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Ossian's Grave (Court Tomb) — Folklore

John Hewitt wrote a poem about this site. It was originally called "Oisin's Grave: the horned cairn at Lubitavish, Co Antrim," later in his collected works as "Ossian's Grave, Lubitavish, Co Antrim."
Ossian's Grave, Lubitavish, County Antrim

We stood and pondered on the stones
whose plan displays their pattern still;
the small blunt arc, and, sill by sill,
the pockets stripped of shards and bones.

The legend has it, Ossian lies
beneath this landmark on the hill,
asleep till Fionn and Oscar rise
to summon his old bardic skill
in hosting their last enterprise.

This, stricter scholarship denies,
declares this megalithic form
millennia older than his time -
if such lived ever, out of rime -
was shaped beneath Sardinian skies,
was coasted round the capes of Spain,
brought here through black Biscayan storm,
to keep men's hearts in mind of home
and its tall Sun God, wise and warm,
across the walls of toppling foam,
against this twilight and the rain.

I cannot tell; would ask no proof;
let either story stand for true,
as heart or head shall rule. Enough
that, our long meditation done,
as we paced down the broken lane
by the dark hillside's holly trees,
a great white horse with lifted knees
came stepping past us, and we knew
his rider was no tinker's son.
Sydney Bell, a local poet, wrote:
Ossian's Grave, Lubitavish

They say
It was here where Ossian died:
I wonder if bright-haired Niamh cried?
Whose lonely fingers piled the cairn
And heaped it high with maiden fern?

They say
That only the plovers know
The feet that track the drifted snow,
And the peeweets cry
Though they've never seen--
The name of one who loved Ossian.

I hope and I hope
That he found somewhere
His slender Niamh of the yellow hair
For theirs was a song too brief to scan
With a rickle of bones
And a blind blind man.
(note: blind is also the meaning of the River Dall, part of the name of the village nearby of Cushendall, "at the foot of the Dall"--water emerging unseen from the barren and dignified hillsides north of Glenaan.)


Maureen Donnelly. The Nine Glens. rev. ed. Coleraine & Ballycastle: Impact Printing, 2000. (for Bell poem.)

John Hewitt. Collected Poems. ed. Frank Ormsby. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1991.

Ossian's Grave (Court Tomb) — Fieldnotes

My family and I visited this site in the summer of 2002ce. The path up from the main Ballymoney-Cushendall road is very steep, with a sharp right angled turn on a very narrow unpaved ascent bounded by hedges and fences, too destructive of the environment to negotiate by car. I'd recommend walking up after parking in front of the house directly off the road. It's easy to miss the sign coming out of Cushendall, so drive slowly the mile or so up into the hills from the village.

I've cannot confirm whether the Ulster poet John Hewitt is in fact buried beneath the commemorative cairn at his beloved vista. There was no "official" information posted at the site when we visited. Harbison (p. 40) calls the "grave" a "neolithic court-tomb with a forecourt of low stones facing south-eastwards and giving access to a two-chambered gallery placed in an ill-defined oval mound."

However, the views are magnificent, the (ca. 2000bce--Donnelly; 3000bce--Harbison) horned cairn handsome in its simple setting, and the quest rewarding, even if Ossian's legend occurred long after the site's actual establishment. The townland, Lubitavish, "loop of pleasure" nestles in Glenaan, one of Antrim's nine glens, on the Dall river.

South of this, Lurigethan, (Lurigeadan=Luragh Eadan, "brow of the long ridge,") the fabled site of giants, continues associations; Ossian's father, Finn MacCool, lived among the other Fianna in its cave, Lig-na-Fenia.


Maureen Donnelly. The Nine Glens. rev. ed. Coleraine & Ballycastle: Impact Printing, 2000.

Peter Harbison. Guide to National and Historic Monuments of Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1992.

Robert Sharpe & Charles McAlister. A Glimpse of Glenariffe. Glenariffe, Co Antrim: McAlister & Sharpe, 1997.
Longtime fan of Cope (and Echo); bought the Modern Antiquarian with money from my 40th b-day party! Been studying Irish language and literature since before college. Earned a PhD (UCLA, Medieval English Literature) with a diss. on the idea of purgatory. Fascinated by "liminal" realms between heaven and hell as expressed in popular cultures, ancient and modern.

In an idiosyncratic (aren't they all?) 1927 account of Roscommon county and mid-Connacht environs by Fr PA Sharkey, "The Heart of Ireland," the good priest mentions that my mother's mother's family, Connellan, were among those direct descendants of Ono (no relation to Yoko), a druid from 300ce.

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