This was a complete surprise. Stopped off in Co. Tyrone to visit some old friends of the friend I was travelling to Donegal with. They just happened to know Mark Bailey the Director of Armagh Observatory who holds the key for Knockmany. He and his wife very kindly accompanied our small group up to the cairn which sits at the very top of a reasonably steep hill - commanding 360 degree views in all directions. Going inside the chambered cairn was a real thrill - my first close encounter with Irish rock art. Mark Bailey has the theory (a good one I should think) that the skies were once far more active in terms of comets and visibility that they appear to be now. And that the spiral shape with a 'tail' replicates a comet tail structure. We decided that the cairn was aligned north/south orientated due south towards Slieve Gullion and the Mournes. The cairn now has a clear glass covering and is not accessible without the key to the grill gate. However, most of the tomb can be seen quite well through the gate.
Having failed to get the key once more (so close, so far!) I was going to visit Sess Kilgreen again when I passed the sign for Knockmany and decided to check it out anyway.
The forestry service guy told me to drive up until I reach the service car park nearer the top, so up I drove. And up. And then nearly drove into the side of the tomb! I didn't realise it was possible to drive all the way up but the track is steep and not very solid so I would recommend the forest walk instead.
It was a clear, sunny day and the views were amazing, recent rain seemed to have cleared the haze. The enclosing bunker is hideous as lamented elsewhere, but the tomb inside is great, lots of bizarre and surprising carvings visible through the door and from the skylight.
By employing a few tricks (sticking camera on tripod through the bars and perching flash units up on the skylight) I was able to get some decent pics all the same.
Something should really be done about the interior of this monument, it makes the Fourknocks roof look like a work of artistic genius. Whats with the air vent to nowhere behind the backstone? At least painting the walls black would be a vast improvement.
The remarkable megalithic monument to which I refer is situated on the apex of the knock [Knockmany], and is usually styled "Aynia's Cove." Of late years a very great change has occurred in the character of the neighbouring population. Here was the country from which Carleton painted his word-pictures of Irish life and scenery. But "old times are changed, old manners gone." As a rule, within the last thirty years or so the Irish of the district have either died out or emigrated, giving place to strangers, usually Scotchmen. Nevertheless, some little of the old folk-lore, once so prevalent amongst the aborigines, is still extant, and Aynia is remembered as a "witch-wife" bythe Scotch, and as a calliagh, or hag, by the Irish. With all, the hill is a fairy haunt, and woe betide the man, woman, or child, who would dare to lift or break the smallest of the stones which now remain of the "Cove" in which Aynia, who is reported to have been elected queen of the "wee people," is said to have long delighted.
In 'The Megalithic Sepulchral Chamber of Knockmany, County Tyrone' by W F Wakeman, in the Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland for 1879. Wakeman also mentions that Knockmany ('half mountain, half knock') is a 'most conspicuous eminence' and 'so effectually surmounts all sheltering hills that it is said a day never comes there is not at least a breeze on its summit.'
According to tradition, the Passage tomb at the top of Knockmany Forest Park (reached by turning at the obelisk in Clogher), just north of Augher and overlooking the Clogher Valley, is the burial place of Baine, wife of Tuathal Teachtmhar. According to propagandist legends, Tuathal returned from exile and carved out Ireland's fifth province of Mide (Meath).
p127 in 'Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide to Sites from Earliest Times to AD 1600', by Andrew Halpin, Conor Newman (2006).