O'Cahan's Tomb

The dead knight in O'Cahan's tomb, Dungiven

The dead knight      Grid reference C692083


O'Cahan's tomb Inside the impressive chancel of  Dungiven priory  is this magnificent tomb with a sculpture of an armed man lying under a canopy of open work tracery. The body is covered by a sword. Below him are six niches containing the small figures of armed warriors wearing kilts. They are dressed like 'gallownesses', which is a name for Scottish mercenary warriors, who were presumably in the employ of the occupant of the tomb.

The monument - though heavily restored -  is of a very high quality, so much so that the tomb is considered to be unique in Northern Ireland.

It is reputed to be the tomb of Cooey-na-Gall O'Cahan, who died in 1385. 'Cooey-na-Gall' means "Terror of the Stranger", so the fact that he is lying here rather than stalking the valley is a great relief to the average tourist.

However, the style and the details of the work suggest that it dates from the late fifteenth century and was possibly carved by a Scottish craftsman brought over for the purpose.

The Ordnance Survey memoirs relate that the name of the dead chieftain so annoyed a troop of Scottish Highlanders who were stationed in Dungiven around the end of the 18th century, that they decided to take revenge and vandalised the monument quite considerably.
The knight

Their efforts were wasted, because the romantic legend of Cooey-na-Gall is thought to be not entirely correct as much of the site was built in the 15th century - long after our xenophobic friend had died. However, it is assumed that an O'Cahan is buried here, possibly Aibhne O'Cahan, who was murdered in 1492.

Because the monument has to be protected from wind and rain, it is kept under lock and key. Interested historians should contact the nice and helpful  people in the Country Park centre if they would like to admire this wonderful old monument.


More pictures of the tomb and its surroundings can be seen here.


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