Town Walls and Sheela-na-gig

The 14th century town walls at Fethard are amongst the finest and most impressive town defences in the country. The most intact stretch of wall is at the southside of the old town and runs along the north side of the R706. The Clashawley river flows between the walls and the road. At the west end of this partly restored stretch is a fine mural tower, pictured below, and at the eastern end stood Watergate, one of the original five gateways into the medieval town. Part of another gateway, known as Madam Castle stands at the east end of the town, whilst the North gate at Sparagoulea still survives. Wickett/Pierce's Gate was at the east end of the town and the fifth gate on Burke St gave access to the Augustinian Abbey.

The southwest mural tower

The Pound attached to the town wall

At the right side of the image above we can see the wall running east from Westgate. In the background right is Court Castle and left of centre is the tower of Holy Trinity Medieval Church. In front of the tower is Edmund's Castle, a fortified house built onto the town wall. The former pound lies to the south of the castle. You will need to allow yourself a whole day in Fethard to see all the amazing medieval monuments scattered around the town, including the sheela-na-gig below, one of four associated with Fethard.


The sheela-na-gig, pictured left, is situated on the town wall to the immediate west of Watergate. It is the most frightening looking sheela I have ever seen. It may have been placed at the gateway as an apotropaic symbol. You can see why Jorgen Andersen called it the "Witch on the Wall" a title he used for his book on medieval erotic sculpture. The emaciated looking figure has incised ribs and striations on her left cheek and neck. The large rims around the staring eyes and the grim teeth add to her scary appearance. The scrawny hands are pulling the vulva. The only other remaining sheela-na-gig is located on a wall behind Holy Trinity Priory.

Situated: From Cashel take the R692 ESE for about 16.5 kilometres. Then turn left onto the R689.

Discovery Map 67: S 2083 3491. Last visit Sept 2020.

Longitude: 7° 41' 36" W

Latitude: 52° 27' 55" N, Sheela-na-Gig

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.