The dead knight Grid reference C692083
the impressive chancel of Dungiven
magnificent tomb with a sculpture of an armed man lying
canopy of open work tracery. The body is covered by a
sword. Below him
are six niches containing the small figures of armed
kilts. They are dressed like 'gallownesses', which is a
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.
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 as well as from Scottish highlanders, 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.
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