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Donegal Sundial

The Presbyterian Historical Society Museum has a small slate dial in it's archives (restricted access) at Church House, Belfast. 215mm square, one side and the adjacent two corners have been damaged. There is a fully qualified 32 point compass rose at the base of the 90mm high by 2.5mm thick corroded iron gnomon. This is surrounded by two degree rings. The outer engraved at 5 and 10 degree intervals, the 10s being enumerated from the south 0-10-20...90-80...20-10-0 to the north.The inner ring is calibrated in single degrees. The Chapter Ring shows 4a.m. to Roman numerals with IV for four. There is no XII but it does have a noon gap marked with a fleur-de-lis to compensate for the gnomon thickness and the half hours are marked in the Chapter Ring. There are two fractional time rings outside the Chapter ring showing 15 and 5 min divisions. The hour lines extend beyond the time rings and are marked in Arabic Numerals.There is no 12. There is a six petal floral design set in a circle at each of the four corners of the plate. Made By James Porter Anno 1774 For Latitude 94° 58' and For Andrew Stilley.

James Porter was born near Lifford, Co. Donegal in 1753. Stilley was Porter's cousin, who lived close by. As to the obviously incorrect '94' degrees : a close inspection of the dial revealed a very faint outline of the top of a '5'. Someone mistakenly changed the loop of the five to a '9' which explains its difference in size to the other numerals. The modern co-ordinates for his birthplace are Lat. 54° 51' North  Long. 7° 32' West     Irish Grid     C   230500    400400
He became a school-teacher and later a Presbyterian minister in Greyabbey, Co.Down. He openly attacked the harsh laws that oppressed the people and in 1796 he published 'Billy Bluff and the Squire', a very popular series of eight letters to a fictitious newspaper editor in which he criticised religious bigotry and satirised the local gentry and aristocracy. In 1798, during the Rising, Porter was court martialled for Treason, Rebellion and Sedition. He was accused of having read aloud a letter captured from a military messenger brought to him by those who captured it as they could not read. He was found guilty and publicly hanged outside his church in Greyabbey but was spared the drawing and quartering. Many believe that the real reason for his execution was for having written the satirical pieces, his judge being among those whom he had satirised.

Photos by kind permission of the Presbyterian Historical Society

If you know the location of a sundial in Ireland (NOT a mass produced DIY Store garden ornament) please email it to me (Click here to email M.J.Harley) - a member of British Sundial Society
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