Heapstown Cairn

On 26 October 1878 Wakeman drew Heapstown Cairn, one of the largest cairns in Ireland outside of the BoyneValley. It is probably a passage tomb and its entrance, passage and chamber remain undiscovered. This massive kerbed site is 60 metres in diameter and 10m high. It is considered to be part of the Carrowkeel passage tomb complex and the possible date of its construction is about 3000 BC, or 5000 years ago, around the same time as Newgrange in Co. Meath and Maeve's Cairn on the summit of Knocknarea. Heapstown, however, it is located on a lowland area, and lacks the commanding position so characteristic of many other passage tombs.

When Wakeman illustrated it its size was far greater than it is now as cart loads of stones have been robbed to make roads and fences. Also, the standing stone he depicts on its summit is gone. This same stone was mentioned in the 1937 School's Folklore Collection from Ballyrush National School where it is recorded to have fallen. There is now no trace of the stone today.

In folk tradition it was considered to be the grave of Aillil, brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was the ruler of the area in the 4th century AD. In an ancient manuscript version of the mythical story called the Second Battle of Moytirra, between the Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancient gods of Ireland, and the demonic Fomorians is the following entry:

"The Fomoire had a warrior named Ochtriallach . . . He suggested that every single man they had should bring a stone . . . to cast into the well Slaine . . . to the east of Lough Arrow. They went and every man put a stone into the well. For that reason the cairn is called Ochtriallach's Cairn".

This quotation shows the mythical origin of Heapstown's name in Irish - Carn Ochtriallach. Dian Cecht, the Tuatha Dé Danann's physician, who put healing herbs into it, created the well Slaine. The reason for the Fomoire blocking off the well was because injured Dé Danann warriors were revived in the well and could return to the battle. The immense numbers of stones on the cairn were representative of the vast army of Fomoire.

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