Dong, dong in Cong so the Pigeons leave the hole!

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Where: Connaught, County Mayo, Ireland

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When: Unknown

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Cong in County Mayo is better known for many reasons but how many of us knew that there was a cave known as the "Pigeons Hole" there that was so spectacular? Not an easy shot taking it from the bottom of the steps up towards the light. I wonder what it looks like now?

Photographer: Robert French

Collection: Lawrence Photograph Collection

Date: Circa 1865 - 1914

NLI Ref: L_IMP_3399

You can also view this image, and many thousands of others, on the NLI’s catalogue at


Owner: National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 6574
robertfrench williamlawrence lawrencecollection lawrencephotographicstudio thelawrencephotographcollection glassnegative nationallibraryofireland pigeonsholecave cong comayo connacht thequietman pollnagcolum

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    • 02/Feb/2023 07:58:26

    Flickr is sometimes amazing! With handrails in 2012 via

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    • 02/Feb/2023 08:13:03

    "There is an Irish legend that states that the cave is home to a sacred trout, “the fairy trout,” which, according to legend, avoided bait and evaded capture. The story told is that a beautiful young woman was set to marry a king’s son, but the prince was murdered before they were wed. Heartbroken, the young lady went mad with despair and then disappeared unexpectedly. It was believed she was taken away by the fairies. After a while, a white trout appeared in the subterranean river of the cave. It was fable to be a fairy, and given the utmost respect. However a soldier came to put the rumours to the test and caught the trout to fry for his dinner. He placed it on the pan, but the fish would not cook. Although the fish would not cook, he decided to eat the fish anyway. As he put his knife to the fish, it screamed, leaped from the pan to the floor, and transformed into a beautiful young woman. The woman explained that she was waiting for her true love in the river. She demanded he renounce his evil courses and take her back to the river. In the blink of an eye, the woman disappeared and in her place laid a small, white trout. The soldier quickly put the trout on a plate and rushed to the cave to put her back into the river. When he did, the river turned blood red momentarily. To this day it is said that one can find a white trout, with a little scar where it was cut, swimming in the sunny part of the river." From -

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    • 02/Feb/2023 08:34:29

    Yikes! SpookyView -

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    • 02/Feb/2023 08:46:29

    Down we go - - which imho confirms (at about 0:51) this reverse view Stereo Pair -

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    Robert Riddell

    • 02/Feb/2023 08:59:25

    Visited it in Autumn 2022 but it is closed off, no access.

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    • 02/Feb/2023 09:24:36 Alas there are very few seatrout (white trout) left in Ireland. There were plenty up the introduction of the first salmon farms in the estuaries around the west coast.

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    Niall McAuley

    • 02/Feb/2023 09:36:03

    There are several caves named Poll na gColm in Ireland. One of them in the Burren is rumoured to be the source for the name of the Tolkien character Gollum. Tolkien set exams at UCG in the 50s and visited the West several times.

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    Niall McAuley

    • 02/Feb/2023 10:03:43

    Paging back in the IMPs there is a long sequence of Ashford Castle pics I can't date, but paging forward, I see L_IMP_3403 which includes a memorial to John Cafferkey aged 68, which matches this death record from 1891, suggesting we are after that date. John Cafferkey listed as a Scripture Reader on that death record, and a faithful something of the scripture reading society for Ireland on the memorial. Better, in the background of that shot I see a signal box and railcars - the Achill line from Westport was finished in 1895.

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    • 02/Feb/2023 10:25:58

    Golly! ... via [] [] The 1831 book Legends and stories of Ireland with the fishy tale of the white trout online -

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    • 02/Feb/2023 11:35:48

    The above story of the white trout was reprinted in Freeman's Journal in 1884. It's a wonderful yarn about Samuel Lover's visit to the cave and his encounter with a young great-grandmother. I wonder if Mr French / Lawrence was inspired to take the photo after reading it. Via Trove -

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    John Spooner

    • 02/Feb/2023 11:44:46

    In November 1864 The Irishman published a translation of Erinn; A Legendary Tour by the Abbe Emanuel Domenech. In the instalment in the edition of Saturday 12 November 1864 it contains this account of his visit to the cave:

    Above our head the azure of the sky feebly showed itself as over the orifice of a well, encumbered with verdurous pendants. On the right, the vault of the channel was formed of enormous blocks of uneven rocks ; one would say it was the ruins of Titan’s cave, fearfully shaken by an earthquake. A woman with torches of lighted straw showed us all the windings of it, she flitted behind rocks, like stage scenes constructed by nature, to throw her torches into the river and show us the details of the cavern; at this moment, that ancient woman appeared to like one of the witches in “Macbeth” at her incantations ; the burning straw shed pale and lurid light over this fantastic scene, which was worthy a place in "Faust” or "Robert le Diable.”

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    Frank Fullard

    • 20/Feb/2023 09:45:15

    It seems this is now listed as “Permanently Closed”. Why this is so I do not know. It is on lands owned by Coillte as I understand it so presumably they have issues, probably in relation to insurance/safety. I’ll try and find out more and post an update should I get further information.