For tourists visiting North Tipperary and the Thurles area, who enjoy walking, geology, climbing, history, photography, legendary tales, or simply recording images to “flash upon that inward eye,” then there is no place more enjoyable, than a trip to The Devils Bit.
In the Irish language, Bearnán Éile, (Translated into English – Little Gapped Hill of Éile.) this area offers the visitor, on a clear day, an expansive and breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside, taking in not just Tipperary county itself, but also areas of counties Clare, Galway, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, and Waterford.
Local legend states the mountain got its name when the hungry Devil, flying overhead, took a bite out of the rock. Indeed the large gap in the mountain between the two remaining outcrops of rock, bring the viewer to the same imaginary conclusion. Legend also informs us that the devil broke his teeth while chewing and his mouthful of hard rock was spat out, falling to earth, where it now forms the base to the well known tourist attraction, known as the Rock of Cashel.
(Special thanks goes to Thurles videographer Mr Brian Corbett for sharing the following film clip.)
In 1789, the Book of Dimma was supposedly discovered in a small cave on the mountain. The little known Book of Dimma, written possibly late in the 8th century at nearby St. Cronan‘s Monastery, Roscrea, was preserved by Thady O’Carroll, Prince of Ely, and later during possibly the mid-twelfth century was encased in a rich gilt case. The book is a copy of the four Gospels written in Old Latin and is representative of Irish ‘Pocket Gospel’ manuscripts. The book which had a blessing to the sick and dying added in the 10th or 11th century, can be viewed in Trinity College, Dublin, together with many other articles of Ireland’s rich historical treasures found in Tipperary, now bringing prosperity to our capital city’s economy at Tipperary and rural Ireland’s expense.
This mountain holds indeed a rich history. It was the scene of a mass Anti-Tithe meeting on July 25th 1832, which, according to press reports, was attended by over 50,000 people. Samuel Lover in “Legends and Stories of Ireland,” (1831-1834), refers to a mock burial of the tithes by local peasantry.
The limestone round tower built in the 1650′s, on the approach to the summit of this 478m (1570 feet) mountain, is known locally as “Carden’s Folly,’ and built by John Carden, a follower of Oliver Cromwell and involved in the battle of Marston Moor July 2nd, 1644, when the forces of Parliament defeated their enemies, largely because of the military brilliance of Cromwell. After Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland in 1649 John was rewarded with an estate at Templemore, Tipperary, where he built a manor house and eventually this round tower. He and subsequent family members would go on to become the principal landlords in this area, with the most notable of the Carden family undoubtedly John Rutter Carden III (1811-1866), better known as ‘Woodcock Carden’, so nicknamed by his tenants, because of his ability to survived numerous assassination attempts by tenants. It was said he was as difficult to shoot as the Irish wading bird known as the ‘Woodcock,’ or it’s closest relative the ‘Snipe,’ when in flight. (We will be discussing certain little known and very personal aspects of Mr John Rutter Carden’s life in the not too distant future.)
A large 45 ft cross was erected on the Rock and officially blessed by Upperchurch native, and Archbishop of Cashel and Emly’s, the Most Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Kinane, on Sunday, August 22nd 1954, in celebration of the ‘Marian Year,’ pronounced by Pope Pius XII, the first in Church history. The base of this cross is 5 feet squared and 10 feet deep. Construction was carried out by Duggan Bros. building contractors at Templemore at a cost then of approximately €2,000. The cross was previously illuminated at night and in 1988, to compliment its existence, a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected on the eastern side of the Rock.
Geologists should note that in this area we find the earliest record of fossil flora containing Cooksonia type Sporangia, latter an extinct grouping of primitive leafless land plants. The earliest Cooksonia dates from the middle of the Silurian geologic period and system. This group continues to be an important component of flora until the Early Devonian period, a total time span of 428 to 398 million years ago.
When visiting this attraction, tourists are asked to respect the rights of those farming this fertile area.