The Coffin Road Murrin Hill

Massmount from the Coffin Road
Mary Doherty
Traveling the Coffin Road
Treeney Harkin
Murrin Hill, Fanad, Co. Donegal

They once were dotted all along our landscapes. They connected far flung communities to their burial grounds. They crossed over remote and barren hills. They are our Coffin Roads.

Alas, a lot of them fell victim to the march of time, the building of roads and then the horse drawn hearse. I am fortunate enough to live within 2km of our coffin road , over Murrin Hill to Massmount, here on the beautiful Fanad Peninsula. I am well aware my ancestors would rarely if ever have had the time to admire this beauty.

On one of the first Saturday’ of Lockdown I trekked our road. A road dug out of the barren hill: a road that can evoke history and superstition. I think of my own great grandparents who lived right above Trábhain below Fanad Lighthouse, and the coffins off neighbours that he would’ve borne along here and then his neighbours who would’ve borne his and greatgrandmother’s coffins along here to their final resting place overlooking Mulroy Bay.

The rituals associated with this pallbearing would have been strictly observed, the feet of the corpse kept facing away from the home place, to ensure that the spirit would not return. I pause at the coffin stone, where only could the coffin be lowered in order for the next pallbearers to take over. I continue along and turn the bends in the road which ensured a restless spirit couldn’t find the way back, as Spirits only travel in a straight line.

Even on a bright beautiful Saturday in April, this can prove to be a ghostly walk, if you are off a nervous disposition; but all fear is dispelled when the beautiful setting of Massmount looms into view.

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