In early Celtic times this district was ruled from the tall fort that stands above the little town of Clogher.19 For then, “Clogher was the focal pint of the Ui Cremthainn federation – the Western group-kingdom of the Airghialla”.20
This fort in Clogher was one of many forts. These forts were high earthen enclosures made of earth and stone. They more often then not were completely circled by a ditch. There was buildings made of timber and stone inside the forts. The one at Clogher is known as Rath Mor and is thought to be where the rulers resided.
There aren’t many of these forts left in present day Dromore the surviving ones can be seen at: Bodoney, Cornamucklagh, Galbally, Greenan, Lettergesh, Lisaneden, Meenagowan, Mullaghbane, Newpark, Rahoney, Shaneragh, Tattycor and Tummery.
“The people lived in individual farms-the better homesteads were raths surrounded by an earthen rampart and stockade: The ‘fairy forts’ of the modern countryside. The king’s house, according to the brehon laws, should have a double rampart”. 21 No examples survive. One authority tells us that “as many as 30,0000 of them still exist, in every part of the Irish countryside, where there is land even moderately suited to grazing or tillage”. 22 Yet most of the ordinary people lived in unenclosed houses of timber, wicker-work or mud, thatched or shingled. But no examples of these survive here today. 23
A modern authority tells us that life in early Ireland was simple and rural. It was a land of milk, cattle, and its economy was to a remarkable degree, pastoral….Milk, butter, cheese, whey, curds, cream, buttermilk, lard, were the main food of the people in summer; beef and probably porridge in winter. 24
The common animals on the Irish farm then were cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and of course, the horse, dog and cat. The red deer, the wild boar and wolf, the fox, otter, hare, badger and wild birds were hunted. Hurling, horse-racing and foot-racing were also popular outdoor sports, while amusements consisted mainly in music and dance to the harp and pipes, story-telling and board games like ficheall – something like draughts or chess. Many crafts were carried on in the homesteads enclosed in the ring-forts, like a high standard of woodwork, metalwork, leather work, pottery work, weaving and embroidery of a high degree. The very high standard of learning, religion and art in Ireland’s Golden Age needs no praise here, as enough examples survive today to surprise and indeed, shame us. Besides cattle-raising, the Irish farmer of those days tilled the lands beside his homestead. Beekeeping was common. Their most popular drinks were ale and beer, while wines were often home-made too, but mainly imported. Like everywhere else, the Irish discovered the art of brewing long before that of distilling. Only in later times does uisce beatha (whiskey) become popular, to judge by contemporary accounts. The tuath and tribe of those days and often the local ring-fort, farmer, was self-supporting then, unlike today.25
19 Cf R. B. Warner: “The Excavations at Clogher and their Content” CR 1973
20 Rev S. O. Dufaigh, “The MacCathmhaoils of Clogher”, CR (1957)
21 Professor F. J. Byrne, “Early Irish Society (1st – 9th Century)”, in The Course of Irish History
22 M. & L. de Paor, Early Christian Ireland (London 1958), p. 79
23 Ibid, pp. 78-88; O’Riordain, op. Cit., pp. 4-8
24 M. & L. de Paor, op. ,it., p 100
25 Ibid., chapter 3; L. M. Cullen, Life in Ireland (London 1968), chapter 1