DRUMMERS, dancers, chanters, gongs, harps and mist appeared at Newgrange – in fact, everything but the sunshine where hundreds had gathered to watch the sun rise over the hills and enter the 5,000 year old burial tomb at Bru na Boinne.
Inside the tomb were Minister of State Brian Hayes with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and six winners of the OPW Winter Solstice Children's Art Competition. The Minister said, 'Even though the sun did not break through this morning, it has been a very memorable day.'
Despite overcast weather, the crowd absorbed the experience. ' There's a great atmosphere here,' said Cllr Wayne Harding from Slane.
' The sun didn't come out but it didn't bother people. It's great to see such a crowd here,' said Seamus McDermott from Dundalk. Lena Connolly from Dunshaughlin was celebrating her 85th birthday at the solstice with her four daughters, now an annual event for the family.
Prof George and Mrs Fiona Eoghan commented on the huge crowd in attendance, estimated to be close to 1,000 people. ' One shouldn't overemphasise the sunshine – there are other aspects and other monuments in the area. Newgrange is only one of 40 spread over this limited area of Brugh na Boinne.
The sunshine is only one element, another being transportation of the stones from Clogherhead and other places. It was a huge job. I would describe the builders as 'protoscientists' as they distinguished different rocks from each other. Why did they select grey whackey? It is a hard rock that would withstand the weather and splits into flat surfaces, perfect for applying art, and as it's green in colour, it blends in with and integrates with the landscape,' explained Prof Eoghan.
Donnacha MacRaghnaill from Drogheda, now living in Chile, was there with wife Lucia, on her first visit to Ireland. Donnacha caught up with many friends and joined Dr Geraldine Stout and others on the annual 'Blitz' visiting many archaeological places of interest during the day. 'It's a great atmosphere, with plenty of sideshows this year,' said Geraldine. 'Definitely the largest gathering I have ever seen here.'
Kings of the Wind played music in brass bowls, with harpist Brendan Molloy, whilst Sinead Whyte offered sonic invocations to the Tuatha de Dannan deities, and Shamans danced to repetitive drumming. Author Anthony Murphy was on hand to read some pieces from his new book, 'Newgrange Monument to Immortality' which has been selling well.
Local archaeologists Dr Conor Brady and Prof Gabriel Cooney were there. ' The crowd draws on the magic of Newgrange which is attracting people even after 5,000 years! The importance of the archaeology of the Boyne Valley is highlighted today. People can see the reason it was selected as a World Heritage Site and can recognise its outstanding global significance,' said Prof Cooney. Also spotted was Dr Fionnuala O'Carroll, a speaker at the recent archaeology seminar in Slane.