where the land meets the sea

Ringneill Quay

Ringneill Quay

in Prehistoric/Recent

Ringneill is a promontory enclosed on three sides by Strangford Lough. There is a causeway to Reagh Island and to the early monastery of Nendrum on Mahee Island.  The area around Ringneill Quay was once a busy place. Fishing boats on Strangford Lough anchored here, and a thousand years before we would have seen Vikings. Ringneill also hosted people in Mesolithic and Neolithic times.

We can see the Mesolithic sites on this map.

Ringneill Quay Archeology
Ringneill Quay Archeology

“The domestic pig was introduced into Ireland by Neolithic farmers several thousand years ago, and bones have been found at Neolithic sites such as Ringeill, Count Down and Tankardstown South, Count Limerick”

Ringneill Quay
Ringneill Quay

There is some confusion with regards to dating of this early settlement. On one hand it appears to be a Mesolithic site with an array of flint and also possible middens. And yet archaeologists were disappointed by the lack of flint stones found at the Ringneill site but this was in proportion to the much greater amount of ox and pig bones found.

In the following image, we can see images of flint stones found at Ringneill and Ardmillan. I’m impressed by how people can even identify these as ancient tools.

Ringneill Quay Archeology
Ringneill Quay Archeology

The presence of ox bones in this deposit seems to be the first satisfactory record in Ireland at that time.  But if they were domesticated then these would be considered Neolithic people. Evidence of wild ox called Aurochs have been found throughout the rest of Europe but not yet in Ireland.  Instead the Ringneill evidence may imply an indigenous ox in Ireland at that time, much smaller than the Auroch.

Ringneill Quay
Ringneill Quay

The name of Ringneill may come from the Irish rinn ‘promontory, point’ plus either an aoil ‘of the lime’ or the personal name Niall. However, the name could also have emerged from a misreading of the handwritten name.  The earliest reference seems to be to Ballekeneneile in 1623. This could be translated as Baile ‘townland’ prefixed to a place-name Ceann an Aoil ‘headland of the lime’. In local areas this Ceann for head in Irish, was spelled instead as Cinn, and then in this case semi-anglicised as “ken” to create what latter became rin.

Ringneill Quay
Ringneill Quay

Ringneill Quay is among several small harbours constructed around Strangford Lough during the first half of the 19th Century – often for loading coal. There is a complex arrangement of causeways that link several islands together – islands which are essential drumlins in water. 

 

Ringneill Quay
Ringneill Quay

 

References

Ireland’s Animals – Niall Mac Coitir

Ringneill, County Downhttp://www.placenamesni.org/resultdetails.php?entry=6873

https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC18KWP_on-route-to-nendrum-1

The Quaternary Deposits at Ringneill Quay and Ardmillan, Co. Down – 
N. Stephens, A. E. P. Collins, Margaret Jope and V. B. Proudfoot
Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature Vol. 61 (1960/1961), pp. 41-77

The Palynology of Ringneill Quay, a New Mesolithic Site in Co. Down, Northern Ireland
M. E. S. Morrison
Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature
Vol. 61 (1960/1961), pp. 171-182

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