Killeen Cormac is an early eclectically site close to the River Greese (a tributary of the Barrow) in County Kildare. There seems to be as many stories and myths attached to this site as there are trees surrounding it. It is often stated that the mound that marks the site is a passage tomb but this does not appear to be the case, certainly this is true if the National Monuments Service excavation records are to be believed, it was however used as a pre-Christian burial site. The mound itself is a gravel esker produced by the local river some time in antiquity. Three terraces have been edged into the mound with large kerb stones, which is part of the reason it was once believed to be a passage tomb. There are seven Ogham Stones on the embankment, alongside seven pillar stones, two cross slabs and other later gravestones and tombs. The wall that surrounds the site had once been a dry stone wall but was replaced by a local landlord during the 1830s.
The name of the site has been interpreted in various ways, some sources think it derives from ‘Cell Fine Cormaic’ with the suggestion being that this was where Palladius left the relics of Saints Peter and Paul. Other sources suggest the name comes from ‘Cell Ingen Cormaic’ (The Church of the daughters of Cormaic). Local folklore implies that the mound was the burial site of an early King of Munster also named Cormaic.
Though there is no physical evidence of a church once being situated at the mound though one was noted in literature dating from both the 13th and 16th centuries.
One of the pillar stones has a mark on it which is said to represent a hound’s paw. In local legend this marks the spot where Cormac, King of Munster was buried who was brought to the cemetery by a team of bullocks. Tradition states that he was carried from a distant place, and that by the time the procession reached the ‘Doon’ of Ballynure the bullocks were overcome with thirst and when they scratched at the earth water emerged, allowing them to continue their journey. This stream still runs nearby and provides sustenance for the herd of the present day! The bullocks then travel onwards until the reached ‘Bullock Hill’ opposite the cemetery. They crossed the River Greese and left the body for burial, while crossing back through the river they were swept away and lost.
Another version of the same legend states that a hound was travelling with the procession and when the herd halted at Bullock Hill, the hound jumped across the river and landed on top of the pillar stone, marking the spot where Cormac was to be laid to rest.
Another interesting stone at Killeen Cormac is the Drunides Stone as it is inscribed in both Ogham and Latin, which is a rarity, it reads ‘IV VERE DRVVIDE’, which translates as ‘Four True Druids’.
Killen Cormac is an intriguing and peaceful site. In retrospect when I learnt more about the legends attached to it I found it interesting that my entire visit had constantly been observed by a herd of about seventy five cattle. I have included a photo of my not so silent observers!
GPS: 53.02837, -6.76066