After much stubborn frost the forecasted heat wave embraced a still sceptic Inishowen as if it would be the last and it was not wise to walk in a shade-less environment for a few hours before late afternoon. From the foot of Greenan Hill I crossed into the first field west of the road to check up on a couple of ‘old friends’ before going up Cornamount to trace my way from some months ago to the stone of thousand holes.
Photo taken May 9, 2009
There are two large piles of stones in this field. In the first one I found last October a 10 inch/26cm long piece, which must have broken off, having markings on it. And being small enough for me to carry, it is now save from an impressively opinionated stud, usually kept in this field.
Photo taken October 12, 2009
The second contains two magnificent stones. Held up by the circular stone the tongue shaped stone must have been crafted with a ridge rising all the way from top to bottom right in the middle. The upper-left (?) corner has been broken off. I have not been able so far to figure out if this stone was standing or laying on top of a construction. The circular stone has a respectable sized cup-hole and if the light is falling in a certain angle there seem to be other markings on it. But it is always a matter of light and from which direction it is coming. Markings are often so faint, that if the light is not shinning at them in the right angle, they remain invisible. Both piles somehow leave a lingering suspicion of being the last vague memory of a lost piece in the puzzle.
Photo taken April 15, 2008
Still cow free I could proceed to the next field, in which a couple of years ago I found a marking on another stone. I thought I lost the stone, since the farmer dug some canal trenches to relieve the much saturated field. The alignment of the stones, for there were two large rocks like doorposts with the much smaller and marked stone between them, has now changed and one of the doorpost rocks has been moved.
Photo taken April 15, 2008
On the small hillock north-eastwards of Cornamount Hill there is a tremendous amount of stones. But they are in a desperate state of array, leaving one only in the knowledge, that something larger must have once occupied this spot.
Photo taken October 12, 2009
Turning south-east to avoid the pine forestation, the approach to the summit contains a few clusters of nearly insignificant stones. One of them in particular has a small, round, standing stone in what seem to be the centre
Photos taken April 23, 2008
There used to be a tumulus on top of the hill but now an empty and sad pile of a few, small stones with a larger one set upright, marks its location. Some 10+ of my steps away from it in a westerly direction lies a stone with a cross carved on it. Although I had noticed the stone on a previous walk and then forgotten all about it, I will always remember my visit last year, because I realised how close the stone really is to the summit and so I uttered out loud: “Oh for the love of God, Mabel”. Having consulted Mabel Colhoun’s book ‘The Heritage of Inishowen’ before my walk October last I remembered the last sentence of her entry for the cairn:
“In 1981 Mr. Brian Lacey informed me that 13.6 metres from the Bench Mark (Trig. Station) there is a roughly shaped plain stone cross13.13 cms. (with modern graffiti).”
Photos taken October 12, 2009
Holding her in the highest respect, I only wish she would have walked that little bit further. Which leads to the western slope of Cornamount Hill and the stone of thousand holes. It can be reach by walking down the slope towards Inch for perhaps 50 or so meters. Most of the rock surfacing seems to be firmly attached to the rest of the hill. I don’t think the wing shaped stone has the same solid connection. The hole marks are mainly on its western facing side, across its top, along the side and underneath. There is a barely readable Latin inscription on the upper surface of the stone.
Photos taken October 13, 2009
This type of ‘stone decoration’ seems to be quite common in Inishowen. Sadly it is the one, we know basically nothing about. The more familiar rock art of the Bronze and Iron Age, not understood either, consisting of hole marks with circles around them, spirals, waves, zick-zack etc have not yet crossed my path. I tend to think that the more ‘simple’ hole marks are therefore older, being also aware that the same mistake was made with the cave paintings in France and Spain. What was perceived as simplistic and therefore older turned out to be the stylisation of an earlier and more detailed technique of painting. Taken from ‘Prehistoric Heritage’ by Felix R. Paturi, Macdonald and Jane’s 1979, p.47. “… the representational style was not the culmination of all artistic development. Art can develop beyond it and then, developing through a stylized period, move on to the abstract. The representative becomes the symbolic.” – Making this a very much unappreciated case of ‘more I know, I know that I know nothing.
It is not very clear from the maps if the hill is part of Toulett Lower or Toulett Middle. Toulett meaning a burial place for the dead of a plague. Greenan Hill is in the same townland. But there is no such townland named on the Hollar / Parson map of Inishowen from 1661.
Entry from Mabel Colhoun’s ‘The Heritage of Inishowen’, visited by her in 1950:
47/5 Td. Toulett
Situation: Alt. 663 ft. Nearly 1 mile across country W.S.W. of Grianan Fort, on Cornmount Hill (663 ft.) on the S.W. and highest point of ridge running N.E. – S.W. Can be approached by road and track through Toulett Upper and Toulett Middle. Rough stony moorland; remarkable view in every direction, easily seen when looking down from Grianan Fort. This hill-top cairn has now disappeared, but vestiges indicate that the diameter was about 30 ft. At present there is a small rough cairn about 3 ft. high and about 8 ft. in diameter, presumably a trig. station. In 1981 Mr. Brian Lacey informed me that 13.6 metres from the Bench Mark (Trig. Station) there is a roughly shaped plain stone cross13.13 cms. (with modern graffiti).”