In his recent article, “Tory Hill and the Greeks”, Sean Keane suggested that the Greeks were on Tory Hill in 4000 BC. He based this assertion on the discovery by William Tighe of what he believed was an altar stone bearing a carved inscription, Beli Diuose, a Pelasgian name for the Sun God, on the summit of the hill around 1800A.D.
Tory Hill’s Pelasgian Aegean connections came from William Tighe. Mr Tighe was widely lauded for his remarkable findings, published in his Statistical history of County Kilkenny in 1802, which could potentially change the known history of Europe at the time by placing the Pelasgians in Ireland during the stone age. His thesis was accepted and cited as fact by several archaeologists and historians over the next fifty years. The authenticity of the inscription was questioned in the 1840’s and the stone was examined around 1850 at the Tighe residence in Woodstock, where it had beeen carefully preserved.
The investigation was conducted by Rev. James Greaves, archaeologist of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, accompanied by the secretary. They found the inscription to be modern and crudely carved, with some letters differing significantly to those in Tighe’s drawing. He said it required too many leaps of faith and stretches of the imagination to read it as Beli Diuose, but amazingly, when a sketch of it was reversed it read unmistakeably as E CONIC 1731.
Their assesment was corroborated by a letter from Dr. John O’Donovan, Atattymore, Slieverue, topographer, historian and the greatest Irish scholar of his time. O’Donovan, whose grandfather knew Edmond (Ned) Conic well, explained that Ned, a millstone cutter, had carved his name and the date on the stone one morning while waiting for his fellow workers who had remained drinking in Mullinavat. After lying flat on the hill for several years, the stone was raised on supports and unknowingly turned upside down by youths who were making a fence for a jumping contest, rather than an altar to the sun god!
A full account of this investigation, including the drawings was published in the Journal of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society 1849-1851. Its findings were accepted by all. Greaves and O’Donovan debunked the fifty year old fallacy 170 years ago.
Editor’s note - The letter begs the question where is the stone now.