Protecting Tully ancient site


Sir, – Your beautiful aerial view of the Tully graveyard and stone crosses (Home News, August 3rd) offers silent testimony to an important principle. The landscape around a monument is critical for its interpretation.

Apartment blocks are a poor substitute for parkland. What a shame that this historic landscape now appears to be increasingly compromised by bureaucratic buck-passing. Disowning the monuments is scarcely an appropriate public response. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I read with some dismay the article by Tim O’Brien about Tully Church and its associated monuments (“Concern as OPW rejects responsibility for ancient church in Dublin – National Monuments Service also ‘refused to take question’ on Tully church, Minister says”, Home News, August 3rd).

Tully is part of a complex of monuments unique to the Rathdown district. These Rathdown “Leacs”, as they are known, are unique very early Christian/Norse stone slab carvings that appear to bear vestiges of the type of art that we normally associate with the Neolithic. According to a 1957 Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, the existence of these slabs was first recorded by the antiquary Austin Cooper in 1781 when he noted in Stillorgan burial ground “headstones with rude circles thereon’.

There are at least 24 of these unique slabs associated with early Christian graveyards in nine locations in Rathdown. At least six bear crosses as part of the design. The unique marks include cup marks, concentric circles, centre bands, herring bone pattern, radiating lines, vestigial cross-arms, semi-spherical bosses, semi-circular loops.

Tully church is recorded as having two of these unique slabs. To my knowledge, one of these granite slabs was removed by the OPW or the National Museum some years ago for safekeeping. That stone (as described in the journal) has two sets of four concentric circles and one set of three. The spaces on each side of the band are filled with faint herringbone pattern and at the narrow end are two curved radiating lines. Two small projections from the sides form vestigial cross arms. Since the OPW or the National Museum removed the stone then that would appear to acknowledge their responsibility for the Tully church monument complex. This site and the associated sites in Rathdown need active protection as a unique national treasure.

A fine example of a Rathdown leac can be seen in Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. According to the 1957 Journal, a cross-inscribed stone at LLanspyddyd in Wales bears similar composition to the Dalkey slab. There is also a connection with two Scottish examples near Lindsfarne in Northumberland, the centre of Irish missionary activities in the 7th century. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.