The Hill of Faughart doesn’t look like much. This 113 meter-high hill appears as just another green lump in the rolling foothills of the Ring of Gullion, just two kilometres south of the Irish border. But this is a place that I often associate with the concept of ‘home’ when I think about my position as an outsider living in Ireland. It provides me – as someone particularly interested in the history of a place – instant access to this country and its tragedies.
Not because it is an extravagantly beautiful part of the landscape or home to a particularly important building from Irish history, but because in its mundanity, as a place that is passed by, it is hard for me to imagine a better example for a cross-section of the martial history and violent folklore of Ireland than Faughart Hill.
The main route to the north of the country was always through the Gap of the North, and much of the land either side of the pass was either bog or wood. Faughart Hill commanded and still commands the entry to the Gap. According to the An Táin Bó Cuailgne epic, the hero Cuchulainn slew 14 men here in the first century AD. It is also the birthplace of St. Brigid of Kildare, Ireland’s most veneered saint after St. Paddy. It was on Faughart that Edward the Bruce, brother of Robert, and the last pretender to the Irish kingship, was buried after having been killed at the battle of Faughart in 1318. Before he came to rest on the hill, his body had been hung, drawn and quartered and sent to the four corners of Ireland as a warning to all potential usurpers. More than 650 years later, in May 1999, the graveyard at Faughart was chosen by the IRA as the place to give up the first body of the so-called ‘Disappeared. ’ A new coffin containing the remains of Eamon Molloy, an alleged informer from Belfast who had been shot dead 24 years earlier, was left underneath a holy laurel tree, adorned with religious charms, beside St Brigid’s Well.