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Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 53°47′00″N 8°15′00″W / 53.7833°N 8.25°W / 53.7833; -8.25Coordinates: 53°47′00″N 8°15′00″W / 53.7833°N 8.25°W / 53.7833; -8.25

Country Ireland
Province Connacht
County County Roscommon
Elevation 60 m (200 ft)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 • Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)
Irish Grid Reference M835815

Tulsk (Irish: Tuilsce, meaning "wet hill (Tullaigh uisce)") is a village in County Roscommon, Ireland. It lies on the N5 national primary road between Strokestown and Bellanagare.


Cruachan may be one of the most important and best preserved Celtic Royal Sites in Europe, and Tulsk is the setting for the interpretative centre which explores this complex and mysterious landscape. Cruachan was an Iron Age (Gaelic) royal palace, the home of the Irish warrior Queen Medb (or Meave), who was responsible for launching the Cattle raid of Cooley, as recounted in one of the best known works of early Irish literature, the Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Modern science is shedding new light on the significance of this ancient landscape and the meaning of the 60 National Monuments to be found here. The results of Archaeological Surveys carried out by Prof. John Waddell, from National University of Ireland, Galway, are incorporated into the exhibition rooms at Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre. The book "Rathcroghan, Co Roscommon: archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape", by John Waddell, Joe Fenwick, and Kevin Barton, details significant and previously unknown features and information about the Celtic Royal Site of Connacht.


The Discovery Programme has based its primary archaeological excavations and survey in the medieval village of Tulsk, and surrounding areas, from 2003 to 2009.

Archaeological research conducted by the Discovery Programme, Ireland’s archaeological research institute funded by the Heritage Council, has been examining the nature of Gaelic lordship and settlement in north Roscommon during the later medieval period, c. 1170-1650 AD. Since 2003, elements of this work have focussed on the history and development of Tulsk, as the principal residence of the O’Conor Roe (Rua) lords. Excavation on the ringfort in Tulsk village continues to reveal a sequence of unexpected and complex settlement horizons, which include a medieval castle-building phase and an Elizabethan-period (c. 1560-90s) occupation, when the mound was included as part of the works associated with the garrisoning of Tulsk by Sir Richard Bingham, the ‘Flail of Connacht’.

In 2009, the archaeological team has focused on a series of critical strata that explain the dating and development of the site. This year’s work considers the ringfort that underlies the medieval tower. The work shows the impressive boulder clay bank and ditch. It also shows the levels of soil introduced at a later date to build up the rignfort into a ‘platform’ of ‘raised rath’ form, sometime before the building of the medieval tower. The recent excavation has also revealed prehistoric levels, that extend back into the Mesolithic period, before the time of farming and when hunting and gathering prevailed. The sequence of levels reveals the degree to which the medieval lords attached value to returning to known sites of habitation.

Student volunteers from Ireland and from around the world have continued to contribute to the success of the excavation project, and school groups and other visitors have availed of the opportunity to watch the progress of the work. Information on Finds, Results, and other images are presented in the Cruachan Aí Heritage Centre.


Tulsk was previously a parliamentary borough, one of three in County Roscommon from the period 1663 to 1800 and was a constituency represented in the Irish House of Commons. Under the co-monarchs of William III and Mary II of England Tulsk was first represented in the Commons by William Cauldfield in 1692. The year marked what was to be the beginning of an extended period of dominance for the Protestant Ascendancy.

In 1837, Samuel Lewis published a topographical dictionary[21] which included the following contemporary description of Tulsk: TULSK, a post-town (formerly an incorporated market-town and parliamentary borongh), in the parish of OGULLA, barony and county of ROSCOMMON, province of CONNAUGHT, 8 miles (N.) from Roscommon, and 79 ¾ (W. N. W.) from Dublin: the population is returned with the parish. O'Conor Roe erected a castle here in 1406, and during the same century a Dominican monastery was founded either by MacDuil or O'Dowell, or by Phelim, son of Phelim Cleary O'Conor, who was interred here in 1448. The castle was for a long time one of the strongest in the province, and was garrisoned by the Earl of Kildare when he led his forces into this province in 1499.

The monastery continued to flourish till the reign of Elizabeth, but for some time prior to the dissolution its possessions were usurped by the Corporation of Galway. A Dominican abbey was also founded at Toemonia, near the town, by O'Conor Roe which in the reign of Elizabeth was found to be in the occupation of Franciscans of the third order, on whose suppression it was granted by the Queen to Richard Kyndelinshe. The inhabitants were incorporated by Charles II., in the fourteenth year of his reign, by the designation of the "Portreeve, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Tulsk:" the charter also conferred the elective franchise, with power to hold a court of record and a weekly market.

Under this charter the corporation consisted of a portreeve, 15 free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by two serjeants-at-mace and other officers appointed in the usual manner. The portreeve and free burgesses continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The court of record, which had jurisdiction to the amount of £5, has been long discontinued, and the corporation has become extinct.

The town has dwindled into an insignificant village, consisting only of a few straggling cottages and one shop. Fairs are held on Easter-Monday and the first Monday in November (O. S.); a constabulary police force is stationed in the village, and petty sessions are held weekly. There are some remains of the ancient abbey, situated in a large cemetery which is still used as a burial-place; and also of the conventual buildings; but the chief feature is a double-arched doorway, divided in the centre by a round pillar, which is of elegant design and in good preservation. The surrounding district is extremely rich and affords luxuriant pasturage.''

Closer in time - at the start of the 20th century - in October 1903 the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party John Redmond held a mass outdoor rally or "National Meeting" in Tulsk, for the people of County Roscommon. The party's dominant ideology was legislative independence for the country (Home Rule), with land reform also central to their mandate. On this particular inclement October Sunday, held in a field beside the village; Redmond addressed thousands on these two issues, both on local level and national level agendas. Tulsk was decided as the venue as it was geographically central to the county. Redmond arrived in the afternoon on horse-drawn side car from Roscommon town, where he had spent the previous night, after a train journey from Dublin. The culture of mass meetings in 19th century Ireland had began with Daniel O'Connell's quest for Catholic emancipation, and between 1880 and 1920 there had been (at least, as recorded) eight to 10 such meetings in Tulsk.

Tulsk was no different from most other British villages and towns during World War One, in that it contributed to the Allied effort of resisting the Central Powers' threat to European stability. John McGrath, from Tulsk, as published in Ireland's Memorial Records, is registered as a Private in the North Staffordshire Regiment - 12th Battalion - and was killed in action in France on July 28, 1918. His grave, amongst 370, can be viewed at Borre British Cemetery in northern France (grave number 11.F.6). McGrath was one of between 30,000 to 35,000 Irish who perished in the Great War. Two other men, Henry Armitage and William Garry, were RIC officers in Tulsk during that same war, and went to the front after an outdoor send-off in the village (from contemperaneous newspaper reports). Their fate is unknown, like that of half of the men who died in World War I (over 9 million), scattered as they are beneath the green fields of mainland Europe. The Cenotaph memorial, erected mostly in England and France - out of the ashes of the first global catastrophe of the 20th century - goes some way to remembering these dead. (re. Jay Winter, Lecture 18 - Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning - from Yale Open Courses, European Civilisation, available online)

During the Irish War of Independence, on 14 November 1920 George Kelly, who was a shop keeper in Tulsk, drove to Roscommon town in his truck to collect goods for his store. His vehicle was apprehended and Kelly was arrested and held in Roscommon. Later that night the same truck made its way to Four Mile House in the possession of RIC officers and members of the Black and Tans. Here, in the townland of Rathconnor, John Conry was marched from his house and shot twice in the head, twice in the chest and once in the stomach. The killing was in reprisal for the Four Mile House ambush, which had occurred three weeks previously. His death was just one in a total of 58 fatalities associated with the Irish revolution in county Roscommon from the years 1917 - 1921 (from 'Counting Terror' by Eunan O'Halpin in 'Terror in Ireland 1916-1923' ed. David Fitzpatrick).

Thomas Brady, Intelligence Officer of 2nd Battalion, North Roscommon Brigade stated in the Bureau of Military History that while the RIC barracks in Tulsk had been evacuated in Autumn 1919 - Spring 1920, it wasn't burned to the ground until after Easter 1920, without any trouble; "We had no trouble in destroying [it]." The barracks had been a busy one for a rural outpost, and in 1911 had no fewer than 10 RIC officers stationed - this at a time of particular agrarian unrest in the area (albeit with a population of 784 in Tulsk DED at the time, as opposed to 215 in 2002 for instance - NUI Maynooth Irish Population Change Atlas (available online)).


Renowned Irish folk singer Christy Moore, in the title track of his Welcome to the Cabaret album, describes Tulsk as being like "hell". It is widely held that this refers to a gig he played there that ended up with a large brawl.[1] However, the area around Tulsk, within the complex of sites known as Cruachan/Rathcroghan, has long association with Hell, due to the Christian Monks fearful notations on a known entrance to the Celtic 'Otherworld', through the Cave at Cruachan - Oweynagat (Irish: Uaimh na gCait, the Cave of the Cats). Ancient literature recounts how every Samhain, denizens of the Otherworld sallied forth to wreak havoc in our world, giving rise to the description of the area as containing 'the Gates of Hell'.


Notable residents

  • Joe Cunnane, a footballer

See also

  • List of towns and villages in Ireland
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