The case of the illusive sun at Grianán

Perhaps one should keep more earnestly in mind, when expecting with a reasonable likelihood the rising and setting of the sun on specific dates in the calendar, visible from the monument, that the literally translation of the name grianan signifies little sun and very little indeed was to be seen of it during the winter solstice. Thursday, December 20, was thoroughly covered in grey and the bleakness of such day was hard to beat. The first day of the solstice, December 21, was not much better with the addition of thick fog in the morning in which about a dozen people had gathered at the top of the wall, their silhouettes and that of the Grianán itself contrasting in a darker shade of grey from what resembled closely the sight of the end of the world. Fog and clouds, of course, finally lifted for a short interval, about three quarters of an hour after sunrise, leaving only a very rough estimation of a first appearance of the sun in the vicinity of Minkey Hill. With the slimmest of expectation an attempt was made to establish the point of the setting sun in the afternoon, finding this time a lesser thick fog and three women, most likely not particular appreciative of my presence, performing a ceremony in the mist. December 22 barely showed any improvement and no such object even remotely resembling the sun could be found anywhere. No luck either on the morning of the following day and tired, disheartened and quarrelling with the forces at work I made my way up that hill again around half past three in the afternoon. Having reached the monument a small opening in the clouds appeared just between the two hills forming Barnesmore Gap but even my most heartfelt pleading could not prevail the closing of this little window of opportunity as the impenetrable curtain of rain clouds kept me in the dark once again. Having firmly fixed my eyes on such incomprehensible and pitiless clouds from the early hours of Monday morning, December 24, it became apparent that attending some of the urgent Christmas preparations would bear a better chance of succession. The back to back cover of murky grey broke later that day, exposing parts of light and sky. And then I could finally see that the sun is passing over Barnesmore Gap, and not sinking into it as I had pondered. But I came close. It seems to set in the smaller gap to the west, which sadly but not necessarily unexpected, disappeared from view at the very moment of its final glory, leaving another year to pass before any further observations can be made on that matter. Considering that it was already a day past the actual solstice and the sun had started ‘moving’ again by one degree, the possibility does not seem unlikely of not only a setting in this gap but also the occurrence of a rolling sun, meaning the sun will ‘roll’ from the top of the hill, forming the western gatepost of Barnesmore Gap, along the outline of its slope to the bottom of it. What a sight that would be. It also may be of some significance, apart from a further alignment of the monument – the two hills of Barnesmore Gap are called Conall and Eogan and I suspect that the eastern hill is Eogan with Tir Eoghain lying on its side and Conall and Tir Chonaill are to the west. There is reason to believe that these names are no older then a thousand years and it would be of some considerable interest to find out what they were called before.

Bearing this in mind, here is me hoping for an exciting new year with distinctively more sun, clearer skies, being rather fond of its blue, and a sharp decrease in rain pouring out from the same too often.

December 21, at the gate

December 21, near the well

December 23, the ‘rising’ sun between Minkey and Holywell Hill

December 23, reaching the top of the wall

December 23, the small opening over Barnesmore Gap

December 24, setting sun approaching Barnesmore Gap

December 24, passing over the gap

December 24, clouds cover the top of Conall

December 24, in and around the smaller gap to the west

December 24, a last view on Christmas Eve


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