On Saturday 16th May, around 30 volunteers and staff braved the windy conditions to climb Slieve Gullion to give the ancient passage grave on its summit some much needed care and attention. Slieve Gullion Cairn, a Neolithic passage grave is around 5000 years old and is the highest in Ireland. Over recent years, as visitor numbers to the mountain have increased, the cairn has suffered from the accidental damage of loose stones being pushed down its slopes and into the passage entrance, partially blocking it.
The repair work was organised by the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and supervised by archaeologist Martin Keery, Historical Monuments Inspector for NIEA.
Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Naomi Bailie said, “It is fantastic to see enthusiastic volunteers taking care of such an ancient monument. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work on Slieve Gullion Cairn.”
Martin Keery said “The Slieve Gullion passage grave is one of 190 “state-care” sites in Northern Ireland. Slieve Gullion is the highest mountain in this area, so this would have been a prestigious site, its prominence and size meant the burial chamber would have been used for the cremation of important figures of the period.”
The enthusiasm of the volunteers was praised by Martin Keery and the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership staff. Alison Henderson of the LP said, “The volunteers were keen to keep working, even after all the restoration work had been completed. It was very heartening to hear.”
Check out this article and video by Conor Macauley BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent on the the volunteer day to repair Slieve Gullion Cairn – www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-32778672