One of Celtic mythology’s great romantic figures, a legendary warrior at the centre of a passionate love triangle, is buried in a remote West Cork graveyard, according to a soon-to-be-published book.
Diarmuid Uí Duibhne, who, as many students studying higher-level Irish for their Leaving Certificate will know, was one of the main figures of Toraíocht (The Pursuit of) Dhiarmada Agus Gráinne, a fabled epic of love, betrayal, elopement and death.
The tragic tale began when Diarmuid eloped with the beautiful princess Gráinne, daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland.
At the time Gráinne was betrothed to Fionn MacCumhail, the ageing leader of the Fianna. Diarmuid was one of the army’s best warriors and Fionn’s best friend and so handsome that when Gráinne set eyes on him, she instantly fell in love.
Diarmuid initially remained staunchly loyal to his chief, but, legend has it, Gráinne put a spell on him to make him besotted with her. The couple eloped and were hotly pursued across the country before Diarmuid was eventually killed by a giant boar.
Now, according to two West Cork historical groups, research shows this legendary folk hero lies buried in an ancient burial mound at Murragh Graveyard, a few miles from the village of Enniskeane.
Much of the graveyard, which officially dates back to the 12th century, was washed away in the 17th and 18th centuries by catastrophic river erosion.
However, according to local historians this site actually dates to the second century AD — it still contains a Tumulus, or above-ground burial chamber, covered with soil, which, it is now believed, holds the remains of Diarmuid.
Michael O’Connell of the Ballineen, Enniskeane and Newcestown Heritage Groups, explains: “In 1843 a man called John Windele who had an intense love of antiquarian pursuits visited what he described as ‘Diarmod’s’ grave at Murragh ‘glebe’.”
Windele’s account of his visit, and his disclosure that the Tumulus was erected as the burial place of the great warrior, was, says O’Connell, a revelation of “historical importance” which had been forgotten and lost in time.
He points to a network of connections between this region of West Cork and the renowned Fianna — Fionn MacCumhail was a cousin of King Lugaid MacCon who lived in the area and belonged to the Corcu Logde, a kingdom based in South West Cork before becoming the new High King at Tara.
However after being deposed, MacCon returned to West Cork where he was later assassinated, before being buried on Corran Hill, a few miles from Murragh — Fionn MacCumhail later revenged his murder by killing the assassin.
“This area of West Cork was known as a recruiting and training ground for the Fianna,” said Mr O’Connell, who said that over the past decade the Newcestown Heritage Group had renovated the old graveyard, recovered all of the headstone inscriptions. Now Ballineen, Enniskeane and Newcestown Heritage Groups have come together to work on a book on the graveyard due to be published at the end of September.
The heritage groups will present their findings on Murragh Graveyard at a special event at the site at 3pm on Sunday next.
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