'Garry Castle' : Sheela-na-Gig

TownlandGarry
CountyOffaly
Grid RefN 021 137
Longitude7° 58' 6.93" W
Latitude53° 10' 25.68" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownBirr (9.6 Km)
OS Sheet53
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 29th August 2004

I think the owners are a little tired of visitors as I was nearly refused access because of insurance issues. I managed to sweet talk my way around the rear of the house to get a closer look - if you can get closer to something that's 20m in the air! - but as I was leaving I realised that you can actually see the figure from the driveway in front of the house. Stand facing the house about 5m in front of the righthand window. Look over the wall to the right and you can see her.

This Sheela has very large breasts. The right one is larger than the left. Her legs seem to be missing and the stone she is carved onto has taken a lot of damage at some point. I think this one probably came from elsewhere. The only straight edge is not set vertically into the wall as you would expect if it was made to sit where it is.

If any of the Sheelas I have seen so far could be used to support any claims that they are representations of an older goddess then this would be the one: her face is very Celtic in appearance.

Her right ear is there and a small bump on the left could be a broken ear too. She has very broad shoulders and her arms both pass in front of her body to indicate the missing vulva. It is still possible to make out the fingers of both hands, the left ones being clearest.

Older photos show a lot more masonry to the left of the stone as you look at her. This has fallen in the last 20 years or so and she now looks very precarious so high up.

Footnote 30/08/04: After looking carefully at the images I took I believe I have spotted several features that have previously gone unnoticed. The figure was caked in limestone from the surrounding mortar for a long time, but this has washed off since the capping stone fell from above it. These are the observations I have made:

1) She appears to have two tresses of hair on her right side.
2) Raised areas on her shoulders suggest that the 'breasts' could actually be the ends of a cloak.
3) There looks like there is a garland of flowers draped over her shoulders. Perhaps this fastens the cloak. You can see flowers below both armpits and there is possibly another flower (a brooch?) on the right 'breast'.
3) Some marks below her head could be a necklace.

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A Selection of Other Sheela-na-Gigs

External Links

Beyond The Pale

Here is a photo taken some time ago of this Sheela. It shows how much stonework has fallen in just 20 years. The capping used to provide a little protection from the weather. As you will see the figure seems to have eroded a little since this was taken.
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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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