We had a TV breakfast this morning having waited until 0845 so we could watch the sunrise streaming from Newgrange. Of course we knew there’d be no dramatic solstice dagger of light because it was raining through the thick cloud that envelops us from time to time. And the weather radar indicated that was true across the 80 km that separates our 10,000 year old ice-sculpted hills as we watched, sitting less than a metre above the 400 million year old granite bedrock that supports our home.
The Newgrange passage grave, some 5,000 years of age, is decorated with quartzites from Wicklow and there’s a dark granite taken from just south of the Mourne Mountains. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was built around 3200BC. It’s as much a feat to move such rocks and such huge quantities of stone as it was in Carnac, Avebury and Stonehenge, all of which we have visited at different times. Lucky us.
The OPW hosts streamed the 2018 event while relating some of the 5000 years of history, science, myth and mysticism that surrounds this and the two other local passage grave monuments at Knowth and Dowth. The Boyne River could easily have carried the stone but moving it the last kilometre uphill by 50 m metres would have taken quite some effort. One theory that was new to me was that the stone could have been moved part-way on a bed of seaweed as was done on some Orkney sites within living memory.
The OPW Youtube site is here. I note that over 150,000 viewers looked in today or yesterday and I think we might try again tomorrow at 0845.
I mentioned here that I’d return to this story. That was in late April. And today, this story is 32 years old.
I didn’t see the Maid of the Seas because it wouldn’t ever arrive. I saw the next flight, the second flight this day 32 years ago that flew from London to JFK in New York. The Maid of the Seas had been blown up over Lockerbie several hours earlier.
What I saw in New York’s JFK airport will stay with me forever. I was in JFK waiting on a flight to Houston, travelling home a day late. I was only there because I had been in Caracas where 50% overbooking on pre-Christmas flights was standard and I had lost my seat. So I was re-directed the next day towards Houston, via New York.
I called home from the group of phone boxes in the boarding area at the same time that family members appeared under escort to a disaster management room that PanAm had hastily prepared. My family in Houston were watching on TV as PanAm passenger friends and family members suddenly twigged what was going on. Having been waiting for an overdue flight for several hours, they were walked into a melee of news teams, the sight of whom told the critical part of the story in a blaze of video lights and camera flashes. They suddenly understood that their loved one’s would never arrive. A few collapsed, wailing. My wife heard the wails twice, once through the phone and then, seconds later from the TV showing the news in Houston. Quite a different solstice TV event from this morning.
The PanAm disaster team looked as incompetent and insalubrious a group as you ever saw. They even wore T shirts that identified their task. I wasn’t amidst them very long but it was clear they had minimal training and were focussed on corralling the bereaved through a phalanx of news teams whose presence could only have been approved by incompetent (or corrupted) airport management. There was absolutely nothing reassuring about anything that I saw. The aides looked like a group of glorified night club bouncers but with less sensitivity. The bereaved were being traumatised by negligent managers.
I saw other things that day that were never explained. There’s one that bothers me still and might have sparked a conspiracy theory. Why exactly did the second flight pull up short of the terminal to be met with black limos and a ladder truck that enabled one portly man disembark? The ladder then pulled away and the plane was docked at the terminal as usual. I’m not sure what I saw but the guy looking with me asked if that wasn’t Yasser Arafat.