Shanrahan Sheela-na-Gig




N 52° 16' 23.5"   W 008° 00' 51.5"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

R 99074 13449

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Wednesday 19 June 2013

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The church in ruins and the tower at its west-southwest end. The tomb behind the black railing is the one of father Nicholas Sheehy.

Not one but two sheela-na-gigs can be seen here at the old church of Shanrahan.
The first one is high on the wall of the belfry tower looking west-southwest (260°) at 6.80 metres from the ground. This figure has a big round head with big ears. She has two eyes very close to each other, a flat nose and an open mouth. Her body is small and disproportionate in comparison with the head, the arms form a circle around the tiny and thin torso. The legs are very short with just a hint of feet that point outwards. No signs of genitalia are visible.
The second sheela-na-gig is in the east-northeast corner of the east (80°) gable, very easy to see because it's only 35 centimetres from the ground. This figure is carved on a slab triangular in shape and of a different geology from the other stones of the masonry. Compared to the other sheela-na-gig, this one is much more worn and eroded and the details are faint. She has a big round head, big round ears and big round eyes. Her head is slightly reclined towards her left shoulder. Her arms are kept wide along the torso and her hands reach towards her genitalia which have the funny feature of a drilled hole right in the middle. The short legs are spread apart and her feet point outwards. This figure measures 31 centimetres of width and 34 centimetres of height.
A ruinous fragment of a castle is in the graveyard, to the south of the church. The only remaining parts are a small section of the north wall and a part of the southeast tower.
Another great point of interest in the graveyard is the burial place of Father Nicholas Sheehy (1728-1766), an Irish Catholic priest who was first accused of conspiracy against the State, for which he was acquitted, then he was accused for the murder of John Bridge. For this crime he was trialled and sentenced to death. He was hanged, drawn and quartered, his head was severed from the body and spiked above the Clonmel Gaol where it remained for ten to twenty years, until his sister Catherine was able to collect it and finally bury it with the rest of his body here at Shanrahan.
It seems, though, that John Bridge, the victim of the murder for which Father Sheehy was executed, was alive in Cork even after the execution and eventually emigrated to Newfoundland.
In the past years people regurarly visited the tomb of Father Nicholas Sheehy to take the soil from the grave because it was believed it had healing powers.

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