Inishglora Island

St. Brendan's Holy Well, Inishglora Island
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inishglora,_Erris,_Co._Mayo..jpg

During Griffiths Valuation of 1855 Inishglora Island was a part of Lord Bingham’s Estate or ‘Stripe Brendan.’  At the visit of Dr. Brown during the 1900’s it was disused.  St. Brendan’s church is now roofless building that was an example of a Gallarus with the west gable still intact.  Within the North Eat corner of the Church was a wooden statue of St. Brendan at four by three in height., it disintegrated over the years to a shapeless lump according to Dr. Charles Brown in 1895 at Trinity College, Dublin.  O ‘Donovan compared the statue to one of St. Molaise at Inishmurray.  On the island are two fragments of other churches; Tempall na Bhfear which was built centuries later than & larger than St. Brendan’s church plus Teampall na mBan that according to tradition was a Nunnery. Traces of a dry – stone wall surrounded the churches.  A group of three Torthithe or Trátháin of the beehive cyclopean style were in situ, the largest called St. Brendan’s Cell.  O ‘Donovan believed those dwellings were pagan in origin perhaps of Fir Domhnainn.  Later used as penitential cells.  Steps lead down to St. Brendan’s Well.  On the island may be seen several early Cross slabs, pillars plus seven Stations, four of which are on Western side of Inishgora.   This island was associated the legend of the Children of Lir. O’ Flaherty mentioned Inishglora in his ‘Ogyio.’  It is mentioned as one of ‘the wonders of Ireland’ in ‘The Book of Ballymote.’  During 1146 Gerald of Wales referenced the island.  Interesting images on this site are the beautiful stained-glass windows, one by Evie Hone situated in the porch of Coill Miolcon church in Maam Valley in Connemara; it was dedicated by a member of the O ‘Malley family in remembrance & thanksgiving for St. Brendan’s cure of the last O ‘Malley heir on Inishglora.  (Extract from ‘Within the Mullet’ 1998 by Nolan Rita.) [i]

The little Island of Inishglora is half mile in length.  It is located less than one mile from Erris or five miles west of Belmullet in North Mayo.  The Island was mentioned as a place where bodies did not decompose in several old manuscripts or publications plus by Geraldus, Nennius also by The Norse Kongs Skuggio.  This was later disputed by Roderick O ‘Flaherty. (from ‘The Wonders of Ireland’ 1911 Joyce, Patrick Weston) [ii]

This island was one of the holiest of Mayo’s islands dedicated to St. Brendan the Navigator who founded a settlement there.  It has been unoccupied since the early twentieth century.  There are several Archaeological remains on Inishglora.  Among them are a roofless church that was an example of a Gallarus type of a primitive Christian architectural building.  A sixteenth century wooden statue was displayed in the North East corner of the church.  They are remains of two other churches; Teampall na bhfear & Teampall na mBan, the latter may have been a Nunnery.  Monks possibly used the three Beehive huts for penitential purposes with the largest hut known as St. Brendan’s Cell.  A Holy Well is also dedicated to him.  Several early Cross slabs or pillars may be viewed on the island.  There are seven Stations of the Cross, four of which are located on the Western area of the island.  The last Station has a Rock with two piles of stones known as ‘Cloch na h – Alhchuinge.’ [iii]

A Holy Well dedicated to St. Brendan is located on Inishglora Island.  There are early Christian remains of dwellings of which are three beehive huts also three churches.  This site has an image of St. Brendan’s Well. [iv]

Several Monastic ruins from Inishglora Island are visible from the sea.  The name itself translates as ‘Isle of Purity’ from the tradition that human remains did not decompose on the island!  There are fifth century triple beehive cells on the island plus two large circular foundations buried under thick turf.  The stonework of the largest St. Brendan Cell was twenty feet in diameter also six feet in height on its westside.  During 1895 it was reported as being twelve feet with a three – feet hole in its apex.  Monks resided at the huts from the early 1600’s.  The St. Brenan Chapel or St. Brendan Oratory was similar in style to the Gallarus Oratory.  This site has a sketch of the Statue to St. Brendan that stood for centuries at the west gable from 1841, described as a shapeless lump due to erosion during 1895 it had disappeared by 1932.  A few pieces of the corbelled roof now survive.  Several fallen roof stones were assembled into stone beds on the floor of the Oratory plus in the burial ground.  Adjacent to the oratory are the ruins of a men’s chapel.  The women’s church near the shore has been destroyed.  Several images or sketches of ruins plus map of island are featured on this site. (Marc Calhoun) [v]

Uninhabited since the early twentieth century Inishglora Island has several ecclesiastical ruins. [vi]

Footnotes

Inishglora or River Meadow, Irish Grid Coordinates are F6118231222 / F612312; is featured on this site: https://www.logainm.ie/en/35276

The legend of the Children of Lir from the Tuatha De Danann tribe’s meeting with St. Brendan on Inishglora Island plus his blessing of them at pre – burial with Fionnuala in the middle, Aodh in front of her, Fiachra and Conn on either side is penned by Fiona Hurley at this link. (6th September 2016) [vii]

A children’s book retells the legend in this publication ‘Inishglora Islaned, Erris: Breaking the curse of the Children of Lir’ 2019 by Mahar Laura Ruth.  (28th August,2002) [viii]

From the Cylinder Project a song ‘The Islands of Inis na Glóire’ was recorded by Brid Bairéad, (Bean Ui Ghacháin), Binghamstown, Co. Mayo on 4th October 1954 as part of Micheál Mac Énrí Irish Folk Commission.  One may hear recordings at this link: http://www.bealbeo.ie/ediphone/640_inish_glora.html

‘The Mayo News’ of 25th May 2021 has an article titled ‘the Lure of Inishglora’ in Fr. Kevin Reading column ‘Second Reading’ on page 27.

Bibliography

[i] Inishglora (http://irishislands.info/glora.html) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[ii] The Island that preserves (https://www.libraryireland.com/Wonders/Human-Bodies.php) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[iii] Inishglora (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/about-mayo/islands/inishglora.html) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[iv] Inishglora Island (http://www.earlychristianireland.net/Counties/mayo/inishglora_island/) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[v] Marc Calhoun / Inishglora (https://marccalhoun.blogspot.com/2019/11/islay-to-cork-day-12-inishglora.html) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[vi] Inishglora Route (https://www.routeyou.com/en-ie/location/view/49409866/inishglora) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[vii] Swan Song (https://taleswildatlantic.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/erris-head/#comments) [assessed 18th January 2021]

[viii] Inishglora Island, Erris ( https://talesandsceals.wordpress.com/2020/08/28/inishglora-island-erris-breaking-the-curse-of-the-children-of-lir/) [assessed 18th January 2021]

 

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