St Maelruains Tower

St Maelruains Tower (1)

You might recall my previous visit to St. Maelruains in Tallaght back in 2013. It’s a fantastic site, full of history which dates back to the eight century and a religious settlement built on the outskirts of what would become the Pale during the Norman occupation of Ireland. But before that in pre-history Tallaght as it is now known was the site of destruction of a colony of 9’000 Parthalonians from what is described as a plague or pestilence by the Annals of the Four Masters.  As part of the recent Tallafest, the Tower at Maelruains was opened up to the public, so it was a perfect chance for a return visit to explore the belfry tower which dates from the 15th or 16th century. When Maelruain first arrived here in the 8th century an abbey was built and the monastic settlement grew up around it. The monastery became an important centre of spiritual life to the Ceilí Dé. In Norman times the tower with its remaining defensive features would have served as a look out to warn against raids by the native Gaelic clans.

St Maelruains Tower (2) St Maelruains Tower (5) St Maelruains Tower (4) St Maelruains Tower (3)

On the side of the Tower where the window resides on the ground level, you can see signs of the medieval church that once stood here prior to 1829AD. From its remains a new church was built using a design by the famous John Semple. However the Belfry tower remained and is still in use today. Getting the chance to climb the tower was a real treat for me, as these places are normally restricted, and I was not the only one to take advantage of the chance to see the inside. Both young and old took turns throughout the day. The entrance to the tower is via the old stone staircase which you can see in some of the images, so upon entering the tower, you are actually entering it on the first floor. What lies beneath, I’m not certain, but if memory serve me correctly, the ground floor houses the heating system for the new church. On the first floor, I was shocked to find a fully functioning drum kit??? One of the kids whom was exploring the tower at the same time, made full use of this and bet the hell out of it.

St Maelruains Tower (6) St Maelruains Tower (9) St Maelruains Tower (8) St Maelruains Tower (7)

Sadly it was on the second floor were tragedy struck. I was attempting to get some difficult shots of the stone ceiling when the worst thing imaginable happened! When I pressed the shutter release button, nothing happened! Damn batteries I thought as I checked the power meter. Well I had filled two memory cards at this stage, but no that was not the case. The shutter mechanism had failed. Well I probably should not have, considering where I was, but a few expletives did escape as a result. Of all the times for a mechanical failure to occur, I thought to myself. But not even that was going to dampen my adventure, there was still another floor to go and then to the top battlements and the great big bell that is still used to this day.

St Maelruains Tower (10) St Maelruains Tower (13) St Maelruains Tower (12) St Maelruains Tower (11)

So for the rest of the tower, I had to use my HTC camera phone. It’s not the greatest camera on the market these days and it doesn’t offer the same amount of control as the Nikon but in these situations, you just gotta make do and improvise. It took a few minutes to move on as drama broke out when one of the kids whom had gone on ahead took a panic attack on the way back down and would not move for anyone. After numerous attempts at reasoning and bribery, she was eventually calmed down and helped back down the spiral stone staircase. I have to say for a tower that is over 500 years old, it’s in great condition, no signs of damp or leaks and the wear and tear on the stone work is minimal at best.

St Maelruains Tower (14) St Maelruains Tower (17) St Maelruains Tower (16) St Maelruains Tower (15)

Moving on from the third floor out onto the battlements was a huge surprise. There is a raised partition on the roof, which is another few feet higher than the rest of the roof, where a great big bell resides, so up I went to the very top, where there were stunning views of the church and graveyard below as well as the surround town of Tallaght. What a feeling it was to be standing up there. The Gaelic clans must not have stood a chance trying to sneak up and attack this part of the Pale. Looking down into the old cemetery reminded me of the night I spent amongst the graves for a dare in my teens. I don’t end up in many photographs as I am usually on the other end of the lense and selfies are few and far between, but the buzz of finally getting up here, demanded that I take one or two. Coming back down to the main roof and the bell got a bit crowded, so I tucked myself in close to the outer wall and enjoyed the view until the remaining people had begun their descent.

St Maelruains Tower (18) St Maelruains Tower (21) St Maelruains Tower (20) St Maelruains Tower (19)

One of the nice guides even let me ring the bell. Not a good idea, in such a close proximity. Those big old bells sure do pack a punch. And so I wobbled my way back down the spiral staircase, still recovering from the aftermath of ringing the bell. By the time I got back down onto solid ground, I had fully recovered from my silly altercation with the bell and almost forgotten about my broken Nikon. That aside it was the perfect end to what had been a perfect day. Tallafest really rocked this year and had afforded me to see some hidden parts of Tallaght that not many get to see normally. I wonder what they shall have in store for next year???

St Maelruains Tower (22) St Maelruains Tower (27) St Maelruains Tower (26) St Maelruains Tower (25) St Maelruains Tower (24) St Maelruains Tower (23)

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to St Maelruains Tower

  1. There really is something special about b&w photography. So much more atmospheric.

  2. hfryan says:

    Great photographs, Ed. I get a touch of vertigo justb looking at them.

    • Yes Hugh and it was a bit windy up there, Thats two sites that I got crossed off my list this year and both ended up with me looking out from the top of a tower. Aylmers Folly was the other. Glad you liked the images 🙂

  3. I was going to say exactly the same thing as hfryan. Stunning!

  4. Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
    Ed’s photos always have a dreamlike quality about them, but these I find particularly otherworldly. Must be the height shots.

  5. beetleypete says:

    What a great opportunity, to be able to climb that tower. I like the exterior staircase, that enters on the first floor, most unusual.
    Did you ever find out why the drum kit was in there? Is there a drumming priest in residence?
    I hope that getting the shutter fixed doesn’t break the bank, Ed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Sure was Pete, No idea about the Drum kit, perhaps it was the rector’s secret hideaway 🙂
      I actually managed to repair the camera, but I only get about 50 shots and it seizes up again, so I have to look into a pro repair job or maybe a new Nikon for crimbo if Santa is feeling generous 🙂

  6. Ali Isaac says:

    Hi Ed! Once again you have excelled! I cannot believe some of those pictures were taken on your phone. It just goes to show that its not the tools but the talent of the operator using them. Having said that, hope your lovely camera is fixed soon. Can you do it yourself? Oh, and I understand exactly how that young girl felt… I was paralysed with fear like that once in the tower of a castle in North Wales. It had been raining and the stone steps were wet and slippery. It was the most extroardinary feeling to want to move your body but physically not be able to. It happened 2 other times too.

    • Thanks so much, the first lot are Nikon and the second bunch are from the phone. I did a repair job myself, but it only lasts for about 50 shots and siezes up again so I need to look into a trip to the camera doctor.
      Ive never frozen from fear at heights but I did have a few scarey moments, once at Carbury Castle, which in hindsight was sheer stupidity, hanging out one of the upper windown to get the right angle on an image I wanted. Picture it, 30+ feet up one hand and one foot makig contact with the building. The other arm holding the camera to my eye, whilst my second foot blindly searched for something to rest on 🙂 The most recent was up on Slane hill, I managed to get up onto the top of the abbey and out onto the roof, which was grand intil I got out to the edge and a gust of wind came out of nowhere, frightened the you know what out of me. As a rule though im ok with heights 🙂

  7. Lovely story and pictures. Very funny about the bell ringing. Good luck with the Nikon repair. I am using the new Nikon 750 and love it.

  8. oglach says:

    Incredible photos; I loved the bit about the kid playing the drums and you ringing the bell. Irish boys make noise!

  9. Love your photography and thanks for stopping by mine. I’ve just started my blog and am thankful for your support! Keep doing what you’re doing and hopefully we will see each other around!

    http://heytheredreamerblog.wordpress.com

  10. Great pics Ed, I especially like the pictures of the inside of the tower, from the top over the cemetery and of the bell.
    Very good.

  11. You are really thorough… and great pics. 🙂

  12. lauramacky says:

    Glad you stayed away from the bell. I can imagine it definitely packs a punch. 😉 Thanks for the great tour.

  13. Jeff J Janson says:

    Love the pics! Great pov and postwork…well done 🙂

  14. Glad you recovered from not only the shutter failure, but also “my silly altercation with the bell” – love that phrase!

  15. you have some fantastic shots here camera or no! Interesting history as well which I am also looking up! I love the wheel and bell! How are your ears?

  16. Love that first shot so much. That climb looks daunting. I might’ve had a little panic attack too. I’m not good with heights.

  17. carmen says:

    The perfect setting for black and white photography – LOVE it!! It does look dangerous though!!

    ❤ carmen

  18. J.S.Reinitz says:

    Always good to carry a backup.

  19. Great post Ed 😀
    I received an email from the Irish Awards about buying tickets in good time 😉 I’m not able to join, but wish you all the best luck to win.

  20. Andy Smart says:

    Hi Ed – – You clearly don’t have vertigo. I like the way you go to any lengths to get a good angle. Great work!

  21. jazzfeathers says:

    This is a fantastic place. And I think you did a good job even with your phone 😉

    • It sure was, I had been waiting for months to get access to the inside, so I could not let a little thing like a broken camera stop me. Most smart phones these days have a half desent camera on board if you know how to manipulate its settings 😁

  22. Pingback: Diseart Diarmada& the Romanesque Arch | Ed Mooney Photography

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