Category Archives: Built Heritage

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Engineering Water and Land Around Lough Neagh

Blog by Dr Liam Campbell

There is a lot of civil engineering around the Bann and Lough  Neagh. I will return to this soon.

Our second youngest daughter wants to be a civil engineer. She loves reading about natural features, such as water and engineering and  we have  a profusion of old mills near where we live to interest her.  There are many moves to help and encourage women into this ancient profession but it historically hasn’t been easy for women to break into this job. But I have been doing some research. Women according to archaeological evidence throughout Europe and further afield, were primarily responsible for the collection of water from the wells  for domestic purposes – the archetypal ‘water carriers’. This iconic image connects with their reproductive role as literal and metaphorical ‘bearers of life’ .Women generally were responsible for the management of water resources. The worship of many female deities at that time suggests that they also enjoyed considerable  political and  religious equality and with more collective forms of resource ownership, greater economic parity as well. Much of the early water management was transferred to male monasteries and women become disenfranchised from the control of water. Although the invention of the water pump saved time – it was the beginning of the transfer of water management into the hands of male engineers : a process that led to the piping and culverting of water into more individuated domestic spaces whereas wells had been social spaces owned by everyone. People become consumers of water and the environmental relationships change. Nature is more associated with the female and the culture of controlling it becomes more male.

In 1795, Oliver Goldsmith wrote:

God has endowed is with abilities to turn this great extend of water to our own advantage. He has made these things, perhaps for other uses; but he has given is the faculties to conveet them to our own….Let us then boldly affirm, that the earth, amd all its wonders, are ours; since we are furnished with the powers to force then into our service.

We have made the earth simply a subject of our control and are reaping the consequences of this. History shows that the great empires such as China and Egypt were built upon central control of the waters of the great rivers and even in modern democracies the control of this vital resource is a powerful political position.

 

Coming from a household of females, I may be accused of bias but I will now return to the engineered landscape of Lough Neagh.  It is the largest fresh water lake in Britain and Ireland and draws water from five counties in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Neagh contains over 800 billion gallons of water. It is 15 kilometres wide, 25 kilometres long with a shore line of 125 kilometres. The catchment area for which the lough acts as a central reservoir is over 1,500 sq miles and it receives the flow of many major rivers, including the Blackwater, Ballinderry, Moyola, Upper Bann, Six Mile Water and Main.  The only outlet is by the Lower Bann river entering the sea below Coleraine. It has always been a holder of these waters but despite its size it is relatively shallow and therefore its capacity is not as great as might be expected.

The Lower Bann valley especially  is given to flooding. Prior to the mid19th century ‘lowerings’ some 25,000 acres was subject to regular intuition.  Shoals or submerged banks along the riverbed, especially at Toome, slow down the river’s flow.  In prehistoric times flooding was good as it enriched the land for the hunters and gatherers.  However, as people settled and started farming it has been seen as a threat. From the 1700s several schemes were proposed to deal with flooding and navigation, but with little success.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Francis Hutchinson said

…..the waters which flow from so many sources can not possibly be discharged by the single outlet of the Bann but must, unless steps are taken to discharge the waters by clearing the obstruction of the river, be annually accumulated to the great detriment of the lands around.

( 1884 –  cited in the Report on the  Drainage of Lough Neagh by Robert Manning – Chief Engineer of the Board of Works, Dublin. )

In 1812 Thomas Townsend, an engineer with the Bog Commissioners in Ireland, suggested that river navigation could be improved by building canals and removing the shoals along the river.  The Drainage Act of 1842 was passed by the government to ease flooding and improve navigation of the Bann.

 McMahon’s Scheme

In 1844 canal engineer John McMahon was commissioned to create a navigation scheme for the Lower Bann.  His challenge was to help drainage, improve navigation and support fishing.  He proposed to build locks and weirs to lower winter flood levels and also store water to help with navigation. Nevertheless, in the degree of flood control and water storage existing in the Lough Neagh Basin, even in its natural state, McMahon recognised the great benefits bestowed by a large expanse of inland sea which was

…… placed by nature at a point of convergence of several powerful and turbulent rivers and streams, it receives and calms the impetuosity of these waters, rendering them fit for man’s use, and is almost without a parallel as to value amongst his industrial resources.

 

The most glowing anticipations of the benefits to be derived from the scheme in 1846  were conjured up as W. A. Mc Cutcheon the author of The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland says. Doctors reported that there would be probable benefits in abating epidemics of fever; professors of geology discoursed on the economic value of the deposits of clay which would be exposed neat Toomebridge, and further south between Ardboe Point and Portadown – diatomite, peat, lignite and coal, sulphate of lime and sulphate  of iron; the Drainage Commissioner, Robert Harding, envisaged a vast improvement of the land that was liable to flooding. In short he felt everyone would benefit.

The five locks were created at Toome, Portna, Movanagher, Portna, Carnroe and the Cutts. They all had standard sized chambers, 130ft long by 20ft 6in wide (39.6m x 6.2m).   McMahon estimated the cost at £163,486.  He planned to make money with increased trade, more reclaimed land for farming and water power. Stone used for the various weirs, locks and banks came from excavated material and nearby quarries at Tamlaght, Movanagher and Toome.  Brick from Coalisland was used for the lock and lock-keeper’s house at Toome. Over 1500 men worked on the scheme at any one time. The Board of Works approved the scheme, known as the Lower Bann Navigation, which was implemented over 13 years (1847-1859).   The total cost came to £264.000 – over £100.000 more than the original estimate.

The scheme lowered the level of Lough Neagh by approx. 6ft (1.8m).  It reclaimed up to 30,000 acres of land round the shoreline for agriculture. It opened up river traffic between Lough Neagh and Coleraine. However, railways had started to overtake river traffic.  Belfast and Newry were also better placed for the shipment of goods along the canals to cross channel ships. In 1862 the Lower Bann Steamship Company started a service along the Lower Bann.  The Harland & Wolff built steamer Kitty of Coleraine offered a twice-weekly passenger and goods service between Coleraine and Toome.  But the service never took off and stopped in 1869.

 

Shepherd’s scheme

In 1929 the Ministry of Finance took over responsibility for the Lower Bann. They employed Major Percy Shepherd to address the issue of flooding along the Bann. Work on Shepherd’s scheme began in March 1930. Almost 4 million cu. m of non-rock material was dredged.  Sluice gates were installed at Toome, Portna and Cutts to regulate the flow of the river and control the water level of Lough Neagh. There were five gates at Toome with a fish pass in the centre.  A footbridge was also built to access them from the Co Antrim side.  The level of the river was monitored at water gauge stations at Toome and Camus. Three sets of flood gates and five sets of locks on the Lower Bann control the water level of Lough Neagh. Today, Lough Neagh is 3.6 metres lower than it was in 1847.

Back to the role of the female or not in all of these schemes to ‘control nature’. One wonders would or could these engineering changes  happen today?  There are many debates about flooding and flood defences. Is it good to try and culvert, control and embank water ? It is not easy if you live by a coast, a river or a lough that is prone to flooding but what are the long term answers ? Is hard engineering and ‘controlling nature ‘ (still mostly by men !) the answer?  In the Netherlands, Room for the River,  Ruimte voor de Rivier, is a government design plan intended to address flood protection, master landscaping and the improvement of environmental conditions in the areas surrounding the Netherlands’ rivers. We might have to make way again too!

 

Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Lough Neagh Chances and Connections

Blog by Liam Campbell

Numbers, tracing  and connections seem to be the order of the day at this time. Always mindful of Edward Said’s phrase that “ Survival is about the connections between things “ I have been thinking about chance and connection. We have got used to the microscopic images of a virus on our screens and this too has made me think about the smallest elements of our catchment that may teach us something.

When I came to work at Ballyronan on the loughshore I was immediately met by the swarm of the Lough Neagh flies. Not coming from a biological background, I was informed by colleagues that these Lough Neagh midges or flies had tongue-twister names : Chrironomus anthracinus and Glyptoendipes  paripes and they were central to the whole ecosystem of the Lough and that they didn’t bite ! They have a very simple life – spending most of their lives on the sediment at the bottom of the lough and after one year the midge larvae pupate and emerge as winged adults in late April and May. Having spent the last few weeks working from home in the Sperrins, I miss them – seriously ! The swarms of these remarkable creatures  are a remarkable sight like plumes of smoke above and  on cars, houses and boats. According to John Faulkner and Robert Thomson in their great work “ The Natural History of Ulster “ ( National Museums of Northern Ireland 2011 ) their numbers are immense and they have calculated that there may be over 5,000 individuals per square metre, which multiplied by the area of Lough Neagh, is around 300 for every person living on the planet, or well over one million million. I’m not good with numbers and I would need my daughter who is an actuary to look at these types of figures when we get into microscopic detail !

I have been reading a brilliant book, “ The Irish Pearl “ by John Lucey ( Wordwell, 2005 ) about the freshwater pearl mussel and it brings into, now just the area of numbers but of chance ! The pearl mussel has a wonderful cultural, social and economic history that could fill pages.

This is a story of the connectedness of everything within the bioregion which has local relevance for those in the Lough Neagh  catchment especially the Ballinderry river.  The very existence of this tiny pearl which comes from the freshwater mussel shows the complexity and connectedness of this bioregional system. This mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) has become ecologically precious in itself often living up to 150 years or more. Its survival owes as much to chance and to what we do with our waters. Rather than develop on limey substrates that generally favour molluscs, the mussel thrives in the fast flowing rivers rising in the mountains of sandstone and granite of the Sperrins and Bluestacks, often rich in silica but markedly lacking in calcium needed for shell-building. So this species develops slowly with a sooty black shell and a tough, nacreous lining of mother-of-pearl. The young are set adrift in the current and in midsummer they are brooded in the female gills and then released in a cloud of larvae called glochidia – an average of 9.8 million from each animal. As the glochidia are swept away in the river, their survival depends on their being passively breathed into the gills of a salmon or trout, whereupon they clamp to a filament of the soft, red tissue and begin to absorb nourishment from it. In their twenty four hours of viability 99.9996 percent of the glochidia will fail to find a host. Of the forty in ten million that do, all but two will be lost during the fourteen days it takes to grow to an independent size. Another connection is that it cannot use non-native fish for attachment. Scientists have suggested that the relationship of pearl mussels and salmon is symbiotic – the fish provide nourishment at a critical phase in infancy (a parasitism that seems to do the salmon no harm at all), while the adult mussels help to maintain water quality for the salmon. In one river, the mussels have been shown to filter 90 percent of the volume in low-water years (Viney, 2003). Due to the vulnerability of young pearl mussels to pollution, the species has declined by over 80% in the last ten years (Bullock et al., 2008). “Much of the remaining population is believed to comprise adults born before Independence” (ibid.: 96).

I was very privileged some years ago to work on a programme called Bridging Troubled Waters about water quality in Northern Ireland and got to visit the Ballinderry fish hatchery where a restoration project to halt the decline in their numbers has been ongoing.  On the banks of a river I was to meet with a biologist and had the utter pleasure of holding in my hand a freshwater pearl mussel. This beautiful animal was I’m told between 140 and 150 years old. It was a sacred moment to hold such a creature. At the hatchery, large numbers of brown trout have been successfully infected with the pearl mussel glochidia, yielding over 100,000 juvenile mussels to grow on in large experimental gravel tanks before being let into the river. But this depends on the water quality ultimately. These mussels are at the top of what is called an “indicator” species providing a litmus test, so to speak, of the health of the natural environment. The life cycles of some species seem more than usually designed to demonstrate the workings of chance; moreover, the exceptional lifespan of the freshwater pearl mussel – up to 150 years or more – might also be a recognition of its luck in existing at all.

At the same time,  I have been involved in some archaeological investigations around the lough as the built and cultural heritage of Lough Neagh is my main job and I have some excellent natural heritage colleagues who know a lot more about our marvellous natural heritage than I do. One of our surveys was of the original Plantation fort at Brocagh / Mountjoy which almost nothing remains above surface. Why do I relate these two stories? The fort of Mountjoy is now gone and yet despite all the lottery of chance the pearl mussel still survived. The connection is the lough and river system.  It too was the reason for both and yet it survives. I am reminded of Ozymandias, that great poem by Shelley (cited in Boland, 1997: 115):

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of the colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I have an inner disquiet or distrust concerning the kind of historicism which refuses to acknowledge returns, echoes or parallels between different historical moments. It helps to acknowledge history on the epic scale that is less anthropocentric. I will brush up on my mathematic too !!

 

 

 

 

The Scale of Belonging – Dr Liam Campbell

The Scale of Belonging – Dr Liam Campbell

These last few weeks I have not been too far from my home – I’d say a radius of 6 miles at the most and it has been a big lesson in the art of belonging and the local and has got me thinking. There is something about the scale of belonging and getting to know a place a lot better.

The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind and light. With complete attention landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of the landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness. Mountains are huge contemplatives. Rivers and streams offer voice: they are the tears of the earth’s joy and despair. The earth is full of soul (O’ Donohue, 1997: 115).

When you read Lough Neagh Places – Their Names and Origins ( 2007 ) by Drs Patrick Mc Kay and Kay Muhr, you realise that there is something deeper about a sense of place and attachment than some  theories can “get at”. Heaney (1984: 131) writes that there are two ways in which we can know a place, “One is lived, illiterate and unconscious, the other learned and conscious.” The danger of relaying on the use of generic terms such as “Nature” and “environment” is that these objectify what we love and obscure the particularity of thousands of places, townlands and parishes across the land, another way of inhabiting a place of belonging. In doing so we can unwittingly undermine any attempt to know and love our “place” as a place and not as a concept.” “ Philosophy is a place-based existence. It comes from the body and the heart and is checked against shared experience” (Snyder, 1990: 69). A sense of place partakes of a culture and a shared body of “local knowledge”, with which people and whole communities render their places meaningful and endow them with social and spiritual importance. It is often evoked in the names of the place in their native language.

Cranfield Ancient Site

Viewing the land as a set of resources has tended to encourage its quantitative evaluation ( and we often have to do this for work – if you don’t put an economic value on something,  then it may not be considered of  any worth and get the notice of the government bodies   and yet is this to put it into a realm  where it simply goes up and down in value ?)  , or perhaps its quantitative assessment automatically frames the land as a set of resources. There is no doubt that pastoralists evaluate the land in quantitative terms as is evidenced in the way townlands were divided and established. There are c.63,000 of these townland units in Ireland (McErlean, 1983). These medieval landscape assessment systems which emerged as an expression of landholding may seem like a quantitative evaluation, and in a sense they are, but they have an underlying environmental logic that is rare in contemporary resource assessment. In this system the more extensive territories occurred on poorer lands i.e. the larger townlands were usually in the poorer uplands. Generally  the folk knew their land and what it could “hold” in an ecologically friendly way. This was measurement not for commercial exploitation, but for future survival, and a deep affinity with the natural world of which humanity is one part. The differences are not perhaps so great. The land may have been measured but the interaction with the land is not directed by wholly material concern and also reflects the spiritual, intellectual and emotional concerns which we will explore later. As O’Connor (2001:4) has said, “[t]o know the townlands of Ireland is to know the country by heart”.

We all need to belong somewhere but the kind of belonging may be different from what it was formally. A re-localization may be taking place in this time of not being able to travel too far from home. Local heritage studies and local heritage tourism have seen a rise in interest in recent years. In many of the parishes around the loughshore  you will find the names of town-lands prominently displayed on carved stones or on signs  by the roadside. We have, I think, probably seen a reaction against the placelessness of the global and a search for the re-connectedness to the local and to home – where we know and are known.

Lough Neagh Eel Visitor Centre

Brain Turner, (2004), tells of how there is an increasing disjuncture between local communities in many places and the landscapes they inhabit. He reflects on a little experiment with three generations of men of similar background in the same parish in rural Ulster. The oldest man, aged 73, could name and place 156 townlands in his locality and his mental map of the place was one where people, townlands and farms are closely meshed together. A middle aged man in his forties could name thirteen townlands and his sixteen year old son could only name the townland in which he lived. The intimate topography of farms, townlands, coastlines and river pools, unimportant to the military or political designs of map makers, is vanishing with the language. Each generation seems to know fewer and fewer place-names and their meanings. There is a contraction of knowledge about local topographies that results in the whole fabric of ordinary, neighbourhood history fading from our mental maps. Field names and river names were often a sensitive indicator of when Irish was a living language in the rural community.

There is something about the notion of a scale of place and belonging that is worth exploring. People may need a human scale of place and belonging to complement the global, a means of inserting their own experience, feelings and opinions into an often alienating world. Many well-intentioned philosophies want us to declare ourselves as global citizens to “think, globally and act locally”. However, Wendell  Berry questions this:

Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible. Global thinking can only do to the globe what a space satellite does to it: reduce it, make a bauble of it. Look at one of those photographs of the earth from outer space, and see if you recognize your neighbourhood. If you want to see where you are you will have to get out of your spaceship, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground (Berry, 1993: 19-20).

These last few weeks have helped me get out of my “ spaceship” and “ walk over the ground “

John Feehan (2010) whom I turn to a lot for advice, contends that the appropriate scale of belonging is actually biologically determined, a dimension of biophilia (the affinity that our species feels with others). “Therefore, we can only be “at home” when we are close to the natural world in, “a place with which we are commensurate” (2010: 69; orig. emph.), of such a size that we can get to know it, relate to, and feel we have taken root. The sense of identity that is commensurate with the human need to belong and lead a purposeful and fulfilling life is for him most easily and naturally achieved on the scale of parish, in the broader economic and ecological sense.

 

Parishes were mapped out at the Synod of Rathbreasail in the year 1111. Here we see the transition from a medieval system of church based on monasteries to one based on a diocesan structure in which rivers and loughs  were to play a major part.  The boundaries of the early Irish Church were defined largely by what we could term river basin districts and all diocese had an “exit” to the sea, even if they were inland (Duffy, 2007). The parishes were originally co-extensive with the tuath, the territory controlled and farmed by a clan or extended family, just as diocese corresponded to larger political units (Duffy, 2007; McErlean, 1983). The parish is made up a number of different townlands of various sizes depending on the “quality” of the land. These would have been farming units most often bounded by some form of water. Over time the parish boundaries changed as the size of the population changed and political and social arrangements were to change. For Feehan the parish is the area for which we are made. There we spend our lives, biologically, psychologically and spiritually.

This is characterised by intimacy; a closeness to the earth cut to our human measure. Feehan is not arguing for the parish in the literal sense of an area that stops at a line on the map “but at the horizon where the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening – yet a flexible horizon that expands and contracts with time and place” (Feehan, 2010: 166). In an earlier work he appears to suggest that our ability to travel “beyond the horizon” merely expands our understanding of the place it defines (Feehan, 2006). Ó Muirthile (2001: 55) argues that central to his local writing was naisiun na mbailte fearainn [the nation of townlands] and its sister concept duthaigh anama / locus animae [soul territory]. Soul is real in relation to place in this land.

An American academic that I came  across come years ago called Kirkpatrick  Sale in a great book called Human Scale, points out the social and ecological consequences of alienation from a place of human scale and intimacy with that place:

There can be no communal-interest among 200 million people, or 20 million, even 2 million, because there is no way the human heart with all its limitations can perceive the interconnectedness of all those lives and their relevance to its single life; we cheat on our income tax and drive at 65 mph, and ignore beggars on the street because we perceive no community at the scale at which we live. Nor can there be communal interest over distances of 3,000 square miles, or 300 miles, or even 30 miles, because there is no way for the human mind in all its frailty to conceive of the complexity of an ecosystem so large and its single place within it … Only when the shepherd knows his world and the people in it and feels their importance to his own well-being, only when he realises that his self-interest is indeed the communal interest, will he voluntarily limit his flock. Only then will the looming tragedy of the commons be avoided (Sale, 1980: 334).

I think that over these last few weeks, we may have rediscovered this sense of human scale – long may it continue.

 In the introduction to Lough Neagh Places it states “… a wider aim of this book is its contribution to the fostering of local pride and tourism in the area by drawing on visual as well as descriptive attention to the lough and its hinterland. At its broadest, this fascinating new compendium of local information is envisaged as supporting environmental, economic and social projects intended to assist with the sustainable development and management of this world-renowned wetland area…”

This is what we try to do.

Getting to know our place a bit better involves the walking, looking, smelling, hearing and a bit of research on the linguistic and historical heritage of this great place, Lough Neagh.

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh – Dr Liam Campbell

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh – Dr Liam Campbell

A Mental Map of Lough Neagh

Blog by: Dr Liam Campbell

I made some connections this week between some great scholars of the landscape in the west of Ireland and Lough Neagh. Firstly,  I must say that I have always loved maps and it is ironic that one of the greatest map makers on this island, Tim Robinson died last week following his late wife Mairead on the list of fatalities of Covid 19 after having to move back to London from his beloved Connemara.  He was to me a hero,  in his ability to capture the “ immensities in which this little place is wrapped” and the richness of even “ the tiniest fragment of reality.” I would not put him into any category as he was at once an historical geographer, ecologist, environmentalist, natural historian, botanist and translator.

I wish to connect his work to an enlightened project in 2008  by the then University of Ulster and four men John McKenna, Rory J. Quinn, Daniel J. Donnelly and  Andrew G. Cooper. This too had a major influence on my life and research and indeed I think it is no accident that I now work at Lough Neagh and live beside Rory Quinn ! In research completed by the Centre for Coastal and Marine Research, based at the University of Ulster, a mental map of the bed of Lough Neagh compiled from interviews with local fishermen was compared to maps produced by “science-based” techniques. The paper that they produced is one of very few that has attempted to compare Local Ecological Knowledge with scientifically acquired data. The scientists at the time had the wisdom to take on the likes of Danny Donnelly to interview the fishing families of the lough and to glean their wisdom of the place and the “ tiniest fragment of reality “ as Robinson did so well in Connemara.  There is a timeless wisdom that seems to transcend historical events and epochs. It is difficult to define yet many know and recognise it instinctively. It has been called variously Local Ecological Knowledge, (LEK) ; Traditional Ecological or Environmental Knowledge, (TEK) or Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) but in a sense this doesn’t matter as what matters is the story of the place. The fishermen of  Lough Neagh Know  these stories. Constant attention to details of nature, memories of the way the land and water looks and stories told by other travellers and fishermen about the region are used together with the movements of the animals and the sky maps plotting the moon and the stars.

The comparison revealed that the mental map was highly accurate even though none of the fishermen had ever dived to the lough bed. It was intuited by the fishermen who having fished the lough, for as long as they know, though they had never seen, the differing textures and substances on its floor. I now have the privilege to work at Lough Neagh and this local  ecological knowledge has and continues to inspire me “The accuracy of the Lough Neagh map is attributed to the fact that is a compendium of the knowledge of several generations rather than an individual perception” (McKenna et al., 2008). The article argues that the accuracy is prompted by economic self-interest and that high accuracy may be a characteristic of the mental maps held by artisanal exploiters of natural resources. Is this not simple self-sufficiency on the part of the indigenous population? Exploitation of natural resources seems modern capitalistic twist on an indigenous way of life that was managed in a sustainable way for self-interest?

Andrews one of Ireland’s experts on maps, claims that Ireland was too small to have developed a map-making tradition (Andrews in Foster, 1997: 199) and there are no known early native Irish made maps of Ireland. But it is the outsider who needs a map in order to occupy it, get around and own the local landscape and the image of that landscape. The local people did not need one as they had their own way to get around and know their own place. Recently Rosie Ryan of Coyle’s Cottage fame took me to the site of where an enormous ancient ash had fallen and was to tell me that it was a marker for the fishermen of old long before GPS. It reminded me of one of the first times that I was out on half decker crabbing off Fanad in Donegal and as the men set the pots and plotted them on the GPS, I asked what they would have done before the advent of this technology and the reply was to the effect that, they never would have left sight of the shore beforehand and knew the water from the markers in the land. Possibly we all got too greedy and moved to far from the land.

 As the poet Eavan Boland says, “ the science of cartography is limited “ (Boland cited in Smyth, 2003: 58). In the Gaelic such maps were either unknown or not formally used and territories and peoples were administered mainly by words and living images associated with manuscripts, memory, local lore and myth.

Most of us carry a mental map of our place in this world. We consciously and unconsciously engage in mental discourses with the places in which we live and also the places we encounter in our travels. We make subjective comparisons between “our” place on the one hand and neighbouring places and the “outside world” on the other hand. We construct real and imaginary boundaries between our place and that of our neighbours. The French philosopher of space and matter, Bachelard has written:

Each of us should make a surveyor’s map of his lost fields and meadows … in this way we cover the universe with drawings we have lived. These drawings need not be exact. But they need to be written according to the shapes of our inner landscapes (cited in McFarlane, 2007: 232).

Stories occur in places such as Lough Neagh.  For oral cultures the spoken word was everything. They mix facts and metaphors in order to tell the story and engage the listener. They imagine the land and create and recreate it in their minds. It reminds me of what Ishmael said in Moby Dick (1851, 1998) about the island of Kokovoko: “It is not down on any map; true places never are”. The earliest sort of maps would have been story maps: spoken cartographies describing landscapes and events that took place in them. Maps such as these could be learned, amended and passed on between people and down through the generations as they are around the shore of Lough Neagh.

One way to build community is through stories. Over time, small bits of knowledge about the region accumulate among local residents in the form of stories. They are remembered in the community and even what is unusual is not lost or becomes irrelevant.

Losing the names of these places and events is a step in losing respect. Knowing the names is a first step in regaining a connection. Communities sharing such knowledge and working together are likely to engage in more sustainable ways of working that builds up local renewable assets for the future. At the end of the 2008 article on mental mapping it states

“…A pessimistic scenario is that continuing failure to recruit young men will ultimately lead to the end of the fishery, and with it the mental map of the lough that has been transmitted down through the generations. This outlook may be unnecessarily gloomy. The mental map will survive as long as the occupation it serves survives. Although numbers of fishermen may decline still further, there will probably always be a market for eels, and consequently fishing will continue on Lough Neagh. It seems likely that for the foreseeable future the fishermen will continue to rely heavily on the mental map of the lough handed down to them from the past. “

We are lucky that so much work has been done about the Lough Neagh stories but the sheer immensity of the place means that the work following  the likes of Tim Robinson is never finished here.

The full title of the article and that abstract read as

Accurate Mental Maps as an Aspect of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK): A Case Study from Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

 A mental map of the substrate of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, compiled from interviews with local fishermen, is compared with maps produced by science-based techniques. The comparison reveals that the mental map is highly accurate. This finding contrasts with the spatial distortion characteristic of the classic mental map. The accuracy of the Lough Neagh map is attributed to the fact that it is a compendium of the knowledge of several generations, rather than an individual perception. Individual distortions are filtered out, and accuracy is promoted by economic self-interest. High accuracy may be characteristic of the mental maps held by artisanal exploiters of natural resources.

It can be accessed in full at:

https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/unf_research/34/

Bog blog – Dr Liam Campbell

Bog blog – Dr Liam Campbell

Bog blog

Blog by Dr Liam Campbell

When I was a child growing up in Donegal, a phrase that was commonly used to sum up someone’s stubbornness, rudeness, or more often stupidity was, “You can take the man out of the bog but you cannot take the bog out of the man.” I don’t buy this any more, and thought not a scientist of the wonders of peat and bog, I began to wonder why culturally we have denigrated our bogs and peatlands to simply a resource to be burned or drained ?

Many years ago, I was lucky to interview Prof Mike Baillie ( QUB )  on the shores of Lough Neagh re his work on of dendrochronology on Ireland’s long oak tree ring chronology and his identifying the significance for global environmental history of growth reductions in tree rings. He has since tied these to various global catastrophic events such as volcanic eruptions etc . All this research originating in the peat around Lough  Neagh. Later I was to meet another hero, Dr John Feehan (UCD )  co-author of The Bogs of Ireland and these scientists were to encourage and inspire me. Now lucky enough to work in  place surrounded by so  much of the ‘dark  stuff ‘  (the title of  Donald Murray’s book on peat ) it is a pervading and wonderous presence .

  The study of the nature of the bogs of Ireland is  interwoven with the story of human presence and human perception of that nature in Ireland. The bogs are a kind of palimpsest, superimposed forms and places that testify to the complex interaction of nature and human culture. This attitude goes back as long way as far as I can see. Even in the 12th century the cleric and writer Gerald of Wales wrote,

 The inhabitants of Ireland do not have affinity with castles as a means of defence ; instead they make the woods their stronghold and the bogs their stinking  trenches.

Giraldus Cambrensis ( Gerald of Wales 1185 )

Later in the sixteenth century, Edmund Spencer the poet and writer who reflected the Elizabethan world was to write,

Ireland is a wasteland in need of improvement that is flat, empty and inscribable  full of wolf and woodkerne

Edmund Spenser 1595- A View of the Present State of  Ireland

It is interesting to add the wolf and the woods to this debate on bogs as they are all demeaned and demonised literally and animals and places to be eliminated.

For Elizabethan colonists, the prospect (or actual view) of bogland from the English Pale was, as it were, the ground-level reality of Irish nature, very different from the colonial prospect (or anticipated view) of Ireland from England. Gerard Boate’s Ireland’s Natural History (1652) writes of the reason for the extent of our bogs: “now wonder if a country, famous for laziness as Ireland is, abound with them.”

 There is indeed a long history of colonial writing on the nature and culture of bogs.

In 1685 William King – later to become Archbishop of Dublin – published ‘ Of the Bogs and Loughs of Ireland ‘ in Philosophical Transactions, in which he  calls Irish bogs ‘ infamous’ and equates extensive bogland with barbarity. The bogs offered an advantage to resistant natives, who, King believed, deliberately built near them: the bogs ‘are a shelter and a refuge to tories [ dispossessed natives turned outlaws], and thieves, who can hardly live without them. They take advantage then to them to have the country unpassable, and the fewer strangers came near them, they lived the easyer. The bogs are very inconvenient to us  ‘.

It is easy to blame a colonial mentality towards the bogs but a mentality has come down through the years. Think of the phrase “ Drain the swamp “  used in American by Donald Trump !

The science and wonder of the bog is magnificent and has been well recorded of late. There have  been some iconic books on the nature of our bogs with the likes of David Bellamy’s The Wild Boglands (1986) to the monumental study by John Feehan et al. in The Bogs of Ireland (1996).I’d also recommend Michael Viney’s Ireland – A Smithsonian Natural History (2003) for its chapter on the Brown Mantle  ( a phrase I love ) and Padraic Fogarty’s Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature (2017 )   But little has been written ( with the exception of  Derek Gladwin’s  Contentious Terrains: Boglands, Ireland, Postcolonial Gothic ) about how the political and geographical history of boglands are represented in modern and contemporary Irish literature and culture and how this impacts on present day attitudes.

The bog has been a subtle theme in modern Irish history, extending to political and cultural issues as well as permeating social and economic ones. There is a  picture richer in detail and more complex in its development than traditional images of the bog question in Ireland would suggest. It is  timely, given the current political and environmental debates and in the  exploration of how colonization and its legacy overlap in new forms of “colonization”.  Nature and culture in Ireland finds its debate par excellence in the story of the bog.

Boglands invite a whole academy of sciences to their study, but the cultural element is often neglected. You cannot have one without the other. If we add the threatened ecology of bogs to the resources of literature, archaeology, and other elements of culture the possibilities are limitless for their survival.  The arts and sciences do not meet often enough. There are few other substances that can join the built, natural, and cultural elements of our heritage as much as our bogs. Joseph Beuys, one of the world’s most influential post-war avant-garde artists described our bogs as, “the liveliest elements in the European landscape, not just from the point of view of flora, fauna, birds and animals, but as storing pieces of life, mystery and chemical change, preservers of ancient history.”  These contentious terrains can throw a light on the past and help us look to the ( uncertain )  future.

The way we  look at how the bogs, the moor, the moss or whatever it’s called locally, affects me and others and has done through the ages but as we enter a crucial age for the planets survival we can all learn to love the bog that has too often been denigrated, feared and despised. The bogs of Ireland are our Amazon forest and a library of knowledge ( re climate change, archaeology, culture, biology etc )  and preservation in so many ways. I hope we can  uncover a picture richer in detail and more complex in its development than traditional images of the bog question in Ireland would suggest.

Few do it better that Seamus Heaney who in many ways as a poet has done as  much for the science and wonder of the bog as have the scientific community. But both need each other if we are to give the bogs the respect they deserve.

 

“ We have no prairies / To slice a big sun at evening –  / Everywhere the eye concedes to / Encroaching horizon, /  Is wooded into the cyclop’s eye /  Of the tarn. Our unfenced country /  Is bog that keeps crusting /  Between the sights of the sun. /  They’ve taken the skeleton /  Of the Great Irish Elk /  Out of the peat, set it up, /  An astounding crate full of air. /  Butter sunk under /  More than a hundred years /  Was recovered salty and white. /  The ground itself is kind, black butter / Melting and opening underfoot,  / Missing its last definition /  By millions of years. /  They’ll never dig coal here, /  Only the waterlogged trunks /  Of great firs, soft as pulp. /  Our pioneers keep striking /  Inwards and downwards, /  Every layer they strip /  Seems camped on before. /  The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage. /  The wet centre is bottomless.

Seamus Heaney – Bogland

 

The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

The Sanctuary and Termon of Cranfield

A few years ago, I had never heard of Cranfield ( Creamhchoill – Irish,  Wild Garlic Wood )  and yet I had passed only a few miles from it on the road to Belfast so often. Like a lot of loughshore places they were often near but yet so far from the outsiders knowledge. I have come to love the place with its medieval church ruins whose east window frames a magnificent view of Lough Neagh, to the curative  well of St Olcan surrounded by the rag trees that tell the story of many hopes and prayers to the quay at Cranfield Point that tells the story of so many fishing families and the search for eels and pollan in the past. It may not have the prestige of Ardboe but it has become for me a place of sanctuary and this, as I have realised is no accident.

The large townland of Cranfield was formerly made up of four subtownlands  and that amalgamation is now the present townland of some 858 acres. These are termonlands where boundaries and borders meet. Termon in Irish Tearmann originally referred to the lands of a church or monastery within which the right of sanctuary prevailed. It laterally came to refer to ‘church lands’ but if we dig deeper the origins of this go back into the earliest of times. Like many cultural practices, Christianity absorbed earlier beliefs such as termon.

The idea of borders and boundaries as “in-between” and special places are very obvious in places  connected especially with water, from wells to tributaries. They are where the gods were meant to dance at the confluence of waters. The mingling of the tributary and the main river was deemed to be a sacred place. The Celtic god Condatis, takes his name from the Gallic epithet “watersmeet”. He is literally the god of the two streams, the confluence, and was worshipped as such. All of this imagery of territories, other worldly kingdoms, liminal spaces describes a kind of mysticism which architecturally enunciates the “deep structures” of our lives, the line of the boundary between us and the “other world”. The  lough, rivers and wells are  the most picturesque analogy for that boundary but of course water being fluid makes the boundary a leaky one.

These boundary places are the areas where peace was made in ancient times before that advent of Christianity. Take the great site of Christian pilgrimage, Lough Derg, it was a place of sanctuary long before Christianity and is still today a place where boundaries meet. Its is the watershed between the Foyle and Erne river systems and where political, civil and religious administrations meet such as the counties of Derry, Tyrone and Donegal, the dioceses of Clogher, Raphoe and Derry. Historically the termonlands around Lough Derg have been a no-man’s- land between the powerful contending medieval factions of O’Neill, Maguire and O’Donnell and probably with their predecessors too. It was desirable that a buffer area should arise between prickly neighbours so that small border incidents need not develop into war. Monastic sites soon became to take on these buffer zones and the termon lands given to them would provide food and revenue for the foundation and also act as a place of sanctuary.

Sanctuariam – arium is soon adapted by the church as a “container in this case for the sancta / sancti – holy “ a sacred place or an altar. Human sanctuary becomes  Legal Sanctuary – Right of asylum / political asylum  and we even have a  sanctuary Movement in cities for refugees.

Back to Cranfield, it is also no accident that it has two termon crosses to mark these places, one in wood and the other in granite.  Termon is a wonderful thought and concept whatever ones beliefs.

It is also no accident that the great poet of this entire water scape of rivers, loughs and well has used this so much in his work. The great lines from Terminus capture the spirit of termon and of the place. “… I was the March drain and the march drain’s banks / Suffering the limit of each claim. / Two buckets were easier carried than one. I grew up in between…”

In his essay, Something to Write Home About , he explains that he grew up “in between” – raised near the River Moyola which served as a boundary between the Protestant/loyalist village of Castledawson and the Catholic/nationalist district of Bellaghy/Ballyscullion. In describing his childhood by the river, Heaney says “,I always loved venturing out from one stepping-stone to the next, right into the middle of the stream…Suddenly you were on your own .You were giddy and rooted to the spot at one and the same time… Nowadays when I think of that child rooted to the spot in mid stream,I see a little version of the god the Romans called Terminus, the god of boundaries. (Finders Keepers 51 ). He also makes the point that “the inheritance of a divided world is a disabling one, that it traps its inhabitants and corners them in determined positions, saps their will to act freely and creatively.”

Heaney reckons that , the Romans kept an image of Terminus in the Temple of Jupiter, the roof above the image was left open to the sky, as if, Heaney states, “a god of the boundaries and borders of the earth needed to have access to the boundless, the whole unlimited height and width and depth of the heavens themselves. As if to say that all boundaries are necessary evils and that the truly desirable condition is he feeling of being unbounded, of being king of infinite space.” (Finders Keepers 51 )

The space and place of Cranfield is somewhere that this tradition can be celebrated and kept alive and is more needed now than ever. It is ancient but it is new too.

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

Joe Mahon launches new Lough Neagh series on UTV

A new series taking UTV presenter Joe Mahon on a unique tour of Lough Neagh has been launched to an invited audience with Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council ahead of its first episode, which will be screened on UTV at 8pm on Monday 17 September.

The eight part series takes Joe onto and around the largest freshwater lake in the UK and Ireland where viewers will see him fishing for eel in the dead of night, canoeing and learning hunting skills on the shores of the lough, digging with archaeologists, visiting the oldest thatched roofed pub in Ireland and learning the traditional craft of boat building.

Joe said of the new series: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring Lough Neagh for this new UTV programme. It was a hugely enjoyable learning experience and the beauty about learning something new is the idea that you can then share it with the viewers. I hope that everyone will not only enjoy the series, but also learn a little bit more about the Lough.”

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael, commented: “Lough Neagh is the heart of Northern Ireland and on behalf of all the Councils involved in Lough Neagh Partnership, we thank Joe Mahon, Westway Films and UTV for showcasing the history and heritage of our Lough. We are extremely proud of the connection with the Lough and on Tuesday of this week, we officially cut the sod for the new Lough Neagh Gateway Centre, which is due to open at the end of Summer 2019. In the meantime, we all look forward to welcoming more visitors, that Joe’s new series will attract, to our stunning Lough Neagh.”

Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership said: “This is the first locally produced television series dedicated to exposing the culture and heritage of Lough Neagh and its surrounds. It has been a pleasure for the team at Lough Neagh Partnership to be able to work hand in hand with Joe on this series to showcase the authenticity of this area. We believe he has really captured the essence of everyday life in the heart of mid Ulster to enthral UTV viewers with this unique insight into the place that we are so proud of.

Terry Brennan, UTV’s Head of News and Programmes said, “In the 20 plus years that Joe has been bringing programmes to our homes, he has enthralled and delighted the viewers with his unique style, outstanding locations, amazing characters, and delightful stories, and with Lough Neagh, that trend will continue. We are absolutely thrilled at UTV that Joe has uncovered yet more amazing stories about Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage.”

Lough Neagh, sponsored by Connollys of Moy, starts Monday 17 September at 8pm on UTV.

 

 

Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Lough Neagh Community Heritage Training

Are you interested in your place and it’s past?

Would you like to know how to research, record and archive your local history? Lough Neagh Landscape partnership is offering you heritage training and advice.

Venue 1: Lock Keepers Cottage in Toome – Mon 1st Oct, 8th Oct, 15th Oct & 29th Oct

Venue 2: Community Hall Aghagallon – Tuesday 6th Nov, 13th Nov, 20th Nov & 4th Dec

Time 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Training is FREE but places are limited, so book early! Please contact Chris McCarney volunteer officer on 077 8824 9517.

Book on Facebook at: Facebook.com/LoughNeaghLP

Overhead and Underfoot: Legacies of World War II around Lough Neagh

Overhead and Underfoot: Legacies of World War II around Lough Neagh

Overhead and Underfoot Conference: 16th -17th October 2018
The Old Courthouse, Market Square, Antrim

 Registration and tea and coffee 9.30am

Welcome – Mayor Councillor Paul Michael, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

10.00am-10.05am

Session one 10.10am-11.30am

SETTING THE HISTORICAL SCENE 

Paul Clark ( Television Presenter ) – The power of the WWII story

Richard Doherty ( Military Historian and author ) – Setting the scene of WWII in the Lough Neagh Area

Alan Freeburn ( Education Officer NI War Memorial ) – Dark Histories around the Lough

Aidan Fee ( Stewartstown and District Local History Society ) – Evacuees around the lough

Questions and comments

 Tea break 11.30am-11.45am

 

Session two 11.45am-1pm

WORKING WITH THE LEGACIES

Jonny Mc Nee ( Aviation Historian ) – Inspiring stories  of  WWII community projects

Ernie Cromie  ( Ulster Aviation Society and author ) – The story of military aviation in NI during WWII

John McCann ( Historian and Author ) Passing Through

Rebecca Milligan ( PhD researcher  QUB  ) – Hauntology and mapping WWII stories

 

Questions and comments

Lunch 1pm-2pm

 

 

Session three 2 pm-3.15 pm

COLLECTING, RECORDING AND DISSEMINATING

 

Dr Jim O Neil ( Historian and Archaeologist ) – Surveying the  built heritage

Ian Henderson ( Consultant  in Tourism and Military Historian ) –  World War II legacy potential

Jenny Hasslett ( Manager NI War Memorial ) – Collecting and recording for communities

Ian Montgomery  ( Public Records Office of Northern Ireland ) – PRONI – A resource

Tea break 3.15pm-3.30pm

Session four 3.30pm-4.30pm

THE WAY FORWARD

How can Lough Neagh communities engage with, protect and publicise their World War II heritage?

  • small groups to discuss ideas
  • bring together to share ideas and make connections

 Closing remarks.

 

Wednesday 17th October: Overhead and Underfoot Bus Tour

Please note there is a limit of 50 spaces on this tour, these will be provided on a first come, first serve basis

 Visiting Toomebridge sites, Clontoe / Ardboe sites and Maze / Ulster Aviation Society

(Lunch provided)

Depart 10 am –  Carpark beside The Old Courthouse, Market Square,  Antrim – return 4.30

Facilitators

Emma Mc Bride (Historic Environment Division, Dept for Communities)

Pat  Grimes (Ardboe Gallery,  Historian and  Author)

 

Booking Link Below:

Overhead and Underfoot

Archaelogical Dig at Brocagh

Archaelogical Dig at Brocagh

Archaeologists have rediscovered a fort from four centuries ago which had disappeared beneath the surface of what used to be the shoreline of Lough Neagh.

Students from Queen’s University in Belfast have taken part in the dig at Brocagh in County Tyrone over the past month.

Evidence of a settlement going back thousands of years has also been found.

The dig was commissioned by the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership.

It had support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mountjoy fort was built as the Tudor military campaign encroached on the territory of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Ulster, towards the end of the Nine Years’ War. The site was strategically significant.

The work of royal cartographer, Richard Bartlett, had already provided key clues for the archaeologists.

“Bartlett in the early 1600s is going around mapping out what existed here, so we’ve a wonderful map of the period,” said Liam Campbell, built and cultural officer with the Partnership.

“Richard Bartlett’s map shows a fort here and we know that there are between 1000 and 1200 soldiers mustered here.

“And yet nothing remains on the surface of this place now.”

Lough Neagh, known as Lough Sydney in the early 17th century, used to lap the bottom of a cliff face just 100m or so from where the fort would have been.

But the lowering of water levels over the century has left the site almost four times as far from the water’s edge now.

“If you take all of Ulster, Lough Neagh is like the hub of a bicycle wheel and all went out from around it,” Mr Campbell said.

“So, this place might look peripheral, but it was really, really central.

“We’re on the historical lough shore – this was a major source of food and protein, so people are actually here hunting, gathering and fishing.

“So it’s no surprise these were centres of population and settlement for a very, very long time.”

The dig has confirmed that the history goes back far beyond the 17th century fort, evident in geo-physical surveys carried out before the work started.

Meosilithic period

The archaeologists explored between three and four metres down, finding not only evidence of the fort, but of a settlement going back thousands of years.

“We’ve excavated everything manually, and we have uncovered a considerable ditch running across our trench,” said Ruairí Ó Baoill, an archaeologist with Queen’s University Belfast.

“In that ditch is 16th century pottery, fragments of rotary querns for grinding corn, red brick, Gaelic Irish pottery, bits of [Victorian] clay pipe and we’re very happy,” he added.

“Everywhere we’ve dug we’ve found archaeology.

“Elsewhere in the trenches we’ve found material dating back thousands of years – 7500 years to the end of the period of the first hunter-gatherer settlers, the Mesolithic period, and we’ve found their flints.

“We’ve found 6000-year-old flints, projectile heads and knives from the time of the first farmers.

“They’re all living here, all in County Tyrone, all on the shores of Lough Neagh and all exploiting the lough.”

The finds have included the blade of an implement probably used to cut meat, which is still sharp 7500 years after it was carved.

The entire site has been meticulously recorded and will be written up, so while the trenches have been filled in, the discoveries and the archaeology will still be available.

“Because the landscape has changed so much, it’s got people really interested in their place,” Mr Campbell said.

“And part of the reason we did this was not just to do archaeology for the sake of it, but actually to get people reconnected to their past.”