This extraordinary individual was proficient in all his undertakings. He was a very interesting archaeologist, Agriculturalist plus Astronomy. He had numerous hobbies i.e. aviation plus photography. He contributed to many historical journals, several newspapers plus academic publications. He is known world-wide for his discovery of The Rolling Sun phenomenon in Co. Mayo.
Gerry Bracken was born in Co. Kerry during 1932. During 1959 he qualified from U.C.D. as an Agricultural Engineer. [i] He was employed by the Keenan Group In Bagnalstown, Co. Carlow prior to working at a Grassmeal Provincial Crop Driers. [ii]
During 1996 he received a position with the Ministry of Overseas Development as an animal Husbandry Officer in Zambia prior to securing a job with the FAO in Lesotho then the family moved to Lesotho.
Gerry Bracken with his family (including three more children) returned during 1971. They settled in Harbour House, Westport, Co. Mayo where he ran the Granary Hostel. In Ireland he secured employment with the Western Farming Co-Op during 1972. He lectured extensively at various venues; Ballinafad College Co Mayo, the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, The Roscrea Conference plus other Societies, the Irish Club in London, the Islay Historical Society in Scotland. They later moved to Murrisk.
He was very interested in Early Christian Monasticism dotted around both the Irish and Scottish coasts. During 1997 Gerry Bracken celebrated the 1400th Anniversary of St. Colmcille’s death as he traveled in an open small boat from Ballintoy Co. Antrim to Iona Scotland! Unfortunately due to mechanical difficulty with the engine he had to stopover in Islay. There he was particularly interested in the Crosses of Kilnav and Kildalton. He produced at his own expense a postcard of Kilnave Cross to promote interest in its restoration. As an archaeologist he made wonderful plaster casts of all the various crosses he discovered. His work as an aerial photographer ensured he concentrated on photographs of archaeological sites ie; Croagh Patrick, Rathcroghan for universities and institutions. [iii]
These were of immense interest to Gerard Bracken. He observed for many years the sunrises plus sunsets of the Bohea Stone near Croagh Patrick. He was rewarded on the evening of August 24th 1991 when he discovered that on two days in the year, the setting sun, when viewed from this spot, touches the summit of the Mountain, and then proceeds to “roll” down the northern slope. The angle of the Mountain’s side matches the declination (setting angle) of the sun at this time and place. This event is now known as the Rolling Sun Phenomenon. [iv] The date referred to was the traditional first day of harvest plus the same phenomenon can be observed on April 18th which is the beginning of the planting season. He also studied the Winter Solstice alignment at Kiladangan, Mayo.
For many years Gerry Bracken was a member of Mayo Historical and Archaeological Society plus the Westport Historical Society. He was a regular contributor to the Westport Journal. He was one of the organizers for the local Covey Festival in Westport. He was an active supporter of the Westport / Aror Partnership, Westport Tourism also the Mayo Environmental Group.
Gerry Bracken died suddenly at his home on December 6th 2007. His funeral was to Lecanvey Church, he is interred at Murrisk Abbey. [v]
As a member of the Westport Historical Society it was enlightening to learn all the information that Gerry shared. Mere words can not honour the extent of Gerry Bracken’s contribution to the History of our land.
[i] Cathair na Mart Journal, 2009.
[ii] Obituary, Irish Times December 22 2007
[iii] Cathair na Mart Journal, 2009.
[v] Cathair na Mart Journal, 2009.