The Bell of Lough Lene

In 1882, William Barlow Smythe made a presentation to the Royal Irish Academy on the Bell of Lough Lene. Smythe, as owner of 2 of the islands on the lake, proved versed in the lore of the area, and presented a potted history of Lough Lene before moving onto his research into the bell, which had been discovered on Castle Island the previous year, by a boy fishing for eels, and sold eventually to the Royal Irish Academy.

Smythe speculated, that given the close proximity to the monastery of Fore, the bell possibly belonged to St Feichin; it may have been transferred to Nun's Island before eventually being hidden on Castle Island. Saints bells were apparently held in high regard for oath binding by both clergy and laity of the time.

The Bell is marked with a faint outline of the Christian cross on both sides. It also has an ornamental border, which Smythe found unusual as he believed that ornamentation was generally reserved for the cases or shrines for that era.

The bell, at the time of its discovery, was found to be sufficiently unusual that Smythe appeared aware of only 2 other bells of a similar nature. These had been found in Bangor, Co. Down in 1832 and in Cashel in 1849. Smythe believed that the Lough Lene Bell was contemporary to these bells which were believed to be from the 7th century, therefore supporting his theory that it was possible that it could have been .a relic of St Feichins.

The Folklore Commission also hold an account of Kit "the Blade" Fagan's discovery of the bell and the treasure hunt that his find sparked.

While the original bell rests in the National Museum, a half sized replica holds pride of place as the Ceann Comhairle's Bell in Dáil Éireann. It was presented to the Dáil in 1931 by the widow of Major Bryan Cooper, a former member of the House.

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