Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
Tievebawn mountain
Looking west to Tievebawn mountain, a part of the Dartry or Carbury mountains. One of the highest caves in Ireland, Diarmuid and Grainne's cave is in the cliffs at the extreme right, while Cormac Reagh's Hole is in the cliffs at the right of Tievebawn. Eagles Rock and the landstack, Tumpaunmore, also known as the Hags Leap can be seen on the left.

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 would have been inhabited during the Mesolithic period - the old stone age - from about 10,000 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, rowan 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 massive cave high up in the cliffs was sacred to the early inhabitants of north Sligo.

The Cliffs of Annacuna
The Cliffs of Annacuna, site of the Gleniff Byrites mines, taken in mid December 2011.

I have made a separate 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. The court cairn at Creevykeel may well be a replica 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 spectacular head of Benwisken
The spectacular head of Benwisken, the water or wave shaped mountain at the entrance to the Gleniff valley is one of the most strangely shaped mountains in Ireland. Researcher Chris McClintock has suggested the peak may be the tusk of the boar of Benbulben. The cave is in the cliffs to the left.

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 harbor 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 harbor 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 inquire 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.

A B17 Flying Fortress similar to the one that crashed into Tievebawn.
A B17 Flying Fortress similar to the one that crashed into Tievebawn. Image from

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 read this link on the Foreign Aircraft Landings in Ireland 1939-1945 website.

Crash Report

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 honor 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 down owing 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 of tea 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 who stated 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.

Cormac Réabach

About two hundred years ago Glenade could boast of an Irish Samson in the person of Cormac Réabach. appears to have been the family name. his parents lived on the western shore of Glenade lake. When Cormac was you he was employed herding bullocks for his father on the mountain overlooking the Lake.

One evening he returned home with the news that the best animal in his father's possessions a four year old bullock had fallen down a steel precipice and was lying dead at the bottom. The old man blamed Cormac for the loss of the animal. "Why did you not hold him" he asked Cormac. "I held him as long as I was able," answered the latter producing as proof of his assertion the horns of the animal pulled clean out of the skull.

Cormac explained that just as the animal was toppling over the edge of the steep rock he caught the horns leaving the animal suspended in the air. Cormac held on till the horns yielded and were left in his hands., the body of the beats hurling down to be dashed to pieces on the boulderat the bottom of the precipice. This incident appears to have brogue Cormac's great strength to light.

On the river Bonet just after it crosses from the Glenade Lake a corn mill was built about this time. The mill stones were quarried at a a considerable distance from the mill. It was a work of considerable difficulty to get the huge stones transported from the quarry to the mill. This Cormac contracted to do, and did so carrying the one at a time on his back a distance of over a mile. At least one of these stones remains to this day and is supposed to be at least one ton in weight.

When the mill started to work Cormac obtained employment there carrying sacks of corn or meal. In an effort to defeat his strength special sacks were made and packed with grain while on carts. But all in vain, any had brought there during Cormac's time was lifted by him without any apparent trouble and left at the place it was wanted.

I have not been able to find out how or at what age Cormac died. On Eriff mountain are two huge mill stones dressed and bored in the centre apparently ready for use. Each weighs at least two tons. How these stones were to be taken to the mill is a mystery.

Gibson's mill where Gormac worked existed till about fifty years ago and its ruins are still to be seen. For hundreds of years it was kept busy during the winter and spring months grinding oats for the whole country from this school to ? . Every farmer made from fifteen ? to a ton of oat meal for family use and for cattle. Oat bread and oat meal porridge was then the principal food of the country people. None of the meal manufactured in Gibson's mill seems to have been sold.

The fame of Cormac's strength appears to have spread. A Tyrone man who fancied himself a match for any man in Ireland heard of Cormac and set out for Glenade to fight him. As he came along the road through Ahanlish he met a man who spoke to him very kindly. The stranger there and then told him his business and asked where he might find the wonderful Cormac. He was told there would be no difficulty about that.

"But" sad his informant "I can show you some of his boxing tricks which may be of use to you". The stranger gladly accepted the offer and at once took off his coat and threw it on the fence. His proposed instructor stripped also but before doing so drove a stout stick he was carrying into the center of the paved road and hung his coat on the stick remarking at the same time that the fence was wet.

As soon as the Tyrone man saw the ease with which the stick went down through the solid surface he at once put on his coat saying "That will do me you can be no other than Cormac Ríabhach and I have no desire to fight you". The man was Cormac.

An Englishman one time on a visit to Dublin heard of Cormac's great strength traveled all the way to Glenade and challenged Cormac to fight. The challenge was accepted. It lasted for over an hour when the Englishman fell dead. He was buried in the field where the fight took place.

The field was noted for rushes which made excellent rush candles. In a few years rushes grew over the grave but when candles were made from them they refuse to light. As long as rush candles continued to be made people came to the field for rushes. The best makers tried rushes from the Englishman's grave but the refused to light.

Cormac Reabac was a trained soldier one of the few who were to be found in Glenade. As well as being a strong man he was well practiced in the use of the sword. The period was during the 1641 rising as Sir Frederick Hamilton enter into some of the tales relating to him. Sir Frederick was one of the most ruthless of the Scottish settlers and committed some of the most savage atrocities on the local people that had ever been recorded in history.

It was he who ordered the slaughter of the Rooneys of Gort an Air so that his own followers would hold undisputed sway in the district. Cormac was one of the most dangerous men which opposed his savagery and the Glenade depended on him in time of need. Many attempts were made to capture him and tradition tells of how on of these attempts ended in disaster for the would be captor.

Amongst Sir Frederick's soldiers was a brave young soldier named Young, brave and skillful in the use of arms, who to achieve fame and fortune arrayed himself for the quest. He dressed himself in ordinary clothes under which was a steel corset. His sword and dagger hung by his side and counted on a good steel he set out in search of Cormac.

Cormac was in his home in Glenade when he saw the horseman approach the house and he saw he saw a stranger. His accent and manner told what nature of man he was. He challenged Cormac to fight when he recognized who he was speaking to and the contest began. Cormac was surprised that his sword was unable to penetrate his adversary, but being an experienced soldier he soon knew the reason why the advantage lay with the stranger. He saw that the longer the fight continued his victory were slimmer and so he tried to trick him.

He spoke in Irish to an imaginary person and the other man thinking that he was been attacked from behind looked around. In looking around Cormac noticed the bulge where the steel jacket was joisted and in this way got home a thrust that quickly ended the battle. The adventurer fell mortally wounded and Cormac left him there.

He went back to his house that was convenient and told the story. He had a sickly brother and the news was so good that he wanted to see the vanquished one. Cornac seeing he was not coming back went out after him and was just in time to save him from English soldier who had coaxed his brother to come near him and caught him. Cormac then despatched the wounded man.

Benwisken County Sligo.
Benwisken and Benbulben, two of the most distinctive heads or peaks around Carbury Mountain.