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Hawks Rock, Coolaney, Sligo

Sligo Dark Tales – The perils of travelling alone in the 18th-Century

Shepherd boy - booley farming
Shepherd-boy by Thomas Barker (1769-1847)

From the newspaper archives comes the late eighteenth-century story of two young boys herding cattle on Doomore mountain near Coolaney, County Sligo.

Booleying farming was an agriculture practice carried out in Ireland. This is where younger members of the farming community usually a teenage girl or boy, would go uphill with cattle to higher pastures to allow the cattle to graze and give the fields in the lowlands time to replenish. Temporary accommodation was built for them, known as booley huts. This is likely what took the younger boys to the more remote part of the mountain and lead to the discovery.

In March of 1783, two young boys are on the mountain near Hungry Rock, when they come across the remains of a well-dressed man. Typical of newspaper accounts from the eighteenth-century, it gives a lurid account of the body.


It stated ‘his eyes were picked out, supposed by ravens; his face disfigured; his body in a very putrid state.

The part of his clothes next to the ground was quite rotten.‘ It was believed from the condition of the man’s clothes he had died some months beforehand.

The man appears to have not carried any identifying papers with him. Instead, a description of his clothes was given, in the hope that a friend or relative who knew him might come forward. ‘There were found in his shoes a pair of silver buckles, and in a pocket of his surtout (great overcoat), two shirts and three pairs of stockings.

A travelling man -Wellcome Library

The man’s death was not thought to be suspicious, although if he was well-dressed and travelling he would have carried some coins none were found.  It was believed he was a traveller crossing the mountain towards Ballina, and being a stranger to the area, missed his way and unfortunately perished through fatigue and the inclemency of the night. (hypothermia). The man’s remains were removed and interred in the next churchyard by the country people.

Hawks Rock Sligo
Hawks Rock, Coolaney, Sligo

Local folklore suggests that Hungry Rock road was named after those who perished near the rocky Hawks rock outcrop during the famine. If you would like to view Hawks Rock (often mistaken by many including myself as Hungry Rock), check out the Sligo walks website. Glen Wood is a forest walk which runs near to the area. It is situated beneath some of the most dramatic Ox Mountain peaks and overlooks the beautiful Ballisodare Bay. Preserved above Glen Wood are the remains of an upland farm settlement including a field clearance system.


Newspaper archive: Hibernian Journal – 2nd April 1783

Mc Tiernan, John, A Sligo Miscellany (Sligo, 2000)

Travelling man: Wellcome Library Images –

Shepherd-boy: – Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service: Ipswich Borough Council Collection –

Glenwood Forest Walk: