Queen Gormley

The following was found in the Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological 1905, Vol. 5, p. 18

Extracts from the diary of the Bishop of Derry William Nicolson:

July 5. (1718)

Goeing (wth ye Dean & Mayor of Derry &c.) to dine at Fawn, we took our way by ye Top of Greanan-Gormely whence we could see ye Outlets of the two great Loghs of Foyle and Suilly. The word signifies the place where (Queen) Gormley bask’d herself in ye sun. This Lady is sd to have been wife to Neal o Neal a Quondam- King of Ulster; who kept his Residence at ye Castle of Elagh in this neighbourhood. She was daughter to a prince of ye Highlands in Scotland; and is suppos’d to have gone ye oftner to ye Top of this Hill to look towards ye Countrey where she was born, ye point of Cantyre being to be seen hence. Here are Remains of a Fort of Stones, like that of Maiden-Castle upon Stanemore, around wch are Cavities or Lusking- Holes. Not many Raths (or Danish Forts) in this Countrey.

Neal o Neal, the former king of Ulster, may have been Niall Caille, who had a wife called Gormflaith ingen Donncadha and died around 846. Second possibility is his grandson, Niall Glúndub (died in 919) and was married to Gormflaith ingen Flann Sinna. Neither women came from Scotland and it seems that the son of Niall Caille, Áed Findliath, who was shortly wedded to Gormlaith Rapach, with no relation to Kintyre either, may be a more promising choice, since his first marriage to Gormlaith was succeeded by at least two more and in his third he produced Niall Glúndub with Máel Muire, who was most likely the daughter of Cináed mac Ailpín, king of the Picts in Scotland. After his death she married his successor Flann Sinna, the same who’s daughter from a previous marriage, Gormflaith ingen Flann Sinna, wedded Niall Glúndub, Áed ‘s son, who in a conflict of interest between the northern and southern O’ Neills killed his wife’s brother and favourite son of Flann, Óengus. His father‘s second wife, between Gormlaith Rapach and Máel Muire, by the name of Lann ingen mac Dúnlainge, is also recorded to be the mother of Flann Sinna and Flann’s second wife in return the daughter of Áed Findliath.
Unsurprisingly, some confusion may have arisen over the identity of the queen in question and finer details can be easily lost amongst such complications. This, perhaps, may even extend to the physical base, the palace and seat of power, of the gentlemen mentioned above, who held, according to annals, the title of King of Aileach but can not be found residing here for a single season. Although it does confirm that the ‘Castle’ stood at Elagh, but it may have been just a title, a decoration, for there are no stories, legends or folklore of any of them roaming proudly in the hills of Inishowen or great feasts, except one, and even the Vikings allegedly did not really venture for plunder into such a forlorn place, leaving one wondering about the true nature of a burdened queen called Gormley, longing to see her homeland from the top of this hill, with her eyes wandering north-east across the Foyle, harbouring a lost kingdom below its waves.

See also:
Grianán Gormlaig
O Dochartaigh of the castle of Oileach
A note on the identification of Aileach
A short circuit of the fest at Aileach. The poem of the circuit of Muircheartach of the Leather Cloaks was was not written as prescribed during and shortly after the circuit in 942/3 but over 200 years later between 1156-66 for Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn.
John O’Donovan’s tranlation of the circuit

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