Sunday, July 11, 2010

Of Birds and Birthdays, Saints and Librarians

Maghera is a small town about 15 miles from Kilrea, or if you take the wrong exit off the round about, 20 miles.  The benefit of taking the road less traveled is meeting more of the locals.

The pheasant wasn't the least bit concerned as soon as we stopped the van and turned the motor off.  He didn't even care that I opened the door so I could take his picture; even seemed to pose for me.

When we arrived in Maghera, we found the church we were looking for, but couldn't find the gate in the tall stone wall.  What to do?  Go to the library of course.  Librarian know everything, or at least where to find it.  She made a phone call, then sent us to the Leisrure Centre, but not before making sure we knew how to get there and back to the church gate. I love librarians!

After dealing with the traffic twice through town, we decided to leave the van at the Leisure Centre and walk to the church.  The gate was padlocked with a large chain, the door to the still enclosed part of the church had a deadbolt lock.  It is a strange feeling to have the keys to a National Heritage site, given with no ID, just sign the book and put down a phone number.

St Lurach's church was founded in the 6th century, plundered by the Vikings in 832 and burned in 1135.  After being rebuilt, it became the seat of the bishop from the mid 12th  through the mid 13th centuries, when it was returned to a simple parish church until the new building was erected across the street in 1824.  Now it is a shell, except for the tower which was enclosed in 1994 to protect a Romanesque carved doorway.  It is very elaborate, with Christ on the cross, the two thieves, the 12 apostles and angels flying over.  The side decorations are interlace, floral and animals.  All of this was carved when the church was rebuilt after being burned. 

The graveyard is upheaved and uneven, with the headstones leaning every direction.  Most of illegible due to weathering, but we did spot St Lurach's near the back.  The circle cross is still faintly visible.

We returned the key, and took off looking for a dolmen, which actually had a sign and arrow from the road!
It isn't in too good of shape as one of the side stones has split, so someone had added cinderblock and wooden shims to hold the roof in place.
Our van with the dolmen sign.

We returned home after looking for a grave which refused to be found. Then we went for dinner at Arbutus a local Kilrea restaurant. When we arrived back at the house, the Irish were still at the dinner table. Discovering it was my birthday, they gave me a wonderful gift of a song about a fair in Balleycastle. All in all a great birthday!

Henrietta aka Henry

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