My name is Danny O’Connor and I am a farmer and I have lived in the parish of Bonane all my life. This story is in my head with nearly 10 years, and I guess it is about time it was told. It all happened between 9.15am and 12 noon on Thursday morning December the 16th 1999.
Since I was a young lad I knew our parish was crammed full of archaeological sites of all descriptions, but the Bullaun stones were of particular interest to me as there are two on my land. At first glance they seemed to be aimlessly scattered about the parish but one cold frosty morning I learned differently. There’s an old saying that you learn something new every day and on that Thursday morning, I found out that this saying is very true.
On that particular morning I was cleaning out the ashes from our stove and I was putting it in the field behind the house. It was a clear crisp morning that you will only get after a severe nights frost. I stood on a high ridge at the back of the house and was taking in the view, I looked South, then West, and then East, the sun had just come up. I noticed its rays were lighting up about an acre of a forest close by. My eyes were transfixed on this spot for a while, and then I thought to myself there’s a Stone Circle right there at that particular spot. I said to myself the sun must be shining through some unusual crack or split on the horizon to the South East.
I decided I would go over to the Stone Circle to investigate further. The site was a 40 year old overgrown forest at the time and after trudging up through it I eventually found the Stone Circle. It was an eerie feeling to be standing in the circle in the dark of the forest, with the early morning sun glistening through the trees. I walked onwards, my boots crunching the cold withered ferns amongst the stones of the circle, I made my way south east to the edge of the forest a mere 40 paces or so. I was scanning the horizon with my binoculars for something unusual and then I saw it. This rectangular shaped stone with the sun hovering in the sky just above it. I assumed the Sun had just risen from behind the stone; however subsequent research revealed that it is in fact the moon that rises behind the stone and the sun rises further to the left of it.
I was stunned. I felt like the sailor in the North Atlantic must have felt as he stood in the crow’s nest on the night of the 14 April 1912, when he first saw the iceberg in front of him. I felt my blood go cold, the hair stand on the back of my neck; I went weak at the knees. I leaned back against a tree and I slid slowly down along it, as the full implications of what this could mean slowly dawned on me. How long I sat there I can’t remember.
I was well aware of the time of the year we had, I quickly put the Sun-Rise, the Winter Solstice, the stone on the horizon and the Stone Circle together. I went home and tried to explain what I had found to my wife Moira. We both returned to the wood, where I showed her what I had discovered. Soon after we discovered that the Stone Circle, the rectangular stone on the horizon, the Graveyard, a multi-hole Bullaun Stone and the sun-rise, all seemed to be in a straight line to the South East.
Once I realized there was a Bullaun Stone on this imaginary line we had just discovered, I instantly made sense of the four other Bullaun Stones I knew to be in the Sheen Valley. We went home and studied a map of the valley, where I drew four lines through where the Bullauns Stones should be. I then realized I had four more sun-sets to the west, the rest is history. With the help of one man in particular at that time and several more people later Bonane Heritage Park came into being.
Bonane Community Co-Operative Society Ltd. was formed in February 2002 with its principal objective being to improve access to historical sites in Bonane. From the outset, the intention was that the Co-Op. would be owned and controlled by the community. Accordingly the Committee of Management invited and encouraged the people of Bonane and all others to subscribe for €1 shares in the Co-Op. There has been an enthusiastic response with over 200 shareholders to date. The Society will be non profit making but hopes to raise sufficient funds to meet the ongoing costs of maintenance and insurance.
The Committee of Management formulated an ambitious plan to develop a heritage park on the site and soon work commenced on Bonane Heritage Park. The initial work on the park was carried out by voluntary effort and local fundraising; however, it soon became apparent that additional funds would be required to complete the project.
The Committee of Management applied to South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd. for funding under a Leader Scheme. The application was successful and as a result 2000metres of paths was developed, signage and protection for the sites erected and Bonane Heritage Park was officially opened on Sunday 11 June 2006.
The park is now open all year round offering a tourist attraction to visitors and an educational resource to schools, with over 5000 visitors in 2008.
Thanks to the South Kerry Partnership Ltd., the Rural Social Scheme and FAS, 5 people are now employed in the Park. We also give the youth of the parish employment in the summer months. As this is a Community owned project the fact that we are able give local people employment in a rural area means the Shareholders are seeing a reward for the confidence they had in the Park by investing in it.