Knock Iveagh – Local People Uncover Extraordinary Hidden History

Local people who came together to campaign against developments affecting the setting of an ancient monument have found themselves piecing together the story of a lost kingdom, and making some thrilling discoveries.

Knock Iveagh was the ‘power hill’ of the tribal Lords of this area of County Down for millennia and leading experts now believe that it was the site of rituals including the inaugurations of the Lords of Iveagh. It is also the location of an ancient burial site (cairn) which is a scheduled monument protected by law.

The hillside was recently damaged by the erection of a broadband mast built without planning permission and retrospective planning permission for this mast was refused by ABC Council on 23rd October. The Council stated in its refusal that ‘the development would have an adverse impact on the integrity of the monument’s setting which is a site of regional importance’. Despite this, permission to erect a wind turbine more than twice the size of the broadband mast, granted by DOE Planning Service in 2013, at the same site is still in place. Campaigners brought their concerns about the turbine – which they say seems to have been granted without historic monument consultation and following a streamlined application process – to ABC Council and the Department for Communities, Historic Environment Division back in early September and a temporary stop notice was ultimately issued by the Council on 23rd October. This stop notice will expire this Monday and there are just days left now for the Council to take action and Save Knock Iveagh.

The Friends of Knock Iveagh have uncovered a range of serious issues in relation to a range of planning applications and permissions at this site which they have now shared with ABC Council. With the stop notice rapidly reaching an end, it remains to be seen how the Council decide to deal with these issues. In the meantime, the group have teamed up with experts to investigate the enduring mysteries of this landscape.

Leading archaeologists now believe the lands at Knock Iveagh may well contain additional important structures and possibly even artefacts, bearing out the original concerns of local campaigners. The Friends believe that the importance of the landscape around Knock Iveagh has been largely forgotten and unacknowledged by the authorities until the alarm was raised by local people in recent weeks.

Investigations into Knock Iveagh and the surrounding area show a series of linked sites of significant historical importance; each one a clue, hidden in plain sight, that leads to a deeper understanding of our local history and the story of the Magennis, Lords of Iveagh.

Numerous, seemingly ‘forgotten’ and currently unmaintained sites in the lands around Knock Iveagh have been identified and visited during recent field work carried out in the area.

These include:  

  • An unscheduled, late Medieval church used by the Magennis family, the location of which is listed[1] as ‘unknown’ but which was recorded by local historians from Annaclone Historical Society in 2010.
  • Seafin Castle
  • Ballyroney Motte
  • The Magennis castle stronghold in Rathfriland
  • Lisnacroppan Barrow, believed to be the location of later ritual inaugurations
  • Annaclone bog, the likely location for ritual offerings (including the famous Ardbrin Horn)
  • Ballyroney Crannog
  • a previously unidentified stone which is thought may have been used to inaugurate the Magennis of Iveagh

These heritage sites come together to reveal the story of one of the most exciting and complete royal landscapes to be found anywhere in Ireland.

The Friends of Knock Iveagh are at a loss to understand why such rich and important heritage seems to have been overlooked in this area and they are anxious to work with the authorities to ensure that the loss and damage to our heritage is not allowed to continue.

In particular, the Friends are hopeful that the planning permission for a 41m wind turbine on Knock Iveagh with be revoked and that the hillside can be restored to its former glory.

The Friends have written to ABC council this week outlining what they believe to be numerous planning flaws and failures at Knock Iveagh. They believe it is vital for the Council and planners to do the right thing in order to retain public trust & confidence, especially in light of the Waringstown Report. They are also calling for the authorities to investigate and protect the other sites in the area properly and to engage with the community to ensure that the people of this land, and from around the world, can once again enjoy their historical and cultural inheritance to the very fullest.

‘The Friends of Knock Iveagh’ say:

 ‘It is clear that we have come terribly close to destroying a very special place which formed the power centre of this area for millennia. The story of the people who lived here before us is even richer than anyone has appreciated and it can be a source of pride for everyone. We hope that by helping to bring their story to life again something positive will come out of the current crisis at Knock Iveagh.’

 Eamonn Kelly, Former Keeper of Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland has stated:

 ‘..sufficient information is to hand to show conclusively the great importance of the sacred mountain of Knock Iveagh and of the extensive prehistoric and historical ritual landscape of which it forms the central setting. […] Apart from a very small cutting into the summit cairn excavated by Pat Collins and his associates, no detailed archaeological work has been undertaken on the extensive ridge of the mountain, nor to my knowledge has any topographical or geophysical survey work been undertaken. Given the strong probability that there is additional and possible extensive archaeology present relating to the ritual use of the hill (and possibly with booleying activities), it seems contrary to good planning practices that developments should take place on the hill without such work being undertaken as a preliminary with which to inform the planning process.

A more fundamental consideration however is whether or not it is appropriate that a site of such huge historical, ritual and archaeological importance should be blighted by development whose economic value is minimal by comparison with the huge significance of Knock Iveagh as a ceremonial mountain that embodies the sovereignty goddess of the ancient kingdom of Uibh Eachach Cobha.’

Gavin Hughes, of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies also states:

‘Knock Iveagh appears to be a dominating feature in an exciting amphitheatre of multi-period archaeology which deserves proper and further detailed research. Indeed, such a complex historical continuity in the landscape is very rare – and this could be unique…’

Knock Iveagh

The top of Knock Iveagh, showing the cairn (scheduled monument) and the extensive works which have taken place at this site, without archaeological supervision.

Knock Iveagh

Knock Iveagh, showing the broadband mast (refused) and new cabling for a wind turbine (permitted).

Knock Iveagh from above

Knock Iveagh cairn, from above.

Knock Iveagh

For more information and to give support join the Friends on their Facebook Group ‘Save Knock Iveagh’

[1]  NI Sites and Monuments Record https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/services/sites-and-monuments-record

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