By Brendan G. O’Sullivan
DISTRICT DIRECTOR: BRENDAN O’SULLIVAN / EDITOR: RORY D’ARCY
Looking at the town of Kenmare today, we see a planned town with brightly painted buildings replete with quality restaurants, cafes and interesting shops. It is a popular tourist destination, providing a haven of rest and relaxation for visitor and local alike.
According to one legend, such peace and tranquillity was not always present. Neidín, which is the old Gaelic name for Kenmare, is said to be derived from “Nead Éin”, meaning Éin’s nest or lair. Éin was a fearsome giant who roamed the area, tormenting the natives, feasting on their livestock and stealing their crops. He spent his days sleeping in his nead (nest), close to the present day town of Kenmare, hence we are told, the area became known as “Nead Éin” or Neidín.
At night, Éin scavenged the countryside and terrorised natives were forced to take refuge in the mountains. They petitioned the king of the day, Cormac Mac Airt, to help to rid them of Éin. Cormac sent none other than Fionn Mac Cumhall, the leader of the Fianna, to deal with the problem. Fionn soon arrived, on a magnificent white steed, determined to get rid of Éin.
Éin was not impressed. In an attempt to intimidate Fionn, and to show his strength and power, he hurled huge rocks at him across the Roughty Valley. Fionn responded in kind, showing that he was a match for Éin in physical prowess. Some of these missiles, Carraig a Chaipin and Cloch a Mhara in particular, are still pointed out in the area. If their size is anything to judge by, those who threw them must have been very powerful individuals indeed!
Ultimately, a gruesome battle ensued lasting several days. So fierce was the fighting according to legend, “that they made the hard ground soft and the soft ground hard!” Finally, Fionn slew Éin and peace reigned over the area once more. The grateful natives were so relieved that they built a special stone cradle for Fionn, which may still be seen near the town!
Fionn appears to have been very impressed with the area and the welcome he received. By all accounts he returned frequently with the Fianna in tow. There are various sites in the greater Kenmare area associated with Fionn and the Fianna that lend credence to this theory! Lough Brin, where one of Fionn’s dogs got drowned, being one such example. Indeed, Fionn may have well have started the tourist trend that persists to this day!