• Tommy Hourigan, Raheen, Limerick

Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 7)


As we approach the Winter Solstice, which will occur on Friday, 21st December, we thought it would be appropriate to suggest the article titled The Grange Stone Circle for reading. The history of this ancient stone circle could not be adequately told without reference to both the summer and winter solstices.

Sadly, the author of the article, Tim Casey, passed away suddenly in May 2018 - Rest In Peace, Tim. The stone circle is located on the Casey farm, and Tim welcomed many visitors over the years who came from near and far to gaze upon the magnificent structure and to partake in a unique experience. Tim recounted the history of the site to many attentive visitors - he was passionate about the archaeology of this internationally important ancient site. Over the years, Tim joined many others at the site early on solstice mornings, awaiting the first light rays at dawn as they hit the stone circle between the huge standing stones, which were strategically positioned by ancient people thousands of years ago.

We also remember Michael Quinlan, archaeologist and author, who passed away in August 2018 - Rest in Peace, Michael. Michael was an authority on the history and interpretation of Grange Stone Circle.

A beautiful tribute to Michael was recently published in The Ambling Blog. The blog post, written by Deirdre, is titled "Remembering 'The Master' Michael J. Quinlan". CLICK HERE to read Deirdre's blog post.

The following are extracts from Tim's article:

"Composed of 113 standing stones, Grange Stone Circle, also known as Líos na Grainsi (Note 1), is the largest and finest in Ireland. It was thought to have been built circa 2200 BC, after the arrival of the Bronze Age people in Lough Gur. It was a ritual site akin to our churches of the present day and also served as an astronomical calendar. We can only speculate on the rituals that took place here, but know that they were of great importance to people from surrounding settlements. The Circle is aligned on the sunrise of the summer solstice when the sun shines directly in the centre of the Circle.

The Circle comprises a ring of continuous and contiguous (Note 2) uprights up to 2.8 metres high, with a diameter of 45 metres and backed by an earthen bank, 9 metres wide and about 1-2 metres tall, making it more like a henge (Note 3) monument than conventional stone circle. Twelve large orthostats (Note 4) have been placed at intervals around the stone ring, each standing directly opposite one of the other ‘axial’ stones. This embankment and the precise arrangement of orthostats suggest that this site had a ritual purpose. Some of the stones are very large and include both limestone and volcanic breccia. (Note 5).

'Crom Dubh', the largest stone of the Líos - the 40 tonnes, 2.5 metre (8 feet) tall squared behemoth to the north of the entryway - has acquired the name Rannach Crom Dubh (the staff of Black Crom). This stone, which extends a further five feet underground, is thought to have been dragged to the Líos from its source around 1.5 kilometres (a mile) away, demonstrating its importance in the construction. (Note 6). The entrance on the eastern side is paved and flanked by uprights. The entrance stones are matched by a pair of equally impressive slabs on the southwest side, whose tops slope down towards each other to form a V-shape. Clay has been packed down to a depth of 60 centimetres across the whole area of the enclosure."

The article carried the following piece written by Joan O'Brien, Lower Grange, titled The Dawning of the Third Millennium:

"As the sun broke over the eastern horizon on a cool, crisp winter’s morning, it was Saturday, 1st January 2000 AD, and history was made at Grange Stone Circle.

Here, where for thousands of years, in the pre-Christian era, worship of a different nature took place, Mass was celebrated for the first time in living memory. This historic Mass to herald the dawning of the Third Millennium was concelebrated by James Canon Costello, PP and Fr Joseph Foley, CC, Bruff.

To add to the aura and mystique of both location and occasion, one couldn’t but marvel at the wonder of the sunrise, while a melodic 'Dawn Chorus' echoed throughout the Circle. As if to salute the solemnity of the event, a lone swan circled in flight overhead. A large gathering of parishioners from Grange, Lough Gur, Bruff and Meanus was present, as well as many others from farther afield, all joining in the unique celebration.

After the ceremony, neighbours and strangers alike mingled and gathered in groups, discussing the wondrous occasion and event. When, eventually, the gathering dispersed, each person departed with solemn thoughts, most likely of a remarkable and unique experience, having been present at a location steeped in history, folklore and mythology when the sun rose and cast its rays on the Circle on the first morning of the new millennium, while also attending Mass there. In a short time Grange Stone Circle was left in silence with its secrets.

Perhaps, on that historic morning, somebody present wondered if people had congregated at the Circle on the morning of the arrival of the second millennium. And if so, what did they say, do and hope for? And when the fourth millennium dawns will those who may attend at the Circle then be struck by the same awe and wonder at antiquity and Mother Nature, and will they disperse with their hopes for the future prominent in their minds, as did many on 1st January, 2000?"

Next week (week 8) we will suggest another article for reading.

Kind Regards to All.

#StoneCircle #TimCasey #MichaelQuinlan #orthostats #solstice #archaeology #CromDubh #summersolstice #wintersolstice #Grange

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