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Eochaidh Fionn and Ballon Hill

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Feidlimidh Reachtmhar, High King of Ireland between 164 and 174, had two sons who distinguished themselves in battle. One of them was the better known Conn of the Hundred Battles and the other was none other than Eochaidh (Ohy) Fionn, the 2nd century ancestor of the O Nuallains

… and so it was that during the reign of Feidlimidh, Cú Chorb, the then King of Leinster, appealed to Feidlimidh to help him fight off the invading Munstermen who, by then, had conquered large parts of Leinster. This is when his son, Eochaidh, came into the picture organizing a large army and, after many hardfought battles, chased the Munstermen out of Leinster. In recognition of the aid he had provided, Eochaidh was granted extensive lands in perpetuity in Leinster known as the “seven Fohartas” (part of which were what we know today as the baronies of Forth in Carlow and Forth in Wexford).

Here the story gets interesting for immediately after the death of Feidlimidh Reachtmhar, the kings of Ireland assembled at Tara, and elected Cathair Mór, King of Leinster, as the new Monarch of Ireland. This decision did not sit well with Conn of the Hundred Battles, Eochaidh’s elder brother, and within three years, as allowed under Brehon law, he had wrested the high kingship from Cathair Mór.

Cathair Mór was killed and, according to historians, was buried atop Ballon Hill in 177 AD. Lending credibility to this local belief is the fact that when Ballon Hill was excavated in the mid-1800s many prehistoric funerary urns were found there.

Although most of the artifacts unearthed atop Ballon Hill now reside in Dublin, modern-day visitors to the area can still observe a large triangular-shaped stone on the side of the hill facing Ballykealey House. Standing eight feet above ground, the stone is known locally as the “Stone of the Dead” or Cloghan-na-Marbhan. Because of its shape local children also know it as the “sliding stone”.

Photo of Ballon Village by Michael Martin
(see website )

In the years following the struggle for kingship, Eochaidh, having sided with Cathair Mor, was eventually banished from Tara settling on lands in the area of Ballon Hill, part of lands which he had earlier received in perpetuity from the king of Leinster.

Given the fact that there was an early burial site atop Ballon Hill and the fact that Nolan (O Nuallain) chiefs are known to have been seated at Ballykealey House in the shadow of Ballon Hill until the mid-1700s, it is likely that Eochaidh Fionn, like Cathair Mor, was also buried atop Ballon Hill.

Roger Nowlan, webmaster and editor (Email Me )
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