Tamnyrankin Court Tomb, Derry, Ireland

Tamnyrankin Court Tomb is situated in an upland bog known as Glenullin near the village of Swatragh in County Derry. The court area of the Northwest-Southeast orientated tomb is very impressive, measuring approximately 5 metres wide by 7 metres in depth. The gallery is quite short and leads into just two chambers, each 1.5metres in depth. The first of these chambers is accessible but the second is quite overgrown. The cairn that envelopes the court tomb is significant, measuring 25metres in length and 10metres in width. One of the more unusual features of the tomb is a pathway cutting right through the North end of the cairn, perhaps at one stage these were two subsidiary chambers that eventually met during later use. Tamnyrankin was excavated in 1940 by Ivor Herring and at this time Neolithic pottery and bronze-age food vessels were found, along with flint heads and a small quantity of cremated bone.

Tamnyrankin is a very desolate and unusual tomb, and the surrounding area is quite intriguing as it is dotted with overgrown mounds, possibly drumlins, possibly tombs. A hard to find stone row named Desertoghill is located within 200 metres of the site but I was unable to find it on the day of my visit. There are many other prehistoric tombs in the area, such as the fantastic Knockoneill tomb, and Ivor Herring opined, “Doubtless all these sites once lay on the verge of the sea of forest that filled much of the Bann valley in prehistoric times. Perhaps the early 17th century evidence gives us a comparatively modern hint of the appearance of this countryside in megalithic times. In the 1622 Plat of the Mercers’ Proportion, on which Tamnyrankin is called Tawn T’imrog, the hinterland of Kilrea is shown to be well-wooded, and we may assume that a not dissimilar boundary between dense lowland and the more open foothills existed hereabouts when the ancient Ulstermen were building the monument”

Emyr  Estyn Evans (a renowned source for historians and folklorists alike) noted in 1835 that, “In the town-land of Tamnyrankin was found by John McEheefry 3 years ago 3 urns of bones of black earth on a hill convenient to the house. The first crock was found in 1832, the second in 1833, the third in 1834. The crocks were very thick and curiously carved. The bones were large. One of the crocks had on it an inscription with three brass hoops. The bottom of the crocks were turned up. This is supposed to have been an old burial place locally called the Dunaan”. It seems there still may be much to be uncovered in these hills overlooking the Bann valley.

GPS: 54.93322, -6.69997

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