History of Tory
Stair Oileán Thoraí
Tory Island has been populated since the age of Neolithic farmers four thousand years ago. Legend, which dates Tory Island back to the Bronze Age, has it that the island was occupied by a race of pirates whose god-chief was Balor of the Evil Eve.
In the 6th century St. Columbcile founded a monastery on Tory and its round tower and Tau Cross still survive. The power of the sea is a constant theme in the Islanders "primitive" paintings, which are famous throughout the world.
It is said that years ago the civil authorities wanted to set up a prison on Tory. An ideal spot for a prison as it is practically impossible to escape from this ancient dungeon fort. Because of its situation on the Northwestern seaboard, it is bleak, remote and until recently inaccessible and for far too long utterly forgotten and neglected.
The great seas rolling in from the Atlantic and the deceptive currents sweeping through Tory Sound has severed communication with the mainland for up to six weeks with the worst stormy conditions imaginable.
Tau CrossColm Cille had a monastery on the island which flourished, making Tory island the principal ecclesiastical centre in Northwest Ulster for a thousand years. In May 1595 the monks fled to the mainland after their monastery was destroyed by a detachment of English troops commanded by George Bingham.
The distinctive Tau Cross is a reminder of the monastic period. Situated by the pier in An Baile Thiar and carved from a single slab of mica slate, it is 1.9m in height and 1.1m in breadth.
It is of great importance to the fishermen, many of whom pray here before going fishing. The only other Tau or T-shaped cross in Ireland is in Cil Iníne Baoith, Co Clare.
It is said that Aindreas na gCros, a Cromwellian solider much given to breaking crosses, struck the cross twice with his sword. The cross did not break but the marks made by his sword may still be discerned on it.
Washed ashore during World War II, defused and many years later, the Torpedo was erected midway between An Baile Thiar and An Baile Thoir. It is well positioned as it stands near the site of what was perhaps the bloodiest battle in the history of the Island - Sir Henry Foillot and Maolmhuire and Bhata Bhuí MacSuibhne, surprised, besieged and massacred the forces of Seán Mánais Óig ÓDomhnail, the last Irish leader to submit to the English after the rebellion of 1608.
Placenames close to the torpedo bear testimony to the massacre - Log Anáil na nDaoine (Hollow of the people's breath), Claí an Áir (Bank of the massacre) and Fuíoll na bhFear (remains of the men).