Located on the beautifully named Primrose Hill in Ballina, Co. Mayo, the Dolmen of the Four Maols is known locally as The Dolmen or sometimes Table of the Giants. It might surprise you to find out that this megalithic tomb is not actually a dolmen but a ‘Kist’.
Kists are big structures, usually built above ground and covered by a cairn. They are usually rectangular in plan with vertical sides but one of the side-stone of this kist has been removed and left laying close by. Today archaeologists understand that this monument dates from 2,000 BC.
The four Maols were brothers: Mael Mac Deoraidh, Maelcroin, Maeldalua, and Maelseanaigh. (Maol means ‘brave leader’, or ‘warrior’ in Irish – but also means ‘bald’!). Their foster bother Ceallach was the rightful heir to the kingship of Connacht after his father died while Ceallach was studying at a seminary. But when he returned home his cousin Colman had seized power. Instead of contesting the crown Ceallach returned to his studies in the seminary and later became Bishop of Kilmoremoy.
Later the kingship passed to Guaire son of Colman. Frightened Ceallach would return to claim what was rightfully his, Guaire approached the four brothers with the task of killing Bishop Ceallach with rewards of land and wealth. After successfully killing Ceallach the brothers were later captured by Cu-Coingelt, the bishop’s brother and he took them into custody. They were taken to Ard na raigh/Ardnaree (The Hill of Execution) where they were killed by the practice of quartering. The four brothers were of noble birth, and so tradition required that they receive a proper burial. So legend has it that their bodies were taken and buried at the dolmen.
Location of the Dolmen of the Four Maols
Primrose Hill, Knocklehaugh, Ballina, Co. Mayo. It is located about 400m behind Ballina train station.