RECORDED EXHIBITIONIST FIGURES IN IRELAND

I am indebted to Gabriel Cannon for the map references to relevant entries. The numbers and letters refer to the Discovery Series 1:50.000 maps. The map number (followed by an oblique) precedes the Irish National Grid letter and co-ordinates.

 

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Only INDISPUTABLE figures are listed in BOLD type.

COUNTY CAVAN
Berrymount
- probably male, from the early monastery of Toomregan. Now in Ballyconnell protestant church. 27A, 27/H271.188
Cavan
- from the ruins of an old church, now in the Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff.
35/N525.907
Lavey
- found buried in a graveyard of the old church in 1842, now in the Cavan County Museum.

COUNTY CARLOW
Bennekerry Castle (?) - a large figure some 30 by 95 cms currently in private ownership near to the castle from which it most likely came, a few kilometres NE of Carlow town.

COUNTY CLARE
Ballyportry Castle - now at the National Museum, Dublin.
Bunratty Castle
- inside the restored castle (to which there is an admission charge).

Clenagh
- on a quoin near ground level.
58/R 36.65
Killaloe
- now-headless figure at the well next to St. Flannan's Church.
58/R699.730
Clo[o]nlara[gh] - a doubtful figure on a parapet of the Old Canal Bridge, perhaps moved from Newtown Castle.
58/R 627.646
Killinaboy
- above the doorway of the old church. 51/R271.916
Rath - on an upside-down twelfth-century window-sill. 57/R271.857
Smithstown Castle
- window-carving of male genitals.

COUNTY CORK
Aghadoe Castle
see Killeagh.
Ballynacarriga Castle
- on the S. wall.
86/W280.508
Ballynamona Castle - near Mallow, destroyed in the 1820s .read more
Ballyvourney (not exhibitionist) - over window in St. Gobnait's Church. 79/W110.770
Barnahealy - at Castle Warren, gone missing.

Castlemagner - at St Brigid's Well, opposite the ruined castle. Not exhibitionist.

Castle Widenham
- kept inside the private Castle Tower, it can be seen by permission.
73/R37.03
Glanworth Castle
- a worn example in the Dúchas store in Mallow.

Killeagh - recently re-erected on the old dovecote of Aghadoe Castle. 81/X001.76
Kinsale - on a stone in St. Multose Church.
Not exhibitionist.
Ringaskiddy -
a recently reported, worn figure with inward-turned feet,now in the Fitzgerald Park Museum, Cork.
Tracton Abbey
- now in the Fitzgerald Park Museum, Cork.

COUNTY DERRY (LONDONDERRY)
Maghera - on the north side of the tower of the old church. Truncated and doubtful. 8 C856.002

COUNTY DONEGAL
Corveen Castle, Lough Eske - missing, recorded in 1846 as a feet-to-ears acrobat, built into a coach-house.
Coolort modern male and female incised on rendered gateposts.

COUNTY DOWN
Grey Abbey Ireland's only 'scrotal male' exhibitionist on N side of nave.

COUNTY DUBLIN
Lusk - missing, buried in 1844.
Malahide - on a quoin on the ruins of Malahide Abbey. 50/O221.454
Jamestown (Stepaside) - on a short cross, along the Enniskerry road. Not exhibitionist.

Jamestown figure Click to see the other side.

Another (non-exhibitionist) figure, framed by a a crozier, has been revealed on the other side.
Swords Glebe - on a standing-stone now in the National Museum, Dublin. Barely-exhibitionist.

COUNTY FERMANAGH
Aghalurcher - Romanesque penis-less, head-to-ears male acrobat. 27 H366.314
Boa Island - not exhibitionist.
Devenish Island - discovered in 2003, carved on a slab, the bottom part of which is missing, but it is quite possibly exhibitionist. 17,18 H225.469
White Island - not exhibitionist.

COUNTY GALWAY
Annaghdown - an ithyphallic dog on a voussoir of the cathedral window. 45/M286.380
Ballinderry Castle - on the keystone of the 16th century doorway. 46/M445.462
Merlin Park - a tiny upside-down figure on a decorated window of Doughiska Castle recalling carvings at Ballinderry Castle and from Smithstown, county Clare.on the keystone of the 16th century doorway. 46/M35.25

COUNTY KERRY
Kilsarkan - a widely splay-legged figure rubbed in groin area, but not exhibitionist - above a window in the old church.
72/R026.017
Lixnaw
-
from Lixnaw Castle, now in the National Museum, Dublin.
Rattoo
- a worn figure with huge ears and Indian dancer legs inside the top of the (earlier) Round Tower. A cast of the original is in the National Museum, Dublin. 63/Q875.340
For pictures of the tower
go to the website http://roundtowers.org/rattoo/index1.htm

COUNTY KILDARE
Blackhall Castle
- formerly beside the doorway of the now-destroyed castle, hidden in safe keeping.
55/N797.022
Carrick Castle - gone missing in 1901 either from a Cambridge Museum or en route to it. On higher ground to the N is "The Witch's Rock". 49/N641.369
Kildare Cathedral - A figure on the Wellesley tomb (1539) which is acrobatic but doubtfully exhibitionist.

Kildare figure photo by James Clancy

Kilkea Castle - a remarkable group of inter-penetrating human and animal male exhibition-ists. 61/S740. 890

COUNTY KILKENNY
Balleen Little - discovered around 1994, but not published, this figure has a rope (or a snake ?) around its neck and dangling down its torso. 60/S377.668
Ballylarkin Church - now in the National Museum, Dublin.
Clomantagh Castle
- high up on a quoin, and long-covered by ivy except from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s. 60/S348.638
Cooliagh More - reportedly found down a well at Kyle and now half-displayed in Rothe House, Kilkenny.
Tullaroan - a recently-reported figure (in private ownership) with asymmetrical eyes, ridiculously high breasts and a long slit-vulva. 67/S407.572

COUNTY LAOIS
Ballaghmore Castle
- on a quoin. 60/S197.899
Cullahill Castle - high on the south wall. 60/S356.740
• Portnahinch Castle - missing from castle ruins, but recently described by Barbara Freitag as holding its right hand to its right ear.
Rosenallis - found in the ancient graveyard in 1992 and now in the National Museum, Dublin.
Shane Castle - missing, its presence recorded in the 1840s.
Timahoe - a squatting figure at the base of the doorway of the Round Tower, and another figure on the wall of the ruined castle nearby. 55/S535.903
• Tinnakill - from a ruined castle, now in a garden wall of a house in Mountmellick

 

"It would be considered unusual, certainly, because when they have been found in the past there has been a tendency to destroy the wretched things - if people recognised them for what they are." - Rev. David Woodworth, Dean of the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Cashel, on the sheela-na-gig found in Clonoulty graveyard, which may have been used as a grave marker. (1989)

 

See distribution map for approximate locations.


Click for a close-up.

Cloghan Castle, county Roscommon

COUNTY LIMERICK
Caherelly Castle - headless, now in the Hunt Museum, Limerick.
Dunnaman Castle - high on the wall. 65/R473.422
Fantstown Castle - on NE quoin of tower-house. 73/R649.279
Tullavin Castle - on a high quoin.65/R535.388

COUNTY LONGFORD
Abbeylara - a very worn, very high-relief figure on the remains of the Cistercian tower. 42/N366.796
Rathcline - on a window embrasure of the old church. 40/M997.661

COUNTY LOUTH
Drogheda - in Millmount Museum.
Monasterboice - probable Luxuria figure on E side of Muiredeach's Cross. Not exhibitionist. 36/O043.821

COUNTY MAYO
Aghagower - recently discovered on the well opposite the ruins of the church and Round Tower - and visible from the Lounge door of the pub. 31/M035.805 It was stolen in 2006 and its whereabouts is unknown.
Hollymount (between Ballinrobe and Claremorris) - also recently discovered, seemingly the addition of a small sheela-body to a pre-existent head: http://www.irelands-sheelanagigs.org/wp-content/uploads/Sheela-na-gig-at-Hollymount-1.pdf

COUNTY MEATH
Ardcath - at entrance to modernised dwelling. 43/O056.627
Dowth - known as 'St Shanahan' (Old Fellow), on the south wall of the ruined Church. The only photo extant dates from 1934. 43/O026.737
Kells - missing from church.
Johnstown - below the 12 Apostles on a font removed from Kilcarne church 1 km to the south are a clawed animal somewhere between a wolf and a lion licking its genitals, and a wrestling or copulating couple. 42/N875.660
Kilbride - seven metres up the E wall of the most south-easterly of a group of castle ruins at Moymet near the village is a weathered figure, probably robed. 42/N777.602
Rosnaree - on wall of former water mill and almost effaced by whitewashing. 43/N995.720
Tara - on a standing stone known as St. Adamhnan's Pillar. Not exhibitionist. 42, 43/N922.598

COUNTY OFFALY
Birr - on display at National Museum, Dublin.
Cloghan Castle - missing, recorded in 1906.
Clonbulloge - a recently-reported damaged figure, with slanted eyes, striated face and protruded tongue. Now in the Public Library. 49/N611.268
Clonmacnois A - slightly exhibitionist acrobat on the chancel arch of the "Nun's Church". 47/N010.307
Clonmacnois B (possibly a second figure from Burgesbeg, Tipperary), in the store-room of the Cathedral, is doubtful.
Doon Castle - on quoin to left of main entrance. 47/N118.316
Garry Castle - very high up and soon to fall down. 53/N021.137
Knockarley - in private hands.
Rahan - now in the Castle Museum, Athlone.
Lemanaghan Castle - missing since 1870.
Seir Kieran - once at the old church, now on display at the National Museum, Dublin.

COUNTY ROSCOMMON
Boyle Abbey - not exhibitionist.
Cloghan[e] Castle - sideways on a quoin. 40/M844.508
Emlaghmore - on a decorated stone at Temple House - privately owned. 40/M803.672
Rahara - on the keystone of the church-doorway. 40/M910.524
Scregg - two figures from the castle, now on Scregg House. 40/M931.558
Ta[u]ghboy - on the apex of the church gable. 40, 47/M836.498

COUNTY SLIGO
Behy Castle - now in private hands. 25/M719.220
Moygara Castle - fallen arch-stone, not exhibitionist.

COUNTY TIPPERARY
Ballinaclogh - on a quoin on the SW corner of the older church in the centre of the village. 59/R893.749
On a castle at another Ballinaclogh some 17 km SSE
(66/R 984.406) is an entirely defaced figure which might have been a sheela-na-gig.
Ballyfinboy Castle
- on a quoin on the west wall. 53/R898.936
Ballynahinch Castle
- a dancing figure near the doorway. 66/S036.408
Burgesbeg
- from a ruined church, now at the National Museum, Dublin.
Cashel - a typical squatting figure placed sideways on the mediæval church on the Rock of Cashel. 66/S028.504
A second figure with twisted legs is in the Cathedral and is not exhibitionist. A third very faint figure with large vulva & circular ears can be seen in the

Cashel Palace Hotel
- formerly the Bishop's Palace.
Clonmel - from a Dominican priory, now in the National Museum, Dublin.
Clon[o]ulty - a recently discovered figure without facial features, currently in the GPA Bolton Library in Cashel. 66/S028.504
Fethard - one Sheela is on the Old Town Wall overlooking the bridge. 67/S21.35 The other (barely-exhibitionist) is at
Fethard Abbey, on the 14th century ruins.
Holycross Abbey - almost effaced by hacking, on wall, near entrance to the 15th century cloister. 66/S090.542
Kiltinan(e) Church - stolen in 1990. 67/S231.319
Kiltinan(e) Castle - on the well-house (since 1940) in private grounds. Originally from the castle or, possibly, the church ?
Liathmore - horizontally-set stone in doorway of 12th century church ruins. 67/S225.576
Moycarky Castle - the well-known, early-reported figure known as "Catherine Owen" is no longer extant, but a 19th century drawing of it is convincing.
Newtown Lennan - from a mediæval church, now in the National Museum. Dublin.
Redwood Castle - high up on the front wall. 53/M928.098
Rochestown - at a ruined church, one of the earliest recorded (1840), long since missing.
Shanrahan - one figure half-way up the W side of the tower of the old church, another low on the E side. 74/R991.135
Thurles - a damaged figure on a remnant of the town wall, currently hidden behind a new building.

Thurles figure Thurles


COUNTY TYRONE

Errigal Keeroge - from the ruined church, now in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

COUNTY WATERFORD
Kilmacomma - recorded in 1937, found in a sandpit, put on a barn gable, alleged to have brought "ill-fortune," and now missing.
Tallow - Now in storage, this damaged and weathered, clothed figure, recently dug up from the graveyard, has similarities to carvings from Rahan and at Cloghan Castle. The head has no ears and no breasts are apparent. There is no vulva but the remaining right hand is in just the right place to share a common purpose with most other sheela na gigs. Only half of the left arm remains, but the forearm could have passed over or under the left leg.

COUNTY WESTMEATH
Athlone
- in the Athlone Castle Museum, once in the convent: a footless figure clutching its knees to its chin.
Ballycloghduff - megaphallic male on a gatepost at the entrance to a driveway. 48/N177.432
Carne Castle
- now in the National Museum, Dublin.
Killua - found in 1859, and, recorded as 'Chloran', for long in the Witt Collection of the British Museum. Very similar to the Cavan carving.
Moate Castle/Cartonkeel - small tongue-sticking feet-to-ears acrobat over rear gateway. 48/N19.38
Taghmon - high-relief squatting, toothily-grimacing anal-exhibitionist (with hands clutching knees) above a window in the north wall of the 15th century church.
It has two sets of eyes, a characteristic ascribed by mediæval Europeans to Ethiopians. 41/N485.615

COUNTY WICKLOW
Glendalough - A tiny figure at the bottom of the 12th century east window in St Saviour's church is Ireland's only "femme-aux-serpents", crudely exhibitionist.
O/134.966

 

Figure found in 2017 at an undisclosed location.


I am indebted to Gabriel Cannon and
James Clancy for valuable information on and photographs of several Irish figures.

Detailed descriptions of the figures and their locations are on Gabriel Cannon's website.

 

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