Sunday, September 1, 2013

Boa Island, County Fermanagh

The smaller Lustymore Man (left) and the larger two-sided Janus (right)
Two of the most enigmatic pieces of Irish sculpture can be found in a small cemetery on Boa Island in County Fermanagh. The larger sculpture is a two-sided ‘Janus’ figure, with depictions of a bearded figure on both sides. Both of the depictions show an oval-faced man with large almond shaped bulging eyes, and a straight nose. 

One side of the two-sided Janus
One side has the tongue partially sticking out, the other seems just to be an open mouth. The head just merges into the body without a clear neck, and the arms are crossed over what appears to be a belt. The base of the larger sculpture was found at a later time, and is now propped up against the figure. At the top of the heads there is a groove where people today leave coins as an offering. The smaller figure is called the ‘Lustymore Man’, and was found on the neighbouring Lustymore Island. It appears to be more weathered and more plainly carved. This figure is only one sided, but has a lot of similarities with the larger figure. It seems to also depict a man with a straight nose and open mouth and its arms are crossed.

So who made these sculptures? Who do they depict and when where they carved? Unfortunately there really isn’t very much information at all about the Boa Island figures. They are both generally thought to date to some time in the Iron Age, as they have some similarities with other Iron Age sculpture from Ulster like the Tandragee Man (see here for a picture), though this is uncertain. 
The second side of Janus
The small cemetery they reside in is a very atmospheric place, apart from a few old gravestones that largely date to the eighteenth and nineteenth century, there is nothing else here, no church or visible monument. You walk along a small grassy path and enter this leafy glade to be confronted by these two idols. It almost feels like something from a Mayan site from the jungles of Central America, rather than a small, narrow island in County Fermanagh. Definitely worth a trip if you’re in the area!

Boa Island is on Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, roughly around 25km north-west of Enniskillen on the A47. The island is long and narrow with bridges that lead on and off it, so it is fully accessible by car, no ferries are required. The figures are in Caldragh Graveyard in the south-west of the island, the graveyard is well signposted and there is a small area to park.
The path to Caldragh Graveyard
The Lustymore Man
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