This article is taken from Tomás Maher’s talk Tallaght Through the Ages which was Tallaght Historical Society’s January Lecture. It was also published in The Echo on February 23rd.
When Eugene O’Curry, working on behalf of the Ordnance Survey, visited Tallaght in 1837 he reported on the Friar’s Walk. It was at that time within the garden of the former Archbishop’s Palace. He wrote to Larcom, the head of the mapping project; “There is a fine raised walk running within the garden from North to South, which is called the Friar’s Walk, and a handsome round moate-like eminence at the north end of it is called the Bishop’s Seat”.
The Friar’s Walk he refers to is still to be seen in the garden of St Mary’s Dominican Priory. The fact it was commonly known as the Friar’s Walk some 20 years before the arrival of the Dominican order in Tallaght indicates it is a medieval artifact associated with the old monastery founded by St. Maelruain in 769AD. The “handsome round moate-like eminence” at the north end of the walk is now much degraded and is surmounted by a Calvary scene comprising a cross and some statues (the old plaster figures were replaced recently by a more modern work ). The term Bishop’s Seat suggests it may once have been a significant motte fortification built by the Normans in the late 12th or early 13th century to house their appointed bishop.
Today the Friar’s Walk is a raised flat piece of land approximately 150 metres long and lined on either side by mature trees. These include oak, beech, and chestnut. Halfway along the avenue it is bisected by an East-West pathway. Beside this path are two unusual stones situated under some ancient yew trees. One of these stones is a large bullaun stone, perhaps used by the monks of old to grind herbs for medicinal use. The other, larger stone was dug out of the Archbishop’s Bathhouse in the early 19th century. It has long been regarded as the base of the ancient cross of Tallaght which stood in the village until the late middle ages. This would seem to be the case, considering there is a slight depression carved into one side for holding holy water. However, its earlier function was something quite different.
About 2 years ago Conleth Manning, an archaeologist with the OPW visited the site and examined the stone. He felt the upper surface of it and remarked on how smooth and polished it was. This, he said was an indication of its use as a millstone. He considered it was the base stone of a medieval horizontal mill. The peculiar spiral shape of the hole in the centre of the stone has long been a source of mystery. The shape of this hole, Conleth said, was caused by the rotation of the shaft connecting the horizontal waterwheel with the upper grinding stone of the mill.
The Friar’s Walk today is part of a beautiful wooded garden reserved by the Dominicans for quiet reflection and retreat.
Tallaght Historical Society meets once a month at the County Library, Tallaght and new members are always welcome. The next talk is Alice Furlong, Tallaght Poetess by Eamonn Maloney TD, on 8th March at 7:00 p.m..
Tomás Maher is teaching an evening course in local history for adults at Tallaght Community School, beginning on 6th March 2012. For details please contact Owen Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.