the Coronation Stone of the MacMahon Kings
A view of Lough Leck from the hill of Leck (Mullach Leachta) or the 'Hill of the Stone'. Note the island in the middle of the lake. This is the remains of the original MacMahon crannog, or lake fort. The MacMahon Clan first rose to power in this location.
As the story goes, the family had humble beginnings. They were cousins to the powerful O'Carroll family that had held the title King of Oriel for may years. It is said that they used their relationship with the O'Carrolls to establish themselves in Monaghan town and that they then used the Normans to cripple the O'Carrolls and the Ui Baigeallain. During their reign the family had to withstand considerable pressure from other family groups. Under the reign of the first King, Eochaidh Mac Mahon, Oriel was considerably smaller than its original size. But it was to grow substantially during the Mac Mahon reign.
Perhaps one of Eochaidh's most significant accomplishments was to establish the MacMahons as important people. The King of England had written to them in 1244 asking for help against Scotland. And Eochaidh himself was strong enough to resist Aodh O'Neill's claim to the overlordship of Airghialla in 1264. By 1300 nearly all of Monaghan (County) was under MacMahon control. (Livingstone, p 47 - 49)
It was on the hill of Leck, (Mullach Leachta) three miles southwest of Monaghan town, in Kilmore parish, overlooking their fortifications in the Lough below, that the MacMahons arose and where they crowned the Kings of Oriel. The ceremony is described as follows:
According to traditional accounting of the event, the ceremony always took place on a Tuesday. Mass was said. The chief-elect was then admonished by his pastor concerning the duties and ethics of office. A procession was formed, led by a priest. Then came the chief-elect, kinsmen, and clergy. Midway along the route three sturdy youths, representing the Three Collas, maintained a mock combat. When they reached the summit of the hill, the chief-elect took his seat on the stone and swore on the Domhnach Airgid. A golden rod, forged in the smithy at Clones monastery, was placed in his hand.
The new chieftain then stood on the stone and looked in three directions, representing the Blessed Trinity. He walked off in the fourth direction. He took off his cloak and his sword and the Abbot anointed him. Then one of his men cut his arm. He lay down and his blood mixed with the earth. Next he sat down on the stone and sent four black doves off to the four winds. At this bagpipes began to play and the procession formed again and set off for the church. Midway to the church, young girls approached and sprinkled earth and salt and wheat. (Livingstone)
The Mac Mahon Stone
The stone measured six feet five inches
long, by four feet four inches broad.
On the stone was the impression of a
foot, said to be the foot of one of the first
MacMahon Kings. The stone no longer
exists on the hill of Leck. First, the
impression of the foot was destroyed
in about 1809. Then about 1856 the
entire stone was broken up and used in the construction of a stable. (source: Shirley
The History of Monaghan County, p. 71)
Next Chapter: The Fall of the MacMahons
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