Noon's Hole

Noon's Hole
Noon's Hole (Sumera) – Arch Cave
Noon's Hole pitch head.jpg
The stream pours over the edge as a caver rigs the first pitch of Noon's Hole
Location Killydrum Road, Old Barr (Barrs)
Knockmore Mountain
Nr. Boho
Co. Fermanagh
Depth 108 m (354 ft)
Length 3.5 km (2.2 mi)
Geology Limestone
Number of entrances 2
List of entrances Noon's Hole
Arch Cave
Difficulty High
Hazards * 81 m (266 ft) entrance shaft
* Noon's Hole is a large active stream sink and the first pitch rapidly becomes impassable in high water. Much of the rest of the cave system floods to the roof.

Noon's Hole (Irish grid ref H12684431) lies about 5 km northwest of the centre of Boho, in the townland of Old Barr in the parish of Devenish, County Fermanagh, close to the border with Boho parish. The cave is under part of the remarkable escarpment on the east side of the Glenade Sandstone uplands.[1] At 81 m (266 ft), this pothole was thought to have the deepest underground shaft in Ireland, but this honour was passed to Reyfad Pot, which contains an entrance shaft of 88 m (289 ft). The continuation of the cave system (incorporating the Afternoon Series and High Noon's) extends via 3.5 km (2.2 mi) of passage and a difficult cave dive to the resurgence at Arch Cave, making this system the 8th deepest in Ireland, at 108 m (354 ft).[2] Noon's Hole used to be called "Sumera", meaning abyss, but gained notoriety and the new name of "Noon", after a notorious murder took place there. Ordnance Survey maps still use both names.[3]


Dominick Noone

Dominick Noone (original spelling) was a highwayman of strange appearance, as he wore his yellow hair in ringlets down to the waist.[4] He was a member of the illegal organisation known as the Ribbonmen, an agrarian reform group, but subsequently became an informer[1] and it was on his evidence a number of men were transported to Australia. Always a popular figure in the area, particularly for his outstanding singing and dancing abilities, he was invited to a ‘wedding party’ to perform in 1826.[1] It was a trap and, despite his police protection, he was kidnapped and hidden in a cottage in the uplands above Boho where he may have had his tongue cut out (his skull was so severely crushed that the mutilation could not be confirmed).[1]

He was taken to the main shaft of the cave and flung into the depths of the Sumera. However, his body caught on a ledge in the cave and was recovered when eight days later the police, local gentry, three magistrates and a great crowd gathered at the brink of the hole.[4] Planks were put across the hole and a well-sinker named Cavanagh was lowered to bring up the remains. The body was then carried to a chapel for a wake but local people blocked the doorway preventing entrance. The murderers of Noone were never caught.[4]

In 1879 a long ballad was composed about the event. The penultimate verse goes:

Within the mountain nature made,
A deep and dismal cave,
That suited well the murderers said,
To be a traitor's grave,
They flung the lifeless body below -
A groan they thought it gave.[4]


A Sumera is a bottomless pit, and locals initially treated Noon's Hole as a supernatural area, viewing it with suspicion and fear. However, in August 1895, the French cave exmplorer Édouard-Alfred Martel explored the cave for the first time, descending to 20 metres (66 ft).[5] It was not until 1912 that a group called the Yorkshire Ramblers reached the bottom. This group consisted of four men: Dunn, Kentish, Major Wingfield and Ernest A. Baker, and they made the descent using a 105-foot rope ladder, built by Fermanagh ships chandlers and timber merchants. For illumination, they wore candles on their hats and occasionally lit magnesium strips to light the entrance.[4]

On reaching the bottom, they found a "dungeon like place" some 20 feet by 6 feet, with a small passage leading off. However after exploring for another 20 feet, this passage was blocked by water which reached to the roof and so they could not proceed. It wasn't until the 1970s that a parallel shaft, met part-way down the main stream shaft, was investigated by the University of Leeds Speleological Society, revealing navigable passage (the Afternoon Series) at its near-identical base.[4][5]

In 1973, cave divers Martyn Farr and Roger Solari passed the upstream sumps in the resurgence cave, Arch, to emerge in the Afternoon Series at the bottom of Noon's Hole.[5] Subsequently the first through-trip was made via diving and ropes from one entrance to the other. The discovery of the High Noon's Series beyond the Afternoon Series by the Reyfad Group in 1975 enabled the eventual discovery of a dry connection to Arch 2 (the section of Arch Cave upstream of sump 1) in 1984.[5]

A stream pours over the edge of Noon's Hole, so that climbers are constantly inundated with its deluge. This stream works its way through the system beyond the bottom of the surface pot, eventually emerging about half a mile away at Ooghboragan (Arch Cave), on the border between Agharahan townland and the Drumbegger and Killydrum townlands of Boho parish.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Belmore, Ballintempo & Tullybrack Uplands; Noon's Hole-Arch Cave", Earth Science Conservation Review (National Museums Northern Ireland),, retrieved 2009-08-07 
  2. ^ "N Ireland - Deepest caves". Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  3. ^ Jones, Gareth Ll.; Burns, Gaby; Fogg, Tim; Kelly, John (1997), The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan (2nd Ed.), Lough Nilly Press, ISBN 0-9531602-0-3 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Your Place and Mine: Noon's Hole". BBC Northern Ireland. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Belmore, Ballintempo & Tullybrack Uplands; Noon's Hole-Arch Cave", Earth Science Conservation Review (National Museums Northern Ireland),, retrieved 2009-08-07 

Further reading

  • Magennis, Peter (1874), The Ribbon Informer 
  • Jones, Gareth Ll.; Burns, Gaby; Fogg, Tim; Kelly, John (1997), The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan (2nd Ed.), Lough Nilly Press, ISBN 0-9531602-0-3 

Coordinates: 54°23′00″N 7°51′24″W / 54.38341°N 7.85677°W / 54.38341; -7.85677

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