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Slievenamon 2006-07-01.jpg
Slievenamon viewed from the northeast
Highest point
Elevation721 m (2,365 ft)[1]
Prominence711 m (2,333 ft)[1]
ListingP600, Marilyn, Hewitt
Coordinates52°25′48″N 7°33′47″W / 52.430°N 7.563°W / 52.430; -7.563Coordinates: 52°25′48″N 7°33′47″W / 52.430°N 7.563°W / 52.430; -7.563
Native nameSliabh na mBan  (Irish)
English translation"mountain of the women"
PronunciationIrish: [ˈʃlʲiəw n̪ˠə ˈmˠanˠ]
Slievenamon is located in island of Ireland
Location in Ireland
LocationCounty Tipperary, Ireland
OSI/OSNI gridS297307
Topo mapOSi Discovery 67

Slievenamon or Slievenaman (Irish: Sliabh na mBan [ˈʃlʲiəw n̪ˠə ˈmˠanˠ], "mountain of the women")[1] is a mountain with a height of 721 metres (2,365 ft) in County Tipperary, Ireland. It rises from a plain that includes the towns of Fethard, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. The mountain is steeped in folklore and is associated with Fionn mac Cumhaill. On its summit are the remains of ancient burial cairns, which were seen as portals to the Otherworld. Much of its lower slopes are wooded, and formerly most of the mountain was covered in woodland.[2] A low hill attached to Slievenamon, Carrigmaclear, was the site of a battle during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.


There are at least four prehistoric monuments on Slievenamon. On the summit is an ancient burial cairn, with a natural rocky outcrop on its east side forming the appearance of a doorway. The remains of a cursus or ceremonial avenue leads up to the cairn from the east. On the mountain's northeastern shoulder, Sheegouna, is another burial cairn and a ruined megalithic tomb.[3]


Slievenamon summit cairn

The origin of the mountain's name is explained in Irish mythology. According to the tale, the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was sought after by many young women. Fionn stood atop the mountain and declared that whichever woman won a footrace to the top would be his wife. Since Fionn and Gráinne were in love, he had shown her a short-cut and she duly won the race.[1][4] The mountain was also known by the longer name Sliabh na mBan bhFionn, "mountain of the fair women". Another local explanation of the name is that from a distance and the right angle, the hill resembles a woman lying on her back.

The plain from which the mountain rises was known in Old Irish as Mag Femin (modern Irish Magh Feimhin, or Má Feimhin) or the Plain of Femen.[1] The burial cairns on the mountain are called Síd ar Femin (Sí ar Feimhin, the "fairy mound over Femen") and Sí Ghamhnaí ("fairy mound of the calves"). They were seen as the abodes of gods and entrances to the Otherworld.[2] Irish folklore holds that it is bad luck to damage or disrespect such tombs and that deliberately doing so could bring a curse.[5][6]

In Irish mythology, one of the burial cairns is said to be the abode of the god Bodhbh Dearg, son of the Dagda.[7] Fionn marries Sadhbh, Bodhbh's daughter, on Slievenamon, and their son is the famous Oisín.

In one tale, Fionn and his men are cooking a pig on the banks of the River Suir when an Otherworld being called Cúldubh comes out of the cairn on Slievenamon and snatches it. Fionn chases Cúldubh and kills him with a spear throw as he re-enters the cairn. An Otherworld woman inside tries to shut the door, but Fionn's thumb is caught between the door and the post, and he puts it in his mouth to ease the pain. As his thumb had been inside the Otherworld, Fionn is bestowed with great wisdom. This tale may refer to gaining knowledge from the ancestors, and is similar to the tale of the Salmon of Knowledge.[8]

In Acallam na Senórach (Dialogue of the Elders), Fionn, Caílte and other members of the fianna chase a fawn to Slievenamon. They come upon a great illuminated hall or brugh, and inside they are welcomed by warriors and maidens of the Otherworld. Their host, Donn son of Midir, reveals that the fawn was one of the maidens, sent to draw them to Slievenamon. The fianna agree to help Donn in a battle against another group of the Tuatha Dé Danann. After a lengthy battle, Fionn compels their foes to make peace, and they return to this world.[9]

Cultural references[]

The song Slievenamon, written in the mid 19th century by revolutionary and poet Charles Kickham, is a well-known patriotic and romantic song about an exile who longs to see "our flag unrolled and my true love to unfold / in the valley near Slievenamon". It is regarded as the unofficial "county anthem" of County Tipperary, regularly sung by crowds at sporting events.[10]

The mountain appears in the fairytale The Horned Woman as found in Celtic Fairy Tales (1892, by Joseph Jacobs) (used by Jacobs with permission by Lady Wilde from her "Ancient Legends of Ireland" (1887)), where it is the abode of a witches' coven. It is also mentioned in the books The Hidden Side of Things (1913) and The Lives of Alcyone (1924, with Annie Besant) written by the theosophist clairvoyant Charles Webster Leadbeater.[citation needed]. The mountain is referred to as Slieve-na-Mon in a fairy tale called "The Giant and the Birds" from "The Boy Who Knew What The Birds Said" by Padraic Colum (1918). In it, Big Man chases a deer into a cave and falls asleep for 200 years to awaken in a time when he is a giant among men.

Upon creation of the Irish Free State, the name Slievenamon was unofficially given to one of the 13 armoured Rolls Royce motor cars which were handed over to the new Free State army by the outgoing administration. Slievenamon was escorting the army's commander-in-chief, Michael Collins, when he was ambushed and killed near Béal na Bláth.[11] The car, since renamed to the Irish Sliabh na mBan, has been preserved by the Irish Defence Forces.[citation needed]


See also[]

  • Lists of mountains in Ireland
  • List of mountains of the British Isles by height
  • List of P600 mountains in the British Isles
  • List of Marilyns in the British Isles
  • List of Hewitt mountains in England, Wales and Ireland


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Slievenamon at MountainViews
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b Hendroff, Adrian. From High Places: A Journey Through Ireland's Great Mountains. The History Press Ireland, 2010. p.142
  3. ^ Historic Environment Viewer. National Monuments Service.
  4. ^ Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. p.192
  5. ^ Sarah Champion & Gabriel Cooney. "Chapter 13: Naming the Places, Naming the Stones". Archaeology and Folklore. Routledge, 2005. p.193
  6. ^ Doherty, Gillian. The Irish Ordnance Survey: History, Culture and Memory. Four Courts Press, 2004. p.89
  7. ^ Smyth, Daragh. A Guide to Irish Mythology. Irish Academic Press, 1996. p.24
  8. ^ Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of the Irish Folk Tradition. Prentice Hall Press, 1991. p.214
  9. ^ Rolleston, Thomas (1911). Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race. Chapter VI: Tales of the Ossianic Cycle.
  10. ^ "The Story of Slievenamon". Tipperary Star. 3 November 2008.
  11. ^ "Kenny first sitting Taoiseach to address Béal na mBláth". The Irish Times. 7 August 2012.
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