Friday, September 17, 2021

Archaeology 360: Errigal Keerogue, Co. Tyrone

Dr Chris Lynn & Giant Pillar of Light at Errigal Keerogue, 2000

Historical sources suggest that a St Chiarog founded a christian monastery here in the 6th century, but there has probably a been a religious site of some description on this esporgent hill in rural Tyrone for as long as there have been humans to want religion. Today it is a quiet spot, quite a bit off the main road, dominated by the ruin of a late medieval church perched on top of the hill. Inside the church is a replica of a medieval tombstone, possibly representing a knight. However, the real treasure of this fantastic little site stands just to the west of the church building - an unfinished High Cross of Early Medieval date. The site describes is as having 'Short stubby arms ... slightly protruding from an unpierced ring'. In the right light you can see a set of incised lines marking a ring and concave arms on on the eastern face. On the opposite (western) face there is a low, circular boss surrounded by a rough square of four deeply-cut intersecting lines. It is usually thought that the cross was abandoned early in its construction when a significant crack was discovered running through the head. While it may have been abandoned at that point, it may as easily have been erected 'as is' and painted.  

My own first encounter with the site was one evening in 2000, in the company of Dr Chris Lynn. We were driving back together from some event in west Ulster and during the conversation he said - almost as an aside - 'Have you ever been to Errigle Keerogue?' I was about to ask 'What's one of those?', when he took my expression as a 'No' and pretty much lurched the car off the road saying 'Well, let's fix that!' Although a brief visit, I cherish the memory of having such an exclusive tour of the site from one of the greats of modern Irish archaeology. Back then, I always had my SLR camera with me & loaded with slide film. I grabbed a couple of indifferent shots of the cross itself, but remain more drawn to the snap of Chris quietly contemplating the late medieval church. As it turned out, it was the last shot on the roll and suffered a light leak along the right edge. Or maybe there was a Giant Pillar of Light there ... who knows with some of these old graveyards ..

See the [here] for more detail

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