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Know your neighbours….Who was Fionn MacCumhaill?

Not far from Ballintine Park, the Hill of Allen overlooks Allen village and is home to incredible stories of kidnapping, revenge, and bravery, mined directly from Ireland’s rich mythology. And if you plan on joining us in Ballintine Park, it’s always a good idea to get to know our neighbours…
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Irish mythology tells us that the Hill of Allen was home to Fionn MacCumhaill, Ireland’s most famous mythical warrior. Legend has it Fionn and his band of warriors known as the Fianna operated from a powerbase on the hill itself, roaming all over the Curragh and hunting in the neighbouring heartlands.

And from this wondrous location, they had knowledge of the entire land – with their tales of generosity and loyalty to Ireland still part of our folklore. In fact, Fionn led a colourful life right from birth and his exploits were said to save ancient society more than once.

Born a leader

Fionn’s mother was Muirne, who was daughter to Tadgh, a druid and lived on the Hill of Allen. Fionn’s father was Cumhaill, leader of the Fianna who fell in love with Muirne and kidnapped her when her father refused him permission to wed. Outlawed by the High King of the time, Conn, the subsequent battle resulted in Cumhaill’s death by Goll, his arch nemesis who assumed leadership of the Fianna.

The now pregnant Muirne was exiled, and fearful that Goll would come after Fionn too, she placed her baby in the care of two wise women Bodhmall and Liath who lived at the foot of the magnificent Sliabh Bloom mountains in modern day County Laois. As experts in warfare, survival and the ways of the Fianna, they nurtured and prepared him for his destiny of one day gaining the leadership of the Fianna.

Fionn MacCumhaill by Stephen Reid
"Finn McCool Comes to Aid the Fianna" Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1932

Destiny

Illustration by Stephen Reid
Follow me to the Hill of Allen, Illustration by Stephen Reid, 1932 from the book - The High Deeds of Finn...

As a young man, he moved on to spend time with the famous poet and sage Finegas on the banks of the River Boyne in what we call County Meath today. It was here that Fionn tasted the Salmon of Knowledge, giving him eternal knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

Armed with his new-found knowledge, Fionn was ready to fulfil his destiny and ultimately become the leader of the Fianna, just as his father before him. On arriving at a Fianna gathering at the High King’s residence close by at the hill of Tara on the feast of Samhain (now known as Halloween), Fionn made his move.

As the king was being terrorised nightly in his sleep by an evil goblin, Fionn vowed to defeat the goblin on the condition he would be awarded leadership of the Fianna. In an incredible act of bravery, Fionn stayed awake all night by resting his forehead on his spear, and vanquished the goblin. Goll accepted the bravery and sacrifice of Fionn and readily welcomed him as his new leader.

For many years after, from his fort on the Hill of Allen, Fionn had many adventures with the Fianna. And as we take a look around the surrounding countryside today, including Fionn’s beloved playground of the Curragh, it’s easy to see why he chose to stay in Allen.

Next time you take a walk up the Hill of Allen, listen closely…for you might still hear the battle cry of a Fianna warrior or the haunting ballad of a Celtic queen. 

If you’d like to read more about Fionn and his Fianna and their adventures check out this wonderful resource.

The Hill of Allen, 2019

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