TUATHA DE DANNAN AND LOUGH CORRIB Connemara Ireland

By William Mc Evilly MA, BA (hons) Landscape Archaeologist,
Specialist in Environmental Sustainability

Lough Corrib is an ancient and magical Lough steeped in folklore, faerie lore and mythology dating back to the first people of Ireland; Aboriginal 8000BC who would have undoubtably hunted and fished her shores and travelled on her majestic waters in dugout boats.  There are legends linking the Tuatha De Danann with Lough Corrib.  It is named after the legendary navigator of the Tuatha de Danann; Orbsen or Orib and many tales are told of their heroic deeds in the area.

Tuatha de Danann and Lough Corrib Connemara Ireland

The source of Lough Corrib can be found where it meets the Maam river in Northwest Connemara and over 40 miles later flows into the sea through the Salmon weir bridge in Galway city where it meets the ocean at the Claddagh, flowing past the Spanish Arch. The Corrib is a freshwater lough formed during the last Ice age circa 12000 years ago and was carved out by glacial activity when the massive ice sheets slowly ground down the Twelve Bins and Maamturk mountains, which were several hundred meters higher than present. On its journey to the ocean glacial activity also carved out Killery Forde in Northwest Connemara. The northern region of the lough is surrounded by high mountain peaks and to the west, the peat bog landscape which is now barren of indigenous trees from when the bogs began to form to deforestation during the late Neolithic/Early Bronze period roughly 4500 years ago. The Lough shore line and landscape remain mountainous and bordered by green undulating hills to the east of the Lough. When one sails for approximately an hour down the river Maam one passes the 12th century Anglo-Norman castle, famous in history as been a stronghold of Grace O’Malley the 16th century Pirate Queen, which is a fortified hall keep with portcullises and murder hole to protect the gate with impressive corner tours which provided accommodation for the lord, his family, their entourage ant the warriors who protected the clan. To the west of the castle one can see  evidence of an copper ore mine and  a dry stone medieval cottage where peasant folk farmed the land and fished the lough for trout, salmon and eel. Castle Kirk relied on it’s own little island as a defensive factor.

Tuatha de Danann and Lough Corrib Connemara Ireland

One is quickly transported back in time to an era of myths and legend as we travel back to the time of Knights and ladies of the court and enigmatic pirate queens and buccaneers. As one passes castle Kirk one can clearly see the remains of a 19th century mine set in the hills to the east of the castle, and 30 minutes later one comes to the point in the lough, roughly opposite Glann to the west and Cornamona to the east, where the bedrock begins to change from predominately volcanic granite to sedimentary limestone, and the landscape begins to unfold and become level to gently undulating. One is aware of leaving the sense of sailing in a virtual painting, especially when the waters on the Lough are flat calm. The water color begins to change from dark to a more translucent color reaching shallower water. One becomes aware of the huge amount of wildlife on the Lough with multitudes of Mallard Geese and Swans as well as Cormorants and even Greenland Geese and recently I have had the rare privilege of watching a nesting pair of White Tailed Eagles in a wooded area close to the upper lough. On clam days one can see trout and Salmon leaping out of the water in pursuit of flies and insects and a whole flotilla of quaint little fishing boats dot the lake with anxious anglers mesmerized by the lure of a large Salmon. Our Salmon come from the coast of Nova Scotia while the eels come from the Saragossa Sea and travel up the lough to reach their spawning grounds in the more Northern regions of the Lough.

Tuatha de Danann and Lough Corrib Connemara Ireland

Lough Corrib is a fascinating and magical Lough which as legend would have it, has 365 islands. However the water level in the lake does vary by over a meter in depth from winter to summer. As a child my father would take myself and my brothers fishing on the lough, a tradition which my family has held for many generations, and we would delight in cooking freshly caught trout in a cast iron pan heated over a campfire. We would explore the magical and ancient island of Inish Gill situated on the widest point of the lough, roughly four and a half miles between the Village of Oughterard on the western shores of the Lough and Cong where the magnificent 12 century castle of Ashford is situated and Cong’s ancient monastic village where the famous Quiet Man film with John Wayne and Maureen O’ Hara was filmed in the 1950s.

Tuatha de Danann and Lough Corrib Connemara Ireland

Inish Gill was an important island, stretching back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age period circa 4000-500 BC. Several stone axes and tools were found on the shores of the lough, and recently a Bronze age Dug out boat circa 2500 BC was found on the western shore of the lough Near the Village if Oughterard. The lough was an important route way for prehistoric people and would have been an ideal choice for travel, hunting and fishing because up to the Bronze Age the shores of the Lough ware heavily forested with Oak, Ash and Pine forests and would have presented a natural barrier for travel, coupled with hostile tribes and dangerous predators such as Wolf and Wild Bore.

 

The name Corrib derives from the majestic Bronze Age tribe called the Tuatha De Danann Circa 2500-500 BC and the ancient name of the lake was Lough Orbsen or Orib derived from an ancient navigator of the Tuatha De Danann.

 

There are several legends which tell of the Tuatha De Danann such as the two epic battles of Moytura fought against the Fir Bolga in Cong, County Mayo and Lough Arrow and Sligo bay in County Sligo. The first battle occurred when the Tuatha De Danann sailed up the Corrib from Galway and gave battle to the Fir Bolga which lasted four days. The Fir Bolga similar to the Tuatha De Dannan possessed magic powers and their Druids wielded supernatural powers, used to heal the wounded or destroy their enemy using Druid fire, and had power over the elements. The Fir Bolga was seen as dark and held the people in the yoke of oppression; whereas the Tuath De Dannan were seen as light and referred to as divine or sacred. The battle involved 100,000 warriors and resulted in King Nuada’s arm being severed, but his surgeons/druid Deanchaint, fashioned a silver prosthetic limb which later became lifelike and the king regained full use of his limb. The Fir Bolga had a warrior giant called Balor with a middle eye which either petrified of incinerated his enemies at distances of several hundred meters. He slain King Nuada at the second battle of Moytura in county Sligo when he fought along side the Formorians, a demonic tribe who enslaved the people of Ireland.

By William Mc Evilly MA, BA (hons) Landscape Archaeologist, 

 

William is also a poet and a singer/songwriter with the  Irish music  group ( An Anú )

www.ananu.net

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