What’s in a Name. 9:

The Gallaun.


The Gallaun, or Dallaun as it is sometimes written, is a single upright stone of Megalithic origin, and very often of limestone. In Journal No.1 Maire Ui Leime wrote an article on the gallaun in Scrathanmore townland, and my article should be read in conjunction with hers. She suggested that there were a variety of reasons for Bronze Age people to erect these monuments and these included:

-to mark where some great person was buried

-to mark a route or boundary to which I would add

-to mark the site of a battle or other important event.


It has also been noted that gallauns often serve as scratching posts for cattle but this is not likely to have been their original purpose.

The Archaeological Inventory of Cork-Volume 3 Mid-Cork, provides us with a list of the single standing stones in our area. In List 1 (below) we include this list of gallauns. It must be remembered that the townlands in our Parish around Coolmountain, but in Carbery Barony, are excluded from this list and appear in The Archaeological Inventory of Cork Volume 2.

You will see that we have 13 standing stones listed in the remaining area, and a further 5 are shown as "Possible". These latter were shown on earlier Ordnance Survey Maps, the 1842 or the 1904 editions, but cannot be found today and clearly the stones have been removed since those dates. Even this total of 18 stones is probably well below the original number, and many have undoubtably been removed by road builders and land improvers over the ages.


There is always resistance to moving an ancient monument from it’s site, and for very good reason. But this resistance is often overcome where the stone is an obstruction to development, whereas a ringfort, stone circle or other larger megalith would remain untouched out of respect for our forefathers, or even because of superstition.


Those single standing stones which remain are scattered without any pattern across our landscape. Most are in fields or in moor or bogland. One, in Dooneens, stands in the centre of a ringfort, where no doubt it served a special purpose , but what, we do not know.


We think of a standing stone as being rectangular in cross section, but in practice this is far from the case, and the most irregular cross sections seem to be used without any attempt to dress the stone to a more regular outline. They are also often far out of the perpendicular which we expect, but in many cases this is due to settlement in the ground, and they may have been perfectly upright when originally placed.


Most, 12 out of the 18, are similar in size, when this can be measured exactly. These give us average dimensions of 1.50 Height x 0.90 Width x 0.54 Depth. These sizes are in metres, but if you can think more easily in the old units, these would be

4’-11" x 2’-1" x 1’-9".


The range of sizes is (metres)

-Height 1.10 to 2.40 (av.1.50)

-Width 0.70 to 1.35 (av.0.90)

-Depth 0.25 to 0.80 (av.0.54)

Rectangular stones like this can be said to have an alignment if we take the long axis in the plan view. We find that this alignment of the long axis is also very uniform, with 8 of the 12 which have an alignment turning out to be NE-SW.


Pairs of stones, stone alignments and stone circles have a much more certain alignment, and although we can only theorise as to it’s purpose, there is no doubt about it’s existence. This will be shown later to be normally East North East-West South West.


You will have noticed that we have calculated the average sizes etc. of our large number of small standing stones. If we took any other area in North West Cork we would probably get similar results. The local practice in placing standing stones seems to be fairly uniform. One would expect the stones which could be conveniently carried and stood upright would place a limit on size.


But of course we do have two further standing stones which are much above these average sizes, which are quite unique, and which have been excluded from our averages.


These are the two monstrous stones in Gorteenakilla. One, in the Bawnatempeall part of Gurteenakilla is broken, but repaired and still standing is 6.65 m high, and is said to be the second highest in Ireland. The other, no longer standing but still available to be examined, is 4.3 m high.


The largest in Ireland is said to be the one in Punchestown, Co.Kildare which is 7.0m high, or only fractionally bigger than ours.



Were these very large standing stones used for a different purpose? Perhaps we will never know, but it is certainly very intriguing. And we are very grateful to the land owners who have preserved them and looked after them for all those years.


List 1. List of Gallauns in our Parish.




List 2. List of Possible Gallauns in our Parish.