O’Brien Column, Liscannor, Co Clare
O’Brien’s Tower on the cliffs of Moher was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien, the local landowner. It was intended as a viewing point for the cliffs and it had a kitchen and other rooms as well as a coach house and stables though these are no longer extant. The view from the viewing platform is spectacular. Cornelius O’Brien was responsible for the flagstone wall along the cliff path which may have been a famine relief project. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most important tourist attractions with approximately a million visits per year.
However, while those who go to the Visitor Centre see the O’Brien Tower close to the cliffs, many drive past a handsome column built in his memory and a little roadside well with his crest above the door.
Just down the road is the handsome limestone column erected as a testimonial to Cornelius O’Brien after his death. This is the wording carved on the plinth:
HAS BEEN ERECTED BY PUBLIC
CORNELIUS O’BRIEN ESQ. THE REPRESENTATIVE
OF THIS COUNTY IN PARLIAMENT AS A LASTING
RECORD OF HIS PUBLIC CONDUCT AND PRIVATE
WORTH IN ADMIRATION OF HIS ENERGY AND
SUCCESS THAT CHARACTERISED HIS MANY
LABOURS TO PROMOTE THE PROSPERITY OF HIS
COUNTY AND THE HAPPINESS AND COMFORT
OF HIS PEOPLE AND AS A TRIBUTE TO HIS WARM
HEARTED LIBERALITY AND FORE-THOUGHT
IN PROVIDING FOR THE ACCOMMODATION
OF STRANGERS VISITING THE MAGNIFICENT
SCENERY OF THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD
SIGNED ON BEHALF OF THE COMMITTEE
COLEMAN MCLOCHLEN, BART, CHAIRMAN,
MICHAEL MCNAMARA, SEC.
14 OCTOBER 1853″
(1853 is an error as O’Brien did not die until 1857). The handsome fluted Doric column was designed by J.Petty Esq. C.E. and was built of Liscannor limestone; it is about 70 feet high with an urn on the top. Originally the plan was to place a statue of Cornelius on the top but for some reason this was replaced by an urn. In the Clare Journal of 26 Nov 1855 there is a sketch with the statue and it explains that ‘the site proposed is the imposing one of the Cliffs of Moher, the scene of Mr O’Brien’s labours, and the witness of the untiring philanthropy in the public cause which has procured for him this noble mark of the respect in which he is held by the public.’
The Follies Trust commissioned a drone survey of the column which revealed that the iron cramps on the abacus, below the urn, have rusted and caused the joints to open. This is allowing water ingress and leaching is causing discolouration of the stone shaft and the growth of small amounts of vegetation.
The Follies Trust requested an estimate from Consarc Conservation and then started fundraising last March. We have raised funds from a variety of sources, worked with the owners, partnered with the Friends of the O’Brien column and then went out to tender in June. Eoin Madigan was the successful contractor and work started in mid July 2017. A scaffold was erected, the urn was taken down by crane to the ground, iron cramps removed and replaced with stainless steel. The urn was then lifted back and carefully replaced. At present (August 2017) the column is being re-pointed and roots removed from the plinth.
The intervention by the Follies Trust was just in time. Eoin discovered when he reached the urn that it was dangerously unstable and could have toppled at any time. Left untouched it is likely the urn would have come crashing down in the next winter storm. This was indeed a timely intervention! The project is on target to finish in early September and a book describing the rescue of the column and the history of the man it was erected to commemorate will be published in November/ December.
This important monument is in a highly visible position on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Follies Trust is preserving it for future generations to enjoy on their way to and from the Cliffs of Moher. It will continue to commemorate the labours of a good man who worked hard for his tenants, his constituents and his county.
If you would like to help the Follies Trust to save this important monument please consider making a donation. If you contribute €50 or £45 your name will be added to the ROLL OF HONOUR printed in the publication due out in November/ early December. Cheques made out to ‘The Follies Trust’ can be sent to;
The Follies Trust, 100 Mullahead Road, Tandragee, Craigavon BT62 2LB
Please remember to add your name and address.
Drone photographs 2015
Work on site at O’Brien column August 2017 showing scaffold in place, work to urn on top of column and removal of roots on plinth.
The Rossglass Pig Crews
The Follies Trust is currently conserving two small structures, called pig crews, at Rossglass near Killough in County Down. The work is being undertaken with funding from the Palatine Trust, the Follies Trust and Landfill Community Fund, through Down Council, distributed by Ulster Wildlife Trust. The term ‘crew’ is derived from the Scots word ‘crue’ which means an ‘animal pen, fold, or sty’. The older one is the corbelled building while the second is the later and more common type of pig crew which would have had a sloping, slated roof, now missing. The buildings have no windows as sows prefer dark enclosed spaces for farrowing.
The popularity of pig crews in Lecale is related to the extensive grain-growing capabilities of the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When the greater part of the land was given over to grain production there was less land available for cattle and sheep to graze. As a consequence, pigs were kept in larger numbers and they were easily fattened on grain. As a result of this, pork often played a more important role in the Lecale diet than elsewhere. Animal bones from medieval archaeological excavations in Lecale generally produce higher quantities of pig bones than other sites in Ireland.
In 1956 Professor Ronnie Buchanan published an article titled ‘Corbelled Structures in Lecale, County Down’ in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. In this he identified a series of small corbelled buildings consisting of wells, pigsties, hen houses and even a dog kennel, with characteristic pyramid-shaped roofs, that were unique to this area. The dates of these buildings are difficult to ascertain and Buchanan was of the opinion that they were probably of the late 18th or early 19th century. Unfortunately some of these buildings have disappeared since this publication or have fallen into ruin. One of the finest of these buildings is the pig crew at Rossglass which still has its roof though it had fallen into disrepair prior to intervention by the Follies Trust.
Ardnacraa well, Co Clare
The Follies Trust has just completed the conservation of this small well-house close to Liscannor. This Protected Structure was erected in the mid nineteenth century over a spa well, known locally as the Relievers’ well. It was one of the building enterprises of Cornelius O’Brien – above the door is the O’Brien crest.
To find out more about the building projects of Cornelius O’Brien (c.1780-1857) see www.historyireland.com and look up Cornelius O’Brien and the Cliffs of Moher.
Until work was undertaken in June 2016 by SPAB Fellow and local stonemason, Eoin Madigan, the structure was defaced by vegetation as can be seen in the before photographs. The ground around the well house was cleared by Eoin, stonework repaired and the joints filled with locally sourced lime mortar.
On their visit to County Clare on 11 June Follies Trust were able to see the work they commissioned in progress and to meet Eoin (see Events 2016).
The Follies Trust not only conserved the well house at Ardnacraa, Liscannor, they also had a replica gate made for the opening. This was installed in January 2017 and it looks amazing. Another good project undertaken by the Follies Trust.
Before work started
After completion of work
Beehive mausoleum in County Westmeath
During Autumn 2016 work was undertaken to this fine structure with funding from Structures at Risk Fund, Built Heritage Investment Scheme and with a contribution from the Parish and the Follies Trust. The outer stones were removed, numbered and the brick core revealed, vegetation was cleared and the outer stones cleaned, repaired where necessary, and then replaced in a bedding of lime mortar. All the original stones were reused except five which were too badly damaged. The five replacements were set in lime mortar by the stone masons. The completed project and carefully conserved mausoleum reflects great credit on the architect, Richard McLouglin and the stone masons.
The Follies Trust would like to congratulate all concerned and the Select Vestry for undertaking this scheme.
There is a nice story attached to this mausoleum in that it was built by Adolphus Cooke in about 1835 to house the remains of his father Robert. Both father and son believed in reincarnation and Robert Cooke believed he would be reincarnated as a bee…..hence the beehive mausoleum!
Not only that but Adolphus believed he would be reincarnated as a fox and constructed an underground mausoleum in the form of a fox’s lair near his house where he planned to be buried. However that was not accepted by the church authorities as it was not consecrated ground so he was then interred in his Father’s beehive mausoleum!
Cooke mausoleum in 2017:
The Follies Trust is looking at a number of possibilities for future projects.
Read the Belfast Telegraph article about the latest projects by the Follies Trust.
A folly fort in County Down
The Follies Trust is assisting the owner of this fort to conserve the structure.
On 14 June 2013 the Follies Trust Practical Lime Day was held at Tyrella fort. More information about this day can be found here.
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