The last of the sites on our recent visit to Aghaboe was the Motte and Bailey Situated in between the Standing Stone and Abbey. Aghaboe or Achadh Bhó to give it its proper Gaelic name, means Ox’s Field and derived that name from the fertility of its soil and the quality of its pastures. This tree covered Motte and Bailey was former site of a Norman fortification which can be seen in the field just north of the Abbey. It was granted to Adam De Hereford by Strongbow in 1172AD. A Motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification usually made from wood or stone. The keep/main castle structure would be situated on a raised earthwork called a Motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, this would then be surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. This particular Motte is almost square with a base diameter of approx 42 meters and 36 meters at the top. It is virtually impossible to see any signs of a fortification here as the Motte has been reclaimed by nature. But it has been reported that a grass covered wall once stood at the top of the Motte, surrounded by a shallow fosse. It was quite a normal occurrence for a wooden structure to be constructed first, during the early Norman period. Then if the site survived the hostilities of the day, it would later be upgraded to a stone structure and expanded.
Whilst looking through various sources for any further history on this particular site, I came across two other names that it was also known as. Those being the ‘Ráth of Laragh’ and the ‘Moat of Monacoghlan’. Now Moat is a similar word to Motte with similar meaning. But ‘Ráth‘ was a term used to describe a circular earthen wall forming an enclosure and serving as a fort and residence for a tribal chief. To this day there are many place names all over the country which carry this term, Rathangan in Kildare and Rathcoole in County Dublin both spring to mind, the former still to this day has a massive mound in the town, whilst the later is believed to have been the early childhood home of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, legendary leader of the Fianna. And so the ‘Ráth of Laragh’ got me thinking. Perhaps prior to the Norman arrival in Aghaboe was this great mound the site of an ancient Gaelic chieftains home? It’s hard to find any mention of such a place except for the clue in the name. This is a common issue with researching ancient Ireland as our ancestors had an oral tradition, where stories were never written down, but passed on by word of mouth. The first written records from Ireland did not start until the arrival of Christianity to the Island. When monks would write down some of the ancient stories and presumably added their own twist to them.