The Ballinrooaun Brooch

Bronze 8th century brooch found in 1939 by Seamus Laffey.

Jimmy Laffey

Seamus Laffey, Ballinruane
Courtesy of Jimmy Laffey
Ballinraune Brooch
Courtesy of The National Museum

A Bronze ring brooch was found by Seamus Laffey near Ballinrooaun ring fort in 1939. It is estimated to be of 8th or 9th century origin. Seamus gave it to Mary McHugh of Mullaghmore who was attending Cooloo National School, asking her to pass it on to her teacher. The teacher sent it to the National Museum in Dublin where it can be viewed by the public. (Nat. Mus. 1939: 267). The front of the ring is ornamented with cast herringbone and interlacing, and a jewel settings, two of these containing amber studs. The pinhead has lentoid settings on each side, and two small lentoid expansions on the circumference. It measures 11.6 cm in length, 3 mm in width and the diameter of the ring is 3.2 cm. Such a find raises many questions as to how such a rare and valuable item got to where it was found in Ballinrooaun. Was it lost by a stranger passing by, or could there be more treasure where this was found? Whatever the full story is, when Seamus first touched this brooch he was in some way both historically and spiritually forging a link with whoever last touched the brooch perhaps a thousand years earlier. Ballinrooaun ring fort itself is situated a few hundred yards to the north of the school, and across the road from the lisheen. The road to the school is curved around the eastern side of the fort.

“It is one of the more ornate specimens of its type (i.e. brooch-pin) and as the description states, it probably dates to the 8th century AD. Its a strange one, because they are not normally found west of the Shannon in Galway, but it could have found its way to Ballinrooaun ringfort by several means. A few were found at the stone cashels of Cahercommaunand Caherconnell. But elsewhere, they are closely connected with the royal crannog sites at Lagore, Co. Meath, and Ballinderry II, Co. Westmeath and there are many from Ulster too. In fact I only know of one other specimen from Co. Galway (see attachment 3), and that was found at Isertkelly.

The Isertkelly brooch-pin has open-work bird heads similar to those seen on the Westness brooch-pin so it may date to the late 7th or 8th cent. If you have any details on the ring-fort/area they were found in that would be great, it is really significant that the area has produced two specimens and they may have been produced locally or the cashels in Co. Clare may have played a part! These brooches are in effect miniature versions of the larger penannular and annular brooches of the same period, but the real innovation was the development of the hinged-joint or linking-bar at the top of the pendant, which held the pin in place. They seem to developed due to a demand for elaborate dress-pins.”

Brendan P. Kelly, (Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar)


This page was added on 08/12/2014.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.