The Hill of Allen
“BUILT BY SIR GERALD GEORGE AYLMER BARONET AD 1860* IN THANKFULL REMEMBERANCE OF GOD’S MERCIES MANY AND GREAT.”
These are the words carved into the stone around the inside of the wall at the top of the tower. (*The date is somewhat difficult to decipher due to wear on the stone.)
The Hill of Allen, is a volcanic hill surrounded by the Bog of Allen, and lies just 7 km north-west of Newbridge, and rises to a height of approximately 206 meters (676 ft.) however the Hill of Allen is not a challenging walk for most people, as it is a reasonably gentle ramble up the side of the hill along a well-defined country path surrounded by trees, ferns, wildflowers and an abundance of juicy wild blackberries. There are clusters of hazelnuts high up in the hazelnut trees and during May there were swathes of bluebells covering the ground beneath the trees.
The Hill of Allen is reputed to have once been the site of a camp / royal residence occupied by Fionn MacCumhaill and Na Fianna, who hunted in its forests and organised chariot races at its foot. It is said that Fionn used the surrounding flatlands as training grounds for his warriors. There are what are said to be faint traces to indicate the site of an old fort on top of the hill, and there are indications that the current levelled top of the hill was formerly surrounded by earthen embankments. A small mound called Suidh-Fionn, (Fionn’s Chair), occupies the highest point, and it is there that Aylmer built the Tower.
Sir Gerald George Aylmer of Donadea Castle (9th Baronet) commenced building the tower circa 1859, and completed the construction of the tower – known as “Aylmer’s Folly,” circa 1861 –maybe somewhat later – apparently it was only worked upon during the summer months. Aylmer’s name is recorded at the top of the tower, and the names of brothers Lawrence and William Gorry (stone masons) are cut into the landing at the top of the stairs. Also carved into this area are the words “assisted by” -. followed by the names of the 77 men and 5 women who built the tower – each carved onto their individual step – one name per step to the base of the tower.
In an article published in the Leinster Leader, August 3rd 1963 #1, Eileen Ryan lists the names carved into the steps – according to her list the people listed hailed from the townlands of Allenwood, Ballentine, Ballyteague, Barnecrow, Baronstown, Carrick, Cloncumber, Coolagh, Derrymullen, Drimshree, Dunburne, Grangeclare, Grangehiggin, Kilmeague, Littleton, Lowtown, Pluckerstown, Rathernan, Russellstown & Donadea.
The Tower itself rises to approximately 18 meters (60 ft.) from the base, and has an internal diameter of approximately 9 feet. Built of limestone, the tower has an internal staircase leading to the top – then you enter the upper platform which is covered by a modern canopy.
There are inscriptions on some of the stones around the outside base of the tower, alas they are virtually illegible due to weeds and grass growth, I am again thankful to Eileen Ryan’s article #1, which records the inscription as:
“September 16 A.D. 1861 H.R.H. The Prince of Wales ascended this Tower.” (Edward VII)
Inscriptions in Latin are carved into stones (many over windows) on the outside of the Tower.
Halleluja, Quod tibi id alteri, Omne bonum dei donum, Nisi quia dominus, Si Deus quis contra, Qualis vita finis ita, Cabaon, Lux venit ab alto, Sine cruce sine luce, and finally……en lumen (the first part of the carving has been damaged)
Directory of archaeological sources relating to County Kildare (02E1097) indicates that a cist site / burial chamber, and a tumulus site / burial ground are located in close proximity to the Tower on the top of the Hill of Allen. Eileen Ryan in a Leinster Leader article in 1963 notes the story that when digging the foundations for the tower 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 Fionn MacCumhaill.
The tower is generally closed, with boulders blocking the entrance to an unofficial car-parking area at the base of the hill. However when one gets an opportunity to climb the Tower the views of Kildare the Bog of Allen, The Curragh and surrounding counties are spectacular from the top of the tower.
County Kildare Online Electronic History . 2007. The tower on The Hill of Allen By Eileen Ryan Leinster Leader, August 3rd 1963 . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kildare.ie/library/ehistory/2007/08/allen_the_tower_on_the_hill_of.asp. [Accessed 30 August 14].
Note: [Compiled and edited by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Carl Dodd]
Other on-line sources consulted were:
County Kildare Heritage. Miscellaneous sites. 2007. The Hill of Allen . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.kildare.ie/heritage/history/miscellaneous/hill-of-allen.htm. [Accessed 30 August 14].