|BALLYGUNNERTEMPLE MEGALITHIC TOMB
|This monument, marked as 'Druid's Altar' on the original 1st edition (1838) of the
Ordnance Survey 6" maps, as ‘Cromlech' on the subsequent 2nd, 25" edition of 1882
and as 'Dolman' on the 1914 3rd, 6" edition, is situated in woodland on a slight north
facing slope. The site is located in an area of roguh woodland in front of a farmhouse
known as 'Mount Druid' in the town-land of Ballygunnertemple (*Baile Gunnair an
Teampaill), 1km SSE of the tidal estuary, south of the R683 Dunmore Road (*Bóthar
Dhún Mór) and 4km SE of Waterford City (*Cathair Phort Láirge). The Very Rev.
Canon Power translated Ballygunnertemple as 'Baile Mhic Gonair an Teampaill'
meaning 'the town/homestead of Gonar’s Son's temple' and states that it 'is one of our
few land names which commemorate Danish occupation' (Power). Canon Power was
referring to the establishment of Waterford by the Vikings in 914 AD (Veðrafjǫrðr in
Old Norse) not by Danes but by Norwegians. A common enough perception by
antiquaries & historians of the time. The tomb consists of two parallel stones, oriented
E-W, and a displaced roof-stone that leans on the east stone, that form a rough
chamber/cist, 1.8m by 1.7m. Two adjacent stones, 3m to the SW, form what maybe a
second chamber/cist, 1.5m by 0.7m. A sub-circular clay mound, 10.5m N-S, 8.7m E-W
and 0.4-0.7m in height is 4m SE of the main structure. On the 17th December, 1895,
Dr. Ringrose Atkins gave a lecture to the Waterford & South East of Ireland
Archaeological Society titled 'Rude Stone Monuments of our Own and Other Lands'. In
his lecture, Atkins comments on a 'kistvaen', as he calls it, in Ballygunnertemple. He
states that it was 'in a ruined condition, at Mount Druid, close to Mr. Delahunty's mill,
on the road from Waterford to Passage. It is situated in the centre of a group of trees,
and has an encircling ring of stones, many of which can still be traced in the weeds and
undergrowth which conceal them. Nothing remains of the central cist but a few of the
large slabs of which it was constructed, and which you can see here amongst the trees'
(Atkins, p.134). Not long after Atkin's lecture, during a field trip by the Royal Society of
Antiquaries of Ireland in the summer of 1912, it was noted that 'midway between
Passage and Waterford, by the roadside, a second giant's grave or cromlech of the
cistvaen type. This is, unfortunately, in a very ruinous condition' (PRSAI, p.278-79).
Atkins definition of a kistvaen was that it 'consists of two side rows of stones, across
which are placed a number of heavy slabs. There is also a heavy stone at either end to
complete the chamber. The floor of the chamber is below the level of the ground'
(Atkins, p.132). Using this definition, Atkins classes the passage tombs of
Matthewstown (WA026-003) and Harristown (WA027-007), which he calls
‘Kilmacomb’, as kistvaen. He states that 'like its fellow on Carrick-a-Dhirra hill’
(Harristown), Ballygunnartemple also ‘has an encircling ring of stones' (Atkins, p.
134). Adding to this the remaining stone chambers/cists and the sub-circular mound
present on the site, the monument at Ballygunnartemple may also be a passage tomb or
a multiple-cist cairn. Unfortunately, without a proper, licensed excavation this
conclusion is somewhat hopeful at best and perhaps, speculative at worst.
Atkins, Ringrose , 'Rude Stone Monuments of our Own and Other Lands' WAJ. Vol. 2,
Power, Rev. P., 'Place Names of the Decies' (1907)
Proceedings. J.R.S.A.I., Sixth Series, 2, no. 3 (1912)
* Placenames Database of Ireland 2017