“ ’Tis a big yoke alright ” said Paddy,“ white and covered in circles, like someone’s taken a baked bean can to it.”
Paddy and the stone beneath a stump.
My neighbour was working for Coilte, the Forestry and his gang had cleared a section of coniferous trees up on the Slieve Bloom when Paddy came across a stone, the like of which he’d never seen.
“Would you come and have a look?” he asked, so we agreed a day to meet.
Our destination was a small river valley lying between the shoulders of the hills.
As we drove the landscape below stretched out as far as the Dublin mountains.
We climbed to Ballyhuppahaune and beyond.
Ending in a forestry track, a silent place edged with mountain ash.
From there it was a hike across rough ground and islands of tree stumps until we reached the stone.
Composed of white sandstone, it was about half a metre wide, smooth and covered
with perfect circles of of various sizes and depths.
What was this ?
The day was warm, the valley peaceful, filled with birdsong and the murmuring Owenass River,
so we sat and contemplated the boulder.
As my eyes wandered the designs, I saw cycles, suns, moons and carvings made by our ancestors.
Excitement bubbled, ancient rock art in the Slieve Bloom!
But as I cleared pine needles and debris from the grooves I realised they were smooth,
shouldn’t there be ‘pick marks’ made by tools?
If not man made what were they?
After a while Paddy asked what I thought and I admitted I was mystified.
Later, I returned with friends and together we levered up the stone to peer beneath.
A few circles were marked on the underside.
We scrutinised it, we meditated on it.
Was it a bullaun stone?
Was it rock art?
Were those cup and ring marks?
We argued this way and that.
After an hour or so we gave up and decided to seek the opinion of someone with more experience in rocks.
A length of white string was tied around the nearby tree stump as a marker, photographs were taken and still puzzled, we went home.
The geologist, Dr. John Feehan, felt the stone was intriguing enough to make a site visit and a few days later he contacted me with his opinion: the circles were not hand carved but made by nature.
I was disappointed as my rock art theory went up in smoke, however John couldn’t say how the markings had been made.
As he sent his photographs and measurements to various geologists across the world to find the answer I eagerly awaited their conclusion, imagining huge bursting bubbles or some prehistoric creature leaving shapes in the sand.
But no answer came, the geologists were baffled too.
Soon the stone was shrouded again in shadows and trees.
To this day the origin of The Mysterious Stone remains an enigma.
Perhaps Paddy was right. Maybe it was a man with a baked bean can after all.