William Stokes in his book The Life and Labours in Art and Archeology of George Petrie (Cambridge Library 1896) recalls George Petrie’s  discovery of an inscription at the base of what became the High Cross of Tuam, with a little help from a polite passerby;

In the year 1853 Petrie read a paper on the stone cross at Tuam, he having been the first to draw the attention of the public to this most remarkable and most beautiful relic of Irish Sculpture now remaining. In the MS of his Western Tour, written about the year 1822 he has the following passage

“I have still to describe another piece of antiquity, of which no notice has hitherto been undertaken – the ancient market cross of Tuam. This monument, the most remarkable of its kind, and the most splendid existing in Ireland, no longer remains in the situation for which it was intended. It is broken in three pieces, of which I discovered two lying in the church yard, and the third which was the base or pedestal in the fish market, where it was covered over with a heap of stones and rubbish. When together it stood sixteen feet high, and is composed of three blocks of sandstone and all the sides are covered with sculpture. From the accompanying outline you will observe that the arms are supported by pillars resting on the sides of the pedestal, a peculiarity of which I know but one instance, the contemporaneous Cross of Cormac McCarthy at Cashel. On top we see one side of the figure of Christ represented with the crown and kilt on the other side we see religious figures, apparently intended to represent the apostles. The shaft is composed of tracery and the base has two figures on each side, probably intended to represent the king and bishop by whom the cross was raised, along with an inscription running along the base.  The reader will no doubt, applaud my antiquarian zeal in uncovering, and thus discovering, the curious inscriptions, but I must not take all the credit for myself, for while I was working like a paviour, a gentleman offered his assistance, who, strangely enough, bore the very name of O’Hoisin or Heshin, he little thinking that in this act of politeness he was rescuing from oblivion a monument consecrated to his ancestor. The first inscription is a prayer for Aed Oissin for whom this cross was made, who became abbot in 1128, the second for Turlough O’Connor. This cross offers the only instance of a work of the kind, in which the name of the artist is recorded, the last inscription being for the sculptor Gilla Christ O Thuahail.”


The Life and Labours in Art and Archeology of George Petrie (Cambridge Library 1896)


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