ALLEN – THE TOWER ON THE HILL OF ALLEN

by mariocorrigan on August 29, 2007

 
Leinster Leader, August 3rd 1963.
A Leinster Landmark
The tower on The Hill of Allen
by
Eileen Ryan
 
        One of Leinster’s best known landmarks, and the one which probably lingers longest in the memory of the county’s exiles is the Tower on the Hill of Allen.  Its outline appearing on the horizon means home for so many returning Kildare people.
        Known locally as “Aylmer’s Folly,” The Tower was the strange idea of a man who was in the year 1798, Sir Gerald George Aylmer, of Donadea Castle, Co. Kildare.
        Commenced in 1859, the work of building the Tower continued during the summer months only of the subsequent four years, as the position was too exposed for masonry work during the winter.  There does not appear to have been any architect or engineer.
PURPOSE UNCERTAIN
        Two masons named Lawrence and William Gorry, brothers, built the Tower, and their names are cut on the landing at the top of the stairs.  The purpose for which the tower was erected is uncertain.  William Gorry had been bound to the trade at the age of sixteen years, in the year 1846.  He frequently worked at Donadea Castle, and often told how Sir Gerald would look across from there to Allen hill and say “I’ll build something on that.”  He would examine the work as it proceeded, and tell the masons that it was better to spend his money giving employment than paying engineers.
        The Hill of Allen lies about five miles to the north of Kildare, and commands an extensive view of the Dublin, Wicklow and Slieve Bloom mountains, as well as the Curragh plains, and the surrounding immense bog to which it gives its name.  It is renowned as having been the site of the royal residence of the famed champion, Finn Mac Cumhail, a real historical character that flourished there in the latter end of the 3rd century.
FAINT TRACES
        There are now but faint traces to indicate the site of the royal palace.  The summit of the Hill is very level and was formerly surrounded by earth entrenchments.  A small mound called Suidh-Fionn, Finn’s Chair, occupies the highest point, and in its centre stands the Tower.
        In an age when labour-saving machinery and materials were unknown the erection of the Tower on such an elevation must have been a formidable undertaking.  When digging the foundations the workmen discovered a cave, nine feet deep, filled with soft clay at the bottom of which they came upon a remarkably large human skeleton, which was believed in the neighbourhood to have been that of the giant Finn MacCumhail.
        The Tower is about 60 feet high, the base of it being 676 feet above sea-level, and the internal diameter is 9 feet.  It is built of limestone, quarried and cut at Edenderry, and brought from there to Robertstown by canal, and carted to the Hill by Sir Gerald’s tenants.  He promised that their names would be cut as “an everlasting memorial” on the steps of the Tower.  There are eighty-three steps, and on each one name is inscribed, making a list in stone of the ancestors of many families still living in the Allen district.
FROM  BALLYKNOCKAN
        Three canons formerly stood at Donadea Castle, and from one of these the wheels were borrowed for the four-wheeled lorry which conveyed the stones to the top of the Hill.  The granite coping and steps, and the pedestal of the table at the top of the Tower, came from Ballyknockan, CoWicklow, and the limestone table from Edenderry.  On the Hill of Allen itself was quarried the stone which lines the tower.
        William Gorry and his brother completed their work by placing a copper-framed glass dome on the tower, and a railing around the building.
         On the outside of the tower numerous inscriptions are scattered, and on the flags inside the iron railing the visit of the then Prince of Wales, afterwards Edward VII is recorded: “September 16 A.D. 1861 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales ascended this Tower.”  The Prince was stationed at the Curragh during the year 1861, and on August 24th of that year Queen Victoria reviewed the troops at the Camp.
 
THE INSCRIPTION
        Inside the tower at the top of the stairs, is the following inscription:-
        “In thankful remembrance of God’s mercies, many and great- Built by Sir Gerald George Alymer, Baronet, A.D. 1860”: and on the top landing: “Lawrence and William Gorry, Bros., Masons.” Then on the top steps are the words “assisted by” and the names of the tenants are given on the steps as follows: – James Dowling, Allenwood: Anne Healy, Allenwood: Wilson Symonds, Allenwood, Thomas Baker, Allenwood, Patrick Logan, Allenwood, John Tiernan, Allenwood: Michael Gannon, Allenwood: Thomas Culleton, Allenwood: James Walsh, Allenwood: William Flynn, Allenwood: Denis Healy, Ballentine: John Tiernan, Ballentine: William Lazenby, Ballentine: Mel Somers, Ballyteague: Christ. Healy, Ballyteague: Peter Healy, Ballyteague: Edmond Hegarty, Ballyteague: Edward Payne, Ballyteague: James Doyle, Ballyteague: John Thornton, Ballyteague: James Hennigan, Ballyteague: Patrick Moran, Ballyteague: Francis Dowling, Barnecrow: James Carroll, Barnecrow: Francis Dowling, Baronstown: George Low, Baronstown: Thomas Flood, Carrick: James Walsh, Carrick: George Wilson, Carrick: Elizabeth Knowles, Carrick: James Doogan, Carrick: Patrick Lennon, Cloncumber: Thomas Hynes, Cloncumber: Robert Strong, Coolagh: Thomas Carter, Coolagh: Joseph Strong, Coolagh: John Rochford, Coolagh: Patrick Callan, Derrymullen: Bridget Mulhall, Derrymullen: Thomas Harbert, Derrymullen: Joseph Payne, Drimshree: Peter Cribbin, Drimshree: Michael Thorpe, Drimshree: Samuel Strong, Dunburne: William Wilson, Dunburne: Hugh Kelly, Dunburne: James Dowling, Dunburne: Patrick Dunn, Dunburne: Charles Ryan, Dunburne: James Norton, Grangeclare: William Price, Grangeclare: James Carter, Grangeclare: John Fitzpatrick, Grangeclare: Michael Connor, Grangeclare: Joseph Nevitt, Grangeclare: Joseph Carter, Grangeclare: Thomas Carter, Grangeclare: George Price, Grangeclare: William Tyrell, Grangeclare: Lawrence Behan, Grangeclare: James Brennan, Grangeclare: John Lazenby, Grangeclare: William Ormsby, Grangeclare: Christopher Hickey, Grangeclare: John Cribben, Grangeclare: Ed. Nowlan, Grangehiggin: Matthew Nowlan, Grangehiggin: Peter Noylan, Kilmeague: William Curtis, Kilmeague: Stephenson Haslam, Kilmeague: Matthew Lazenby, Kilmeague: John Healy, Kilmeague: Christopher Quinn, Littleton: Marcella Cribbin, Lowtown: Lawrence Cribbin, Lowtown: Matthew Knowles, Pluckerstown: Denis Dunny, Pluckerstown: John Dunny, Pluckerstown: Patrick Hickey, Rathernan: Richard Kelly, Rathernan: Catherine Healy, Russellstown: Peter Healy, Russellstown.
 
By Eileen Ryan

(original article had Eileen Ryan’s name at bottom but placed here at top to clearly indicate the author; Eileen Ryan is well-remembered in Co. Kildare for her excellent book on Monasterevin. I believe she lived at Hybla)

[compiled and edited by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Carl Dodd]

An interesting article on the Tower of Allen by Eileen Ryan from the Leinster Leader of 1963.

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