death-place of an Irish hero
lonely field, about a kilometre from the village of Knockbridge,
in the townland of Rathiddy, one will encounter the intriguing
phenomenon known as Cuchulainns Stone. According to
legend, this is the very spot where the archetypal Ulster
superhero, immortalised in Irish (and Louth) folklore, lost
his life in a final stand valiant enough to befit any mythical
In an age when the planet has gone superhero-loco
where the Hollywood-induced populace of a world without
true meaning cant get enough of Spiderman, Batman,
Hellboy and a host of generic carbon copies whose names
thankfully escape this writer it is worth remembering
that an Irishman by the name of Cuchulainn was arguably
the worlds first superhero.
According to legend, Cuchulainn walked the earth around
about the same time as Christ and his story is no
The authenticity of the Cuchulainn chronicles may be questionable,
but what glorious tales they are, conjuring images of an
era when Ireland was a magical, extraordinary place. With
As youngsters, we listened without any scepticism (it comes
with age) to the stories and marvelled at the might of this
young warrior who took no prisoners and could defeat entire
Without need of special effects or multi-million dollar
budgets, the legend of Cuchulainn lives in our minds
eye from the power of words alone. Its part of our
heritage, particularly here in the Wee County.
Cuchulainn spent much of his life in the area that now constitutes
Louth, and he drew his last breath here.
From here on, lets assume that the story of Cuchulainn
is true. Its more fun that way
He died in Knockbridge, in an upright position, tied to
a large phallic structure now known as Cuchulainns
Stone or Clochfearmore (Stone of the Big Man).
Cuchulainns Stone is located along the R171 north
east of the village of Knockbridge, on the Dundalk Road.
Drive about three-quarters of a mile and its on your
right. Theres a signpost on the left hand side of
the road pointing directly into the field. Theres
a stile, allowing entry to the field and a notice briefly
detailing the significance of the impressive pillar contained
therein. Enter at your peril, though even Cuchulainn
didnt make it out alive!
Treat it with respect (unlike the idiot who inscribed his
name in large letters down one side of the stone, one who
has already got enough publicity from his pathetic act of
vandalism and who shall therefore remain unnamed here).
Its a monument of huge historical significance, as
this is the very spot where the inimitable boy-warrior died
the most spectacular of deaths.
Legend has it that Cuchulainn was mortally wounded but tied
himself around the stone so that he would be in an upright
position as his enemies approached. Thus, he could continue
to engage in his preferred hobby of open combat, even as
his life ebbed away. Even in this debilitated position,
literally on his last legs, his enemies dared not face him
such was his incredible power.
It wasnt until a crow or a raven (the Messenger of
Death) had the audacity to land on the great heros
shoulder that onlookers were finally convinced that he was
dead and mustered up the courage if you could call
it that - to approach the lifeless, upright body.
There are a number of different spellings of the word that
started out as Clogh an Fear Mor the
Stone of the Big Man. Its a standing, pillar stone
in the otherwise sleepy townland of Rathiddy, three-quarters
of a mile from Knockbridge on the road to the nearest town,
Dundalk (which is 6km away).
There is a fascinating story relating to one of Cuchulainns
final acts before he finally died, tied manfully to his
stone. Reputedly, the very first animal Cuchulainn killed
as a boy was an otter and he achieved a nice touch of symmetry
by sorting out another otter just before he departed mythical
Wounded mortally (probably by his own sword after being
cursed by a bout of uncontrollable madness courtesy of his
nemesis Queen Medb), bruised by fierce blows and tied to
the stone to die in a standing position like every hero
worth his salt should do, Cuchulainn was bleeding profusely.
As his blood seeped into the land, the ill-fated otter was
attracted by the smell and, spurred on by its animal instincts,
decided to take a closer look. Perhaps dinner had been served
Needless to say, Cuchulainn was having none of it. He spotted
the otter emerging from the lake and promptly killed it
with an instant, accurate hurl of his spear. Impaled by
the spear, the otter tumbled backwards into the murky depths
of the lake, which became Lochan An Claiomh
(Lake of the Sword).
Before he died, Cuchulainn cast his eyes westwards and beheld
the great mering (the dividing line of two kingdoms).
A bronze spearhead was found in the area in the 1920s and
was given to the then parish priest (Fr Seamus Quinn, after
whom the gaelic football pitch in the village in named)
for safekeeping. Unfortunately, this item cannot be accounted
Cloghafarmore or Clochafarmore or Clochfearmore stands tall
and proud in the north part of Rathiddy Townland. The historic
standing stone is sometimes referred to as the Pierced Standing
Stone and is the very centre of an area known in the Tain
as An Breisleach Mor (The Great Carnage). The
field where the stone is located is beautifully named: The
Field of Slaughter.
The menhir is a three-metre-plus tall stone and is strategically
placed at the highest point of an undulating field system.
This makes it clearly visible from a distance and, more
pertinently in the case of Cuchulainn, renders it a good
vantage point from which to observe the trembling approach
The field today is owned by a local man called Pat Murnaghan.
Its a quiet place, betraying no hint of the slaughter
that took place here a couple of millennia ago. The notice
at the entrance declares in no uncertain terms that this
is CuChulainns Stone. The stone can be
found at the top of a slight incline, after one negotiates
the pseudo electric wire with a swift dipping-of-the-head
Approaching it, the stone towers over you and you can almost
imagine the figure of Cuchulainn fighting off his foes.
Is that a silhouette against the evening sky? As you get
closer, it grows in stature and the stone certainly has
a presence, if one is prepared to let his/her imagination
The view from standing alongside the stone is panoramic;
lending further credence to the legend that accompanies
Theres a large crack running down the full length
of the stone, from top to bottom, as if it was struck by
lightning, or perhaps time alone has inflicted that damage.
From the village side, it looks almost like a piece of the
Giants Causeway or The Burren, lifted by some supernatural
force and placed on its side into the ground. It would take
your breath away, if you had any left after trekking up
Over three metres tall, the stone is 80 cms thick and a
good 120cms wide at the base.
Here, at the age of 27, our great hero died on his feet,
his face as pale as one-nights snow.
Cuchulainns death in the Field of Slaughter is depicted
by a bronze statue inside the GPO and a replica of the stone
itself can be seen much closer by, in the church car park
in Knockbridge. The history of the field and its most famous
resident are detailed below this miniature reproduction:
Cuchulainn, the hero of the Tain Bo Cuailgne is reputed
to have died at the Rathiddy Standing Stone one km north
east of here about 2000 years ago. As befitting a hero,
he died facing his enemies unconquered and unbowed.