About three miles west of Milltown village is a prominent hill-fort. Rising steadily on all sides it levels off at around ninety-two metres (302 feet). Slightly oval in shape, it covers an area of roughly three and a half acres. A lone tree on the crest can be seen from afar, thus making it a well-known landmark.
Two main features
The hill-fort itself can be divided into two main features: one an extensive earthwork enclosure of pre-historic origin now marked by a stonewall boundary, the other a relatively modern private graveyard for a local family, the Blakes.
The latter has traces of at least a dozen graves including two with memorial slabs. One bears an inscription that reads “George Blake Aged 38 Died Sept. 29th 1840. He was an honest man.” The other says “Lord have mercy on the soul of James Cuffe Blake Who departed this life on May 20th 1835. Also Michael Bermingham of Dalgin who departed this life on June 10th, 1835. Erected by his wife Sarah Bermingham.”
The Blake Family
Sarah (Sal) Bermingham was one of the Blake family of nearby Belmont House. She died in 1870, aged 96 and is also buried there.
According to archaeologist Barry Raftery “no trace of any ruined structure is visible on the hilltop and there appears to be no local tradition of the former existence of any early ecclesiastical presence on the site. It is clear, therefore, that the little graveyard was no more than a private burying place for the Blake family.” He also claims “the hilltop enclosure is without monastic significance.”
The Archaeological Inventory of County Galway
The Archaeological Inventory of County Galway (Volume 2-North Galway) describes it as a “large sub-circular enclosure (N-S 170m, E-W 150m), in fair condition, defined by a bank and external fosse (trench). Traces of an outer bank are visible beneath the modern stonewall which encloses the hill summit.” Acknowledging the contribution of Barry Raftery it says he also noted traces of an outer fosse.
There are entrances to the South (5.5 metres wide) and to the West (3 metres), both with corresponding bridges or causeways across the fosse. In the Shell Guide to Ireland (1962) Lord Killanin and M.V. Duignan describe it as a “ringfort-type cemetery.”
This article first appeared in JOTS 4 (Journal of Old Tuam Society) in 2007.