The Coronation Stone

When I worked in The Travel Advice Centre in the old Lincoln Avenue Clinic on the Antrim Road in Belfast, I met many interesting people who were going abroad for leisure, business and missionary purposes. It was there that I met Rev Dr Ian Paisley and Rev David McIlveen as they travelled to the Cameroons to help the people there. William Crawley, the BBC commentator reminded me that he had also remembered me at the Clinic. I attended his interview with Martin McGuinness MP MLA in his Out to Lunch series in the historic Great Hall of the Queen’s University Belfast on Wednesday 13th October 2010.

I have been Dr Paisley’s personal physician since late July 2004,when he became gravely ill, and later his Special Adviser on history and culture, so I attended on his behalf. I had previously accompanied Dr Paisley and Baroness Eileen to the Out to Lunch interview when William Crawley talked to him about his career in politics and asked him about his relationship with Martin McGuinness. Responding to what he thought of Dr Paisley’s comments about him at that time, Martin McGuinness was most courteous in his comments. He remembered well Dr Paisley’s illness in late July and August 2004, prior to the Leeds Castle talks in September 2004.

Following his interview, I thanked the Deputy First Minister for his comments and said I would relay them to Dr Paisley. I asked about his views on our shared past as a prologue to our shared future. When he was Minister of Education in the new Northern Ireland Assembly and I was an MLA, I asked him about his McGuinness heritage and the promotion of our shared past in an Oral Question on 15th October, 2001,exactly 10 years earlier. The Coronation Stone of the McGuinness Royal Family lies on the old Bridal Road at Warrenpoint and I enquired if he had visited it yet. It was described in Legendary Stories of the Carlingford Lough District, first published by Michael George Crawford in 1913. The little bohoreen or lonan was once the road leading inland and from the top of the Drum More or Ridge you can see Warrenpoint nestling beneath, and the Carlingford and Mourne Mountains lining the Lough.

This was the favourite walk in boyhood of the Warrenpoint poet Thomas Caulfield Irwin, the” Irish Wordsworth”, who was once reckoned a greater poet than Wordsworth and refers to the Bridal Road in his” Potato Digger’s Song”. On the side of this old Bridal Road is a “Staff and Foot-dented rock”-the Coronation Stone of the McGuinness Clan. On this stone their chieftains were inaugurated for many centuries from the days of Chreamon Rath Turret, from whom this part of Iveagh was anciently called Mourne Ui Chreamon down to the time of the Plantation of Ulster when the Clan Aongus were outlawed” for life and lands”, which explains their involvement in the 1641 Rising. The coronation stone was called Cusleac Aongus, the Foot-stone of Aongus (More), from whom the McGuinness take their name.

It is something like the famous Lia Fail or “Stone of Destiny” which the Irish colonisers of “Scotland” brought from Ireland with them to that country to crown their first king Fergus McErc in 513 AD. The Lia Fail was kept in Scotland until the time of Edward I of England, who in one of his wars with the Scots seized it. It was afterwards placed under the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey. Like the Stone of Destiny, it possessed the virtue that when a real McAongus was crowned on it, it emitted a low pleasing humming sound. But if the usurper dared to put his foot on the sacred footmark of the Coronation Stone, he was flung forward on the ground with great violence. There was an old prophecy that said that wherever the Cusleac Aongus stood a chief of the Clan Angus should always reign supreme.The Deputy First Minister replied that he had not yet visited the Stone but did agree that shared history was important and was particularly interested in such efforts that we ourselves have made in the Somme Association to tell the history of the Irish soldiers in the First World War.

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