Editor: Brendan O’Sullivan
Shadowing the traditional seaside town of Ballybunion in North Kerry is a hill steeped in myth and
The name of this famous hill is called Knockanore, the Hill of Slaughter or the Hill of Gold or
Myth and legends are well noted in this area where truth combined with lies make up a rich
The legendary Fianna led by their champion Fionn Mc Cumhaill according to local tradition were
hurling on the nearby strand of Littor. Later that day, as the warriors were hunting in the woods
surrounding Knockanore, they spotted a lone ship entering the mouth of the Shannon Estuary.
The sailing ship anchored just off the Men’s Strand in Ballybunion and a lone female was ferried to
the golden strand.
Fionn in the meantime had rushed from the hill to the strand where he confronted this beautiful
Niamh related to Fionn that she was a Grecian princess and that she had been betrothed by her
father the King to a warrior called Tailc Mac Treoin. (Tailc was, according to the annals, a notorious
warrior, but at some period had been put under an enchantment bearing the head and tail of a cat).
Niamh had no wish to marry him and had took flight from Greece to Ireland. Hearing her story
Fionn vowed to protect her down to the last warrior of the Fianna.
Weeks later, the Shannon Estuary was shadowed by the sight of Tailc’s war ships who were in
pursuit of the princess.
As the massive Grecian army of Tailc Mac Treoin disembarked on the Men’s Strand Ballybunion, a
dark shadow was cast on the strand of a man with a cats head and tail.
Tailc had arrived in search for his princess.
Quickly using his cat features he burrowed into the side of the high cliffs where Ballybunion Castle
is today, creating a cave network which ran from Ballybunion to the hill several kilometres away.
Several days later, Tailc Mac Treoin emerged at the summit of Knockanore with his mighty army.
The Battle of Knockanore
Immediately the Fianna gave battle to the invaders and the sounds of clashing swords and war cries
could be heard on the still Shannon waters.
Tailc Mhic Treoin gave no mercy and slaughtered 1,000 of the Fianna army leaving the mothers of
the dead appealing to Fionn to finish the fight.
The Fianna had to retreat to a well for water called Tobar Fell or Tobar na Fola (Well of the Blood)
and regrouped. This time they were led by Fionn’s grandson, Oscar who took on Tailc with a sword and the battle lasted weeks, until finally Oscar caught Mac Treoin off his guard and lunged at him
fiercely with his sword killing the beast.
As Tailc Mhic Tróin’s life slowly ebbed away he changed back into his own body, observing this
and his attributes Niamh got so upset she dropped dead.
Following this, Tailc’s brother Margach arrived with a massive army to seek revenge and thus a
second battle ensued, in which thousands more warriors were killed on the summit, until the crying
pleas of the mothers of the dying warriors called for a halt to the carnage.
Tradition relates that a Cairn existed at the top of Knockanore attributed to the battle but due to the
passage of time is now gone.
In Ballybunion the holes on the side of the cliffs are still there and one is called The Cats Hole
named after Tailc Mhic Troin.
The hill to this day bears the historic name Knockanore.