Meayll Circle

Mull Circle (also called Meayll Circle), is the site of a series of chambered cairns at the southern end of the Island, just outside the village of Cregneash. 

The site stands near the summit of Mull Hill (also called Meayll Hill or The Mull), and overlooks the town of Port Erin. 

Mull hill has an elevation of about 545 feet - extending from the cliffs which form Spanish Head on the South, to the bay of Port Erin on the North.

The Manx name for the structure is "Rhullick-y-lagg- shliggagh," i.e., "the grave-yard of the valley (hollow) of broken slates," or more literally "of slate splinters " or "of shells."

The Structure

Immediately below the knoll on which the monument is placed is a rocky hollow or channel, strewed with loose fragments of slates, whence its name is derived.

Original Ground Plan - Meayll Circle                                           Original Ground Plan

Though the monument is much dilapidated, its original form and character are indicated, and it has a remarkable dissimilarity from other known archaic structures.

When entire it was a circle of twelve single kistvaens, but these were arranged in pairs and approached each other longitudinally.

Separating every pair are rows of stones about two feet apart, projecting in an outward direction of five feet.

It is probable that the structure when entire was a ring barrow or mound, with an opening about sixteen feet wide. The diameter of the area enclosed by the circle was about 46 feet.

A flag was placed over each hole so as to prevent the earth on the top from falling into the chamber. This flag, with the superincumbent earth, was removed when a cinerary urn was inserted.

Meayll Circle

Cremation

It has been suggested that the bodies were placed entire in the kistvaens on Meayll and were not subjected to cremation, but charred human bones were, some years ago, discovered in some of the kists.

From the forms and arrangement of the chambers, and their elevated position, there can be little doubt that the mode of disposing of the dead on Meayll was cremation.

For a long time the burning of the dead was extensively practised in Mann. It was probably generally performed on the tumulus or mound in which the remains were to be placed.

After the cineration of the body the partially consumed bones or reliques were enclosed in a rude urn, which was either inserted, with the mouth downwards, in a kistvaen, or in the soil of the tumulus.

A shortage of timber meant that peat, gorse, ling, and fern, were, for the most part, the materials of which the funeral piles were composed.

Nocturnal Funerals

The Manx tumull are invariably placed on elevated sites from which the sea is visible.

A large number of these ancient depositories of the dead have been destroyed, but many still exist, some retaining very nearly their original forms.

There must have been some special reason for the selection of the elevated positions.

When cremation was practised, funeral obsequies were probably performed at night. The more elevated the position of the fire and the more open to the sea the greater the distance at which it might be descried, while the darkness of night would give it brilliancy and distinctness.

Nocturnal funerals were seemingly common among the Greeks and Romans. In the time of Virgil burying by torchlight was apparently an ancient custom.

In some parts of Italy funerals still take place at night. A Florentine funeral, attended by a company of priests in white attire and holding aloft blazing torches, has often excited the interest of modern tourists.

Author: J. M. Jeffcott
Source: Manx Note Book, Volume 3