Though perhaps not the most visually stunning site I have visited the Aghade Holed Stone (also know as Cloghaphoill) certainly is one of the most unusual when it comes to the history and folklore that surrounds it. The stone is rectangular, standing 2.4m high, 1.6m wide and 45cm deep, it lies at a slant propped up by a small wall. The slab’s unusual feature is 32cm diameter hole that goes right through the upper centre of the stone. It is believed that initially the slab would have stood upright and served as the porthole stone of a megalithic tomb, the hole possibly serving as a way of making offerings to the dead.
The stone features in the story of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a 5th century Irish King. The 14th century Book of Ballymote tells us of Niall tying Eochaid – son of Éanne Cennsalach the king of Leinster – to the stone by passing a chain through the stone. However Eochaid broke free and killed all of the nine hostages Niall had sent to kill him, years later Eochaid is said to have finally slain Niall with an arrow.
In the 17th and 18th century the stone was used in the curing of ill-health. Sickly children would be passed through the hole in hope of a cure. In 1813 John Ryan in ‘The History of the Antiquities of the County of Carlow’ tells us “Great numbers formerly indulged in this superstitious folly, but for the past twenty years the practice has been discontinued. My informant on this occasion was a woman who had herself passed one of her infants through the aperture of this singular stone. She informed me that some of the country people talked of having it cut up for gate posts, but superstitious feeling prevented them.” Thankfully sometimes superstition really is a great bedfellow to antiquity.
GPS: 52.77043, -6.74642