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  • Opinion

Omnibus – A mighty oak felled

Wednesday, 11th April, 2012 10:52am

A mighty oak felled

WELL, I SHOULD have known, should I not? Indeed I may once have. If so, PJ Ryan's memory is far better than mine, because on the very day that I mentioned Hill 16 and wondered how it got its name, he was on the phone from Ballygaddy Road, Tuam.

Hill 16 was built from the rubble of the buildings destroyed in the rebellion of 1916. Load after load of it was brought to the Jones's Road end of Croke Park, and there it was dumped to create the terrace that has become the rallying place of the Dubs. [private]

My sincere thanks to PJ — as he said, it proves someone is reading this.

Hill 16 tonight reminds me of another hill associated with football. It's Association Football this time, soccer to you, and I'm referring to Spion Kop.

There is more than one Spion Kop in British football, but the most famous is in the Liverpool ground at Anfield. Any stand or terrace known as a kop is usually at one goal end, and is home to the most loyal and vociferous fans. Just like Hill 16.

But the original Spion Kop was a hill in the Transvaal, where in a battle in January 1900, British forces were defeated by a Boer army. So Hill 16 could just as easily have been called Spion Kop, given that Boer heroes were several times adopted as secular patrons of GAA clubs. I'm thinking here of Tuam Krugers and Athenry De Wets, but there must have been many more.

On to another, more local, name: Lurgan. In the broader view of things, it's a town in Co Armagh; but here, it's Lurgan, Milltown, and it is the site of the discovery of the Lurgan Canoe.

Dating from about 2200 BC, it is by far the largest man-made object in the National Museum, at 15 metres long too big to photograph in situ. The best picture of it is one taken in 1902 when it arrived at the museum gates.

The massive oak dugout boat was found by Patrick Coen in his bog at Lurgan, and bought for the Royal Irish Academy by Sir Thomas Esmonde MP. I'm grateful to Frank Glynn of Milltown for drawing my attention to a report in The Tuam Herald of January 25, 1902, which says that it took nearly a month to convey the canoe from Lurgan to  Milltown Railway Station, whence it was brought to Tuam for onward transmission to Dublin.

The Herald comments that "The ancient boat was three or four days at the Tuam Station en route, and very nearly all in the town paid it a visit of inspection, the great majority taking away chips of it as souvenirs — a not altogether unpardonable piece of vandalism."

The report finishes with a piece of doggerel signed JPG, which Frank Glynn is convinced is JP Glynn, solicitor. (The "poet" and the editor mistakenly refer to the canoe as a crannóg.)

The Saga of the Crannog

Scoop'd by the Lakemen

Thousands of years agone,

Sunk in the bogland,

While the great Age rolled

Onward and onward.

Found by one Coen bold,

Sunk deep in cozy mud

Prone on the bottom.


'Stonish did Coen stand

Bewilderer'dly gazing

Knowing not, heeding not

What was the crannog,

Thought it a mighty log

Meet for the burning.


Then came the wise ones

Fill'd full of knowledge

Told to the Finder

"Priceless the boat there

Lift it and sell it."

Blithesome the Finder


Clear'd off the Ages'


And to the country round

Told of the treasure.


Thousands of curious


Came from afar off

Came there to see it,

Some were refused the


Fearing they'd steal it

Quietly, meanly,

At night, in their pockets.


Down from the City

Came there a Magnate,

Offer'd and chaffer'd

Finally bought it

For the base shekels,

Likewise some porter,

Wine of the country.


For weeks the crannog

Took in its transit

Going from Lurgan

On to the station.


Four days in Tuam

Stay'd too the crannog,

And too the people

Came to the Station

Hack'd it and hew'd it

Chopp'd it and scored it.


Then it went onwards

All that was left of it

Left of the Crannog.


J. P. G.

Tuam, January 20th, 1902

The Lurgan Canoe is not only the largest craft of its type ever found in Ireland, it is proof of climate change. It was hewn out of a single oak trunk of a size that could not grow here in today's climate. In other words, Ireland was lot warmer 4,000 years ago. Why do we worry? — David Burke [/private]

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