The Dolmen Of The Four Maols.
The tragic story of the Four Maols and their murder victim, Ceallach, Bishop of Kilmoremoy is a long and complicated one, and I give only a brief outline of the saga here.
Dolmen of the Four Maols.
The Dolmen of the Four Maols, situated near the railway station at Ballina, is the reputed burial place of four young men who were the foster brothers of Ceallach, Bishop of Kilmoremoy, whom they conspired to kill. Their names were Mael Mac Deoraidh, Maelcroin, Maeldalua, and Maelseanaigh and they were probably clerical students.
Ceallach was the son of Eoghan Bel, King of Connaught, who died of wounds received in a battle in County Sligo c.547 A.D. At the time of his father’s wounding, Ceallach was studying for the priesthood with St. Ciaran at Clonmacnoise. His father, knowing that he was dying, sent for Ceallach to come home and assume the kingship. Ceallach had no interest in becoming king but out of a feeling of duty to his father, he left the seminary and came west to his father’s stronghold on the shores of Lough Mask. When he left, St. Ciaran was angry and said that no good would come of it; how right he was. Ceallach having reached home, discovered that his father was already dead and that his cousin Colman had already seized power. Ceallach returned to Clonmacnoise and to his religious studies and was eventually ordained priest and later still he was consecrated Bishop of Kilmoremoy. By that time, Colman had also died and his son Guaire had taken over the kingship. Guaire was always worried that Ceallach, who was the rightful heir to the throne, would try to claim it back. His worry turned to hatred and it was then that he conspired with the four maols to murder the bishop. He offered them land and riches in return for their treachery. They agreed the terms and the deed was done in a wood near Pontoon where Ceallach’s battered body was found hidden in a hollowed out tree trunk.
Soon afterwards, the bishop’s brother CuCoingelt hearing of the killing went in pursuit of the four murderers. He found them at Doonfeeney, near Ballycastle, where they were enjoying a celebration banquet. CuCoingelt and his followers waited until late that night when the hosts and all the guests were intoxicated. He then entered the fort, arrested the four, and took them to Ardnaree where they were executed by quartering. Because they were of noble birth, the ancient law required that the Maols receive a proper burial. In compliance with the law their bodies were ferried across the river Moy and interred at the Dolmen.
Ceallach’s burial was not so straightforward; in fear of reprisals by Guaire, the monks at Turlough and others, refused him burial in their graveyards and he was eventually buried at Eskeragh near Crossmolina. A large standing stone in the area is pointed out as the spot where he rests.
After dealing with the Four Maols, Cucoingelt turned his attention to Guaire and succeeded in isolating him in the south of the kingdom while he himself became chieftain of Tir Fiachrach and Tir Amhalghaidh in the north. Guaire returned sometime later and murdered CuCoingelt thus ending the race of Eoghan Bel.
Duald Mac Firbis refers to these incidents in the Book of Lecan, written in the early 15th century.
Eskeragh, burial place of Ceallach.
Mayo Historical & Archaeological Society