The ‘cave’ at Carrownamaddy

In his book “Inishowen: Its History, Traditions, And Antiquities” Michael Harkin has an account of a ‘cave’ on the foot of Greenan Hill “by a gentleman who entered them in 1838.” (p.17)
Since there is no other location given than being “at the base of Greinan hill“, it is not possible to determine if this is the souterrain at Carrownamaddy, Burt, or one of the known souterrains at Coshquin, behind the Three Flowers restaurant. The term, at the base of Greenan Hill, also seems to be more misleading than useful, since the hill itself is part of a range and is its highest peak, only most of the names of the surrounding smaller hills and hillocks have been lost. The souterrains are as such not really on the base of the hill. What is of notable interest is that both places, Carrownamaddy and Cosquin, are of similar distance to Greenan Hill “as the crow flies”.
About a week ago I spoke to a woman, who remembered playing as a child in the ‘cave’ at Carrownamaddy and that houses have been built there since. An archaeological assessment was carried out in 1997, prior to the building of a house. Sadly, the woman could not remember, how many chambers the souterrain contained and the company carrying out the assessment were unable to count and/or mention the number of chambers. If there would have been three, than the ‘cave’ found in 1838 could have been the one at Carrownamaddy. But both descriptions are missing vital information, although the 1838 was more detailed.
There is still a shortcoming in the shape of a plan, detailing the location of archaeological finds in the vicinity of Greenan Hill, which would lead to a better understanding of the monument. Which reminds me, the results of ‘a detailed topographical survey‘*, carried out a few years ago, also remain still illusive.

* Email from Joe Fenwick (Field Officer), Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway

Some photos from the souterrain at Straid, Clonmany.

Mabel R. Coulhoun: The Heritage of Inishowen
* Souterrain (site of)
(Iron Age, or later)

Sheet Number: 47/6
Townland: Carrownamaddy
Year or Years Visited: 1950
Site on 6 inch map: 18.5 ins. N. 16.75 ins. E.
Situation: Alt. 207 ft. Bridge End/Burt road; 0.25 miles on S.E. branch road (beside Burt Presbyterian Church and leading to Grianan), is a narrow road to N.E. Site near top of field N.W. of this, bounded by Grianan road and narrow road, with a stream flowing down to N.W. Arable. Good view to N.W., church just below.
This souterrain is flagged, and L-shaped, extending 12 ft. or more on each side of the turn.
Subsequent to the above date the structure was closed.
Mr. Brian Lacey has drawn my attention to reference to this souterrain in ‘Twixt, p. 120, Chapter XVI on the “Souterrains of Inishowen” by F.W. Logan and S.R. Hunter.*

* “The term so terrain is almost self-explanatory. Of French derivation, it is applied to a chamber, or series of chambers, constructed below the surface of the ground. Although such structures are wide-spread – they are common on the continent as in these island – their very nature makes them an inconspicuous feature of the countryside.
The entrance by which these chambers were approached was, in the first instance, extremely narrow and probably well hidden, so that in the course of years it has, in most case, entirely disappeared. The discovery of further examples is usually due to the collapse of one of the roofing slabs during agricultural operations.
An excavation carried out recently near Burnfoot revealed clearly the method by which these underground chambers were constructed. A circular hole, about 12 feet in diameter and six feet deep, had been scooped out of the stiff boulder clay, and the sides carefully lined with roughly dressed stones, bedded in soft mould. Each tier of stones slightly overlapped those below, so that the top of the chamber could be closed with a single flag. This souterrain was unique in having no apparent entrance, other known examples in Inishowen being approached by a narrow passage, roofed with slabs. It is common to find, about a yard inside this entrance, that one of the roofing slabs projects downwards into the passage, forming an unexpected barrier to the unwary invader.
The passage usually widens as on progresses along it, and then terminates in one or more chambers which, in a fine example situated near Burt Presbyterian Church, are of beehive shape. In the case of one at Rooskey, near Clonmany, however, they assume a more rectangular form. These chambers are connected by a very much constricted aperture which in the Rooskey souterrain proceeds first in a horizontal and then in a vertical direction to the succeeding chamber, each chamber being on a higher level than the preceding one.
It is interesting to note that these curious structures often occur in earthen rath, although there is no such recorded example in the Inishowen district. It is also worthy of note that they appear to occur in groups. Over a dozen have been reported in the Burt district, though only the one close to the Presbyterian Church is now open for inspection. Four examples have been recorded on Inch Island. A detailed description of a “Cave” situated “at the base of Grianan” and explored in 1838 appears in Mactochair’s Inishowen, but all traces of it have now disappeared. …”

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