son of Erc, King of Eire, advanced to the hill of Cnoc Meadha with all
his forces from Tara in Meath, then the seat of government, to attack the Tuatha Dé
Danann, whose leader, sages, druids, bards, poets, and physicians, etc.,
have been all recounted, and their prowess sung in story, so that throughout
the whole thread of Irish history they remain recorded. By this means
the wily Dananns had the fastnesses of Joyce Country and Connamara to
fall back on in case of defeat, as it is said they destroyed their fleet
Cnoc Meadha, or Knockma,
the great hill, so conspicuous in the landscape, is about five miles to
the west of Tuam, in the barony of Clare and county of Galway; its northern
slope is occupied by the woods and cultivated grounds of Castlehacket;
and on its summit stands the great carn within which tradition and ancient
history say Ceasair, one of the earliest colonists of Ireland, was interred. Tradition,
as well as popular superstition, has thrown over it the investiture of
fairy legend beyond all other places in the country; for here Finnveara,
the Oberon of Irish sylvan mythology, holds his court.
From this point
may be obtained one of the grandest panoramic views in Ireland - the great
plain stretching beneath and round Cnoc Rua; the beautiful abbey of Cnoc
Muaidhe; the towers of Athenry, the Ford of the King; Tuaim of St. Iarlaith;
the Round Tower of Cill Beanáin; the ruined keeps of the De Burgos;
the ships riding in the Bay of Galway; the Slievebloom and Clare mountains;
the blue island-studded waters of Loch Coirib; and, in the far western
background, the Conamara Alps, with their clear-cut edges, and their sides
momentarily varying in tints from the marvellous atmospheric effects of
that region stretching round by the Partraí range to the lofty
peak of Cruach Pádraic; and in the extreme north-western distance
the bulky form of Néifin, and even some of the Acaill mountains
skirting Clew Bay.
King Eochaí, with his Fir Bolg host, descended into the plain of Moytura,
and, passing westwards, was met by the heralds and ambassadors of Nuadu,
on that portion of it subsequently called Conmaicne Cúile Toladh,
extending from the present village of Cross to the neck of land that divides
Lochs Measca and Coirib.
They then, as was not uncommon with nations in
kindred states of civilization, agreed upon a trial of skill and manly
prowess; and twenty-seven youths from each army engaged in a game of hurling,
in a valley denominated in the tale The Plain of the Hurlers.
This extends in an eastern direction for three-quarters of a mile from
the bridge of Garra Cluana to the rise of Cath na bPunnán, south-east
of Nymphsfield, and is bordered on the north by Cathair Dubh, and on the
south by the rise of Cnoc, on both of which we find several monuments
of the battle that subsequently ensued.
In fact, it is the only hurling
ground in the district; it was used as such within the memory of the present
generation; and it is said the fairies still have their games of camán
there on bright moonlight nights.The northern boundary of this smooth
valley is the rocky space, covered with dwarf hazel, which gives the name
of Caisleán na Coille, "The castle of the wood,"
to the old haunted ruin shown in the above illustration; and to the west
of which is the cave of Cathair dubh. This castle—so often seen,
it is said, "afire" on summer nights, when the fairies, after
their game of hurling, hold their banquets there is, however, a mortared
structure of great strength, about five centuries old.
This warlike pastime ended in the defeat and death of the thrice nine youths
of the Dananns, over whom was erected the great carn or stone monument
figured on this page, and which would appear to be that called in the
MS. Carn an chluiche, or the "monument of the game"
and the valley of the hurlers, where they were interred, was then denominated Glen mo Aillem. There it stands to this day, about fifty feet
high, and four hundred in circumference—an historic memorial as valid
as that which commemorates the spot on the shore of Attica where the Athenians
fell beneath the long spears of the Persians on the fields of Marathon.
day, supposed to be the 11th of June, in the year of the world 3303, the
battle commenced; it lasted four days, and it is said one hundred thousand
men were engaged in it. Each army sank a royal rath or fortress; that
of the Fir Bolg called Rath Crófearta , and that of the
Dananns, Rath Fearainn; both are probably still remaining but
not capable of identification among the many monuments of which vestiges
still exist in this locality.
Both parties were armed with swords, spears,
darts, and shields, but no mention is made of either slings or arrows,
so it must have been a hand-to-hand fight. They did not, however, forget
the wounded; for each sank a "sanative pool" or medicated bath
in the rear of their lines, in which the wounded bathed. That of the Dananns
was presided over by Dianceacht, the Machaon of the Irish Iliad; and the
circumstance is commemorated in the name of a district bordering the Shannon,
called Lusmagh, "the plain of the herbs," from the fact that
on it were collected the plants that formed the materia medica with which
the milk of the bath was endowed with its healing virtues.
the Fir Bolg host, headed by the Fathach, or Druid poet—a character still
remembered traditionally by the people as the Fdthach Ruadh, or red giant,
who raised a pillar-stone against which he rested, and sang the exploits
of his warriors. The stone has disappeared, but the eminence on which
he stood is still pointed out within the demesne of Moytura, on Cnoc
Ard na gCuach, or 'the lofty hill of the cuckoos,' because,
it is said that that visitor is usually first heard there in spring. In
the history of the battle this pillar-stone is called Cairthi Fáthaigh ,
and is said to have been the first of the kind erected on this plain.
On the other hand, we can well imagine the Dananns marching to battle, incited
by the Miriam-like chaunt of Édaín, or Edena, the poet-prophetess,
whose name often occurs in the history of the engagement. The Dagda Mor,
afterwards a king, and whose monument undoubtedly stands on the banks
of the Boyne, near Newgrange, performed deeds of surpassing valour, until
withstood by the hero Cerb, the son of Buan of the Fir Bolg.
son of Allai, another of the Dananns, was slain by Nearchu, grandson of
Semeon, and a pillarstone called Cairthi Adleo, was erected where he fell--probably
the Cloch Fhada Cunga, or "long stone of Cong," which not long
since stood on the old road to the east of that village, and a portion
of which, six feet long, is still in an adjoining wall.
The only other
pillar-stones in the district are, one on the east shore of Holy Island,
in Loch Coirib, and the Cloch Fhada na hEille, or "Long Stone of
The Neale," at the junction of the roads passing northwards from
Cross and Cong, where it is said by tradition the king stood at one period
of the battle.
Fir Bolg, although not absolutely victorious, had rather the best of the
first day's fighting, having driven their enemies back to their encampment,
which probably extended from the site of this pillar of Adleo to the western
end of the Plain of the Hurlers, along by Nymphsfield to the cross roads
leading to Loch Measca, and from thence through Craobhach, in which still
stand the remains of carns.
Each Fear Bolg having carried with him a stone
and the head of a Danann to their king, he erected ' a great carn "
to commemorate the event. Taking into consideration the line of the two
armies, this must be the cam of Baile Mac Giobuin, shown in the above
cut, which stands near the road passing from Cong to Cross. It is one
hundred and twenty-nine yards in circumference, and about sixty feet high;
and its original base may still be traced by a number of upright stones.
Within it there is a large cave, but it is not at present accessible.
next morning, before the second days fight was commenced, the following
incident occurred: King Eochaí, unattended, went down into a certain well
to perform his ablutions, and while there observed three of the enemy
"overhead," about to seek his life. A colloquy ensued, but
the Dananns would give no quarter. He was saved, however, by one of his
own band, who slew the three, but died immediately from his wounds on
an adjoining hillock.
The Fir Bolg, coming up to look after their king,
there and then interred the hero who so bravely defended him; and, each
taking a stone in his hand, erected over him a monumental cairn. The well
is not named in the ancient account of the battle; but, the little hill
on which the conflict took place is called Tulach an trír,
"The Hill of the Three," and the monument erected thereon Carn
an éinfhir, "The Carn of the One Man."
Such is the
simple narrative of the transaction sent down to us through bards and
wandering poets and chieftains' laureates, who perhaps, as already remarked,
recited it at feasts and in public assemblies—as the tales of Troy were
sung possibly before Homer was born—until the days of letters, when
the tradition was transmitted to writing, and the annalist sped it on
to the present time.
Is it true? Can it be that a trifling incident of
this nature, occurring so far back in the night of history, can possibly
bear the test of present topographical investigation, while many of our
classic histories have been questioned, and in some instances their statements
disproved? Yes; there they both remain to the present day - the deep
well, now called Mion-uisge, in a chasm of the limestone rock
through which the floods of Loch Measca percolate into Loch Corrib - the
only drop of water that is to be found in the neighbourhood - and so deep
under the surface, that the king must have looked upwards to see his enemies
Immediately adjoining it, on the south-east stands the hillock
referred to in the manuscript, and now crowned with a circle of standing
stones, one hundred and seventy-six feet in circumference, in the centre
of which are the remains of the carn, shown by the illustration below;
and still called Carn Mín-uisge.
well of the Mín-uisge answers well the description afforded
by the narrative; for it is reached by a flight of steps like those in
the Pigeon Hole and other similar natural caves near Cong. At certain
seasons, when the upper floods accumulate, the water rises almost simultaneously in a jet through this aperture, and forms a turloch to the south
a careful examination of the locality, with a transcript of the ancient
manuscript in his hand, the author, feeling convinced of the identity
of the stone heap standing within the circle figured above, and by the
kind permlssion of its proprietor, Charles Blake, Esq., made an excavation
in the centre, telling the workmen beforehand that they would assuredly
find a chamber in it; and if it had not been already rifled, the remains
of the hero who so bravely defended the Fir Bolg king.
As much of the
top of the heap had been removed for buildings purposes some years ago,
we soon came upon a large, smooth, horizontally placed, gritstone flag,
on raising which another, somewhat larger in size, was discovered. The
latter remains in situ, and covers a small square chamber, twenty-eight
inches high, and thirty-seven wide, the walls of which are formed of small
On removing some of these on the western side, we found imbedded
in the soft black powdery earth that had fallen in through the apertures,
and probably mixed with charcoal, the urn here figured, and which contained
the incinerated remains of human bones. It is now in the Museum of the
his very beautiful object is about five and a half inches high,
and six inches wide in the mouth, tapering gracefully to the bottom, which
is only two inches broad. It is also highly decorated all round the lip,
and has six fillets beneath the outer edge of the rim; and, what is unique
in vessels of this description, four slightly elevated knobs, like handles.
The lower plain surface beneath the fillets and handles is covered with
herring-bone ornamentation. The surface of the vessel is of a reddish-brown
colour, and the interior of its substance black, showing that it was submitted
to the process of baking or roasting, either in its original formation,
or at the time of the pyre, or when the hot embers of the human remains
were placed within it.
over and to the north and west of the site of the foregoing incident the
ground rises into the slope of Toin a'liadhain, the "trowel-like
elevation" that of Cailleach Dubh, the "black woman,"
probably in reference to the Danann poetess, the daughter of Dianceacht,
and from which name in all probability the present townland of Nymphsfield
takes its name; and the little hollow called Cath na bPunnan — upon all
of which the chief battle monuments of the Dananns still remain.
The second day's contest commenced under a new set of commanders, among whom
"Aengubha of Norway," Ogma, Midir, Bodhbh-Dearg, and Dianceacht
the Physician, were conspicuous as Danann leaders; and Mella, Esc, Ferb,
and Faebhar, the four sons of Slainge Finn, son of King Eochaí, led the
The battle raged with great fury, and, according to the spirited
description in the narrative, a Danann chief named Nemhid, son of Badhri,
was slain by Slainge, and "his grave was dug, and his pillar-stone
was raised; which is from that day to this called Lia Nemhidh."
If this still exists, it is not at present susceptible of identification.
would now appear that the battle surged northwards; the lines extending
towards the western shores of Loch Measca, where Slainge Finn, the king's
son, pursuing the two sons of Caelchu and their followers, who had fled
from the left wing of the Danann army to the margin of the lake, killed
them there, and " seventeen flagstones were stuck in the ground in
commemoration of their death."
is another most remarkable confirmation of the tale; for by the margin
of the lake in the island (or peninsula as it is at present in summer
time) of InisEoghain, or Inishowen, there stands this remarkable monument
to this hour, within an elevated and entrenched fort, as shown in the
following illustration, with thirteen of these flat "flagstones
" still occupying the edge of the rath, some of them over six feet
high, by nine inches wide, and about four or five inches thick.
commands a glorious prospect of the lake and the Partrai range, as well
as Neifin and Baile Cruaidh mountains, and the deep valley through which
the waters of Loch na Fuatha communicate with Loch Measca. The fort is
oval, and measures twenty-two paces across; some of the stones are perforated;
upon the west or water side the ditch is remarkably steep, but now much
overgrown with bushes.
There was great slaughter on both sides during
this day's fighting, and the Norwegian general was nearly overpowered
in a personal conflict by the Red son of Mogharn, one of the Fir Bolg;
but at nightfall the Fir Bolg gave way. They carried home, however, into
the presence of their king, the heads of the slain Dananns
Fir Bolg, says the narrator, " rose out early the next morning, and
made a beautiful scell [sceall, or testudo] of their shields over their
heads, and placed their battle spears like trees of equal thickness, and
thus marched forward in Tuireadhs [columns or battalions] of battle.
Tuatha De Danann, seeing the Fir Bolg marching in thus wise from the eastern
head of the plain (probably from the places now known by the townland
names of Gort a' Churra, Baile Mac Giobuin and Cnoc), observed: ' How
pompously these Tuireadh of battle march towards us across the plain!
' and hence the plain was called Maigh Tuireadh, or Plain of the Tuireadhs."
On this third day of the battle, the Dananns were commanded by the Dagda;
for, said he, "I am your Dagh-Dia" (god of hope, or confidence,
deliverer) Sreng, the son of Sengan, led the Fir Bolg. Several personal
conflicts between the most renowned warriors are said to have taken place,
the details of which, descriptive of the arms and mode of fighting, are
related in Homeric language--in which it is said the helmets were crushed,
the metalbound shields were battered, the long-handled spears were shivered,
and the "green-edged [bronze] swords were dyed with blood."
The Dagda slew Corb, one of the most famous Fir Bolg heroes, and the Fir
Bolg were driven back to their camp; but they were still able to carry
each a stone and the head of a foe, and also that of Corb, which they
buried within their lines, and placed over it a carn called Carn cinn
Coirb, or the "monument of the head of Corb." This name is
not now known; but, considering the line of the two armies, we are inclined
to think it may be the small stone heap a little to the west of the great
monument of Ballymagibbon, erected after the first day's battle.
The line of the Fir Bolg camp, or more probably settlement, can still be traced
with wonderful accuracy, stretching in a curvature along the lake side
to the east of Cong, where, commencing with the caher, or fort, which
lately existed at Lios Luachra, "the fort of rushes," it extends
by the fort and cave of Leaca Fionna, "the white flagstones,"
over the high ground where stands Lios dubh, "the black fort,"
to Cathair Gearoid, that commands the whole scene; I and thence by Cuckoo
Hill, described hitherto, where the pillar-stone of the Fathach stood,
and immediately beneath which, to the east, is Cathair Spíondin,
"Gooseberry fort," shown as headpiece to this chapter, taken
from the north-east.
Caher Gerrode, or Garret's Caher, which stands on the hiil to the north-west
of Moytura House, is manifestly a modern name. The author has lately erected
a tower within it; but the antiquity of the outer wall is undoubted. The
wall of this fort, although not built of large stones is ten feet thick,
and six feet high; its circumference is three hundred and ninety-three
feet. An outer wall encircled this fort originally; but at present only
a few yards of it remain, as shown by the woodcut. The interspace between
these walls is forty-eight feet. Tradition says there is a cave in the
interior of this fort. When the outer walls were being removed some years
ago several antiquities were discovered, especially querns and iron hatchets.
More to the south-east, on the hill of Toin le Gaoith referred to at hitherto;
and which commands a grand panoramic view of the lake and mountains, are
the remains of Cathair na gCroidhe, "the fort of the hearts,"
which with the cluster of minor erections, both military and monumental,
around it, must have been a city in itself.
Still more to the east are
the Lisheen, or "little earthen fort," and the great enclosure
and caves of Cathair Pheatair, "pewter fort," immediately below
the carn of Ballymagibbon. Still more to the east, there are the forts
on Corr garbh hill, and others along the road to Cross, and so on to the
immense heap of Cathair Mhuigh' Eo', the great "stone fort of Mayo,"
which tradition says was intended to have been the capital; and to the
north of which, at Attyricard, already referred to, there are several
Then turning northwards, by Coill Donn and Cathair
Dubh, to the village of The Neale, we meet with undoubted evidences of
the existence of numerous population; for it must have been the work of
thousands to have brought together those huge masses of stone, and sunk
Within the Tuatha De Danann lines we have several large cahers, caves, and forts,
extending along the eastern and northern slopes of Binn Shleibhe, to the
tower of Ard na Gaoithe, wherever the ground permitted of their erection.
But presuming that we are correct in the topography of the battlefield,
the front of the invaders extended from the site of the Long Stone at
Cong across to Nymphsfield, where we find a cluster of most remarkable
monuments, to be described presently.
The battle was fought in the space between these two lines, and passing off
to the north, turned at The Neale again towards the west, and concluded
at the shores of Loch Measca.
On this third day of the engagement the Fir Bolg were reinforced by the aged
Fintan, and an additional Leinster army. Both the kings commanded in person.
Nuadu, in a fierce encounter with Sreng, one of the Belgian heroes, lost
his arm, but was rescued by Aengubha, his Norwegian ally, whose exploits
are most graphically described in the manuscript.
Dianceacht, his surgeon,
dressed the wound, and Credne Cerd, the artificer, afterwards made for
him a silver hand; so that from henceforth he was known as Nuadu Airgead
Ldmh, or "Nuadu of the silver hand." A monument was erected
over the king's hand were the blood dropped from it upon Cro Ghaile, "the
enclosure of valour," and which monument may, for aught we know,
still exist. It is also stated that the Dananns reared up Cairtheda, or
pillar-stones, to protect their men, and also to prevent their retreat.
Before proceeding with the narrative, we must here conduct our readers to the
existing Danann monuments that accumulate in the fields opposite the glebe
of Nymphsfield, to a portion of which local tradition has assigned the
name of Cath na bPunndn, "the battle of the sheaves." There
are here five very remarkable stone circles still remaining within the
compass of a quarter of a square mile, and there are traces of others.
The following examples are highly illustrative of these remarkable monuments.
That figured above consists of nineteen flat flagstones placed in a circle,
each inclining outwards, perfectly smooth on the outside, but grooved
and hollowed on their internal faces, which were evident]y those originally
exposed to the action of air or water. A considerable portion of this
circle has been removedand its interior, which is now planted, is fifty-four
feet in diameter. Some of these stones are five feet over ground, are
four feet wide, and eight or ten inches thick.
At the south-west corner
of the same field, opposite the glebe there is another circle, of which
the subjoined is a graphic representation. It consists of a series of
standing stones, and is one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter. Within
and around this and the adjoining fields, to the south and east, several
perfect cirdes still exist, and the sites of others can still be traced
within the confines of Cath na bPunnan; so that here was evidently the
stronghold of one of the contending armies.
Where the glebe now stands there existed, many years ago, the great Danann stronghold
called Cathair Mac Tuirc, " the caher of the sons of the wild boar,"
and by some called Cathair mor and Cathair Beil, the stones of which were
used in erecting the parsonage; and the slope in front of the latter yet
marks a portion of its site.
Thanks to George Crampton, Esq., son of the
late Rector of Cong, we have been furnished with a map and description
of this great caher, which was perhaps one of the largest in Ireland,
and resembled Dun Aengusa or Dun Conor, and others in Aran. It was circular,
and enclosed a space of about half an acre. The inner wall was about seven
or eight feet high, and sloped from without inwards, with an opening or
doorway twelve feet wide. In the central space was a small circular building,
which in modern times was called by the people "the gaol," the
wall of which was three feet thick. In removing the caher, several ancient
iron weapons, and the stones of some querns or hand-mills, were discovered.
the Danann king was wounded, Breas, his grandson, charged the Fir Bolg
with great fury, but was cut down by the hand of Eochai. That, however,
Breasl the son of Ealathan, was not killed, is manifest from the context
of the MS., as well as the general tenor of history, for he subsequently
reigned during the period that Nuadu was disabled from his wound. Then
the Dagda, Ogma, Allad, and Delmag rushed on King Eochai, but were repulsed
for a while by his four grandsons, the sons of Slainge, all of whom, however,
fell in the engagement; and "the place where they were interred is
called Leaca Mhac Slainge 'the flags of the sons of Slainge.'"
the other side, the four sons of Gann charged down the Danann lines, but
they also were killed by Gobniu, the smith; Lucrai, the carpenter; Dianceacht,
the surgeon, and Aengubha; and their monument was called Dumha Mac Gainn,
" the mound of the sons of Gann." Then the three sons of Orddan,
the Fir Bolg Druid, next essayed to break the Danann columns, but were
slain by the sons of Cainte; and " the place where they were buried
is called Dumha na nDruadh," or "the Druids' mound."
the cohorts of the invaders, along with Iuchar and Iucharba, advanced,
and charged the Fir Bolg, but were withstood by Carbre, the son of Den
and the sons of Buan, whom however they slew; and, says the MS., "
the leachts at which they were interred are called Leaca Mac Buain, and
the grave of Cairbre lies outside their leachts or monuments." Could
we but identify them, there are all round this spot sufficient monuments
to choose from for these erections, notwithstanding centuries of cultivation,
and, alas! years of ruthless destruction.
Fir Bolg columns were evidently driven back, and the battle passed, as
on the occasion of the second day's fighting, to the north-east. The sons
of the two kings, Lugh the strong, son of Nuadu, and Slainge, the fair,
son of Eochai, after a fierce encounter slew each other.
The grave where
the Danann hero was buried is called Lia Lugha, and is in all likelihood
the "long stone of The Neale" already referred to, figured
opposite. It is a very notable object at the fork of the road, to the
south of the village, and is now four and a half feet over ground. There are many traditions about Lugh lamhfada, the long-handed
son of King Nuadu, still in the mouths of the people in this district.
the track of the Dananns during this third day's engagement, we approach
the Parish of Kilmolara, commonly called The Neale, but the parish church
of which happens to be situated in the parish of Cong. Adjoining the village
is The Neale House, the residence of Baron Kilmaine, and within the demesne
there are several monuments of much interest, although not noticed by
A large stone heap, now faced with steps, and crowned by a weathercock,
contains, we believe, in its interior the nucleus of a carn, and may probably
be that erected over Slainge himself. In the grounds adjoining a comparatively
modern structure has been erected over some sculptured figures of considerable
antiquity, although not referable to the days of Magh Tuire.
placed in front of an ancient cave, and are popularly known as "The
Gods of The Neale." That, however, which is of undoubted antiquity,
and well worthy the serious attention of philologists and antiquaries,
is a flat mass of gritstone placed in the orchard wall, and now nearly
obscured with ivy. It measures nearly fifteen inches each way, and bears
the inscription, in sunken letters, faithfully represented by the accompanying
illustration, taken from a carefully made rubbing.
These characters are
perhaps the oldest letters that have yet been discovered in Ireland, and
are evidently of greater antiquity than those upon the Inis a' Ghaill monument. Mr. J. O'B. Crowe reads this denotative inscription thus: Lon Fecnan, Ecclesia Fecnan, the lon, lann, place,
or church, of Fecna (genitive Fecnan), perhaps the Fecnan of Adamnan of
some Fecha of Mayo of the Saxons.
Of the antiquity of this inscribed monument
there can be no doubt. It is said to have been brought here from the old
church of Breachmha, below Castlebar. The mode in which the letters were
picked out, possibly with a flint or hard sharp stone, is well shown in
On a stone built into the wall, beneath this monument, can be read the following
inscription: "The above stone was found at Brefy, in the Co. of Mayo,
A.D. 1732, in a coffin, inscribed in Irish characters, the coffin of Genan,
which contained a skeleton, 12.5 feet long. Genan was King of Ireland,
A.M. 3352, P.D. 7024, A.C. 1781' and this monument is erected to show
the antiquity of the Irish character and the size of menkind in those
early ages, A.D. I756." The foregoing speaks for itself!
fourth day's battle drew to a close; the flower of the Fir Bolg army was
cut off: and its king, greatly fatigued, and far removed from the well
of Min Uisge, and there being then--as there is literally now--no water
in the place, was sorely oppressed with thirst; so he committed the command
to Sreng, and fled with a chosen band across the plain, from near The
Neale in a north-western direction towards Loch Measca. The MS., which
rather inclines to the native or Fir Bolg side of the question, relates
that the Danann Druids, hearing of the extremity in which Eochai was placed
magically concealed all the wells, rivers and fountains--probably a mist
king and his attendants were pursued by the three sons of Nemhed Mac Badhrai,
and one hundred and fifty followers; and after a fierce conflict on the
lake shore, which is described with great spirit, and in which the king
slew his three youthful assailants, he himself expired. Thus fell,"
says the MS., the mighty Eochaí. A lofty carn was raised over his
body, which is to this day to be seen at Traigh Eóthuile, and called Carn
Eachach from his name; and at the western extremity of that strand still
exist the monuments of his slayers, called Leaca Mac Nemhidh, 'the flags
of the sons of Nemhed.'"
On the great grassy hill of Cill Odhar,
or Carn, from which the townland takes its name-- overlooking Loch Measca,
from which it is about a mile distant, and commanding a view of the entire
country, stands to this hour the most extensive and remarkable carn in
the West of Ireland--that figured below, which, we entertain but little
doubt, was erected to commemorate the fate of EochaÍ son of Erc, the last
of the Fir Bolg kings of Éire.
Crowning the summit of the eminence is a ditch and rampart, the top of which is
two thousand five hundred paces in circumference, and on it are still
some standing stones, especially near the entrance of the west-northwest side.
A space twenty yards wide intervenes between the top of this rampart and
the outer margin of the carn.
The tumulus undoubtedly contains central
chambers, and a remarkable and partially open passage encircles its base.
The view from the top is very grand; on the extreme west we have Binn
Shléibhe and the Partraí range of mountains rising from
the lake, with the Reek of St. Padraic peeping over them; more to the north is Néifin, the hill of Coillte Mách , Balla,
and the country about Claremorris, and so all around the distant eastern
end of the plain to Cnoc Meadha , whence the eye again turns
westwards to the shores of Loch Corrib.
Between this point and The Neale, on the east, and stretching round to Nymphsfield,
on the south, the ground over which King EochaÍ fled exhibits no trace
of water, and scarcely any vestige of early occupation. As yet the flagstones
of the sons of Nemhed have not been identified, although a ruined cromlech,
somewhat to the south-west of our position, on the sloping ground above
Cathair Riobaird, evidently marks the site of an ancient monument.
this are the remains of two caves; and about half a mile to the south-east
of the "Carn" stands the remarkable square dry-stone enclosure,
forty-four paces in width, and containing a well-built cave in the centre,
which is called Cathair Riobaird, or "Robert's Fort." Its walls
are six feet high, and two and a half thick; and the western square-topped
doorway, with its massive lintel and sloping sides, would appear to be
the type of the early Christian edifices to which reference has been so
frequently made. It is four feet ten inches high, three feet two inches
wide at the bottom, and two feet ten inches at top.
The square form of
caher, although represented in Aran, is rather scarce, and is evidently
of later date than the circular ones. A square fort or enclosure may still
be traced among the rocks about half a mile to the north of Aughalard
Immediately at the western foot of this hill is the great natural
and artificial cave "Kelly's Cave"; and nearly in the same line
we see several other raths and cahers - Loch Measca Castle, Baile 'n Chala
church, the ruins of Inis Mean Abbey, and the fort and standing stones
over the water's edge at Inis Eoghain; while more to the north rises the
last great battle monument, called Cathair Buain, and also the well of
Diarmuid and Grainne: and the forts in the demesne of Cois Locha.
That, however, which is of undoubted antiquity,
and well worthy the serious attention of philologists and antiquaries,
is a flat mass of gritstone placed in the orchard wall, and now nearly
obscured with ivy. It measures nearly fifteen inches each way, and bears
the inscription, in sunken letters, faithfully represented by the accompanying
illustration, taken from a carefully made rubbing.
account of the battle and battle-field of Magh Tuire here closes; both
parties withdrew after the fourth day's fighting - the dispirited Fir
Bolg to their camp along Coirrib shore, and the Dananns to their mountain
fortress. Both parties interred their dead; and it is said the former
"raised Dumha [or tumuli] over their nobles; raised Leaca [or flag-stones]
over their heroes; Fearta [graves] over the soldiers; and Cnoca [or hillocks]
over the champions."
Sreng and the other remaining descendants of
Gann held a war council; and, having but three thousand men remaining,
they discussed the question of leaving the country in the possession of
the invaders, dividing the kingdom, or risking another battle; and, as
they were inferior in numbers, they demanded single combat, and challenged
the Dananns to fight man to man. This was refused; but a peace was ratified,
by which Sreng and the Fir Bolg, or Belgae, retained the province of Connacht,
to which those of that nation then resorted from all quarters, and where
there is no doubt some remnant of that race still remains.
A portion of
the Fir Bolg, possibly the warriors and soldiers, fled across Loch Coirib
to the islands of Aran; where, perhaps dreading another invasion, they
raised those stupendous barbaric monuments that still exist there, the
wonder and admiration of antiquaries and historians, as they are undoubtedly
the most extensive, as well as the oldest, structures of their kind in
Tuatha De Danann elected Breas, son of Eleathan, to reign during the period
of Nuadu's convalescence, which it is said occupied seven years.
A.M. 33I0 we read--" This was the seventh year of Breas over Ireland
when he resigned the kingdom to Nuadu, after the cure of his hand by Diancecht,
assisted by Creidne the artificer, for they put a silver hand upon him;
"and in 3330," at the end of the twentieth year of the reign
of Nuadu of the Silver Hand, he fell in the battle of Magh Tuireadh na
bh-Fómorach, by Balor of the mighty blows, one of the Fomori."
From this we learn that, according to the computed chronology, twenty-seven
years elapsed between the first or southern and the second or northern
battle of Magh Tuire, fought in the parish of Cill Mac Treanai, barony
of Tírerrill and county of Sligo. By many writers, ancient and
modern, these two battles and battlefields have been mixed up; but we
trust the foregoing narrative and topographical description will prevent
further mistakes of this nature.
bare historic fact, with but few details of the great battle of Magh Tuire,
has been mentioned in all our annals, and is told in most of our ancient
Irish MSS of authority; from which, however, it was here unnecessary
to quote, as they do not enter into details, and no effort has therefore
been made to identify the locality.
The unpublished manuscript from which
the foregoing account has been extracted is preserved in the Library of
Trinity College, H.2. I 7, commencing at page 29I; it was transcribed
at Magh Eanna, near Ballyshannon, by Cormac O'Cuirmn, probably in the
fifteenth century; but the tale itself is referred to by Cormac Mac Cuileannain,
King and Bishop of Caiseal, the most learned man of his age, when he wrote
his celebrated Glossary, in the ninth century.
The translation which the
author had access to was that made for the Ordnance Survey by the late
Dr. John O Donovan, and is preserved in one of the manuscript books of
the Ordnance Survey for the county of Mayo.
* In order to visit this portion of our route, the tourist, passing along
the road from Cong to the Glebe and the cross roads to The Neale, reaches
a site once known as Cros Daibhi whcre an ancient sculptured cross formerly
stood, until removed about fifty years ago by religious fanaticism,
backed by legal injustice. Then, taking the northern road through Creevagh
--Caher-Robert, Eochy's Carn, and the antiquities to be described in
the next chapter, can be visited. The lower road from Loch Measca Castle
into Cong will take the tourist to Aughalard, and on by the Pigeon Hole,
to his hotel; or carry him by the lake margin to Mam.