Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Cavehill Diamond (fantasy lighthouse)

There is a very old legend in Belfast of a large and brilliant diamond that shone from the large and dominant Cavehill that looms over the northen part of that city. The diamond reputedly shone from the face of the cliff and glinted so brightly that mariners used it to guide their ships into harbour (hence the lighthouse connection and the reason for its inclusion in this blog!) Not only was it a guiding light for the sailors, but it also besotted their thinking and they reputedly used to fire their guns at the hill in an attempt to dislodge the diamond. An equally impossible story has it that Finn McCool used to wear it as a watch guard until he dropped it on the hill.

There were songs written about the diamond in the 1800s. In some, the diamond was a girl but in others it was an actual diamond. One jolly song has Diarmuid being egged on by Mary to climb the hill and get her the diamond, as proof of his love. This he does but falls to his death in the process, which is always good box-office.
Then in 1887, it was announced that the diamond, weighing approximately one pound had been discovered by a young lad who sold it to a local hatter and outrageous self-publicist, John Erskine, who had claimed to have supplied the entire Royal Family with hats. He later claimed to have sold the 'diamond' to Madame Tussaud's in London for a tidy sum.
However, in 2009, the last descendants of John Erskine contacted the Linenhall Library and offered them the diamond. Naturally the library jumped at the chance to own such a rich piece of Belfast folklore.The diamond is in fact a large piece of quartz, weighing in at 19 ounces, and it was promptly put on display. The curious thing is that quartz is not native to Cavehill...

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