Destruction at Carrowmore
The dolmens and circles at Carrowmore have been subjected to a great deal of destruction and interference over the last 300 years. The monuments, locally considered to be the Cailleach's Beds or the Graves of Fallen Warriors, appear to have been respected by locals and remained largely intact until the 1830's. From the time of the Act of Union in 1801 quarrying and land clearance had become both more common and intensive as Sligo town and the surrounding estates expanded.
The fertile hill of Carrowmore, covered in a deep mantle of gravel from the ice age deposits was exploited as a quarry, and the huge gravel pits are still vsible today where circles are said to have formerly stood. Monument 5 at Carrowmore, located between the Phantom Stones and the Kissing Stone, is marked as a semi-circle on Gabrial Beranger's 1779 map. By the time the Ordnance Survey mapped the monuments in the late 1830's, the semi-circle and been pulled into a field wall (below).
Colonial Landlords, who had inherited Irish estates and property after the wars territorial conquest over the previous few centuries, rented the land back to tenants, usually through the employment of agents or middlemen. There was a massive drive to improve the quality of the land and exploit natural resources, particularly after 1830, when many leases expired with the death of King George IV, and Landlords began have their lands cleared and fenced and 'Squared'. Another English monarch, William IV, died in 1837 and a fresh wave of destruction and wall-building was unleashed on Carrowmore.
George Petrie was on hand in 1837 when several of the circles in the east side of Carrowmore had just been destroyed, and his notes are all the evidence we have of several circles. His Carrowmore records are full of entries such as: "This circle, with its fine cromleac, was destroyed within the last week (i.e. August, 1837) by Mr. Chambers of Cloon Hill."
As Petrie was making records of the Carrowmore circles during the Ordnance Survey of 1837, he frequently lamented the rate of destruction which was taking place. He recorded the smashing of the circle at Site 54 so the stones could be used to build a field wall.
Rathcarrick, Sligo - August 11, 1837.
My dear Larcom,
I merely write you a line to say that after yesterdays investigation of the Sepulchral Circles at Carrowmore, I am far from done, though I have brought up my notes to 40 circles! I now verily believe there could not originally have been less than 200! But the destruction going on daily is horrible and if I do not work now, it would be too late to preserve a memorial of them in a short time. The peasentry generally have no reluctance to destroy them—on the contrary, are glad to get permission to clear the land of them. I am just now going there again.
The large cairn which had been added to Listoghil, the central monument at Carrowmore seems to have survived largely intact until around 1840, when enough stones had been removed to expose the huge limestone slab covering the central chamber. Walker cleared out the chamber, throwing the human remains out around the monument. Before the site was excavated by the Swedish team, it was not obvious that the robbed cairn covered a large stone circle on a huge platform.
A second large cairn was said to have been destroyed at Lachtreal hill about 250 meters and slightly more elevated than Listighil. It is interesting to note that the position of Listoghil is only 150 meters west of being exactly equidistant between the smaller west cairn on Carns Hill and the gigantic Queen Maeve's cairn on the mountain to the west.