The Boheh Stone

The Boheh Stone, Mayo by Dr. Jane Lyons
https://www.from-ireland.net/photography-boheh-stone-mayo/

The Boheh Stone is located E S E of the summit of Croagh Patrick.  It is known locally as St. Patrick’s Chair.  It is one of Ireland’s National Monuments.  The rock art is regarded as the most comprehensive example of its type in Ireland, yet distinct from similar sites in Britain or on the Atlantic seaboard of the European Continent.  It is situated within an area occupied by buildings & dwellings.  It would appear to be a natural outcrop but was described by G. H. Kinahan in 1873 as a ‘pile of stones’ in a field.  He stated that ‘a large flat stone covers most of the surface of the pile; of the stones under it, some are lying flat with others on edge or end, but all form a solid mass which might easily be mistaken for a natural heap.  The markings occur on several of the stones & consist for the most part, of variously sized cup – shaped hollows, in places combined with circles, or part of circles.’  The Boheh Stone is situated on the west side of sloping ground with an unrestricted view westward.  The flat top of the Stone slants at a maximum of about 2.5 above the surrounding ground, then extends horizontally for about 4 cm.  The inscribed markings are on the top – side face of the Stone.  Gerry Bracken stated in his article during 1992 that ‘to stand near the Boheh Stone & to view Croagh Patrick to the West as the summit of an apparent pyramid is to be convinced of a relationship between the stone & the mountain.’   He noted during 1989 that ‘on appropriate dates at the Summer Solstice the sun set at an azimuth to north of the summit of the mountain, while the horizon point of sunset at the Winter Solstice would be far to the south, at the ridge of the Sheaffrey Hills.’  This Boheh Stone plus alignment indicate a connection with the dates of sowing plus harvest times.  Longitude 9 33 13 4 W, Latitude 53 44 50.93 N.  (‘A Neolithic or Bronze – Age Alignment for Croagh Patrick’ Cathair na Mart Historical Journal, No. 16, Bracken G. C. & Wayman P. A.  Pages 54 – 61, includes sketches & images). [i]

6.5 km SSW of Westport behind a house on the west side of a narrow by – road to the east of Boheh Lough & Westport – Leenane road lies a roughly circular outcrop of rock known as St. Patrick’s Chair with petroglyphs.  It is covered with several cup-marks, concentric rings plus maze – motifs over an area 3 metres across.  On two days annually 22nd April & 2nd October the sun rolls down Croagh Patrick to the West when observed close to the sacred site.  There are images by Ken Williams (7th April 2009) on this website. (Sheet 31) [ii]

This stone is one of the finest examples of Neolithic Art both within Ireland & Britain.  It is dated to the same era as the carvings on the monuments at Newgrange, Dowth & Knowth in Co. Meath.  The carvings are mainly cup – marks enclosed by two circles with a small number of keyhole motifs.   The stone is located along the Pagan route that stretches from Rathcroghan in Co. Roscommon to Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo.  Both the ancient path along with the Boheh Stone were later Christianised, these are now known as Tóchar Phádraig & St. Patrick’s Chair.  Historian Gerry Bracken finally uncovered the Rock’s mystery when he undertook a Case Study of the site.  He discovered that on the 18th April & 24th August when viewed from the Boheh Stone the sun sits on the top of Croagh Patrick.  Instead of passing behind: the sun appears to slide down the side of the side of the mountain, hence the term ‘Rolling Sun.’  It is believed that the dates of the phenomenon signify the beginning & end of the growing season. [iii]

The Boheh Stone is one of the finest examples of Neolithic Rock Art within Ireland.  It has been declared a National Monument.  The petroglyphs date from the late Stone – Age to the early Bronze – Age.  During 1989 a local Westport Historian Gerry Bracken discovered a connection between the Stone & the Mountain.  He noted that from the Boheh Stone site on the 18th April & 24th August the setting sun appeared to roll down the northern shoulder to disappear behind Croagh Patrick.  According to tradition 24th August is St. Bartholomew’s Day, the first day of Autumn & Harvest season whilst the 18th April was selected to mark the sowing season by Ireland’s ancient citizens. [iv]

The Boheh Stone lies 10 k south of Westport also 7 k from Croagh Patrick.  It has been declared a National Monument.  The slabs on the west side of sloping ground faces west with the Shreaffy Hills to the southwest & viewed to the west – north is the symmetrical profile of Croagh Patrick. The stone is covered in cup & ring markings.  A large flat stone covers most of the surface of the pile of stones while stones underneath lie flat with several on the edge or at the end. During 1989 the connection between the Stone, Mountain with the Setting Sun was noted.  Further observations during 1991 – 1992 refered to the setting sun as it appeared to follow the slope of Croagh Patrick on the North side.  The dates of the phenomenon 18th April signify the first day of planting crops whilst the 24th August date refers to the harvesting of same.  (Berni O ‘Malley) [v]

The Townland of Boheh in Co. Mayo contains a remarkable example of Prehistoric Rock Art.  This Boheh Stone dates from the Neolithic period 4,000 BC to 2,500 BC.  It is a large natural outcrop known as St. Patrick’s Chair.  Spread over 4 km on its surface are approximately two hundred & fifty individual markings.  These take the form of isolated cup & rings with archaeological motifs.  Several of the petroglyphs bear similarities with those in Newgrange, Knowth & Dowth in Co. Meath.  Weather permitting one may be treated to a prehistoric equivalent of an amazing light show.  If one stands at the Boheh Stone site between 22nd / 24th August or 18th April, then looks west the sun appears to sit right on Croagh Patrick’s peak.  It then appears to roll down the north side of the conical peak thus reveals the ‘Rolling Sun’ phenomenon.  This site has an actual image dated 24th August 2018. [vi]

The medieval pilgrimage road Tóchar Phádraig that runs from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick passes through the site of the Boheh Stone.  Hidden away behind high hedgerows lies a natural outcrop of rock flecked with quartz stains known as St. Patrick’s Chair.  Spread over its 4.2 square metres surface are over two hundred & fifty individual carved petroglyphs.  These are of isolated ‘cup’, ‘cup & rings’ also ‘keyhole motifs’ that form an impressive sight when viewed under correct climatic conditions.  The carvings are mostly located on the horizontal & southern facing sloping surfaces of the rock itself. There are no carvings on the western side that faces the mountain.  There is a small ‘cross’ carved on to the rock near its top on the eastern side.  The ideal way to view the phenomenon is looking West.  Over 2 m at one point the rock takes the form of a ‘flat – like’ feature at its highest point.  Possibly the flat horizontal surface of the rock ‘chair’ may have been an Altar.  One is treated to a prehistoric ‘Light Show’ if one stands at the Boheh Stone / St. Patrick’s Chair on the 18th April or 24th August when the sun appears to set right on the top of Croagh Patrick.  It then appears to ‘roll’ down the north side of the conical peak.  An interpretive sign at the location refers to Boheh as Bhoth Sheilhe’ (the Skinhide Hut.)  The earliest recordings on the 19th Century Ordnance Survey are ‘Both The’ while O ‘Donovan stated it as ‘Both Theith’ (cosy booth / hut / tent).   This site has several images plus a Google street view, it includes a video by Dr. Oliver Whyte from 18th April 2013. There are links to view Ken Williams Gallery, Meglithomania Gallery also the Modern Antiquarian Gallery. (vox hiberionacum 18th April 2013) [vii]

There is an ancient pilgrimage path from Ballintubber Abbey to the summit of Croagh Patrick.  Westport researcher Gerry Bracken catalogued monuments within the Westport area when he discovered an unusual site. This site lies east of Croagh Patrick, it is known as St. Patrick’s Chair or the Boheh Stone. The monument is covered with cup & ring marks. He also made the discovery that the angle of the mountains side matches the declination (setting angle) of the sun at this time / place to produce the phenomenon the Rolling Sun. [viii]

The Boheh Stone is located behind an abandoned house approximately 300 m off the N59, 8 km from Westport.  The monument is a large rock about 2 m in height with over two hundred & fifty individual petroglyphs carved onto its surface. These are mainly cup markings enclosed by one or two circles with a small number of keyhole motifs believed to have been created between 3,080 BC to 2,000 BC.  The phenomenon called the ‘Rolling Sun of Boheh’ is a reference to the beginning & end of the growing seasons annually. [ix]

A National Monument the Boheh Stone or St. Patrick’s Chair lies 6.4 km SSW of Westport in Co. Mayo.  The piece of Rock Art is believed to have been carved as early as 3,800.  This Boheh Stone is one of the finest examples of rock art in Ireland.  There are several cup & ring marks with keyhole motifs on its surface. There are about two hundred & fifty petroglyphs in total. It is flecked with quartz.  The ‘Rolling Sun’ phenomenon was discovered by Historian Gerry Bracken during the period 1989 -1992.  During 2014 a new panel was also discovered by Historian Michael Gibbons. [x]

A ‘Hugely Important’ prehistoric rock art discovery near Croagh Patrick has been unearthed.  The Boheh Stone known as St. Patrick’s Chair lies on the Tóbar Phádraig pilgrimage route.  The monument was discovered by two Archaeologists Michael Gibbons & Michael Moylan whilst recording an educational & cultural radio programme during their field work.  The panel has spiral engravings believed to be more than 6,000 years old.  It is related stylistically to the passage tombs in the Boyne Valley plus rock art above Tourmakeady in Co. Mayo.  (Anton O ‘Malley) [xi]

Footnotes

This site has several stunning images posted to Irish History, Photography on 23rd August 2015 by Dr. Jane Lyons: https://www.from-ireland.net/photography-boheh-stone-mayo/

A YouTube by Matthew Kelly may be viewed at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNWx3vbRp94

One may view several articles plus images on this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boheh-Stone/1220015558072411

This site has a map of the area: https://mapcarta.com/N3022559628

Bibliography

[i]  Cathair na Mart Historical Journal, No. 16. 1992

[ii] Boheh (http://irishmegaliths.org.uk/) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[iii] The Boheh Stone (http://www.croagh-patrick.com/content/boheh-stone ) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[iv] Clew Bay Archaeological Trail (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[v] Monuments (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[vi] Boheh Stone (http://www.clogherheritage.com/cpht_dev/events1.html) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[vii] Pre – Christian Rock (https://voxhib.com/2013/04/18/pre-christian-rock-and-roll/) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[viii] The Rolling Sun of Boheh (http://www.carrowkeel.com/sites/croaghpatrick/reek2.html ) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[ix] The Boheh Stone (http://directionireland.com/index.php?) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[x] Boheh Stone( https://en.wikipedia.org/) [assessed 12th July 2020]

[xi] Mayo News 3rd March 2010

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