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A Visit to The Gathering Of Stones

text and images by Brian Post

As many of you know I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Ireland at the beginning of February.  One of the highlights of the trip was getting to meet Ken Curran and Karl Kennedy of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland (DSWAI).  Both were incredibly generous with their time and took me to over to the Lough Boora Discovery Park where the DSWAI built the ‘Gathering of Stones.’

From the DSWAI website:  “Back in early 2013 The Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland and the Stone Foundation, USA came together with a vision to invite this international community ‘home’ for a Gathering of Stones in the geographical centre of Ireland.

“The Gathering of Stones is an event where people with an interest in Irish dry stone walls came together, and under the instruction and guidance of the Dry Stone Wall Association built an attractive communal dry stone installation that will act as a permanent monument to Ireland and ‘all’ of it people. A monument that celebrates or dry stone heritage and indeed all events and gatherings that took place during The Gathering 2013.”

With numerous wallers, both amateur and professional, coming from all over Ireland and far beyond, about good portion of the project was built in the initial 2013 event.  In addition to wallers, stones were brought from all over Ireland and farther.  There are some good stories of the large stone that Sean Adcock and fellows managed to bring from Wales.

The project was then continued and completed in various smaller events and DSWAI weekend walling sessions.  Both Ken and Karl related to many times working in the rain on a weekend by themselves or with just one or two other DSWAI members present, to keep the project moving forward.  It was huge achievement, and the project was finally finished in 2016.

The design of the project is full of symbolism, with stone from each of the 4 provinces in Ireland, and carved plaques for each it is a very complex build.  The central structure is really nothing but features.  As soon as you get away from a doorway your hitting the edge of a recess, and don’t forget it is all curving and battered.

The outer ring of freestanding walls were a bit more straight forward, though some of the stone certainly looks challenging to work with.  The low retaining wall outside of that was an add on to the original design.  Using all the remaining stone that had been brought in and donated.

It is a truely inspiring build and a testament to dedication of the DSWAI core and it’s members.  It is free and open to the public to check it out.  The Lough Boora Discovery Park in County Offaly is the site of a former peat mine that was converted to a sculpture park.  It is a fantastic place to visit if you ever get to Central Ireland.

More information is available here:

The central stone and paving
Signage about the stones and build.
This arch, twisting into a roman half round arch on the other side is a phenomenal piece of work.
Stone carving inside, with the Leinster crest
The Muster panel. The DSWAI has several members that are very skilled stone carvers, as can be seen in these panels.
The Connacht panel
A first view of the Gathering of Stones
A view of the central structure. There are 4 doors each with a different lintel or arch.
Inside the central structure there are 4 recesses each with a carved panel representing one of the provinces. This is Ulster
Anyone know the name for this type of 'arch'. Note the variety of stone types used.
I fine section of curving ring dry stone wall with Ken and Karl in the background.
After a very wet January there were a few wet areas, but somehow it all seemed to fit with the project.
Granite foundation stones reclaimend from a construction stone became these benches as well as the cope stones on the central structure
A close up view of the granite foundations stones each carved to have a post set on it.
Another view of the Ring wall and outer retaining wall.
I found this stone that was used for a threshold fascinating. A local stone type that splits into this natrually rippling surface. The pattern no doubt laid down eons ago by water or small critters moving the sediment that eventually became stone.
Another Threshold stone that was donated to the project.
An overall view
Brian Post, in the arch.