Tullyhogue Fort

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Detail of a copy of Richard Bartlett's 1602 map of Ulster that included this depiction of an O'Neill inauguration on Tullyhogue. A figure on the right, an O'Cahan, can be seen holding a shoe over the chief's head as part of the "single shoe" ritual

Tullyhogue Fort, also spelt Tullaghoge[1] or Tullahoge[2][3] (from Middle Irish Tulach Óc[4] meaning "hill of youth" or "mound of the young warriors"),[5] is large mound on the outskirts of Tullyhogue village near Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It has a depressed centre and is surrounded by trees. It is an ancient ceremonial site where the Chiefs of the Clan O'Neill of Tyrone were inaugurated.[6]

It is a State Care Historic Monument sited in the townland of Ballymully Glebe, in the Cookstown District Council area, at grid reference: H8250 7430.[7] The inauguration site is a Scheduled Historic Monument at grid ref: H8251 7428.[8]


The date of the construction of Tullyhogue fort is not known; however, it is believed to have held great significance from early times, possessing a form of ritual importance long before the O'Neills became associated with the site.[9]

Tullyhogue ráth was originally associated with the Uí Tuirtri of Airgialla who were displaced by branches of the Cenél nEógain. The first to enter the area in the tenth-century were the Cenél mBinnig who are described in their genealogies in the twelfth-century manuscript Rawlinson B 502 as of 'Tilcha Oc'. Over time they moved north into Glenconkeyne and Loughinsholin and were replaced by the Cenél Feargusa who included the O'Hagans, supporters of the O'Neill dynasty interest. Before 1056 they took possession of the site as 'reachtaire' (steward or controller of the royal household) which they continued to occupy down to the 17th century.[6]At this time the Cenél nEógain had been largely bereft of effective leadership candidates and the branches in the Tulach Óc district made the unusual political decision to import an alien dynasty; Conchobar and his brother Cennétig, grandsons of Donnchadh mac Briain, bitter rivals to the main branch of the royal Munster O'Brien dynasty. They became successive 'Kings of Telach Óc' for a short period before 1084 with the support of the Meic Lochlainn who were happy to deprive potential internal rivals of a secure base of operation.[10] The Ua Briain branch was unable to establish itself permanently but the disruption allowed Domnall Ua Lochlainn, son-in-law to Cennétig, to became King of Ailech in 1083 and the threat of Ó Néill rivals disappeared for a number of generations. The O'Hagans continued to dwell at the site and became its hereditary guardians, with their burial place at Donaghrisk situated at the bottom of the hill.[9] In the later medieval period it became the inauguration site of the O'Neill dynasty, where the title An Ó Néill ('The O'Neill') was bestowed upon each new lord.[6][9] The inauguration was carried out by the heads of the O'Cahan and O'Hagan.[6] O'Cahan, the O'Neill's principal sub-chief, would throw a golden sandal over the new lord's head to signify good fortune. O'Hagan, being the hereditary guardian of Tullyhogue, would place the shoe on the O'Neill's foot and present him with a rod of office.[6][9]

The 2nd Earl of Tyrone's inauguration in 1595[1] was the last such event for an O'Neill to take place at Tullyhogue.[9] The last inauguration that is claimed to have taken place at Tullyhogue was that of Sir Phelim O'Neill in 1641; however, it was later rejected.[9]

Leac na Rí[edit]

The inauguration stone was a large boulder known as the Leac na , which meant 'the flagstone of the kings'.[6] It stood outside Tullyhogue fort, where by the 16th century it had become incorporated into a ceremonial stone chair where three large slabs had been placed around it.[6][9]

In 1602 during the Nine Years War, Lord Mountjoy, in charge of the English forces at war with Lord Tyrone, smashed the inauguration stone to symbolically end the O'Neill's sovereignty.[6][9]

The Leac na Rí is stated as being the Ulster counterpart to the Stone of Destiny, which is now kept at Edinburgh Castle and is used as part of the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey during the Coronation of the British monarch.[9] The Leac na Rí is also stated as reputedly having been blessed by St. Patrick.[9]


The initial impression of Tullyhogue fort is that it resembled an early Christian bivallate rath which was an enclosed homestead surrounded by two banks and ditches.[9] Tullyhogue matches this description in that it has an enclosure 105 ft in diameter that is encircled by two banks. Entry to it was by a causeway in the inner bank.[9] What makes it clear that it was not an enclosed homestead is that the two ditches were built wide apart with a flat area in between, with no outer defensive ditch.[9] The layout of the fort itself shows that it was not built or designed as a defensive structure, but as an area of ceremonial importance.[9]


Cookstown District Council have initiated a tourism plan for visitors and Tullyhogue Fort has become part of its marketing agenda due to its history. During the summer it is a popular tourist destination. In 1998, Don Carlos O'Neill, a Spanish descendant of Hugh O'Neill, started an annual event that takes place in August each year whereby he and his family commemorate the inauguration ceremony of the O'Neills on the spot were his predecessors were crowned.[11]

In February 2007 Cookstown District Council confirmed that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) had agreed to sell the land required to develop Tullyhogue Fort to Council for £90,000.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ One source dates this event to 1595.
  2. ^ Dates ranging from 1602–1607 are given by different sources, 1603 is the most commonly cited.


  1. ^ Discover Northern Ireland: Tullaghoge Fort
  2. ^ Cookstown District Council minutes (8 April 2008) Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ The Development of the Irish Language: Part 5, Culture Northern Ireland
  4. ^ Byrne, F.J. (2001) [1973]. Irish Kings and High-Kings (2nd ed.). Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 27. ISBN 9781851821969.
  5. ^ "Tullyhogue Fort". Triskelle. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Connolly, S. J., Oxford Companion to Irish History, page 584-5. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  7. ^ "Ballymully Glebe" (PDF). Environment and Heritage Service – State Care Historic Monuments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  8. ^ "Ballymully Glebe" (PDF). Environment and Heritage Service – Scheduled Historic Monuments. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Tullaghoge Fort". The Chrono Centre – Queens University Belfast. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
  10. ^ Hogan, James, 'The Ua Briain kingship of Telach Oc' in John Ryan (ed), Feilsgribhinn Eoin Mhic Neill, pages 406-44, At the Sign of the Three Candle, 1940.
  11. ^ "Tullyhogue Fort". Culture Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  12. ^ "Tullyhogue Fort" (PDF). Cookstown District Council – Minutes of 13 February 2007 Meeting. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2007.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 54°36′36″N 6°43′23″W / 54.61000°N 6.72306°W / 54.61000; -6.72306