Category Archives: Built Heritage

Lighthouses,  Covid  and hope.

Lighthouses,  Covid  and hope.

I feel that I cannot not mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and to try to make some sense of what happened. One cannot go too far around the shores of Lough Neagh without encountering some material evidence of the legacy of the Second World War in the airfields and other sites.

 I visited my maternal grandparents grave in Donegal lately and realised that in the present circumstances they would be denied a full funeral with all their family and friends in the church. Funeral rituals are important whatever one’s belief from the most ancient times to the present.

I also visited one of the most amazing monuments in the whole island.  Beltany is a Bronze Age stone circle just south of Raphoe town in .  It dates from circa 2100-700 BC. There is evidence that it may also have been the sacred site of Neolithic monuments possibly early passage tombs. The enigmatic Stone Circle is situated on the summit of Tops Hill, the anglicized Gaelic word meaning ‘the lighting of a ceremonial torch’.  It has me thinking about lighthouses and death. Graveyards and lighthouse both strangely give me hope and help me make sense of what happened back then and indeed what is happening now in the world with this pandemic. I find graveyards and lighthouses humbling places to visit.

 We have a very deep need to make sense of what is happening now as well as what happened back then. It is difficult to understand and describe our individual and collective experiences in these uncertain and unprecedented times (these are the most used words that I hear).

It can be useful to look to the past and even if it is an unreliable guide it can provide some light on present matters. Over ‘lockdown’ I have been researching my grandparent’s lives.  Recently I got a copy of my grandfather’s service record from the Commissioners of Irish Lights. What amazed me is that my grandfather lived on the remote island of Inistrahull off Malin Head ( the most northerly lighthouse in the whole island) during the First and Second World Wars. Those dates are within the first half of a century of turmoil and crisis which engulfed and  fundamentally altered our world. Imagine the whole north Atlantic fleet based in Lough Swilly during World War I and all the activity with the ominous threats of the U-Boats in World War II and the daily rationing etc that everyone endured.   He was also stationed on Arranmore Island  off the coast of Donegal, when nineteen men and boys lost their lives in a boating accident on 9th  November 1935. They were travelling from Scotland where they were potato gathering   to the island in an open sailing boat (yawl) when it capsized. There was only one survivor. My mother said that my grandfather could never really talk about it.

I was lucky to know my grandparents. We all shared a love of the water – whether it be fresh or salt.  I knew them well enough to realise they looked at the world differently from me. But they made the world a better place.

As I sometimes moan in a Covid 19 pandemic over the lack of full-on socialising, I too stop to think of the resilience of the war generations. Victor Frankl the Austrian psychiatrist spent his life trying to help people look at their lives and the world differently. He survived the Holocaust but his beloved wife did not. His experiences he describes in Man’s Search for Meaning. If we live with purpose he says, then we can overcome anything. “In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Nobody can take that away as he found out.

Can we look to the resilience of the war generation and the beam that comes from the lighthouses. Someone once said that lighthouses are totally altruistic – they exist only to help and shed a light. I know that my grandfather didn’t serve on the frontline but he did serve. He kept the light burning literally in the darkest of times ( they carried gallons of drums of paraffin up those winding stairs to keep the light lit) .


Here is my grandfather’s service record. I think it speaks for itself.


 Irish Lighthouse Service


Commissioners of Irish Lights


William Friel, Lighthouse Keeper 235


Service Record


Date of Birth 5th December 1883
Place of Birth Ballymichael
Entry into Service 7th October 1908
Appointed as Supernumerary Assistant Keeper 1st April 1909
Promoted to Assistant Keeper 13th December 1909
Promoted to Principal Keeper 1st January 1935
Pensioned 1st January 1944
Died 3rd September 1967



Served at the Following Stations


Station Period


Bull Rock 0 years 5 months SK
Mew Island 2 years 8 months AK (Joined this station on 13-12-1909 to 15-8-1912)
Inishowen 3 years 11 months AK (Joined this station on 15-8-1912 to 2-8-1916)
Inishtrahull 4 years 5 months AK (Joined this station on 1-8-1916. Listed at station on 1-6-1918)
Sligo 3 years 8 months AK (Joined this station on 8-10-1919. Listed at station on 1-6-1922)
Fanad Point 2 years 6 months AK (joined this station on 18-5-1923. Listed at station on 1-6-1925)
Rathlin Island (West) 4 years 7 months AK (Joined this station on 17-11-1925. Listed at station on 1-6-1930)
Inishtrahull 3 years 2 months AK (Joined this station on 6-8-1930. Listed at station on 1-6-1934)
Aranmore 1 year 10 months PK (Joined this station on 12-1-1935. Listed at station on 1-6-1936)
Eagle Island 2 years 10 months PK (Joined this station on 23-10-1936. Listed at station on 1-6-1939)
Inishtrahull 1 year 10 months PK (Joined this station on 18-8-1939. Listed at station on 1-6-1943)



Totem Animals

Totem Animals

Blog by Liam Campbell

I broke my ankle lately, stupidly wearing sandals clambering over rough ground. I should dress appropriately for my age! However, it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good. This has forced me to  slow down, and to take notice. To Take notice of the small things. To pay closer attention.

I am very lucky to live in a remarkable place in the Sperrins and to work at an equally remarkable place by the shores of Lough Neagh.

Tied to my desk, I have begun to take notice of a little wren in the prickly, impenetrable pyracantha bush against the wall, outside my window. The Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, who gave the world the central system by which all living things are classified in Latin (many disagree with this system) has given the wren the most amazing of Latin names Troflodytes troglodytes, sounding like some gigantic creature from Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Such a big name for such a little bird. The Irish, derolin, little druid, I find more accurate and pleasing.  Although tiny they can deliver a shrill song with great gusto and dispense great wisdom if we take time to notice.

I am old enough to remember the pre-decimal coins of the Republic of Ireland that featured animals such as the hare, the Irish Wolfhound and the salmon. The smallest coin, the farthing, featured the woodcock when I thought it should have been the wren. But then it may have been too associated with paganism! More of this later.

Sometimes when, I think of scale and the climate crisis that engulfs us, I feel so small and powerless to do anything. Amid the increasing lexicon of environmental catastrophe, it is no surprise that there are new words for fear (after all environmental psychologists have given us – Nature Deficit Disorder to name our disconnection from the natural world,  as if we are not part of it!) To pay attention to what is happening in the world and to imagine what might come next instils fear in most of us. We as human beings are responsible for this devastation and we often suffer guilt and anxiety as to what to do about it. Our suffering is guilt as well as fear. Some call it ‘eco-anxiety’, others have termed it ‘solastalgia’

I feel that we have to ‘adopt’ the smaller more-than-human beings and see what they can teach us. Sometime the world is just too big and makes us feel helpless. Concentrating on the smaller as in the form of a mascot, totem or whatever we call them, can help see the bigger connections and pictures.

 An animal such as the wren, salmon, eel,  crow, eagle,  a tree, even  Sphagnum moss  or similar is adopted. In a sense it becomes a symbol of a collective unconsciousness and becomes a means to renewal and restoration.

Adapting to that world requires that we understand ourselves as individuals, as groups and as one species among others – that we learn to live our collective and individual lives on the Earth’s catchment terms. Engaging the lives of wren, wild salmon, or whatever can create a situation wherein the peoples of this place begin to experience themselves as functional parts of the place itself. Engaging the lives of any part of the wild in any self-defined natural area will lead to this. The wren  is a  good teacher and as some natives elders say, “ Any animal knows way more than you do “.

The “environment” as a “whole” can sometimes seem too large to relate to, whereas an “element” of it such as the wren can help us relate to the “whole”. Archetypes, according to the psychoanalyst Jung are “forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action. Although they are relatively distinct, these universal forms are embedded in a web of relationships, in which each archetype ultimately involves all the others”.

My colleagues have been involved in a wonderful curlew restoration project for some time now and last week saw the successful release of three curlews chick across the Lough Neagh landscape – an amazing contribution to the declining curlew population. These were so much part of the soundscape of my childhood and indeed adulthood and yet the decline is so dramatic. I can think of no better a totem to adopt. The local children are doing it with various ritual and art projects.

The curlew can be the saviour of this wonderful place.

 There are many forms of mimesis and ritual that can help reconnect society with the whole community of life. In many societies, mimesis serves the purpose of renewal and restoration. An act of mimesis reconnects the worlds for sacred service and community. We need spiritual practices, art and ritual, because authentic work has to come from the inner self and acknowledge the “spiritual way of knowing”. Recovering or re-connecting with this love of life in all its forms comes through creativity, art, imagination and meditation. Through ritual we can reconnect with the inner child and that child’s relationship to the earth and to their place on it. Ritual can help to heal and nurture the child within. Being a member of a community of beings is expressed by mimetic ritual – be this, the protecting of eels, bog, or the curlew or the coming together, the meitheal (lit., working party) of any group of people to work at their relationships with the more-than-human world.  This requires that we be open to the stories and art of others and indeed our own instinct and that we be willing to let these into our lives. It requires that we relearn how to read the landscape, something our ancestors did by instinct.

Back to the animal coins! I have been doing a bit of research on the history of their introduction. . Indeed, so familiar and commonplace did they become that it is hard now to believe that their release in 1928 was followed by a heated debate about their symbolism. In the Senate, poet W.B. Yeats welcomed the government’s decision to appoint a committee of artists to advise on the design of the coins, declaring that stamps and coins were ‘the silent ambassadors of national taste’. Yeats was therefore a logical choice as chairman of the committee on coinage design. By the time the designs were officially released to the public, they had already attracted controversy owing to unauthorised disclosures of the committee’s choice of symbols. The symbols were listed in December 1926 by the short-lived newspaper Irish Truth, which predicted that they ‘will not merely be unpopular, but will be met with positive derision’. The coins were condemned by their detractors for promoting paganism because they bore no religious symbols; for repudiating the national tradition by neglecting conventional national emblems; for stereotyping Ireland as an agricultural nation. The fact that there were no religious symbols on the coins was a major cause of concern for the critics of the designs, who believed that the coins should proclaim Ireland’s status as a great Christian nation. For a number of critics, the absence of religious emblems was no accident but was part of a larger conspiracy to remove religion from public life. Several saw the hands of the Freemasons at work in the coinage designs! Critics of the coins liked to describe them as ‘pagan’, paganism being a more pejorative term for secularism and materialism. As one critic explained, ‘The coins are called pagan in the sense that there is a total absence of a sign that they symbolise the sovereignty of a Christian nation’.
Those who held this view had little time for the argument, advanced by defenders of the coinage designs, that to put religious emblems on coins would be to profane holy symbols. To the defenders of the coins, there was nothing irreligious about the animal symbols. The liberal Irish Statesman mocked the coinage critics: One would imagine that while man was created by God the animal world was created by the devil, so angry are the critics . . . Who would have thought that that poor little hare on the threepenny bit was a form of the devil, or that little woodcock was a demon.
The absence of religious symbols from the coins was a virtue for their defenders, several of whom quoted the biblical verse about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. ( History Ireland etc ).

For me this shows some of the historic roots of all this disconnect and the separation of life on this planet. One writer  contends that the “original sin of humanity” is “the tendency to abstract ourselves from the earth, from the place of which we are an integral part”.

Things are changing however in in conservative church circles  to a more inclusive and less separatist attitude to nature. This too is the call of Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter Laudato  Si – On Care of our Common Home ( 2015 ) which is in my mind a very radical departure in Christian thinking as a  “ wide-ranging, comprehensive and positively disturbing call to our deepest selves to awaken and act in unison for the common good “.  Issues such as The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism, The Principle of Common Good and  The Control of Water are given full chapters in this most radical of departures. The choice of the phrase ‘our common home ‘ is itself radical in that it highlights our shared space as the entire community of life and the possibility of recovery.

There is a great story in Irish folklore of the wren becoming king. At least Linneaus gave them a kingdom and as Finton O Tooke said in a recent Irish Times article on the Covid and climate crisis – “ We are not the kings anymore!” It might be no harm for each of us to have a totem animal (that is not human). The curlew is not a bad one to choose.

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Blog by Dr Liam Campbell

There is a lot of civil engineering around the Bann and Lough  Neagh. I will return to this soon.

Our second youngest daughter wants to be a civil engineer. She loves reading about natural features, such as water and engineering and  we have  a profusion of old mills near where we live to interest her.  There are many moves to help and encourage women into this ancient profession but it historically hasn’t been easy for women to break into this job. But I have been doing some research. Women according to archaeological evidence throughout Europe and further afield, were primarily responsible for the collection of water from the wells  for domestic purposes – the archetypal ‘water carriers’. This iconic image connects with their reproductive role as literal and metaphorical ‘bearers of life’ .Women generally were responsible for the management of water resources. The worship of many female deities at that time suggests that they also enjoyed considerable  political and  religious equality and with more collective forms of resource ownership, greater economic parity as well. Much of the early water management was transferred to male monasteries and women become disenfranchised from the control of water. Although the invention of the water pump saved time – it was the beginning of the transfer of water management into the hands of male engineers : a process that led to the piping and culverting of water into more individuated domestic spaces whereas wells had been social spaces owned by everyone. People become consumers of water and the environmental relationships change. Nature is more associated with the female and the culture of controlling it becomes more male.

In 1795, Oliver Goldsmith wrote:

God has endowed is with abilities to turn this great extend of water to our own advantage. He has made these things, perhaps for other uses; but he has given is the faculties to conveet them to our own….Let us then boldly affirm, that the earth, amd all its wonders, are ours; since we are furnished with the powers to force then into our service.

We have made the earth simply a subject of our control and are reaping the consequences of this. History shows that the great empires such as China and Egypt were built upon central control of the waters of the great rivers and even in modern democracies the control of this vital resource is a powerful political position.


Coming from a household of females, I may be accused of bias but I will now return to the engineered landscape of Lough Neagh.  It is the largest fresh water lake in Britain and Ireland and draws water from five counties in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Neagh contains over 800 billion gallons of water. It is 15 kilometres wide, 25 kilometres long with a shore line of 125 kilometres. The catchment area for which the lough acts as a central reservoir is over 1,500 sq miles and it receives the flow of many major rivers, including the Blackwater, Ballinderry, Moyola, Upper Bann, Six Mile Water and Main.  The only outlet is by the Lower Bann river entering the sea below Coleraine. It has always been a holder of these waters but despite its size it is relatively shallow and therefore its capacity is not as great as might be expected.

The Lower Bann valley especially  is given to flooding. Prior to the mid19th century ‘lowerings’ some 25,000 acres was subject to regular intuition.  Shoals or submerged banks along the riverbed, especially at Toome, slow down the river’s flow.  In prehistoric times flooding was good as it enriched the land for the hunters and gatherers.  However, as people settled and started farming it has been seen as a threat. From the 1700s several schemes were proposed to deal with flooding and navigation, but with little success.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Francis Hutchinson said

…..the waters which flow from so many sources can not possibly be discharged by the single outlet of the Bann but must, unless steps are taken to discharge the waters by clearing the obstruction of the river, be annually accumulated to the great detriment of the lands around.

( 1884 –  cited in the Report on the  Drainage of Lough Neagh by Robert Manning – Chief Engineer of the Board of Works, Dublin. )

In 1812 Thomas Townsend, an engineer with the Bog Commissioners in Ireland, suggested that river navigation could be improved by building canals and removing the shoals along the river.  The Drainage Act of 1842 was passed by the government to ease flooding and improve navigation of the Bann.

 McMahon’s Scheme

In 1844 canal engineer John McMahon was commissioned to create a navigation scheme for the Lower Bann.  His challenge was to help drainage, improve navigation and support fishing.  He proposed to build locks and weirs to lower winter flood levels and also store water to help with navigation. Nevertheless, in the degree of flood control and water storage existing in the Lough Neagh Basin, even in its natural state, McMahon recognised the great benefits bestowed by a large expanse of inland sea which was

…… placed by nature at a point of convergence of several powerful and turbulent rivers and streams, it receives and calms the impetuosity of these waters, rendering them fit for man’s use, and is almost without a parallel as to value amongst his industrial resources.


The most glowing anticipations of the benefits to be derived from the scheme in 1846  were conjured up as W. A. Mc Cutcheon the author of The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland says. Doctors reported that there would be probable benefits in abating epidemics of fever; professors of geology discoursed on the economic value of the deposits of clay which would be exposed neat Toomebridge, and further south between Ardboe Point and Portadown – diatomite, peat, lignite and coal, sulphate of lime and sulphate  of iron; the Drainage Commissioner, Robert Harding, envisaged a vast improvement of the land that was liable to flooding. In short he felt everyone would benefit.

The five locks were created at Toome, Portna, Movanagher, Portna, Carnroe and the Cutts. They all had standard sized chambers, 130ft long by 20ft 6in wide (39.6m x 6.2m).   McMahon estimated the cost at £163,486.  He planned to make money with increased trade, more reclaimed land for farming and water power. Stone used for the various weirs, locks and banks came from excavated material and nearby quarries at Tamlaght, Movanagher and Toome.  Brick from Coalisland was used for the lock and lock-keeper’s house at Toome. Over 1500 men worked on the scheme at any one time. The Board of Works approved the scheme, known as the Lower Bann Navigation, which was implemented over 13 years (1847-1859).   The total cost came to £264.000 – over £100.000 more than the original estimate.

The scheme lowered the level of Lough Neagh by approx. 6ft (1.8m).  It reclaimed up to 30,000 acres of land round the shoreline for agriculture. It opened up river traffic between Lough Neagh and Coleraine. However, railways had started to overtake river traffic.  Belfast and Newry were also better placed for the shipment of goods along the canals to cross channel ships. In 1862 the Lower Bann Steamship Company started a service along the Lower Bann.  The Harland & Wolff built steamer Kitty of Coleraine offered a twice-weekly passenger and goods service between Coleraine and Toome.  But the service never took off and stopped in 1869.


Shepherd’s scheme

In 1929 the Ministry of Finance took over responsibility for the Lower Bann. They employed Major Percy Shepherd to address the issue of flooding along the Bann. Work on Shepherd’s scheme began in March 1930. Almost 4 million cu. m of non-rock material was dredged.  Sluice gates were installed at Toome, Portna and Cutts to regulate the flow of the river and control the water level of Lough Neagh. There were five gates at Toome with a fish pass in the centre.  A footbridge was also built to access them from the Co Antrim side.  The level of the river was monitored at water gauge stations at Toome and Camus. Three sets of flood gates and five sets of locks on the Lower Bann control the water level of Lough Neagh. Today, Lough Neagh is 3.6 metres lower than it was in 1847.

Back to the role of the female or not in all of these schemes to ‘control nature’. One wonders would or could these engineering changes  happen today?  There are many debates about flooding and flood defences. Is it good to try and culvert, control and embank water ? It is not easy if you live by a coast, a river or a lough that is prone to flooding but what are the long term answers ? Is hard engineering and ‘controlling nature ‘ (still mostly by men !) the answer?  In the Netherlands, Room for the River,  Ruimte voor de Rivier, is a government design plan intended to address flood protection, master landscaping and the improvement of environmental conditions in the areas surrounding the Netherlands’ rivers. We might have to make way again too!


Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Blog by Liam Campbell

Numbers, tracing  and connections seem to be the order of the day at this time. Always mindful of Edward Said’s phrase that “ Survival is about the connections between things “ I have been thinking about chance and connection. We have got used to the microscopic images of a virus on our screens and this too has made me think about the smallest elements of our catchment that may teach us something.

When I came to work at Ballyronan on the loughshore I was immediately met by the swarm of the Lough Neagh flies. Not coming from a biological background, I was informed by colleagues that these Lough Neagh midges or flies had tongue-twister names : Chrironomus anthracinus and Glyptoendipes  paripes and they were central to the whole ecosystem of the Lough and that they didn’t bite ! They have a very simple life – spending most of their lives on the sediment at the bottom of the lough and after one year the midge larvae pupate and emerge as winged adults in late April and May. Having spent the last few weeks working from home in the Sperrins, I miss them – seriously ! The swarms of these remarkable creatures  are a remarkable sight like plumes of smoke above and  on cars, houses and boats. According to John Faulkner and Robert Thomson in their great work “ The Natural History of Ulster “ ( National Museums of Northern Ireland 2011 ) their numbers are immense and they have calculated that there may be over 5,000 individuals per square metre, which multiplied by the area of Lough Neagh, is around 300 for every person living on the planet, or well over one million million. I’m not good with numbers and I would need my daughter who is an actuary to look at these types of figures when we get into microscopic detail !

I have been reading a brilliant book, “ The Irish Pearl “ by John Lucey ( Wordwell, 2005 ) about the freshwater pearl mussel and it brings into, now just the area of numbers but of chance ! The pearl mussel has a wonderful cultural, social and economic history that could fill pages.

This is a story of the connectedness of everything within the bioregion which has local relevance for those in the Lough Neagh  catchment especially the Ballinderry river.  The very existence of this tiny pearl which comes from the freshwater mussel shows the complexity and connectedness of this bioregional system. This mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) has become ecologically precious in itself often living up to 150 years or more. Its survival owes as much to chance and to what we do with our waters. Rather than develop on limey substrates that generally favour molluscs, the mussel thrives in the fast flowing rivers rising in the mountains of sandstone and granite of the Sperrins and Bluestacks, often rich in silica but markedly lacking in calcium needed for shell-building. So this species develops slowly with a sooty black shell and a tough, nacreous lining of mother-of-pearl. The young are set adrift in the current and in midsummer they are brooded in the female gills and then released in a cloud of larvae called glochidia – an average of 9.8 million from each animal. As the glochidia are swept away in the river, their survival depends on their being passively breathed into the gills of a salmon or trout, whereupon they clamp to a filament of the soft, red tissue and begin to absorb nourishment from it. In their twenty four hours of viability 99.9996 percent of the glochidia will fail to find a host. Of the forty in ten million that do, all but two will be lost during the fourteen days it takes to grow to an independent size. Another connection is that it cannot use non-native fish for attachment. Scientists have suggested that the relationship of pearl mussels and salmon is symbiotic – the fish provide nourishment at a critical phase in infancy (a parasitism that seems to do the salmon no harm at all), while the adult mussels help to maintain water quality for the salmon. In one river, the mussels have been shown to filter 90 percent of the volume in low-water years (Viney, 2003). Due to the vulnerability of young pearl mussels to pollution, the species has declined by over 80% in the last ten years (Bullock et al., 2008). “Much of the remaining population is believed to comprise adults born before Independence” (ibid.: 96).

I was very privileged some years ago to work on a programme called Bridging Troubled Waters about water quality in Northern Ireland and got to visit the Ballinderry fish hatchery where a restoration project to halt the decline in their numbers has been ongoing.  On the banks of a river I was to meet with a biologist and had the utter pleasure of holding in my hand a freshwater pearl mussel. This beautiful animal was I’m told between 140 and 150 years old. It was a sacred moment to hold such a creature. At the hatchery, large numbers of brown trout have been successfully infected with the pearl mussel glochidia, yielding over 100,000 juvenile mussels to grow on in large experimental gravel tanks before being let into the river. But this depends on the water quality ultimately. These mussels are at the top of what is called an “indicator” species providing a litmus test, so to speak, of the health of the natural environment. The life cycles of some species seem more than usually designed to demonstrate the workings of chance; moreover, the exceptional lifespan of the freshwater pearl mussel – up to 150 years or more – might also be a recognition of its luck in existing at all.

At the same time,  I have been involved in some archaeological investigations around the lough as the built and cultural heritage of Lough Neagh is my main job and I have some excellent natural heritage colleagues who know a lot more about our marvellous natural heritage than I do. One of our surveys was of the original Plantation fort at Brocagh / Mountjoy which almost nothing remains above surface. Why do I relate these two stories? The fort of Mountjoy is now gone and yet despite all the lottery of chance the pearl mussel still survived. The connection is the lough and river system.  It too was the reason for both and yet it survives. I am reminded of Ozymandias, that great poem by Shelley (cited in Boland, 1997: 115):

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of the colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I have an inner disquiet or distrust concerning the kind of historicism which refuses to acknowledge returns, echoes or parallels between different historical moments. It helps to acknowledge history on the epic scale that is less anthropocentric. I will brush up on my mathematic too !!





The Scale of Belonging – Dr Liam Campbell

The Scale of Belonging – Dr Liam Campbell

These last few weeks I have not been too far from my home – I’d say a radius of 6 miles at the most and it has been a big lesson in the art of belonging and the local and has got me thinking. There is something about the scale of belonging and getting to know a place a lot better.

The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind and light. With complete attention landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of the landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness. Mountains are huge contemplatives. Rivers and streams offer voice: they are the tears of the earth’s joy and despair. The earth is full of soul (O’ Donohue, 1997: 115).

When you read Lough Neagh Places – Their Names and Origins ( 2007 ) by Drs Patrick Mc Kay and Kay Muhr, you realise that there is something deeper about a sense of place and attachment than some  theories can “get at”. Heaney (1984: 131) writes that there are two ways in which we can know a place, “One is lived, illiterate and unconscious, the other learned and conscious.” The danger of relaying on the use of generic terms such as “Nature” and “environment” is that these objectify what we love and obscure the particularity of thousands of places, townlands and parishes across the land, another way of inhabiting a place of belonging. In doing so we can unwittingly undermine any attempt to know and love our “place” as a place and not as a concept.” “ Philosophy is a place-based existence. It comes from the body and the heart and is checked against shared experience” (Snyder, 1990: 69). A sense of place partakes of a culture and a shared body of “local knowledge”, with which people and whole communities render their places meaningful and endow them with social and spiritual importance. It is often evoked in the names of the place in their native language.

Cranfield Ancient Site

Viewing the land as a set of resources has tended to encourage its quantitative evaluation ( and we often have to do this for work – if you don’t put an economic value on something,  then it may not be considered of  any worth and get the notice of the government bodies   and yet is this to put it into a realm  where it simply goes up and down in value ?)  , or perhaps its quantitative assessment automatically frames the land as a set of resources. There is no doubt that pastoralists evaluate the land in quantitative terms as is evidenced in the way townlands were divided and established. There are c.63,000 of these townland units in Ireland (McErlean, 1983). These medieval landscape assessment systems which emerged as an expression of landholding may seem like a quantitative evaluation, and in a sense they are, but they have an underlying environmental logic that is rare in contemporary resource assessment. In this system the more extensive territories occurred on poorer lands i.e. the larger townlands were usually in the poorer uplands. Generally  the folk knew their land and what it could “hold” in an ecologically friendly way. This was measurement not for commercial exploitation, but for future survival, and a deep affinity with the natural world of which humanity is one part. The differences are not perhaps so great. The land may have been measured but the interaction with the land is not directed by wholly material concern and also reflects the spiritual, intellectual and emotional concerns which we will explore later. As O’Connor (2001:4) has said, “[t]o know the townlands of Ireland is to know the country by heart”.

We all need to belong somewhere but the kind of belonging may be different from what it was formally. A re-localization may be taking place in this time of not being able to travel too far from home. Local heritage studies and local heritage tourism have seen a rise in interest in recent years. In many of the parishes around the loughshore  you will find the names of town-lands prominently displayed on carved stones or on signs  by the roadside. We have, I think, probably seen a reaction against the placelessness of the global and a search for the re-connectedness to the local and to home – where we know and are known.

Lough Neagh Eel Visitor Centre

Brain Turner, (2004), tells of how there is an increasing disjuncture between local communities in many places and the landscapes they inhabit. He reflects on a little experiment with three generations of men of similar background in the same parish in rural Ulster. The oldest man, aged 73, could name and place 156 townlands in his locality and his mental map of the place was one where people, townlands and farms are closely meshed together. A middle aged man in his forties could name thirteen townlands and his sixteen year old son could only name the townland in which he lived. The intimate topography of farms, townlands, coastlines and river pools, unimportant to the military or political designs of map makers, is vanishing with the language. Each generation seems to know fewer and fewer place-names and their meanings. There is a contraction of knowledge about local topographies that results in the whole fabric of ordinary, neighbourhood history fading from our mental maps. Field names and river names were often a sensitive indicator of when Irish was a living language in the rural community.

There is something about the notion of a scale of place and belonging that is worth exploring. People may need a human scale of place and belonging to complement the global, a means of inserting their own experience, feelings and opinions into an often alienating world. Many well-intentioned philosophies want us to declare ourselves as global citizens to “think, globally and act locally”. However, Wendell  Berry questions this:

Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible. Global thinking can only do to the globe what a space satellite does to it: reduce it, make a bauble of it. Look at one of those photographs of the earth from outer space, and see if you recognize your neighbourhood. If you want to see where you are you will have to get out of your spaceship, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground (Berry, 1993: 19-20).

These last few weeks have helped me get out of my “ spaceship” and “ walk over the ground “

John Feehan (2010) whom I turn to a lot for advice, contends that the appropriate scale of belonging is actually biologically determined, a dimension of biophilia (the affinity that our species feels with others). “Therefore, we can only be “at home” when we are close to the natural world in, “a place with which we are commensurate” (2010: 69; orig. emph.), of such a size that we can get to know it, relate to, and feel we have taken root. The sense of identity that is commensurate with the human need to belong and lead a purposeful and fulfilling life is for him most easily and naturally achieved on the scale of parish, in the broader economic and ecological sense.


Parishes were mapped out at the Synod of Rathbreasail in the year 1111. Here we see the transition from a medieval system of church based on monasteries to one based on a diocesan structure in which rivers and loughs  were to play a major part.  The boundaries of the early Irish Church were defined largely by what we could term river basin districts and all diocese had an “exit” to the sea, even if they were inland (Duffy, 2007). The parishes were originally co-extensive with the tuath, the territory controlled and farmed by a clan or extended family, just as diocese corresponded to larger political units (Duffy, 2007; McErlean, 1983). The parish is made up a number of different townlands of various sizes depending on the “quality” of the land. These would have been farming units most often bounded by some form of water. Over time the parish boundaries changed as the size of the population changed and political and social arrangements were to change. For Feehan the parish is the area for which we are made. There we spend our lives, biologically, psychologically and spiritually.

This is characterised by intimacy; a closeness to the earth cut to our human measure. Feehan is not arguing for the parish in the literal sense of an area that stops at a line on the map “but at the horizon where the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening – yet a flexible horizon that expands and contracts with time and place” (Feehan, 2010: 166). In an earlier work he appears to suggest that our ability to travel “beyond the horizon” merely expands our understanding of the place it defines (Feehan, 2006). Ó Muirthile (2001: 55) argues that central to his local writing was naisiun na mbailte fearainn [the nation of townlands] and its sister concept duthaigh anama / locus animae [soul territory]. Soul is real in relation to place in this land.

An American academic that I came  across come years ago called Kirkpatrick  Sale in a great book called Human Scale, points out the social and ecological consequences of alienation from a place of human scale and intimacy with that place:

There can be no communal-interest among 200 million people, or 20 million, even 2 million, because there is no way the human heart with all its limitations can perceive the interconnectedness of all those lives and their relevance to its single life; we cheat on our income tax and drive at 65 mph, and ignore beggars on the street because we perceive no community at the scale at which we live. Nor can there be communal interest over distances of 3,000 square miles, or 300 miles, or even 30 miles, because there is no way for the human mind in all its frailty to conceive of the complexity of an ecosystem so large and its single place within it … Only when the shepherd knows his world and the people in it and feels their importance to his own well-being, only when he realises that his self-interest is indeed the communal interest, will he voluntarily limit his flock. Only then will the looming tragedy of the commons be avoided (Sale, 1980: 334).

I think that over these last few weeks, we may have rediscovered this sense of human scale – long may it continue.

 In the introduction to Lough Neagh Places it states “… a wider aim of this book is its contribution to the fostering of local pride and tourism in the area by drawing on visual as well as descriptive attention to the lough and its hinterland. At its broadest, this fascinating new compendium of local information is envisaged as supporting environmental, economic and social projects intended to assist with the sustainable development and management of this world-renowned wetland area…”

This is what we try to do.

Getting to know our place a bit better involves the walking, looking, smelling, hearing and a bit of research on the linguistic and historical heritage of this great place, Lough Neagh.

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh – Dr Liam Campbell

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh – Dr Liam Campbell

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh

Blog by: Dr Liam Campbell

I made some connections this week between some great scholars of the landscape in the west of Ireland and Lough Neagh. Firstly,  I must say that I have always loved maps and it is ironic that one of the greatest map makers on this island, Tim Robinson died last week following his late wife Mairead on the list of fatalities of Covid 19 after having to move back to London from his beloved Connemara.  He was to me a hero,  in his ability to capture the “ immensities in which this little place is wrapped” and the richness of even “ the tiniest fragment of reality.” I would not put him into any category as he was at once an historical geographer, ecologist, environmentalist, natural historian, botanist and translator.

I wish to connect his work to an enlightened project in 2008  by the then University of Ulster and four men John McKenna, Rory J. Quinn, Daniel J. Donnelly and  Andrew G. Cooper. This too had a major influence on my life and research and indeed I think it is no accident that I now work at Lough Neagh and live beside Rory Quinn ! In research completed by the Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, based at the University of Ulster, a mental map of the bed of Lough Neagh compiled from interviews with local fishermen was compared to maps produced by “science-based” techniques. The paper that they produced is one of very few that has attempted to compare Local Ecological Knowledge with scientifically acquired data. The scientists at the time had the wisdom to take on the likes of Danny Donnelly to interview the fishing families of the lough and to glean their wisdom of the place and the “ tiniest fragment of reality “ as Robinson did so well in Connemara.  There is a timeless wisdom that seems to transcend historical events and epochs. It is difficult to define yet many know and recognise it instinctively. It has been called variously Local Ecological Knowledge, (LEK) ; Traditional Ecological or Environmental Knowledge, (TEK) or Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) but in a sense this doesn’t matter as what matters is the story of the place. The fishermen of  Lough Neagh Know  these stories. Constant attention to details of nature, memories of the way the land and water looks and stories told by other travellers and fishermen about the region are used together with the movements of the animals and the sky maps plotting the moon and the stars.

The comparison revealed that the mental map was highly accurate even though none of the fishermen had ever dived to the lough bed. It was intuited by the fishermen who having fished the lough, for as long as they know, though they had never seen, the differing textures and substances on its floor. I now have the privilege to work at Lough Neagh and this local  ecological knowledge has and continues to inspire me “The accuracy of the Lough Neagh map is attributed to the fact that is a compendium of the knowledge of several generations rather than an individual perception” (McKenna et al., 2008). The article argues that the accuracy is prompted by economic self-interest and that high accuracy may be a characteristic of the mental maps held by artisanal exploiters of natural resources. Is this not simple self-sufficiency on the part of the indigenous population? Exploitation of natural resources seems modern capitalistic twist on an indigenous way of life that was managed in a sustainable way for self-interest?

Andrews one of Ireland’s experts on maps, claims that Ireland was too small to have developed a map-making tradition (Andrews in Foster, 1997: 199) and there are no known early native Irish made maps of Ireland. But it is the outsider who needs a map in order to occupy it, get around and own the local landscape and the image of that landscape. The local people did not need one as they had their own way to get around and know their own place. Recently Rosie Ryan of Coyle’s Cottage fame took me to the site of where an enormous ancient ash had fallen and was to tell me that it was a marker for the fishermen of old long before GPS. It reminded me of one of the first times that I was out on half decker crabbing off Fanad in Donegal and as the men set the pots and plotted them on the GPS, I asked what they would have done before the advent of this technology and the reply was to the effect that, they never would have left sight of the shore beforehand and knew the water from the markers in the land. Possibly we all got too greedy and moved to far from the land.

 As the poet Eavan Boland says, “ the science of cartography is limited “ (Boland cited in Smyth, 2003: 58). In the Gaelic such maps were either unknown or not formally used and territories and peoples were administered mainly by words and living images associated with manuscripts, memory, local lore and myth.

Most of us carry a mental map of our place in this world. We consciously and unconsciously engage in mental discourses with the places in which we live and also the places we encounter in our travels. We make subjective comparisons between “our” place on the one hand and neighbouring places and the “outside world” on the other hand. We construct real and imaginary boundaries between our place and that of our neighbours. The French philosopher of space and matter, Bachelard has written:

Each of us should make a surveyor’s map of his lost fields and meadows … in this way we cover the universe with drawings we have lived. These drawings need not be exact. But they need to be written according to the shapes of our inner landscapes (cited in McFarlane, 2007: 232).

Stories occur in places such as Lough Neagh.  For oral cultures the spoken word was everything. They mix facts and metaphors in order to tell the story and engage the listener. They imagine the land and create and recreate it in their minds. It reminds me of what Ishmael said in Moby Dick (1851, 1998) about the island of Kokovoko: “It is not down on any map; true places never are”. The earliest sort of maps would have been story maps: spoken cartographies describing landscapes and events that took place in them. Maps such as these could be learned, amended and passed on between people and down through the generations as they are around the shore of Lough Neagh.

One way to build community is through stories. Over time, small bits of knowledge about the region accumulate among local residents in the form of stories. They are remembered in the community and even what is unusual is not lost or becomes irrelevant.

Losing the names of these places and events is a step in losing respect. Knowing the names is a first step in regaining a connection. Communities sharing such knowledge and working together are likely to engage in more sustainable ways of working that builds up local renewable assets for the future. At the end of the 2008 article on mental mapping it states

“…A pessimistic scenario is that continuing failure to recruit young men will ultimately lead to the end of the fishery, and with it the mental map of the lough that has been transmitted down through the generations. This outlook may be unnecessarily gloomy. The mental map will survive as long as the occupation it serves survives. Although numbers of fishermen may decline still further, there will probably always be a market for eels, and consequently fishing will continue on Lough Neagh. It seems likely that for the foreseeable future the fishermen will continue to rely heavily on the mental map of the lough handed down to them from the past. “

We are lucky that so much work has been done about the Lough Neagh stories but the sheer immensity of the place means that the work following  the likes of Tim Robinson is never finished here.

The full title of the article and that abstract read as

Accurate Mental Maps as an Aspect of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK): A Case Study from Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

 A mental map of the substrate of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, compiled from interviews with local fishermen, is compared with maps produced by science-based techniques. The comparison reveals that the mental map is highly accurate. This finding contrasts with the spatial distortion characteristic of the classic mental map. The accuracy of the Lough Neagh map is attributed to the fact that it is a compendium of the knowledge of several generations, rather than an individual perception. Individual distortions are filtered out, and accuracy is promoted by economic self-interest. High accuracy may be characteristic of the mental maps held by artisanal exploiters of natural resources.

It can be accessed in full at:

Bog blog – Dr Liam Campbell

Bog blog – Dr Liam Campbell

Bog blog

Blog by Dr Liam Campbell

When I was a child growing up in Donegal, a phrase that was commonly used to sum up someone’s stubbornness, rudeness, or more often stupidity was, “You can take the man out of the bog but you cannot take the bog out of the man.” I don’t buy this any more, and thought not a scientist of the wonders of peat and bog, I began to wonder why culturally we have denigrated our bogs and peatlands to simply a resource to be burned or drained ?

Many years ago, I was lucky to interview Prof Mike Baillie ( QUB )  on the shores of Lough Neagh re his work on of dendrochronology on Ireland’s long oak tree ring chronology and his identifying the significance for global environmental history of growth reductions in tree rings. He has since tied these to various global catastrophic events such as volcanic eruptions etc . All this research originating in the peat around Lough  Neagh. Later I was to meet another hero, Dr John Feehan (UCD )  co-author of The Bogs of Ireland and these scientists were to encourage and inspire me. Now lucky enough to work in  place surrounded by so  much of the ‘dark  stuff ‘  (the title of  Donald Murray’s book on peat ) it is a pervading and wonderous presence .

  The study of the nature of the bogs of Ireland is  interwoven with the story of human presence and human perception of that nature in Ireland. The bogs are a kind of palimpsest, superimposed forms and places that testify to the complex interaction of nature and human culture. This attitude goes back as long way as far as I can see. Even in the 12th century the cleric and writer Gerald of Wales wrote,

 The inhabitants of Ireland do not have affinity with castles as a means of defence ; instead they make the woods their stronghold and the bogs their stinking  trenches.

Giraldus Cambrensis ( Gerald of Wales 1185 )

Later in the sixteenth century, Edmund Spencer the poet and writer who reflected the Elizabethan world was to write,

Ireland is a wasteland in need of improvement that is flat, empty and inscribable  full of wolf and woodkerne

Edmund Spenser 1595- A View of the Present State of  Ireland

It is interesting to add the wolf and the woods to this debate on bogs as they are all demeaned and demonised literally and animals and places to be eliminated.

For Elizabethan colonists, the prospect (or actual view) of bogland from the English Pale was, as it were, the ground-level reality of Irish nature, very different from the colonial prospect (or anticipated view) of Ireland from England. Gerard Boate’s Ireland’s Natural History (1652) writes of the reason for the extent of our bogs: “now wonder if a country, famous for laziness as Ireland is, abound with them.”

 There is indeed a long history of colonial writing on the nature and culture of bogs.

In 1685 William King – later to become Archbishop of Dublin – published ‘ Of the Bogs and Loughs of Ireland ‘ in Philosophical Transactions, in which he  calls Irish bogs ‘ infamous’ and equates extensive bogland with barbarity. The bogs offered an advantage to resistant natives, who, King believed, deliberately built near them: the bogs ‘are a shelter and a refuge to tories [ dispossessed natives turned outlaws], and thieves, who can hardly live without them. They take advantage then to them to have the country unpassable, and the fewer strangers came near them, they lived the easyer. The bogs are very inconvenient to us  ‘.

It is easy to blame a colonial mentality towards the bogs but a mentality has come down through the years. Think of the phrase “ Drain the swamp “  used in American by Donald Trump !

The science and wonder of the bog is magnificent and has been well recorded of late. There have  been some iconic books on the nature of our bogs with the likes of David Bellamy’s The Wild Boglands (1986) to the monumental study by John Feehan et al. in The Bogs of Ireland (1996).I’d also recommend Michael Viney’s Ireland – A Smithsonian Natural History (2003) for its chapter on the Brown Mantle  ( a phrase I love ) and Padraic Fogarty’s Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature (2017 )   But little has been written ( with the exception of  Derek Gladwin’s  Contentious Terrains: Boglands, Ireland, Postcolonial Gothic ) about how the political and geographical history of boglands are represented in modern and contemporary Irish literature and culture and how this impacts on present day attitudes.

The bog has been a subtle theme in modern Irish history, extending to political and cultural issues as well as permeating social and economic ones. There is a  picture richer in detail and more complex in its development than traditional images of the bog question in Ireland would suggest. It is  timely, given the current political and environmental debates and in the  exploration of how colonization and its legacy overlap in new forms of “colonization”.  Nature and culture in Ireland finds its debate par excellence in the story of the bog.

Boglands invite a whole academy of sciences to their study, but the cultural element is often neglected. You cannot have one without the other. If we add the threatened ecology of bogs to the resources of literature, archaeology, and other elements of culture the possibilities are limitless for their survival.  The arts and sciences do not meet often enough. There are few other substances that can join the built, natural, and cultural elements of our heritage as much as our bogs. Joseph Beuys, one of the world’s most influential post-war avant-garde artists described our bogs as, “the liveliest elements in the European landscape, not just from the point of view of flora, fauna, birds and animals, but as storing pieces of life, mystery and chemical change, preservers of ancient history.”  These contentious terrains can throw a light on the past and help us look to the ( uncertain )  future.

The way we  look at how the bogs, the moor, the moss or whatever it’s called locally, affects me and others and has done through the ages but as we enter a crucial age for the planets survival we can all learn to love the bog that has too often been denigrated, feared and despised. The bogs of Ireland are our Amazon forest and a library of knowledge ( re climate change, archaeology, culture, biology etc )  and preservation in so many ways. I hope we can  uncover a picture richer in detail and more complex in its development than traditional images of the bog question in Ireland would suggest.

Few do it better that Seamus Heaney who in many ways as a poet has done as  much for the science and wonder of the bog as have the scientific community. But both need each other if we are to give the bogs the respect they deserve.


“ We have no prairies / To slice a big sun at evening –  / Everywhere the eye concedes to / Encroaching horizon, /  Is wooded into the cyclop’s eye /  Of the tarn. Our unfenced country /  Is bog that keeps crusting /  Between the sights of the sun. /  They’ve taken the skeleton /  Of the Great Irish Elk /  Out of the peat, set it up, /  An astounding crate full of air. /  Butter sunk under /  More than a hundred years /  Was recovered salty and white. /  The ground itself is kind, black butter / Melting and opening underfoot,  / Missing its last definition /  By millions of years. /  They’ll never dig coal here, /  Only the waterlogged trunks /  Of great firs, soft as pulp. /  Our pioneers keep striking /  Inwards and downwards, /  Every layer they strip /  Seems camped on before. /  The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage. /  The wet centre is bottomless.

Seamus Heaney – Bogland


The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

A few years ago, I had never heard of Cranfield ( Creamhchoill – Irish,  Wild Garlic Wood )  and yet I had passed only a few miles from it on the road to Belfast so often. Like a lot of loughshore places they were often near but yet so far from the outsiders knowledge. I have come to love the place with its medieval church ruins whose east window frames a magnificent view of Lough Neagh, to the curative  well of St Olcan surrounded by the rag trees that tell the story of many hopes and prayers to the quay at Cranfield Point that tells the story of so many fishing families and the search for eels and pollan in the past. It may not have the prestige of Ardboe but it has become for me a place of sanctuary and this, as I have realised is no accident.

The large townland of Cranfield was formerly made up of four subtownlands  and that amalgamation is now the present townland of some 858 acres. These are termonlands where boundaries and borders meet. Termon in Irish Tearmann originally referred to the lands of a church or monastery within which the right of sanctuary prevailed. It laterally came to refer to ‘church lands’ but if we dig deeper the origins of this go back into the earliest of times. Like many cultural practices, Christianity absorbed earlier beliefs such as termon.

The idea of borders and boundaries as “in-between” and special places are very obvious in places  connected especially with water, from wells to tributaries. They are where the gods were meant to dance at the confluence of waters. The mingling of the tributary and the main river was deemed to be a sacred place. The Celtic god Condatis, takes his name from the Gallic epithet “watersmeet”. He is literally the god of the two streams, the confluence, and was worshipped as such. All of this imagery of territories, other worldly kingdoms, liminal spaces describes a kind of mysticism which architecturally enunciates the “deep structures” of our lives, the line of the boundary between us and the “other world”. The  lough, rivers and wells are  the most picturesque analogy for that boundary but of course water being fluid makes the boundary a leaky one.

These boundary places are the areas where peace was made in ancient times before that advent of Christianity. Take the great site of Christian pilgrimage, Lough Derg, it was a place of sanctuary long before Christianity and is still today a place where boundaries meet. Its is the watershed between the Foyle and Erne river systems and where political, civil and religious administrations meet such as the counties of Derry, Tyrone and Donegal, the dioceses of Clogher, Raphoe and Derry. Historically the termonlands around Lough Derg have been a no-man’s- land between the powerful contending medieval factions of O’Neill, Maguire and O’Donnell and probably with their predecessors too. It was desirable that a buffer area should arise between prickly neighbours so that small border incidents need not develop into war. Monastic sites soon became to take on these buffer zones and the termon lands given to them would provide food and revenue for the foundation and also act as a place of sanctuary.

Sanctuariam – arium is soon adapted by the church as a “container in this case for the sancta / sancti – holy “ a sacred place or an altar. Human sanctuary becomes  Legal Sanctuary – Right of asylum / political asylum  and we even have a  sanctuary Movement in cities for refugees.

Back to Cranfield, it is also no accident that it has two termon crosses to mark these places, one in wood and the other in granite.  Termon is a wonderful thought and concept whatever ones beliefs.

It is also no accident that the great poet of this entire water scape of rivers, loughs and well has used this so much in his work. The great lines from Terminus capture the spirit of termon and of the place. “… I was the March drain and the march drain’s banks / Suffering the limit of each claim. / Two buckets were easier carried than one. I grew up in between…”

In his essay, Something to Write Home About , he explains that he grew up “in between” – raised near the River Moyola which served as a boundary between the Protestant/loyalist village of Castledawson and the Catholic/nationalist district of Bellaghy/Ballyscullion. In describing his childhood by the river, Heaney says “,I always loved venturing out from one stepping-stone to the next, right into the middle of the stream…Suddenly you were on your own .You were giddy and rooted to the spot at one and the same time… Nowadays when I think of that child rooted to the spot in mid stream,I see a little version of the god the Romans called Terminus, the god of boundaries. (Finders Keepers 51 ). He also makes the point that “the inheritance of a divided world is a disabling one, that it traps its inhabitants and corners them in determined positions, saps their will to act freely and creatively.”

Heaney reckons that , the Romans kept an image of Terminus in the Temple of Jupiter, the roof above the image was left open to the sky, as if, Heaney states, “a god of the boundaries and borders of the earth needed to have access to the boundless, the whole unlimited height and width and depth of the heavens themselves. As if to say that all boundaries are necessary evils and that the truly desirable condition is he feeling of being unbounded, of being king of infinite space.” (Finders Keepers 51 )

The space and place of Cranfield is somewhere that this tradition can be celebrated and kept alive and is more needed now than ever. It is ancient but it is new too.

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

A new series taking UTV presenter Joe Mahon on a unique tour of Lough Neagh has been launched to an invited audience with Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council ahead of its first episode, which will be screened on UTV at 8pm on Monday 17 September.

The eight part series takes Joe onto and around the largest freshwater lake in the UK and Ireland where viewers will see him fishing for eel in the dead of night, canoeing and learning hunting skills on the shores of the lough, digging with archaeologists, visiting the oldest thatched roofed pub in Ireland and learning the traditional craft of boat building.

Joe said of the new series: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring Lough Neagh for this new UTV programme. It was a hugely enjoyable learning experience and the beauty about learning something new is the idea that you can then share it with the viewers. I hope that everyone will not only enjoy the series, but also learn a little bit more about the Lough.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael, commented: “Lough Neagh is the heart of Northern Ireland and on behalf of all the Councils involved in Lough Neagh Partnership, we thank Joe Mahon, Westway Films and UTV for showcasing the history and heritage of our Lough. We are extremely proud of the connection with the Lough and on Tuesday of this week, we officially cut the sod for the new Lough Neagh Gateway Centre, which is due to open at the end of Summer 2019. In the meantime, we all look forward to welcoming more visitors, that Joe’s new series will attract, to our stunning Lough Neagh.”

Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership said: “This is the first locally produced television series dedicated to exposing the culture and heritage of Lough Neagh and its surrounds. It has been a pleasure for the team at Lough Neagh Partnership to be able to work hand in hand with Joe on this series to showcase the authenticity of this area. We believe he has really captured the essence of everyday life in the heart of mid Ulster to enthral UTV viewers with this unique insight into the place that we are so proud of.

Terry Brennan, UTV’s Head of News and Programmes said, “In the 20 plus years that Joe has been bringing programmes to our homes, he has enthralled and delighted the viewers with his unique style, outstanding locations, amazing characters, and delightful stories, and with Lough Neagh, that trend will continue. We are absolutely thrilled at UTV that Joe has uncovered yet more amazing stories about Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.”

Lough Neagh, sponsored by Connollys of Moy, starts Monday 17 September at 8pm on UTV.



Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Are you interested in your place and it’s past?

Would you like to know how to research, record and archive your local history? Lough Neagh Landscape partnership is offering you heritage training and advice.

Venue 1: Lock Keepers Cottage in Toome – Mon 1st Oct, 8th Oct, 15th Oct & 29th Oct

Venue 2: Community Hall Aghagallon – Tuesday 6th Nov, 13th Nov, 20th Nov & 4th Dec

Time 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Training is FREE but places are limited, so book early! Please contact Chris McCarney volunteer officer on 077 8824 9517.

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