I heard about this particular story from Nellie Roche when I first met her in 2006. Nellie called the site 'Dane's Fort' and although she described it as a raheen (a name for forts along the east and north east part of Wexford) she kept coming back to the term fort when mentioning it by name.

The fact that she used the term ‘fort’ got my attention straightaway, as rath or raheens are the usual terms for these enclosures in Wexford and only once you start traveling inland and across the country are they referred to as a fort or a lios.

The story Nellie recounted to me, word for word in 2006 and again in 2014, is something she heard as a child growing up nearby. She was told that "seven little men" who happened to be Danes lived in the fort and that every morning when her great-grandfather would be bringing in the cows to be milked, one of the cows would always be dry. If it wasn't one of their cows, it'd be their neighbours’ who were Sunderlands. Everyone believed that the Danes, or “little lads” in the fort, used to milk the cows out in the field on the sly. When "they all died out" her great-grandfather went into the fort and found loads of shafts from little clay pipes and brought them home and put them over the mantelpiece. He also found a little three-legged wooden stool which Nellie said she remembers seeing as a child. On asking her how the Danes got there, she said that she was always told they were shipwrecked on Curralcoe Strand and made their way inland.

Such was the fear of the fairies or little lads, that Nellie recounted that when the cows would be let out after the Winter, that a small fire would be lit and the cows drove over the fire to protect them and stop them from being milked in the field. This is something which I've encountered before in other parts of the country; a custom with a special association with May Day.

Like raths/raheens in Wexford, it was bad luck to meddle with a fort in any way; level them, cut sticks on them etc. Growing up, I heard numerous accounts from my own mother about the bad luck bestowed on people who did - the Ballygarrett area had quite a few still intact. The pisheog didn't bother Nellie though, who openly admits and laughs at her actions, as she claims the best sticks for driving cattle can be found in this particular fort and whenever she needs one, all she has to do is hop over the ditch.

The fort is well overgrown now and has a marlhole beside it. In its day the fort would have offered a clear view of Conicar Hill and a similar square type fort can be seen on the OSI maps just a short distance away in the townsland of Ballymore which is just across the Castlebridge/Unyoke road. 

The fact that Nellie refers to the site as a fort,  could distinguish this from the Gaelic constructed enclosures. The fact that she refers to it as the Danes fort would suggest different occupiers. Could it be have been lived in or occupied by the Danes, i.e. our towns dwelling vikings have moved to the country? The Vikings certainly left their mark on some of the rural placenames in Wexford, could this be one of their settlements or a descendant of theirs? Maybe I’m reading into it too much and maybe I should just enjoy the innocence of the story?

Danes Fort

Kilcorral, Co. Wexford

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