Autumn equinox 2012

Seldom has this monument seen such commotion in the early hours of a Saturday morning. Members of a local sports club had erected an obstacle course at the car park and started exercising under the first glorious rays of the rising sun, – today of all days. A group of Polish members of our community had gathered inside the Grianán with torches, celebrating their festival of the sun at the very spot, which had been denied rather sternly for the last 180 years any association with it. The fire of their torches raised to the east, they greeted the ascend of this sometimes so illusive bearer of light from the top of Grianán’s wall after, what seemed to have been a dance of praise, perhaps prayer, in circular motion, contracting and expanding, held together by each other‘s hands, right in the middle in the ‘belly’of the little sun (grianán).

Dawn over Derry

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Celebrating the rising of the sun.

Celebrating the rising of the sun.

Holding a torch for Grianán

Holding a torch for Grianán

Morning sky above the gate

Morning sky above the gate

Inch and Lough Swilly

Inch and Lough Swilly

Having stayed firmly inside this time, I could observe that the sun’s beam enters the monument by reaching first the highest point at the opposite side of the wall during the duration of Inishowen’s most elaborated man made marvel of light and shadow. The beam is weak in its intensity at this stage, nearly broken, but grows stronger and brighter with every passing minute, moving slowly northwards and getting shorter with the journey of the sun to the south.

The halving of a monument

The halving of a monument

The light is on the wall

The light is on the wall

Towards Holywell Hill and the Foyle

Towards Holywell Hill and the Foyle

The beam of light is aligned with the double peak in the Derryveagh Mountains

The beam of light is aligned with the double peak in the Derryveagh Mountains

The entire display lasts for at least half an hour. The sun emerges from behind, what looks from the Grianán like a long stretched plateau across the Foyle and is only passing through the gate after a small climb above these hills, which I have not been able to identify. The direction of the light is directly aligned with which appears like a twin peak, just south of the Seven Sisters, and after much searching these seem to be the peaks of Slieve Snaght and Drumnalifferny in the Derryveagh Mountains. This, most likely, also might be the point of sun set at the time of the equinoxes but taunting clouds have blocked any attempts to make a more certain conclusion of the correct spot. To my surprise, the location of sun set and rise had already moved much further south than anticipated and my hope that the sun may drop wonderfully into Barnes More Gap at the winter solstice could be literally sunk at the 21st December by disappearing behind hills and horizon once again further south.

Towards Inch and Swilly

Towards Inch and Swilly

Overlooking Inch

Overlooking Inch

To the south

To the south

To the north

To the north

Entrance of light

Entrance of light

The shadow of Greenan Hill plus Grianán proudly on top towards Derryveagh Mountains

The shadow of Greenan Hill plus Grianán proudly on top towards Derryveagh Mountains

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