Claddagh ring Blog - Irish stone walls


While holidaying, particularly around the West of Ireland you may notice 'Stone Walls' . There is no mortar holding the stones together. They are constructed by selecting stones that will balance and 'sit' into the wall as they are built.
Why Stone Walls? you may wonder. Well in these areas of Ireland the land is very stony and in order to be farmed the stones needed to be cleared. So a clever way to clear the land was build walls.
Around the Burren, Galway and Clare you will see low walls of rounded stones, these walls have big gaps between the stones. Made of Carboniferous limestone they are naturally rounded in shape.
These walls are built without tools or mortar - the stone is not cut but sometimes broken. whatever stones are available are made to fit as well as can be. The walls are often unstable and need repairing by replacing fallen stones. The instability of the walls makes them good barriers, as animals reared in the field are wary of crossing them having learned that they collapse easily.
Where money was more available, a more skilled 'dry wall' would be built. These walls were the work of a skilled stone mason. The technique often passed down in families. Another wall built by a stone mason would include 'mortar' , often built of local quarried stone. This sort of wall originally came to Ireland with the Normans. Limestone with granite, more angular in shape.
The 'Famine Walls' were built with men employed on Work Schemes. This work helped to provide income to the poor, starving communities at the time of the potato famine. It was often a thankless job. The hungry men building walls such as in the Burren, County Clare where long stone walls run from the bottom to the top of a stony mountain. Indeed, it would have been a weary exhausting job. As the potatoe was the stable diet of local poorer communities.
If the opportunity arises, come and see the 'Ceide Fields' in Mayo. It is of particular interest as an ongoing, archaeological dig, is gradually unfolding a remarkable story of Stone Age life. "It is the largest known Stone Age settlement in the world".

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