The Gleniff Horseshoe
The Gleniff Horseshoe is a fabulous glacial valley in the north side of Dartry mountain, in Carbury, north Sligo. The valley was formed during the last ice age when glaciers more than a kilometer thick covered the landscape. As the ice melted the glacier retreated north towards the coast and gouged a huge hollow out of the mountain, leaving the fertile plain of Carbury (the old kingdom of north Sligo) behind it. This area was inhabited during the mesolithic period - the old stone age - from about 8,000 years ago, by groups of hunter gatherers who roamed the land. The magnificent landscape of north Sligo must have been very attractive to them and teeming with wildlife. The landscape would have been covered with forest: hazel, ash, rowen and oak. The early inhabitants eventually settled down and became Ireland's first farmers, keeping cattle sheep and pigs. It is quite likely that the valley with its cave high up in the cliffs was sacred to the early inhabitants of north Sligo.
I have made a seperate page for the local megalithic monuments which are spread out along the northern slopes of the mountains. There was a megalithic structure in the mouth of the Gleniff valley, a Trillick (three legged structure) as they are called in this area. The Trillick may have been a dolmen or a wedge type monument. It was destroyed around 1950 by a gravel quarry, and just one picture of the monument surviving. I have come to believe that the court cairns, the social monuments of the neolithic may well be replicas of the Gleniff valley, the court representing the valley and the chamber representing the cave at the back. There is another cave or pothole, Cormac Reagh's Hole up high in the slopes of the north face of Tievebawn, just north of the entrance to the valley with two court cairns nearby at the foot of the steep slope.
The Byrites mines
At the back of the Horseshoe in the cliffs of Annacuna, and beyond in the townland of Glencarbury, a mine was worked for almost 100 years. Byrites, a heavy stone that looks like dull rock quartz was mined and transported down the mountain. The ore was washed and transported by rail through Ballintrillick village and down past Creevykeel and Gorevan's pub, to the harbour at Mullaghmore. The railway was built by Henry Mount Temple, better known as Lord Palmerston, who inherited a chunk of land by Mullaghmore in north Carbury in 1802. Several different companies ran the mines, and the history of the operations has been published in a local guidebook, as has Palmerston's harbour project at Mullaghmore.
The main site of the mining operations is about a 30 minute hike up the old road past the Cliffs of Annacuna to Glencarbury where a large seam of byrites was mined. There are no rights of way, so it is best to enquire with the owner before climbing. Several old buildings and pieces of machinery remain on the site. The oar was processed in a washing shed and then transported down the mountain on a wire cable, some of which still remains on the Glencar side of the mountain.
Truskmore plane crash 1943
During World War II Dartry mountain and the north coast of Sligo was used as an air corridor by US bombers. On 9th December 1943 a B17 Flying Fortress with the ID Gaza King, flying through dense cloud, crashed into the summit of Tievebawn on the east or Horseshoe side of the mountain. A few meters higher and the plane would have missed the mountain, a few meters lower and everyone would have been killed; as it was two of the eight crew members died in the crash and another died later in Sligo hospital.
A local rescue team was assembled to climb Tievebawn and bring down the bodies and wounded men, who were carried down on makeshift stretchers. One of the airmen had to be dug out from under the plane. The wreckage of the plane has mostly disappeared over the years. In 2005 two of the engines were lifted by helicopter and taken to Dublin. A full account of the Tievebawn crash can be downloaded on PDF at this link.
As early as December 14th, Capt. J K Birthistle of the Armies Western Command G2 section filed the report which follows. Note that this officer was not a local to the area so his spelling of place names and understanding of the location comes across in this report.
14 December 1943
Crash of Flying Fortress at Eagles Rock, Ballaghtrillick Cliffoney, CO. Donegal
Sir, I have the honour to submit report re above crash.
A Flying Fortress on delivery from America crashed at Eagle Rock, Ballaghnatrellick (1900 ft. approx.) at 16.15 hours on 9/12/43. She carried a crew of 10 of whom 2 were killed and 8 were injured, the Plane itself was wrecked.On arrival in Sligo at 22.30 hours on the 9/12/1943, I called at the Guards Barracks and received a message from the Duty Officer, Athlone to the effect that the dead and injured were to be transferred across the border in the R.A.F. Ambulances. Two of the injured were, at this time, in Sligo Co. Hospital. I called and saw Dr. McCarthy Surgeon who was working on the patients and informed him that the remainder of the injured crew would not be coming to the Hospital for treatment. I arrived at Ballaghnatrillick at 23.15 hours.
Two R.A.F. Ambulances had arrived with personnel — 2 Doctors; 1 Nurse; 2 Drivers and 1 Officer — all in uniform. We organised a party and with a guide set up the mountain. From the point where the road ends to the scene of the crash is 4 1/2 to 5 miles and in that distance the mountain rises 1900ft, in some places it is almost vertical. From Ground level the mountain is in cloud and covered with freezing fog; visibility at any point is not more that a few yards; the entire going is bog, boulders and rocks. Time taken to ascend 4 hours and time taken to descend with casualty about 3 hours.
I could not describe the hardship of the Stretcher parties in taking the injured men down the mountain. It is unbelievable that the could take a stretcher case down in safety, as near the top the mountain shelves away in 10 to 20 feet rises. Several members of the Stretcher Parties received small injuries such and cuts and bruises on legs and arms. Some older members had to fall out on the way downowing to exhaustion. It took at least 12 men to each stretcher and owing to lack of numbers it was extremely difficult to get stretcher parties. The last one of the injured was not down until about 07.15 hours 10/12/43 — 15 hours after the crash. As the injured had to remain in the freezing fog waiting for parties to carry them down, there were numerous requests from the Doctors at the top for stimulants, whiskey and hot-water bottles. I sent up 3 bottles of whiskey and about a dozen hot-water bottles — these never arrived at the top — some lost under way, the stretcher bearers coming down consumed some of the whiskey; as the ascent became too steep the hot-water bottles and blankets were abandoned.
As the Stretcher Bearers were nearly all from Cliffony, about 4 ½ miles away, I arranged to have them driven home in an R.A.F. Ambulance as they were in a very exhausted condition and we purchased some liquid refreshment for them.
It has been pointed out to Major Sprague — Air Attache at the American Legation — that splendid services were rendered by these men. We asked for a list of names so that these men might be shown some little appreciation. I have arranged with Supt. Fahy and Rev. Fr. Curran C.C. Cliffoney, who was at the spot, to furnish the list of names. I wish to mention the wonderful help given by the aged couple Mr. and Mrs. Rooney who live in the cottage at the foot of the mountain. Mr. Rooney aged 75 years left his sick bed to guide us beyond a dangerous river bed, before ascending the mountain. Mrs. Rooney remained up all night, supplied all the ambulances with boiling water for hot-water bottles and gave hot tea to each injured man and each stretcher party and supplied tea to the Military party. She refused to take payment and only asked that her reserve stock oftea about 1 ½ lbs be replaced if possible.
My instructions that the dead and wounded would be brought to Northern Ireland were overruled by the medical Authorities whostated they must be brought to the nearest Hospital — Sligo. At about 5.30 on the 10th I made a second attempt to climb the mountain with 4 officers and 20 men. I arrived with 6 men at the plane about 05.00 hours, the remainder had got separated and lost in the fog. I had the two dead bodies taken down and handed them over to the R.A.F. returning to Northern Ireland about 12.30 hours together with certificates of Registration of deaths.
On calling to the Co. Hospital, Sligo at about 15.00 hours I found a party of American Army Medical Service — number about 20 — all in uniform, about to take away six of the injured men, the condition of the remaining two men was so serious that it was not considered advisable to remove them. A further report to hand states that an American Ambulance returned Saturday evening and removed the remaining two men. The transport of Friday’s party consisted of 3 ambulances and a utility van. After the ambulances had departed some of the party in the utility van returned to the Royal Hotel where they had refreshments and food. Included in this party was Colonel Simpson, they were joined by Major Sprague, C/Supt. Leddy and Supt. Fahy.