Thursday 6 July 2023

The Cuchulainn Stone Clochafarmore Co Louth


                                             Above Image: The roadside stile

                                   Above Image: Looking back towards the roadside

                                                  Above Image: The inscription

                              Above Image: Roadside wooden effigy on the junction of
                                                     the L3167 and N52

In a rural farm field near Knockbridge County Louth there stands a solitary stone monolith which is not unlike others of its ilk scattered around the country but is in fact one of the more important features associated with Irish myth and legend. For it is here that the great warrior Cuchulainn met his fate and spent his last days in this world.

The large standing stone dates back to the Bronze age and reaches a height of three metres above ground with a width of approx 1.3 metres at it's widest point. There is a name and date inscribed on its side stating "Jim McKenna 1912". This is perhaps the landowner who discovered and restored it upright.

The stone is also known as the Clochafarmore stone (taken from the Gaelic Cloch an Fhir Mhóir meaning Stone of the big man). To add even more history to it the stone is erected in a meadow known as "The field of slaughter". Some ancient arrowheads were found here in the past giving possible credence to it being a battle site and a bloody one for that matter if its name is anything to go by.

Cuchulainn's association with this stone comes from the legend that he met his doom in this field instigated by warriors sent by Queen Maeve of Connacht to kill him.  It was Cuchulainn's vow as a warrior, a vow known as his "Geis" (pronounced gash) never to eat Dog meat or to refuse hospitality. When an old crone (who may have been in the pay of Maeve) had sheltered him and served him dogmeat to eat he could not refuse her hospitality even though breaking his Geis meant he would lose strength. The ensuing battle with Maeve's warriors was long and bloody with Cuchulainn holding fast against them until weakness came upon him. So he strapped himself to a standing stone in the field in order to stay upright and battle them off. Eventually, fatally injured and not appearing to be moving his enemies waited fearing any approach until after 3 days had passed the Morrigan (the pagan goddess of war, witchcraft and death) in the guise of a raven landed on Cuchulainn's shoulder thus signifying the great warrior had indeed passed. This particular moment is captured by a bronze statue sculpted by Oliver Sheppard in 1935 and now permenantly on display at the General Post Office in Dublin.

Access to this stone is by way of a roadside stile which is signposted by the OPW. When we visited it was in April and the meadow was easy to cross. This is farm land so we have to respect the land owners property and not trample anywhere we shouldn't. There is usually a trodden track left by previous visitors that leads you directly to the stone which lies approx 200m from the roadside. The monument itself  to me at least gives off a strange vibe and commands your attention. I experienced this particular "vibe" before when visiting the battlefield at Culloden near Inverness in Scotland. I suspect places such as these are soaked in the events of the past and register a kind of aura to those who walk within their boundaries. 

To find the stone take the M1 motorway heading north and exit at junction 16 onto the N52 for Ardee. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you see a right hand turn onto the L3167. Continue on this road past Stephenstown Pond until you reach a crossroads with the R171 in the centre of Knockbridge Village. Turn right at the crossroads and drive approx 1.2KM until you see the Evan Henry Electrical Engineers premises on your left. You can park here at the fence away from the gate and the stile to the field is directly opposite across the road.

GPS Coordinates: 53°58′28″N 6°27′57″W / 53.974505°N 6.465919°W