McSorley's Knockmany...

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McSorley's Knockmany...

Post by jj.mccarroll »


Cnoc manaigh, The Monk’s Hill or Middle Hill

The annals of Ireland tell us that this remarkable hill is named after Queen Baine, ‘for it is there she is interred.’ This hill [which is a townland in the southern portion of the RC parish of Eskra], lying in the "modern manor" of Cecil, about two miles and a half north from the town of Clogher, and one mile from Augher, rises to a height of 779 feet above sea level. On its summit are the remains of a vast Cromlech, popularly called a giant’s grave.

It has been described at some length by J.J. Doyle, Sir Samuel Ferguson, Sir William Wild, Wakeman, and George Coffy. The latter, our most reliable authority on pre-Christian Irish Ornament, concludes, from the nature of the ornament, including cups, concentric circle, rude spirals, etc., on some of the stones in this cromlech, that it belongs to the late bronze age of Scandinavia, and cannot have been erected later than about 500 B.C.

The evidence of modern archaeology comes at once in conflict with popular tradition and written record. Mr. Coffy suggests that the evidence of Archaeology and Tradition my be reconciled in one or other of three ways.

First, That Queen Baine was buried in Cnoc-Baine, but either in a separate grave, or as a secondary internment in the already existing Cromlech, and that the present name of the hill dates from her burial, and not from the erection of the original monument.

Second, That the name of Knockmany embodies the tradition of earlier Baine, confounded with the Baine of the second century of our era.

Third, That Baine is to be identified with one of the mythological Aines of the Tuath-de-Danann race. In support of this supposition he reminds us that the local legends associate Knockmany with a Fairy or witch named Aine, and the tomb on the top is called Aine’s cave.

We agree with Mr. Coffy’s view that the Cromlech on the Knockmany belongs to a period several hundred years prior to the age of Queen Baine, and could not therefore have been built to enshrine her remains. We do not, however, see any valid reason for doubting the local tradition recorded by The Four Masters, and the venerable Leabhar Gabhala, viz, that Queen Baine was buried there, and that the hill takes its name from her.

Cucoigry O’Duigenan, chief chronicler to Maguire of Fermanagh, assisted Michael O’Cleary, ‘to purify and compile the Leabhar Gabhala, and to collect for it, from other books, all that was wanting to it in history and other learning.’ He knew the Knockmany district and its history, traditions and legends intimately.

The testimony of Leabhar Gabhala, one of the most valuable and reliable authorities on the early Irish History, is that Cnoc-Baine derives its name from Baine, the daughter of Scal, ‘for it is there she is buried.’

From an early age the feast of Lammas was celebrated at Knockmany with a variety of games and athletic sports that were probably a survival of the days of Queen Baine. Athletic sports, enlivened by dancing, song and story, attracted great crowds of young people to this romantic spot each succeeding Lammas, down to the desolate year of sorrow – black ’47, when the emigrant ship carried out of the country the cream of the merry lads and lasses that famine and pestilence had spared.

The games were discontinued, but an echo of them survives in the assembly of young people from this and neighbouring parishes, on Knockmany, on Bilberry Sunday.

Knockmany with its ancient chambered cairn at the summit has always been very dear to local writers and poets.

NOTE: The authorities have finally placed the chambered cairn in a much more secure setting that cannot be entered without proper notification. Because it is a significant view of the surrounding area, there are many visitors and I have often been there.
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