By Mary Burke
'I thought I got penalty points in Tulsk recently, are you familiar with the place,” he asked, in a less than favourable tone of voice.
“Oh yes,” I replied. He occasionally travels that route and was greatly relieved when no speeding ticket rattled through the letterbox.
“Rathcroghan is nearby,” I announced, thinking that the conversation could now proceed in a different direction but the quizzical looks emanating from both him and his companion soon put paid to that idea.
In retrospect it was probably as well because a lesson on the importance of the site in terms of Irish history, myth and archaeology might have been unwelcome.
Rathcroghan is one of four major Royal sites of ancient Ireland, home of the kings of Connacht and of the mythical Queen Medb whose exploits have been chronicled in the famous legend the Tain Bo Cuailnge.
The Tain is an epic saga believed to be the oldest story in Northern Europe told in a vernacular language. The written, though incomplete, version of the Táin Bó Cúailnge — from the 12th century — is found in the Book of the Dun Cow. Other pieces of the story come from the late-14th-century Yellow Book of Lecan. Cruachan in Co. Roscommon is at the heart of the story.
The great mound of Rathcroghan sits in a landscape illustrating a rich history dating back thousands of years set in a rural farming community that has been both respectful of and a custodian to the heritage sites within its boundaries.
This pastoral way of life contributed to the preservation of the complex which shines a light on the farming practices and culture of the ancient people who inhabited these lands. It was an important place of burial, ritual and ceremony in Iron Age Ireland and is on a par with the Tara Valley complex in Co Meath, but the Roscommon site does not seem to gain the same instant recognition.
Read the full feature in edition February 1, 2017