Ossian’s Grave (Cloghbrack/Cushendall, Northern Ireland)

Ossian’s Grave
* Cloghbrack * Cushendall * Northern Ireland *

The fabled site of where the wandering poet, bard, and seer “Oisin” is believed to be buried. Atop a hill overlooking the valley and down into the Glen as well as over the Channel to be able to see Scotland on a clear day, the location for this small megalithic tomb is spectacular. The Tomb faces East, South-east next to an oval cairn dedicated to poet John Hewitt. Oisin’s Grave / Ossian’s tomb is a small megalithic semi-circular court opening into a two-chambered burial gallery. The back chamber is composed of two sidestones at the southwest, a back or sidestone at the northeast, with a pair of transverse jambs higher than the other stones as if they may have been originally designed as portals. The Forechamber is in very poor shape with only 2 sidestones intact with a pair of portal stones. Within the chamber lies a fallen stone that may have been the displaced roof-stone. The large court dominates the tomb, but additional stones suggest that the court may have belonged to two periods, relating to a back chamber and subsequent fore-portals.

A great irish poet, John Hewitt was very impressed with Ossian’s grave and the megalithic tomb that exists on this hill. So much that he wrote a poem about the site called “Oisin’s Grave: the horned cairn at Lubitavish, Co. Antrim”. Because of this, a stone cairn in Hewitt’s memory was constructed here in 1989 commemorating him as the “Poet of the Glens”.

    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.

Nearby in Glenariff Park, there is a myth that Oisin had once tried to outrun a band of Vikings in this forest. When they closed in on him, he climbed down a steep gully, as just as he was about to plunge to his death, a mysterious grey rope-like column appeared, he grabbed on to it, and climbed up to safety. When he reached the top he found it to be the tail of a white horse grazing in the field above. He thanked the horse and asked for its help. She turned into a mountain mist, falling to the ground as water, thereby washing away the Norsemen who pursued him. This is now the waterfall in the park known as the “Grey Mare’s Tail”. (myth as told from Causeway Coast and Glens Myths Tour).

Official information: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/nismrview.htm?monid=1476

Related Documents…

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SMR Number ANT 019:006                                   Additional Information…
Council MOYLE
County ANT
Grid Ref D2129028460
Protection State Care and Scheduled
Parish LAYD
General Periods  [description of Periods]Opens in new window
Specific Type Specific Period
BORLASE,W. 1897, I, 262-3
GRAY,W. JRSAI 16, 1883-4, 360
GRAY,W. P.B.N.F.C., 1883-4, APP.236 NO.6
O’LAVERTY,J. 1887, VOL.IV, 542
PSAMNI 1940, 9
UJA 13, 1907, 84, PLAN & PHOTO


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“Niamh of the lovely hair” was the daughter of the Irish Sea God, Manannon Mac Lir. She was the Queen of the Tir na n-Og, the mythological race of Faeries who lived in the Land of the Eternal Youth. She would ride on her Faerie steed “Embarr” across the waves to the West Coast of Ireland quite often. On one of these trips, she met members of the warrior group known as the Fianna. One of the warriors, a bard named Oisin, she came to have a liking for. He fell for her with love at first sight. She quickly took him on her horse with her back to Tir na n-Og. She was most notorious for having been the Faerie princess who lured off the great Bard Oisin to Faerieland where they were married and she had hoped he would have been fine residing at in the Land of the Eternal Youth. After three years in Faerie, He grew weary and tired, missing his family, and asked to return to his land to see them. She set him off on the same white magical steed that she brought him to the land of Faerie on, the horse “Embarr” (means “Imagination”) and warned for him not to step foot off his horse when he returns to the human world. He discovered three years in Faerie was three hundred years in Human. He accidentally fell off Embarr when he was trying to help some farmers move a big stone, and Embarr ran home, across the waves. Poor Oisin immediately became a blind old man to wander Ireland searching for his family and his Niamh. He could never find the entrance to Tir na n-Og again. Niamh waited and waited for him, but Oisin never returned. She had become pregnant with his daughter, Plur na mBan, a beautiful Faerie princess known as “The Flower of the Lady”. After many years, Niamh went back to the mortal world to search Ireland high and low for her sweet Oisin. She was too late, Oisin had died and disappeared forever. His tomb somewhere up in Northern Ireland near the Giant’s Causeway. During her wanders searching for Oisin, she met the Faeries of Brittany who invited her to join them. She didn’t, but rather sent them a magical moving picture of herself. This upset the Brittany Faeries who placed her in a deep wood where she wandered for a long time with a light on her forehead eternally lost. After she discovered her escape, she experienced great disappointment and anger with the Brittany Fae, and returned to Tir na n-Og, presumably casting a magic spell that took all of the Brittany’s faerie children with her in revenge.