Thomas Johnston Westropp (1860-1922)

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
[var. Westhropp]; archaeologist and folklore field-worker, collecting in Clare, and publishing in Folk-lore in the period 1910- ; his water-colours of the Burren can be seen in a local publication of 1991, along with those by Petrie and others; works reprinted by Clasp; various other members of the family made reputations in geology and archaeology.

[ top ]

Works
Folklore from Clare ([London:] Clasp 2001), 144pp. [arts. from Folklore Soc. Transactions 1910-13]; also Archaeology of the Burren (Clasp [q.d.]).

[ top ]

Criticism
Mairéad Ashe FitzGerald, Thomas Johnson Westropp: (1860-1922): An Irish Antiquary [UCD Dept. of Archaeol.; Seandálaíocht Monograph Ser., No. 1] (Dublin: UCD [2000]), 133pp., ill., maps.

[ top ]

Commentary
George A. Little, Dublin Before the Vikings (1957), notes that ‘Westropp points out the sensitiveness of the early Irish to landscape coloration. as examples he instances some names of forts [lios] (I give his spelling), Lisderg, Redford; Lisbuy, Yellowfort; Caherbreac, Speckledfort, Lisglass, Greenfort; Rathduff, Blackfort. (The Ancient Forts of Ireland, TRIA, vol. XXXI, pt. 14 (1902), p.591.’ (Little, p.26). Further, Westropp notes that ‘in our literature the word (dún) is frequently equated with city’ (Ancient Forts in Ireland, TRIA, Vol. XXI, 1902, p.590). ALSO, Westropp, Early Italian Maps, PRIA Vol. XXX, Sec. C. no.16, p.401, remarks on the Norse settlement in Wicklow (Wiking-luc; Viking Beach, or properly flame, from lue) being imposed on an earlier promontory fort. [37]. ALSO, Westropp, Early Maps of Ireland, PRIA, vol. xxx, sect. c, no.16, refers to wine refreshments given guests by Diarmait Mac Carbhaill, ‘the king for whom wine was served in splendour’, after the Battle of Magh Rath. (p.66) [80]. Further, Little quotes an extensive passage from Westropp, dealing with the location of St. Patrick’s well outside the cloister walls, ‘So far from endeavouring to secure unfailing supply of water within their walls, the fort builders were careful rather to exclude any well or spring that rose near the site selected for their enclosure. Strange to say, this curious fact was not confined to Ireland; it has left its mark on the greatest literature of the world. We recall the pathetic incident of the Well at the gate of Bethlehem whence intruders, though with risk of bloodshed, could draw water; or those springs before the gates of Ilium, where the ladies had washed their robs in peace before the Achaeans came, and to which the fated Hector ran, pursued by his deadly foe. Schliemann found two springs 400 ft. east of Mycenae, which fortress had to trust to a water-supply outside its walls. Hirtius also records how Uxellodunum was reduced by the Romans, because its only spring lay outside the walls. The same fact appears in Irish literature. Columba, Adamnan tells us, prophesied that the well near Dún Ceithern would be defiled with human blood. The Colloquy of the Ancients mentions ‘a hidden ell to the south side of the fortress’ and apparently its fosse. / This peculiarity sprang from a wish to avoid the pollution of the water-supply; there was, too, comparatively little risk of blockade.’ (The Ancient Forts of Ireland, [n.p.]). ALSO, Westropp, Irish Motes, JRSAI (pp.39-30), ‘The great mounds in Denmark are not similar to Irish motes’; ‘the negative evidence is strongly against the Danish origin of high motes.’ Little regards the Thingmote as of Irish origin, if also employed by Scandinavians for meetings. [128-29] Bibl, Westropp, T.J., The Ancient Forts of Ireland.

[ top ]

Liam de Paor, ‘The Folks on the Hill’, in The Irish Times (30 Jan 1993), writing of the complex of hillforts at Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, remarks: ‘hillforts in Ireland seem to be comparatively few, and often aberrant in type, but they were sufficiently interesting to attract attention since the early days of archaeology. Round the turn of the century that great field-worker T. J. Westropp strove to record as many as possible, in association with his work on raths and other earthworks and monuments ...’].

[ top ]

References
Hyland Books (Cat. 214) lists Hodder M. Westropp, ‘Pre-historic Phases, or Introductory Essays on Prehistoric Archaeology (1872).

[ top ]

Notes
Kith & Kin (1): Col. George O’Callaghan Westropp, portrayed in David Fitzpatrick, Politics of Irish Life as ‘an Anglo-Irish type still too little noticed by historians ... in whom love of place transcends divisions based on origins, religion, politics’, and is briefly mentioned also in R. F. Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch (1993), p.30.

Kith & Kin (2): Stackpoole Westropp wrote of the Burren and the distinctive Clare-Galway landscape that ‘the joints in the rocks have been so opened up that a man could go down bodily into some of them and disappear from the face of the earth.’ And further: ‘Although there is an abundant fauna of corals and branciopods in the limestone, fossils are seldom seen clearly on the surface of the rock. Large productid brachiopods (gigantoproductids) often catch the eye where the stone has been used for building.’ (Quoted in John Feehan & Grace O’Donovan, The Magic of Coole, [Dublin:] OPW 1993, p.49.)

[ top ]