As the embers of the great bonfires of Moneymore, Rathmullen and Grange Rath slowly burn out, we look back at three historically controversial bonfires around the town.
The Hill of Slane, 433 CE
A kidnapping forced a Welsh and teenaged Patrick into the dog-eat-sheep world of Irish shepherding. But despite his nationality, Patrick was never tempted to avail of the woolly creature comforts on offer like the local shepherds of north Meath and pockets of Collon. Instead, he spent his time ingesting the wild mushrooms that sprung from the soil. Soon he began to hallucinate all sorts of crazy ideas, like the existence of three Gods living in a shamrock, though he wasn’t sure, they could have been clovers. He began telling everyone he seen about it. His chilled out delivery and glazed over eyes lent a certain gravitas to his ramblings. In fact, even today it is easy to spot followers of Patrick; their glazed over eyes and sheep-like obedience can be observed down the town on Sunday mornings, though in dwindling numbers.
One evening while shepherding on the Hill of Slane, Patrick started a fire with some locally sourced pallets. He’d heard a great recipe from a Mell shepherd – sautéed mushrooms with the finest faarmed salmon from The Glen – and was keen to try the dish out. But after sampling too many mushrooms during preparation the fire got out of control and when the King of Tara seen it he was bullin’.
However, Tara was 9 mile away and be the time the King’s henchmen arrived Paddy had wandered off in the direction of Lobinstown and fallen asleep in a bush, fatigued with a lethal cocktail of mushrooms and mead.
But the story doesn’t end there. Before you could say mutton dressed as lamb, a local slieveen priest moved in, adopted Patrick’s identity and used the fire for political purpose. Soon Christianity ruled the roost in Ireland. Patrick continued picking mushrooms unaware of the societal change his bonfire had made. His ancestors were early adopters of the potato and still live in the area.
Cromwell Burns The Other St. Peter’s, 1649 CE
After laying siege to the town and adhering to the accepted rules of warfare at the time, Cromwell chose to execute any garrison soldiers who refused to surrender. About 80 scuttled up the steeple of St. Peter’s church to hide. But St. Peter was of no practical help whatsoever as Cromwell ordered the chuurch buurnt. No civilians were massacred. However, the butchers of Peter St. said that they might as well have been as the smell of the sizzling soldiers saw pork sales plummet until the incident passed out of living memory. It was only years later that the first written accounts began to mention massacred civilians as anti-English sentiment was ramped up by, yes, you guessed it, bittor butchors.
The Mell Witch Burnings, 1979 CE
When a coven of witches were discovered after a witch hunt at Mell in September 1979, the town’s foremost witch experts were called in. After consulting the town’s Contingency Plan for Witches, Monsignor Pete Forsake decided again having dum trun in the Boyne, deciding that fire was the best way to deal withdum. Such was the demand for tickets, organisers had to restage the burnings by bussing in suspected witches from Navan. The event was faithfully re-enacted every year until the 2001, when public interest waned.