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Tullaghoge Fort.
County Tyrone

Tullaghoge Fort.
 

Telach Oc
Hill of the young

The name Tullaghoge is taken from the Irish and means hill of the youths, it is situated on a small hill in the townland of Ballymully, 2½ miles (4 km) south-east of Cookstown, near the B162 Cookstown to Stewartstown road, the site is signposted, there is a small car park near the road with a concrete lane leading to the fort. Tullaghoge was the traditional inauguration site of the 'Cenél nEógain' O'Neill's rulers of much of Ulster up until April of 1603 when Hugh O'Neill submitted to Lord Mountjoy Elizabeth I's deputy in Ireland.

It is thought that Tullaghoge Fort was an important site from the earliest times, when the earth works was constructed is not known some are of the opinion that it may have been a centre of Druidic influence before the introduction of Christianity in the fifth century. Many stories are to be found in books covering the pre Christian era relating to initiation ceremonies of the early Celts, graphically describing describing sexual acts between the initiate and animals usually a mare, it seems highly likely that these stories are propaganda issued by successive cultures. In the descriptions that details some of the rituals that surrounded sovereignty are written down by the ardent anti Celtic, cleric Gerald of Wales, he describes a ritual at Kenelcunill in Ulster that involved a the sacrifice of a white mare, he details the public sexual union between the horse and the king; the horse was then butchered and soup was then made out it in which he then bathed before drinking the liquid. Spin as we know it today was not invented by the politicians of our time, it has been alive and flourishing in Ireland for a considerable time.

The site was under the stewardship of the O'Hagan's who lived at the fort, they together with the O'Cahans preformed the inauguration ceremony, The "making of an O’Nell," This consisted of the initiate sitting on the 'Leac na Ri' Stone of the Kings, after the Primate’s Mass, the new chief took a vow to rule by Brehon Law and to hand over leadership if he became unable to rule as a result of age or infirmity. A golden shoe or sandal was thrown over the new O'Neill's head by the leader of the O'Cahan's who were the O'Neill's principal sub clan, this signified good luck and that the new O'Neill would follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. the shoe was then placed on the foot of the O'Neill, by the O'Hagan at which time the bell of St patrick was rang.

The Elizabethan Plantation of Ireland brought to an end a centuries old tribal tradition at Tullaghoge Fort, in 1602 Lord Mountjoy attacked the area around Tullaghoge Fort, destroying crops, buildings and carrying off livestock, any of the local population who were caught would most likely have been killed, as was the case in eastern Ulster with Sir Arthur Chichester. Mountjoy destroyed the 'Leac na Ri' signifying that the rule of the O'Neill's had come to an end. It is said the last inaugurated to take place at Tullaghoge was that of Hugh O'Neill in 1595, claims were made that Sir Phelim O'Neill was the last in 1641 but this was later rejected. In 1602 when Mountjoy and his army were advancing against O'Neill they smashed the 'Leac na Ri', today no trace of it remains.

Coronation Stones play a prominent part in the history of the British Isles, The Stone of Destiny, often referred to as the Stone of Scone, is said to have been taken to Scotland from Ireland in the sixth century by the Dal Riada tribe, it is reputed to have been blessed by St Patrick. It now forms part of the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey, London taken there by Edward Ist in 1296 after his conquest of Scotland. The stone was fitted into a wooden chair, all subsequent English monarchs with the exception of Mary II have been crowned in this chair.

There is a school of thought that contends that the Stone of Scone is an imposter, and that the real stone was hidden by the monks from Scone Palace, either in the River Tay or buried on Dunsinane Hill, if this is the case the monks must have hidden the stone well as no trace of it has ever been recorded.

Today all that remains of Tullaghoge Fort is a grassy mound on which grow a profusion of native hardwood trees, visiting the site it is easy to understand why it was chosen, magnificent views are to be had, to the north-east Slemmish Mountain in County Antrim is clearly visible as is Divis Mountain near Belfast.to the east.

Tourist Information
The Burnavon
Burn Road
Cookstown
Co Tyrone
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About 500 meters along the road towards Stewartstown on the opposite side to the fort is a circular graveyard known as Donaghrish, this was the burial place of the the O’Hagan's, on the way to the graveyard is The Friars Well enclosed by some interesting old ironwork, we have been unable to discover anything about this well, we would be grateful for any information.