Slieve Luachra – an excerpt

An excerpt from Brother D. H. Allen’s book, “A History of Newmarket”

Situated on what was once the main thoroughfare into Kerry, Newmarket lies in a deep glen, surrounded by the rounded summits of the Slieve Luachra foothills, here rising to heights of seven and nine hundred feet.  To the west this glen converges on that of the Dalua where tree-clad slopes shelter wildlife of every description.

The Island Wood, in particular, is a haven of beauty, peace and rest, where local and stranger stroll along tree-bordered paths or pause to gaze on the valley, far below, where the meandering Dalua and the narrow Awekeale entwine to continue on their way through leafy glades till they reach Kanturk where they mingle with the waters of the Allow, from which Duhallow derives its name.

To the east of the town Priory wood owes its name to the patriot, John Philpot Curran, a native of this town, whose country residence, “The Priory”, graced the slope of pleasant Priory Glen, once known as Glenanaar.

As one proceeds west from the Dalua the trees grow scanty, giving vegetation save for the lowly heather and ever swaying canavaun or bogcotton.  These mountains know to-day as Mullaughareirk, were Slieve Luachra of old, where Fionn and the Fianna chased the stag and the wild boar through once wooded glens and mountain slopes.

Today these peat-covered, heath-clad uplands, where the silence is broken by the sough of the wind and the occasional plaintive cry of the curlew, are the haunt of the plump but furtive grouse.  In the narrow glens between, the woodcock seek the shelter of the grove and brake as winter tightens its grip on the higher hills; in season, too, an odd pheasant crosses one’s path.  So, to-day as in the past, the eager hunter hopefully looks forward to a full bag as the day draws to its close.

The Dalua with its tributaries – the Glenlara, the Awekeale and the Owenarre, abound in trout and salmon; in November the lordly salmon may be seen floundering through the shallows on its way to its natal pool in the higher reaches of the river; how pleasant to watch the trout – motionless, save for the ceaseless movement of its tail or now again breaking the smooth surface to catch an unsuspecting fly.

The story of its people reaches back wellnigh three thousand years to a time when the uses of iron were not yet discovered.  Remains from these days of antiquity are numerous in the area – ringforts, fulachta fiadh and galluans; a stone alignment and a cairn.

Taurmore or Bocaura, once the burial place of the sons of Dedad – the pre-Gaelic inhabitants of Munster rears its cairn-crowned back on the western bounds of the parish.  Nearer the town the sacred rock, where Mylon or Meelan was worshipped, may be seen overlooking the timeless Dalua.