On a warm Sunday afternoon in July, walls of crimson fuchsia lined Glendesha road as Anne, Cara and myself walked the quiet country roads from the village of Mullaghbane. We were aiming to climb the local mountain at Carrive Forest, drinking in the magnificent views of the Ring of Gullion en route.
Conscious of the wealth of history in the area,we passed the Barracks. We pondered its change from a dark place of punishment to church ownership in the 18th and 19th centuries, passing ultimately into private hands in 1985 . We stopped at the Meeting Place where linen was sold, gossip exchanged and plots were hatched prior to the 1798 Rebellion. On our way, we admired several old world cottages, overflowed with rambling roses and early montbretia. Giant foxgloves hummed with honey bees. The stunning views of ancient Slieve Gullion and the mountains of the Ring of Gullion itself, lay below us. This was sheer heaven!
We finally reached the forestry entrance to Carrive and followed the track to the Mass Rock dating from the Penal days. Mass is celebrated annually at this site, although deferred in 2020, this year of COVID-19. Rounding a corner, the sighting of a white cross directed us to the hidden Mass Rock with its long kneeling stone. We spent some time examining the newly established stations of the cross inscribed on stones in gaelic now surrounded the rock.
This was not the only surprise that awaited us. Further along the track lay two partially restored stone cottages and a large stone circle, which we later discovered was named Lis Ban Draoi -the circle of the witch. We ate our lunch on the stoop of a cottage, sunning ourselves, and planning the hike up Slieve Brack. Walking on, we followed a puzzling trail depicting a story chiseled in old gaelic lettering. Curious and curiouser….. Had we stumbled on an ancient history of the area, and what was the connection between the village and the carvings of ships on stones ?
Our knowledge of the Irish language was decidedly insufficient to translate the story. As if by serendipity, we were joined by Micheal at one of these stones. For the next hour or so, our hike forgotten, we listened to him; A quietly spoken 83 year old, local to the area, Micheal wove for a brief summary of the lore and history of Carrive old village. Through the stone engravings and preservation of cottages, his mission is that history will be remembered. He told us the story of a group of emigrants from Forkhill Parish who perished in a storm while crossing the Atlantic from the port of Warrenpoint during the Famine. The 121 survivors settled in a town in Ontario, Canada, and called their adopted home ‘little South Armagh’. Micheal held us in trall with his stories, as the gaelic engraved stones revealed their history.
What started as a mountain hike through beautiful countryside, ended with a magical journey recalled through one mans’s vision, passion and creativity, in recording the history of his village in a unique way. Micheal’s story can be obtained through BBC archives – True North.
Venora Hovelt, Anne Fearon and Cara Blackwell are Ring of Gullion Tour guides. Please see below for a list of tours offered.
This walk is part of the Heritage Week programme and is scheduled on Thursday 20th August at 2pm. Contact Venora O’brien for details on [email protected]
With thanks to Una Walsh for the complete history of the Atlantic shipwreck.