Tobar Lughna (Loonamore or Toberloona)
Somewhere amid these ancient ecclesiastical ruins is what was known as Tobar Lughna (St Lughna’s Well).
St Lughna was reputed to be the son of Liamhain, the sister of St Patrick, and the intriguingly named Restitutus the Longobard. Lughna travelled with Patrick to Ireland and joined him on his endeavours to convert the pagan Irish to a form of Christianity. His role in Patrick’s travels can be discerned from the title he earned: Lughna of Loch Measca (Lough Mask), the luamaire (or helmsman).
Lughna’s well was filled in for some unspecified reason. The 2.5 meter high south wall of Lughna’s church, said to be only the third such building in all of Ireland, can still be found amid a pile of rubble. Please note this is unstable and potentially dangerous.
A Killeen, a burial ground for children that died before baptism, is located about the middle of this site, although no trace of burial or gravestone can be found.
Seen from above, the original perimeter of what was likely an abbey can be discerned (try Google Maps).
Many of the stones used for these old church buildings were incorporated into the structure of 18th or 19th century cottages and associated outbuildings.
The ancient Irish text translated as ‘The Genealogies, Tribes and Customs of Hy-Fiadrach’ had Tober Lunagh in the ownership of the Gormilly family: ‘The Lordship of O’Goirmghiolla extends from Tober Lughna to the ford of Caol Partraighe (The Keel River at Partry)…’, and covered a vast swathe of land.
Lughna became one of the Patron Saints of Carra, the waters of which lake are drained by the Keel River into Lough Mask.
The ruined cottage at Loona is of typical vernacular style, that is, built by those that would live within from materials readily found at hand. The roof would likely have been thatched with locally sourced reeds and gaps in the stone walls would be plugged with clay dug in adjacent fields.
Tenant farmers regularly shared their dwelling with livestock. There were two reasons for this. It would keep the animals safe overnight and would also provide a source of warmth. The prosperity of a small farm was told by the size of the dung heap, which would often be situated outside the front door of the family home.
This cottage has been extended to the west. The seam between the old and the new can easily be seen. It was likely done for the oldest son, who would have stayed home to take on the tenancy with his own wife and family.
Fuel for heating and cooking was turf and timber. The fire would rarely be allowed to go out. Some old cottages had no chimney breast, but merely a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
In our modern world we choose hills on which to build our homes, while in former times sheltered hollows such as we find ourselves in here were much preferred.
Imagine yourself living here, with nothing to do but look after the house and tend the small piece of land upon which your family must depend.
Tober Loona makes a fine spot to take a break, before we embark on the next leg of our journey, part of which is along the public road. Remember to face oncoming traffic and take care.