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Seventeen Ninety Eight Memorial

The platform of the memorial is covered with mosaics.  There are green shamrocks scattered around and also some larger drawings.  A blue green harp is depicted in the centre of the platform.   A  female figure forms one side of the harp.  This was the common practice of the time.  The United Irishmen had  adopted the harp as their emblem.  "It is new-strung and will be heard" was their motto.   

The harp is by no means peculiar to Ireland but from early mediaeval  times it was regarded as supremely the musical instrument of the Irish.  It is depicted on many of the stone High Crosses of the ninth and tenth centuries.  Sometimes the harpist depicted would represent King  David, at other times he would be the musician present on all their important occasions.  Today the harp is used on Irish Euro coinage, on the Irish naval flag, and on Irish government documents.  It is on the  letter paper of the President of Ireland.

On each side of the harp we have a round tower and a  thatched cottage.  Round towers are a common sight in Ireland.  There are over a hundred in various states of repair.  They were built alongside a monastery as a belltower.  Their  Irish name is 'cloigheach', which means 'bell-house'.  The monk climbed the internal ladders and rang his hand bell out of the four windows on the top floor, windows which faced the cardinal points, N S E and W. 

When the Vikings began raiding the country, from 795 AD, the belltowers became places of refuge.  The monks took the sacred vessels and other valuables into the tower, closed  the door and waited for their uninvited guests to go.  The doorway depicted on this tower is at ground level.  So also was the one on Scattery Island, near the mouth of the  Shannon River.  It was sacked in 795.  The monks learned their lesson.  Builders of towers after this put their doorways well off the ground, usually 3 or 4 mtrs off the ground.  This  meant they were too high for the Vikings, who were hit and run raiders, to force easily.

The towers were also good watch places so that they could  have early warning of the coming of the enemy.  One monk, writing in his manuscript, mentioned how it was stormy outside and so they did not have to fear the coming of the Vikings.  Bitter is the wind tonight, it tosses the sea's white hair;  I do not fear the wild warriors from Norway who course on a quiet sea.

 At the foot of the round tower can be seen a thatched cottage.

Thatched cottages have all but  disappeared from the Irish countryside.  They were very practical in their day.  The thatch kept the house cool in summer and warm in winter.  Modern methods of harvesting do not provide the  long straw that is needed.  Most often reeds are used nowadays for thatching.  There are many proverbs in connection with thatching - one of them being: a windy day is not the day for thatching.

 

 

 

 

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