The Columbans

Donegal Democrat

A conversation over a cup of coffee was the spark that led to a multi-year programme of archaeological surveys in the parish of Gleann Cholm Cille, a gathering at Oideas Gael heard during a presentation as part of Heritage Week last Thursday.

Seamus McGinley, the project manager who is one of the moving forces behind the project, explained that it began as a result of a conversation with Dr Brian Lacey, CEO of the Discovery programme, Ireland’s premier archaeological research institute set up by the Irish government in 1991.columbans

Seamus was speaking at the end of a presentation to explain the results of the second part of the three year plan, which involved electromagnetic and other geophysical surveys carried out by LGS, an archaeological consultancy.

Among the results was a “sharpening” of an electromagnetic image of a “D shaped enclosure” near St Columba’s Church of Ireland, evidence of a ditch enclosing an area inhabited by the earliest Christians in the area.

A further survey of the portal tombs in Malinmore showed some evidence of “terracing”, as suggested by Dr. Michael Herity of the Oideas Gael Archeology Summer School – and a possible Stone Age house site – but whether this was the result of human activity or a natural feature of the land will require further testing.

The Malinmore complex, consisting of six portal dolmens arranged in an east-west line, has been described as “unique in the Irish archaeological inventory” by Dr. John Waddell of NUI Galway. To date, the survey has only examined the area byt he three westernmost tombs, and future plans include a proposal to survey by the remaining tombs and the area to the north of the massive megaliths.

Seamus thanked all the local people who have passed on new information about folk traditions and unrecorded sites and monuments in the area, with special thanks to the local landowners, farmers and the select vestry of the Church of Ireland for their cooperation, without which the work would have been impossible, and Oideas Gael and the Heritage Council for their financial support for the project.

The evening concluded with a presentation from Dr Lacey, author of “Colmcille and the Columban Tradition” and “Cenel Conaill and the Donegal Kingdoms AD 500-800”, covering the history of the renowned Turas in the parish and other pilgrimage sites in north Donegal near Gartan, and in the city of Derry.

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