Thursday, July 24, 2014

Island Life | Part I | Boa Island

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A little while back, I mentioned our family excursions to Fermanagh in the summer of 2013 and that I hoped to find a little time to put together a few lines about what we did and where we went – and (just maybe) why you should consider going for yourself!

Somewhere along the way, I had decided that the trips should have a common theme and we settled on the idea of islands. The first spot on our itinerary was Boa Island. The Island lies near the northern shore of Lough Erne and is connected by road bridges (A47) to the mainland – so no need to hire a boat or get your feet wet! If you’ve got even a passing acquaintance with Irish heritage, you’re likely to be familiar with the famous ‘Janus-figure’ of Boa Island. It’s known around the world as a one of the masterpieces of Irish and European art. You might expect that something so important is highly protected and that it forms the focus of a thriving local heritage industry along with a suitably tasteful visitor centre selling T-shirts and expensive coffees. You couldn’t be more wrong! This magnificent stone stands quiet and still in the disused graveyard of Caldaragh. There are no signs alerting the passing tourist to its presence other than a single one at the head of the road saying ‘Caldaragh Cemetery’. The Boa Island figure was discovered in this graveyard, but the smaller figure preserved beside it was discovered in 1939 on the nearby Lustymore Island and is, appropriately enough, known as the ‘Lustymore Idol’. Although frequently described as a ‘Janus figure’ the larger figure is more likely to be a representation of a Celtic god rather than a Roman one. The Wikipedia article on the site is well worth a read, and gives a great introduction to the site, the figures, and their background, so I’ll not try to better it here.

Just enjoy the photos of this beautiful site and consider coming to Fermanagh to see it for yourself!

Lustymore (left) and Boa Island (right) figureskeeping watch in Caldaragh cemetery

The Lustymore Idol - a possible precursor to Sheela-na-gig carvings 

Side view of the Boa Island figure, showing intertwining hair

Fragment of the Boa Island figure with portions of two hands.
Discovered by Richard Warner in 2003

Another view of the two figures

One of the Boa Island faces

An indentation in the top of the head of the Boa Island figure holds coins left by visitors

Suggested reading:
Hickey, H. 1976, 1985 Images of stone: figure sculpture of the Lough Erne Basin. Enniskillen.
Lowry-Corry, D. 1933 ‘The Stones Carved with Human Effigies on Boa Island and on Lustymore Island, in Lower Lough ErneProceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 41C, 200-204.
Warner, R. 2003 Two pagan idols - remarkable new discoveries Archaeology Ireland 17.1, 24-27.