The forgotten stones of Aileach

It is said that “Three hundred years after the deluge,… all holy Ireland was desert, until Partholón came.” He divided it into four parts among his four sons – Er, Orba, Fearon, and Feargna. “He gave the first part to Er, namely, all that is from Aileach Néid in the north of Ulster to Athcliath of Leinster. He gave the second part to Orba, namely, all that is from Athcliath to Oiléan Arda Neimheadh, which is called Oiléan Mór an Bharraigh. He gave the third part to Fearon, from the Great Island to Athcliath Meadhruidhe at Galway. He gave the fourth part to Feargna, namely, from Meadhruidhe to Aileach Néid.”

But Ireland was not deserted. A race called the Fomoire had already settled with their stronghold it seems in today’s County Donegal, spending two hundred years “at fishing and fowling “.

And so the first battle was fought in Ireland between Cical Grigenchosach, son of Goll, son of Garbh, of the Fomorians and Partholón’s men at Maighe Ithe, the field of Ith, between Lough Foyle, Lough Swilly and the river Finn in the Counties of Donegal and Derry. The Fomorians for now were defeated, “so that they were all slain”, including Cical Grigenchosach.

The first inhabitants of Ireland arrived circa 8000 BC. The oldest settlement found is on Mount Sandel, Coleraine, County Derry, abandoned around 6000 BC. Its people lived from hunting and gathering, “fishing and fowling” and came most likely via today’s Scotland. Some of the Stone Age tools found on Inishowen are displayed in the Tower Museum in Derry. At the end of the Stone Age a second wave of people arrived in Ireland, bringing with them the tools and trade of agriculture, Partholón’s ploughs and oxen and his clearing of four plains of wood, and the graves of stone to bury their dead.

A tumulus, only metres away from Grianán Ailigh and facing Holywell Hill, lay once on top of this hill. This burial consisted of a “small mound having around it a circle of ten stones laid horizontally and converging towards the centre”. It probably was built by those first Neolithic farmers, who out of necessity choose a solar deity over the old lunar goddess. The shape of the now gone tumulus might just have reflected this change and was indeed a symbol of the sun.




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