The Enigma of the Irish Round Towers Part One

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THE IRISH ROUND TOWERS - the key to an enigma. For more than forty years a top US scientist, Professor Philip Callahan has turned his mind to the enigma of the distinctive round towers of Ireland. His discovery, one of the most important this century, has huge implications for modern man. For these towers, built by monks in the 6th and 7th Centuries are no less than radio antennae.

Belleek is a small town in County Fermanagh, known for its fine porcelain. During the second world war it was also an ideal position for a top secret radio range station. As a 20 year old GI, Phil Callahan was responsible for keeping the radio range operational. This station, the first of its kind, enabled RAF Coastal Command to maintain 24 hour cover over the Western Approaches.

"I'm very pleased with what I did there," Callahan says, "Keeping aircraft over the Atlantic all the time, meant the U-boats had to remain submerged. The convoys got through and both English and German lives were saved."

Glendalough Round Tower situated in the old monastic site founded by St. Kevin, who died in 618. The tower is built of mica schist , one of the most paramagnetic of all stones. Note the offset placement of the windows. It is considered the first university in the West.

Glendalough Round Tower situated in the old monastic site founded by St. Kevin who died in 618. The tower is built of mica schist, one of the most paramagnetic of all stones. Note the offset placement of the windows. It is considered the first university in the West.

Callahan's ability to view life from a different perspective imbues his work with a freshness and vitality that is so important to any major scientific breakthrough. His contribution to science has been massive, yet as most of his work has been in the less than glamorous field of agriculture it has largely gone unnoticed by the general public.

Callahan's expertise covers entomology, ornithology and VLF/ELF radio waves; he is a leading light in non-invasive methods of insect control. It is this broad knowledge that allows a cross-fertilisation of ideas to occur, reminiscent of the way natural philosophers like Faraday, Newton and Tyndall worked.

Indeed much of Callahan's pre-eminent work in the infrared spectrum and with paramagnetism is a continuation of the discoveries made by the Englishman Michael Faraday and his Irish friend John Tyndall.

Radio waves affect human behaviour
Callahan discovered that radio signals in the far infrared spectrum are a crucial element in insect behaviour. He also knew that radio signals could affect human behaviour and well-being. During a particularly severe winter storm in Ireland in 1944 the young GI was on night duty alone at the station when both the primary and back-up transmitters failed. With ten aircraft out over the Atlantic dependent on his signal to return safely, it was a fraught moment.

"I couldn't make any sense of it. Both machines were working, but there was no signal transmitting." Callahan shakes his head at the memory. "But then I remembered what an old Arctic radio man once told me about how ice-coated insulators could earth the signal. So I climbed up the antennae poles and whacked the ice off with a broom stick. It did the trick. But by the time I'd finished I could hardly stand up - the radio energy had made me drunk."

Round Tower Energy
As a climber Callahan was familiar with 'Climber's High' - a feeling of calmness and peace yet with an alertness and a  mind and body energy sustainable over long periods of time. He had become convinced that the feeling of elation he had when climbing was more to do with the power of the rock than anything else.  When he visited his first round tower at Devenish on Loch Erne he experienced a similar feeling to 'Climber's High'.

"I've always been drawn to mystic places - spots on Earth that induce a feeling of awe or wonder, a feeling of oneness where there is no real sense of time. Ireland has many of these places. The round tower at Devenish is one."

It was the feeling from Devenish, along with the incident at the radio station that created the impetus for Callahan's round tower research. The Irish round towers were constructed by monks towards the end of the great period of monastic expansion, between the fifth and the seventh centuries. When they were built they would have been the only stone structure in the monastery. Today 25 or more towers stand upright in more or less perfect form, whilst the remains of another 43 dot the countryside.

"I remember asking what special power was hidden in these towers? And could we ever understand this power?"

to be continued next week:

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