Burial site of legendary Diarmuid found, says historian

A legendary warrior, also one of Celtic mythology’s greatest romantic figures, is buried near the graves of IRA fighters in a little-known cemetery in West Cork, a book to be published this month reveals.

Burial site of legendary Diarmuid found, says historian

Diarmuid Uí Duibhne was one of the central characters in Toraíocht Dhiarmada Agus Gráinne, an epic of love, betrayal, and death.

The tragic tale, reinterpreted in the 2015 film Pursuit, starring Brendan Gleeson and Game of Thrones’s Liam Cunningham, began when Diarmuid, a renowned warrior, eloped with the beautiful princess, Gráinne, daughter of the High King of Ireland.

She was already betrothed to Fionn MacCumhail, then the ageing leader of the Fianna, and the couple was hotly pursued across Ireland, until Diarmuid was eventually killed by a giant boar.

It was, for many, just the stuff of legend, but, now, a new book reveals what is believed to be the ancient burial site of Diarmuid, not far from a West Cork village.

Murragh, A Place of Graves, researched and written by two local history groups, claims that the legendary Fianna warrior is buried in an ancient ‘tumulus’ or above-ground burial chamber, close to a riverside cemetery between the town of Bandon and the village of Enniskeane.

Daragh O’Gowan, a retired lecturer, who taught Irish cultural studies at DIT, and Michael O’Connell, of the Ballineen and Enniskeane Area Heritage Group, spent a year investigating the mound.

It was the subject of local folklore and was identified as the burial site of Diarmuid by historian John Windele in 1843.

The mound is believed to date from the second century AD.

The site was visited by representatives of the National Monument Service, which confirmed the mound was a tumulus.

“We believe it is the tumulus of Diarmuid, because Diarmuid and Grainne are associated with this area,” said Mr O’Gowan.

The Murragh tumulus, Mr O’Gowan explained, was an ancient pilgrimage site, which once had its own path. The Christian graveyard, it is believed, grew up on the existing site from about the 12th century.

John-Joe and Ursula Lyons, of the Murragh group, spent months investigating the histories of those interred in the cemetery. They discovered the graves of two members of the Third West Cork Brigade of the IRA, buried in 1921, some members of the local landed gentry, and the ancestors of many local families. All is detailed in the book.

Mr Lyons, aged 82, said he recorded the gravestones when he realised that knowledge of Murragh Graveyard was fading from local memory.

“Few people even know where the graveyard is, now,” he said. “There was only one burial there in 2016.

“Yet it dates back to the 12th century. There is a lot of interesting reading in the book — it’s a record of times past.”

Murragh; A Place of Graves, compiled by Ballineen and Enniskeane Area Heritage Group, in association with Murragh and Templemartin Parish Group, will be launched on Sunday, July 30, at the BEDA Hall in Enniskeane.

Paperback €20; hardback €35.

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