Lankill Standing Stone

This impressive stone, some 7 feet tall, a foot or so wide and about 8 inches thick , is a piece of shale that must have been carried a considerable distance. It is thought to date to the Bronze Age and to have been ‘Christianised’ at some point. It is decorated with two crosses, one of which is contained within a series of four concentric circles – a typically Bronze Age style of decoration that was used by ancient peoples in many parts of the earth.

Lankill (Lainn Cille) has been translated as ‘Land of the Church’. A number of other ecclesiastical sites in the area suggest this has been an important religious site for millennia.

The original purpose of standing stones such as this is unknown. Perhaps the were boundary markers, or maybe they mark ancient ritualistic or ceremonial sites. They could even be part of an astrological alignment.

Other items of interest found nearby include the Lanmore Longstone (Clogh Padraigh – Patrick’s Stone), a monastic settlement and a probably Bronze Age burial chamber.

The following summary of the Lankill Stone site appeared in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1952.

“The townland of Lankill is about four miles south of Westport, a short distance east of a by-road which, branching off the Westport-Leenane road, goes due south towards the Partry Mountains. It is situated among low and not unfertile hills, over the marshy valley of a little stream, is the place known locally as St. Brendan’s Well. The well is a trickle of water at the foot of a big oak tree. Over the fairly deep hollow in which the water collects, there is a white pebble which is used locally for curing the ‘falling sickness’ [epilepsy]. A broken stone basin, cut out of a big block of stone, can be seen in the well itself. The well is under a large knoll rising out of the side of the hill, very steep over the well and the stream, much less impressive on the northern side. Its shape and incline suggest very definitely the appearance of a tumulus of considerable size, but it remains possible that it is only a natural formation.” (Françoise Henry, scholar of Irish megalithic art)

Mlle Henry then addresses the stone itself: “This slab in mentioned in the List of Early Cross Slabs and Pillars of Crawford as a pillar ‘marked with crosses and other designs’. The truth is very much stranger, as the designs on both sides of the stone are broken fragments of a megalithic decoration. They are composed, on the west side, of two groups of arcs within a half-circle, followed by patterns of chevrons, and finally four concentric circles. On the other side are two concentric circles, the top one having only two circles, and the centre being occupied by several vertical lines and a horizontal one.

Both series of designs have very close parallels in the carvings of New Grange or Dowth. The closest resemblance is with the designs on the roofing stone of the right recess of New Grange, which has also chevrons and concentric circles, as well as the same system of twin circles. But a decorated megalith near Westport comes as a surprise. The nearest carvings of the same type known so far would be those of Lough Crew, about a hundred miles to the east. This isolated monument comes as a warning of how little we know of the pre-Christian monuments of the coast of Mayo. The fact that the stone is carved on its two sides also remains to be explained. But the motives, as well as the pocked technique, can leave very little doubt as to the origin of this stone. If the mound be really a tumulus, it was probably found on its outskirts, and may well have been part of a decorated kerb-stone.”

So the Lankill Standing Stone remains an enigma. The best thing to do, of course, is to go and see it for yourself.