Aille Caves/sunken area
Near the site of the Aille caves, there are a series of large depressions in the ground, having their origins in the collapse of the roof of the Aille caves below. This collapse happened as late as 1959, in some parts. Just around the corner are the Aille cliffs and caves. In the rainy season, the river swells to where the entrance of the cave is difficult and dangerous. There is also the fact that the caves are blocked in part with mud and silt on account of the rise and fall of the water level (Tochar Phadraig, n.d.).
One can find mention of the Aille caves in the Annals of Loch Cé (Tochar Phadraig, n.d.), which are a primary source of Irish history spanning from 1014 A.D. to 1590 A.D (Mayo Books, 2023). The Annals, in fact, state that in 1063 A.D. over 150 people ‘in the service of Aedh Ua Conchobhair’ were spotted by enemies. It is said that they suffocated while hiding in the cave, allegedly with the jewels of Connacht, all because the entrance of the cave was blocked off by their attackers (Tochar Phadraig, n.d.).
A mass rock can be found at the base of the Aille cliffs. These large rocks were used as alters upon which priests would celebrate mass (Tochar Phadraig, n.d.). Of course, having mass outside in these circumstances was not ideal but it was all an attempt to avoid the attention of the English and their Penal Laws-- which outlawed the practice of the Catholic mass. During the times of the English enforced Penal Laws in Ireland—mass was held in secret, and those caught attending would be punished severely (Irish Legal News, 2018). It is said that men stood watch on the Aille cliffs near the caves in order to alert the mass celebrants of approaching attackers (Tochar Phadraig, n.d.).
The Tochar Phadraig (n.d.) source says that, “The Aille river which flows into the caves is sometimes a stream, sometimes a raging flood. When there is a heavy rainfall, the excess water flows from the Partry mountains and the volume of the river increased dramatically. This is called the ‘Tuille Sidhe’ or the ‘Fairy Tide.’ The sound of the water can be heard approaching. It is even said locally that the rabbits leave their burrows…and any hay or livestock is moved to higher ground. Anyone caught in the underground passage gets little warning before the floods fill it up. The ruins of a flax mill are to be found on the banks of the Aille. In latter years it was used a flour mill.”
Howell, S. (2016). From Oppression to Nationalism: The Irish Penal Laws of 1695. University of Hawaii at Hilo. Vol. 14. Available at: https://hilo.hawaii.edu/campuscenter/hohonu/volumes/documents/FromOppressiontoNationalism-TheIrishPenalLawsof1695SamanthaHowell.pdf Accessed 6th of July, 2023.
Irish Legal News (2018). Irish legal heritage: Penal Laws and mass rocks in Ireland. Available at: https://www.irishlegal.com/articles/irish-legal-heritage-penal-laws-and-mass-rocks-in-ireland. Accessed 6th of July, 2023.
Keville, J. (1983). Aughagower. Cathair na Mart. Vol. 3. No. 1. (Hard copy of this source can be found in the Michigan State University folder below).
Mayo Books (2023). Annals of Loch Cé. Available at: https://www.mayobooks.ie/Loch_Ce_Annals_History#:~:text=The%20annals%20of%20Loch%20Ce%20are%20a%20primary%20source%20of,Roscommon. Accessed 7th of July, 2023.
Michigan State University, Study Abroad Programme. (2009). Aille Caves/sunken area. Internal Report: Folder 3, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail—Clogher Environmental Group Ltd. Unpublished.
Tochar Phadraig: A Pilgrim’s Progress, (n.d.) pp. 35-36, Stile 61 and 62. (Source can be found in above Michigan State University hard copy source folder). No further reference information currently available.