It might just be that I am approaching the whole problem the wrong way. As it turns out, at worst, there is no problem and at best, no one seems quite able to remember what it was all about. Last Sunday in my vain attempt to spend some quality time alone at the top of the hill, I met some people and two of them were trying to light candles in favourable niches inside Grianan for the pagan new year. But as usual, talking about the wrongs of this “restoration work” created an uncomfortable moment. And something new – that it was a mistake of the past.
I came across a possible curse by Colum Cille, a punishment for the destruction of Grianan Aileach on the descendants of Murtagh O’Brien, which hit them a few hundreds years later then expected. Although cursing generations to come as much as the perpetrator, a substantial feature of inflicting perceived justice, doesn’t make much sense to me, nevertheless, I can’t help but wishing that such mechanism would be in place at least for Grianan.
On the day after Grianan laid waste as did the monastery at Fahan Mura, the castles in the vicinity, amongst them Elagh Mor and most of the southern board of Inishowen.The 2005 collapse of one quarter of Grianan Aileach left a good impression of the visibility of such destruction. Over the last years it did not create any emotions in the inhabitants of Inishowen, when (and if) they looked up and saw their guardian and crown broken. It must have been so very different in 1101. Murtagh O’Brien instructed his men to remove the heavy corbel stones from the top, knowing well that the underlaying stonework could be simply knocked off by poles and manpower working downwards and all around. The platforms must have been God sent. Not even half way through they stopped. The thickness of the wall became to much at this stage and made stone throwing hard work with little progress and no reward. “The stones of Oileach … on the horses of the king of the West” , which actually made it all the way to Murtaghs castle in Limrick, were interestingly the heavy corbel stones from Grianans top. Much thought and effort was given to integrate a few stones into his own dwelling. But then, it was mend as a decapitation. On the day after a few gathered on the hilltop to estimate the extend of damage done, determined Grianan would rise again. Some made their way up only to find their worst fears confirmed. Many never came again. An attempt was made to rebuild and revive. It lasted barely seven decades. The cries and wrath of a tomorrow in desperation because of yesterdays destruction did not leave Inishowen for a long time.
When Grianan will fall for good within the next few years and it is going to be replaced by some more profitable new build, a headline in local papers will celebrate the new tourist attraction and it will be digested with what ever else we are having on the go.
The past is what we choose to remember. If.
What leaves me fighting windmills with not even a donkey in sight to mount a charge.