Donegal and Sligo – The Day of Death

I am fascinated with old graveyards and burial places, ruins and relics, and of course the old and the ancient. Sunday, I dragged Harry (who tolerates me in silent concession) nearly 3 hours north to Donegal, right on the border of Northern Ireland. 

Donegal Castle built in the 1500’s was the home of the Royal Family of O’Donnell, rulers of Tir Chonaill on the north west coast of Ireland.


This site may have originally been the site of a Viking Fort in the 9th-10th centuries because of it’s strategic position on the River Eske which empties into Donegal Bay and the wild North Atlantic. Tir Chonaill -the name of the region- means “country of the Conall” and its leading families included The O’Donells, The O’Dohertys, and The O’Boyles. Collectively, they were known as the Race of Conall – Conall being a son of Niall, High King of Ireland in the 5th century.

Here’s a look at Donegal Bay from Murvaugh Beach:

  

Next, on the way back to Sligo, I made Harry stop at WB Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe Church Cemetery. I was on my own for this one…


Then Sligo Abbey, originally a Benedictine Friory, and abandoned in the late 1700s. It was then quarried  by a local builder for stone to use to build houses. (What?!?)


Finally, Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which I posted photos of yesterday. The site has some 60 recorded monuments and is the largest and only large coastal megalithic cemetery within the Irish passage tomb tradition. The location in the virtual center of the Ciul Irra peninsula-one of the major ritual centers in Ireland during the Neolitihic- indicates its significance. 

The biggest tomb -Listoghil- is the largest monument and is distinguished from the others not only by its size but also by its covering by a cairn.

 

Two major excavations of the site by Swedish archaeologists in the late 1970’s and 1990’s revealed that the sites were in use between 4000- 3000 BC, making them older than the more famous passage tomb at Bru Na Boine (Newgrange). Listoghil seems to be a later addition, dating at some time after 3500 BC, however 2 dates from Carrowmore monument number 3 are very early – 5400 BC and 4600 BC respectively. 

One unfortunate, but not surprising finding was that the sites had been previously excavated, thus no intact and complete deposits were recovered. However, important discoveries were made. Small deposits of cremated bones were pushed into the spaces between the large slabs that form the lower support walls of the monuments. This is an indication of some ritual significance during construction of the tomb. Pretty freaking cool, right?!?

I hope I didn’t bore you with this. I bore my husband to death. (Pun intended)  But I love history and the more ancient the better. Funerary rituals are fascinating. The ideas different cultures had about burying their dead and sending their loved ones AND their enemies to the next world is an unending source of interest to me. And here in this country, I’m particularly captivated… These could be my relatives, after all!