally posted on Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland:
Some of you may already know,  apart from my interest in pilgrimage, medieval and modern, I am also very interested in post medieval folk art.  In 2016, I set up the Irish Folk…

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Stone heads from Malta

While on holidays at Christmas I came across some wonderful stone head over a doorways  in Valletta the capital city of Malta which  I wanted to share with you all.


Stone head over doorway in Valletta Malta

I forgot to make note of what street I was on as there was so much wonderful architecture to see.


Stone head over doorway in Valletta, Malta

Happy New Year everyone. I am looking forward to sharing more Irish Folk Art with you all in the coming  year.

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Some Galway Folk Art. The story of Stoney Brennan Loughrea

I recently visited a very interesting carving of a stone head on  Westbridge Street Loughrea, Co Galway. The head is said to depict/commemorate a local character  named Stoney Brennan.


Carving of Stoney Brennan on West Bridge Street

According to local folklore Stony Brennan was the seventh son of a seventh son and had curative powers.  He was hanged  on Gallows Hill for stealing a turnip during the famine of 1845. The stone head must have been carved after this date.  Local folklore also said any young maiden who kisses the head on bonfire night would marry within the year.

Im looking forward to finding out more about this carving and its attached folklore.


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Carved Head at Holycross Mill

This week I was reminded of a piece of folk art I had seen a few years ago but had completely forgotten about, until I saw it in book earlier in the week.  The art is a large stone carved head located on the external face of the northeast wall above the doorway, of the mill building beside Holycross Abbey.

The the carving has a carton like  quality to it with  a large nose, wide open mouth and large ears.


Stone head at Holycross Mill Co Tipperary

The building was restored in the 1970’s and unfortunately the building is roofless today. Im planning a trip later in the month to Holycross so record this head and some other carvings in the village.



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Folk Art at Tobar Padraig Monivea Co Galway

A few weeks ago Christy Cunnliff the Galway Archaeological  Field Officer brought me to see some seventeenth century folk art in East Co Galway.  For anyone interested in the archaeology and history of Galway, Christy writes the Galway Community Archaeology Blog.

The folk art is a stone plaque depicting St Patrick. The plaque is incorporated into the wall enclosing Tobar Padraig holy well, in  Monivea Co Galway.  The well  is a natural spring with stone lining, it is enclosed by a square shaped wall and is in turn enclosed by penanular earthen bank at the centre of a graveyard.

According to tradition St Patrick rested at the well and baptised the local people, indeed a rock at the side of the well with a slight depression is said to have been created by the saint when he knelt beside the well (Cunniffe 2016, 3). The holy well was once a place of pilgrimage and a large pattern day took place on the feast of the saint.


Seventeenth century depiction of St Patrick at Monivea Co Galway

The  plaque is set into internal face of the east wall surrounding the holy well. The figure of St Patrick fills the plaque.  The saint holds a patriarchal cross or staff in his left hand, while giving the episcopal blessing with his right hand.  The saint on the body of a serpent type creature, whose tail is pinned down by the saints staff.  A small s IHS monogram is found beneath the left arm of the patriarchal cross. In the upper left hand corner of the plaque is the inscription

”Pray for Fa Thomas Kiegery who made this image in remembrance – 1688′.


Inscritpion ‘Pray for Fa Thomas Kiegery who made this image in remembrance – 1688′, on plaque at Tobar Padraig Monivea Co Galway

To find out more about the folklore connected to the well see Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland’s blog post HolyCows, The Miraculous Animals of the Irish Saints: Part 8, St Patrick and his Goat.

The plaque is similar to one  I have already recorded  at Patrickswell Co Limerick.


Cunniffe, C. 2016. Tobar Padraig Holy Well , A Significant Local Pilgrimage Site. Galway Community Archaeology Advisory Project   Heritage Week August Unpublished Report.


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Photogrammetry Results for the Thurles Pillar, part of our Photogrammetry Survey of Folk Art in South Tipperary

In 2016 the Irish Folk Art Project was delighted to receive funding from Rosin O’Grady the Tipperary Heritage Officer to carry out a photogrammetry survey of 10 folk art carvings in Tipperary. Photogrammetry is the method of creating 3D models from photographs taken using a digital camera. This technique can also bring out details in worn or weather damaged carvings that are not visible to the naked eye.

The survey was carried out by the very talented Gary Dempsey in Autumn 2016.  The 3D Models created by Garry can be viewed online using the free web viewer Sketchfab and links to the models discussed in this post are embedded in the text below.

The most dramatic and the exciting result from the survey relate to the pillar built into the wall at St Bridget’s church (TN041-042003) in Thurles, discussed in earlier post.


Pillar containing carvings at St Briget’s Cemetery (TN041-042003) in Thurles

The pillar which is 2.4m in height has a number of pieces of carved stone incorporated into its fabric.  At the top of the pillar is a carving of a cat. Photogrammetry image taken of this carving revealed details that were not visible before. The photogrammetry revealed that the cat had a mouse in its mouth. We are excited to get started with further research on this carving.

Photogrammetry provided a much clearer image of the figure of the lion  located at the top of the pillar to the right of the cat

and the carving of unicorn and lion carvings.

Exciting results were also achieved for the image of the cleric located close to the base of the pillar. The figure is bald and holds a cross in his right hand and a circular string of beads most likely a paternoster in his left hand.  Two names Patrick Kennedy and James Bulter are crudely carved beneath the feet but do not appear to be contemporary.


Overall we were really pleased with the results of the photogrammetry  survey and we will share more information about the results relating to other carvings in the coming weeks and look forward to getting stuck into more in-depth research on the individual carvings.



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Folk Art at St Patrick’s Holy Well Patrickswell Co Limerick

We have just recorded our second folk art carving in Co Limerick. The carving in question is a limestone plaque located at a holy well located in the village of Patrickswell  Co Limerick.


St Patrick’s Holy well Patrickswell Co Limerick.

The well is located just off main street beside a busy filling station. The well was restored by Patrickswell Community Council in 2002.  It consists of a rectangular area enclosed by a stone well. The interior is paved with slabs and the site of the well is now covered with a concrete slab and a pump. The limestone plaque is located in the fabric of the  back wall.


Image of carving of St Patrick at Patrickswell Co Limerick taken from Ask about Ireland website. The saint is standing on a snake. In his hands he holds a staff with a triple cross and a book.

The carving is likely of 18th or  early 19th century date. It is a square block of limestone with  an incised image of St Patrick wearing a mitre, standing on a snake. He holds a book in his left hand and a triple cross in his right hand.  His feet are turned out. According to historical sources on the left side of the stone,  is the inscription “Erected by Thomas McNamara & S. Breay”.  The lettering is  very difficult to decipher today. The plaque was broken in two prior to its incorporation into the wall.

According to Lewis, Topographical Dictionary, (Vol. ii, 459 )

a well dedicated to St. Patrick, and still held in great veneration by the peasantry, over which has recently been placed a figure of the tutelar saint, rudely carved in stone.

While folklore suggest an earlier date. It was told that the wives of troops who were stationed in Patrickswell desecrated the holy well in 1798. It was said the commanding officer  broke the stone which was at  the well.

The water was said to cure sores, toothache and was also said to be of benefit to animals. When devotion was carried out at the well people would with the water sprinkled on crops and milk churns.  According to Danachair (1955) devotions ceased around 1890 when a pump was erected over the well. Prior to this

The well was open formerly, with a great elm tree standing beside it. Formerly much visited, especially on 17th March. The water cured sores, toothache and other pains, also cattle. It was sprinkled on crops and churns. Rags, medals and drinking cups hung on the tree.

The people in the area used the well until the 1940s when an epidemic of typhoid fever occurred in the area. Locals feared that the well was the source of contamination and stopped taking water from the well. Following the 1940’s the pump  was removed only to be reinstated in recent times by the well committee.

We will be doing further research into the iconography of the carving and will keep you posted on the results.


Danachair, C. (1955). The Holy Wells of Co. Limerick. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 85(2), 193-217.


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Folk Art in the town of Fethard

Fethard, in South Tipperary is best known for its impressive medieval town walls and parish church and abbey.

Tucked away off Main Street on a small laneway called Chapel Lane, is an interesting piece of folk art built into the wall of a small cottage.


Small cottage on Chapel Lane with plaque incorporated into fabric.

The art consists  of two plaques, one placed on top of the other. The upper plaque contains the name ” P. RUSSEL” set within a frame. It is carved into a limestone.

This smaller plaque sits on top of a square limestone block with the words “Built Oct 7, 1832”. On the left is the  head and shoulders of a bishop wearing mitre and holding a hooked crozier. On the right of the inscription is  the figure of a man set in a frame.

In the coming months we will be researching and investigating the ownership of the house and attempting to tease out the meaning of the carvings.We will also be telling you about the results of the photogrammetry survey carried out in 2016 thanks to funding from Rosin O’Grady Tipperary Heritage Officer.




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