County Armagh

Saturday 1 December

At Poyntzpass Church of Ireland (J058393) there is a slate sundial with brass gnomon. In the top corners it is inscribed Memento Mori; along the top made by Thomas McCreesh; along the bottom Rev Henry Ashe’s gift to the parish; in the centre March 29 1819. There is another McCreesh sundial at the Catholic church at the other end of the village but it was not viewed at this time.

Lissummon Railway Tunnel (J052348) may be entered at the southern end. It is perfectly straight and runs approximately SE-NW. It is 1608m (1759yds) long and considered to be the longest railway tunnel in Ireland. It is lined throughout with stone and some brick and along the north wall are safety alcoves at about 20m intervals. These are not lined. The stone-work is in excellent condition with very few drips. The track-bed is in good condition with a large amount of ballast still in place. There are a few patches of mud. The track rises throughout the tunnel, the gradient being 1 in 75. Egress from the northern end is difficult due to a short steep-sided cutting which is marshy and contains a great deal of rubble. There is a small aqueduct just beyond the north end. The line was closed in 1955.

Navan Fort (H847452) was visited. A huge circular enclosure, about 400m diameter, occupies the top of a low glacial hill. It is bounded by a massive bank inside of which is a wide ditch. At the top of the hill is a large mound about 40m diameter surrounded by a low bank which may be mainly the remains of a tree-ring. Excavation has shown that the mound covers a large cairn within which was a wooden structure which was apparently deliberately burned in the Iron Age. The earliest finds were Neolithic and there is evidence of occupation through the Bronze and Iron Ages. Near the centre of the large enclosure is a low circular structure about 30m diameter. This site has been identified as Eamhain Macha, the chief residence of the kings of Ulster and mentioned in the legends and early sagas. It was traditionally destroyed in 332AD. There are many explanation boards throughout the site.

In the Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh is part of the shaft and part of the head of a High Cross. The shaft features interlacing and some figure panels. On the east side may be seen Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark and Abraham & Isaac. The head features a Crucifixion. All of the Cathedral windows have hood moulding on inside and outside and all of them feature masks; human, grotesque and animal. There are north and south aisles of five bays. Above the aisle arcade is a clerestory and above this a line of masks. There are many other masks both inside and outside and a number of fine tombs, some with effigies. The Roman Catholic Cathedral is a fine twin-spired 19th century structure featuring a great deal of mosaic and much stained glass.

Armagh County Museum has a fine collection including excavation finds, clothing and items of railway interest. The latter includes a model of Tramcar No 1 (original) from Bessbrook & Newry Tramway and a ticket from Bessbrook to Rostrevor offering traction by electric tram (Bessbrook to Newry), steam (Newry to Warrenpoint) and horse-tram (Warrenpoint to Rostrevor). There are a number of items from the Clogher Valley Railway and GNR(I) including a nameplate from 4-4-0 "Slieve Gullion".