Introduced from France
Wedge tombs are the most widespread of the megalithic tomb types in Ireland. In one of Mayo’s most picturesque locations on the western side of Doo Lough lies Srahwee, one of the best preserved examples of a wedge tomb in the country. Wedge tombs were introduced in the south-west of the country probably by newcomers from France around 2000 BC at the close of the Neolithic period, and continued to be built in the Bronze Age.
Known locally as “Altoir”
Wedge tombs are so called because of their wedge shaped plan, wider at the entrance and gradually tapering towards the rear. This tomb has a well defined tapered structure with double walling of the segmented gallery which is partially covered by a large flat roof slab. In Penal times, the flat capstone served as an “Altar”, indeed it has a primative incised cross on the upper surface at the south-eastern end. The tomb is therefore known locally as “ Altóir”. Around two thousand BC, the Bible tells us that Abraham led a small tribe of Semites from Mesopotamia to Canaan, an act that would ultimately lead to the creation of Judaism and also Christianity. Twenty five hundred years later, the first Christian bishop, St. Patrick would arrive in Ireland and begin the conversion of the pagan Irish. He spent forty days and forty nights on nearby Croagh Patrick, a deed which is commemorated today in an annual pilgrimage on the last Sunday in July. A door stone closes the tomb entrance which faces west. There is some indication of the existence of a cairn.
Long forgotten inhabitants
Across the road from the tomb lies Lough Nahaltora which in the past was known as a holy well by local people. Four thousand years ago the land here was dry and firm and a great forest of Scots pine covered the valley. Today the forest is gone but the stumps of the ancient trees still protrude from the brown waters of the lake like headstones commemorating the long forgotten inhabitants of the area.
Comments about this page
This Tombstone is actually in the village of Althore, not Srahwee. The village of Althore still exists and there are four families living there. One of them being my family home, Armstrongs, where my Dad, brother & sister-in-law live.
Congrats Brige amazing pictures and article.
In the process of researching my family geneology, I’ve seen reference to “Althore” (near Louisburgh) as a last residence on ship manifests for several of my family members. Althore does not appear on any map I’ve found. Would this be the general area? Or is there another location called Althore? Is it possible that the Althore which existed in the late 1890s is now called something else? Any information would be most appreciated!
Hello Brige, lovely pictures, here is some more information about the monument and area.
The earliest records of the area name that I could find were from the Registry of Deeds Office Sales of Land Records and are as follows:
Spellings as held in Records 1708 – 1738 Name: Alter Sold by:Bingham to Curtis 1739-1810 Name: Altor Sold by: Curtis to Tighe & ofis Same Period: Altor Sold by Miller to McAlpin 1821-1825: Altore Sold by McAlpine to Broiughton 1826-1828: Earl of Lucan vors to Earl of Spencer Vars The Ordnance Survey Map of 1855 which was surveyed in 1838 has the Monument listed as Tobernahaltora – meaning (of water, spring, well – alter)
Also the stories of it being used to say mass from have also come down through my family. It is still refered to as Tobernahaltora in the revised 1915 Ordnance Survey Map of the area, with the area near being called Altoir in the townland of Srahwee. An 1880 Civil Reg. Cert has the area spelt Althore.
Hope this might be of interest, Sandra
Add a comment about this page