BALLINA Megalithic Tomb (Dolmen of the Four Maols)
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This megalithic tomb, known as the Dolmen of the Four Maols, is marked as
'Cromlech' & 'Cloghogle' on all editions of the OS maps, and is located on a low
hillock, surrounded by concrete fencing, on the east-side of an old road called Cockle
Street, beside the offices of the Road Safety Authority, overlooking the River Moy (*An
Mhuaidh meaning 'the river of victory or virtues') to the east and 0.5km south-west of
the town of Ballina (*Béal an Átha meaning 'the approach to the ford'). The tomb,
sited on a level round platform and with a rough N - S orientation, consists of a
probable chamber, with a large polygonal roof-stone that measures 2m in length, 2m in
width and 0.60m in depth and is supported by three large slabs. The west slab/side-
stone is 0.75m in height, the east slab/side-stone is 0.90m in height and the north
slab/back-stone, which leans inwards, is 1.10m in height. The roof-stone rests on the
east & west stones and at one point on the north stone. Another similar slab, 0.80m in
depth, lies 3m to the south. According to Col. Wood-Martin, this boulder 'never had any
connection to the tomb and had been blasted by gunpowder' (Wood-Martin, p.235).
William Borlase mentions this tomb site as being 'at Pipers' Hill, marked Cromlech
{Clochogle) on Ord. Surv. Map No. 30. The roofing stone is nearly hexagonal in form,
and is supported by three stones. One of the supports having slightly given way, it is
nearly horizontal in position. It measures 9 feet long by 7 feet broad' (Borlase, p.117-
118). In John O’Donovan's Ordnance Survey Parish Namebooks (O.S. letters) of 1814,
he describes the tomb as being a ‘Cromlech of a different character from any that I
have yet seen. It is supported by three standing stones and fixed nearly as
horizontantally as a sundial. It is now called 'the table of the giants' by the natives
when they speak in English but 'Cloch-a-togbhala' in their own language' (OSL, p.73).
O’Donovan also gives an account of the ancient folklore attached to this tomb. He
wrote that 'it is considered of much interest from an incident in early Irish history. It
relates to the murder of Bishop Celleach, of Kilmore-Moy, son of Eoghan Bel, King of
Connaught, and great-grandson of Dathi. Eoghan Bel, was killed in battle at Sligo in
537, and in dying commanded the Hy Fiachrach to elect Celleach in his stead. Through
the hatred of King Guaire, Celleach was murdered by the four Maols, (his foster-
brothers or Maol may be interpreted 'servant of pupils'). The brother of the bishop
captured the assassins, and carried them to the banks of the Moy, where they were
executed upon a hill hence known as Ardnaree, or the 'Hill of Executions'. The bodies
were carried across the river, and buried on a hill on the right bank' (OSL, p.78).
Samuel Fergusson gives another account of the legend associated with this tomb. He
wrote that 'vague as all this may probably appear, there is one dolmen in Ireland which
seems to have a date. The great grandson of Dathi, whose red pillar-stone at Rath
Croghan, was erected A.D. 428, was named Ceallach. He was murdered by his four
foster-brothers through envy about the sovereignty. They were hanged for their crime at
a spot known as Ard-na-Eiagh, near Ballina, and were buried on a hill on the opposite
side of the river, where a dolmen still stands, and is pointed out as the grave of the four
Maols, the murderers' (Fergusson, p.233).

Borlase, W., 'The Dolmens of Ireland' (Vol. I, 1897)
Fergusson, S., 'Rude Stone Monuments' (1872)
O.S. Letters, Mayo, Vol.1 (1814)
Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland Vol. II
Wood-Martin, William, G., 'The Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland' JRHAAI (1888)
* Placenames Database of Ireland 2017