It’s been a hectic few days, after taking the week of work for some badly needed R&R I think I will be going back to work on Monday for a rest. I spent the last few days with the family, were we made the most of our time, and treated it like a proper holiday, but more about that later. I just noticed I had not posted this week aside from my regular schedule. So to end the week here is a nice little ruin with a cool history. Teampall na Bó or ‘The Church of the Cows’, is a small medieval church located a short distance north from the Monastic Settlement at St. Mullins in Co. Carlow.
I cant find a date for its construction, but the small church was believed to have been built to commemorate St. Moling whom freed the people of Leinster from the Borumean Tribute. We all know how complicated Irish history can be so please bear with me as I try to explain this fascinating story. The source of our story of the Borumean Tribute comes from the ‘Lebor na Nuachongbála’ which was written partially in Oughavel, and is now more commonly known these days as the ‘Book of Leinster’ or ‘Lebor Laignech’ in Gaelic. It is a medieval Irish manuscript compiled around 1160AD and is now kept in Trinity College, Dublin. Reading it is quite hard and tedious work, as it was written in old Irish so the English translations are difficult at best.
It all started with the Ard Rí or High King known as Tuathal Techtmar, whom had taken control of all Ireland by force. To cut a long story short Tuathal had two daughters, Fithir and Dáirine. Eochaid the king of Leinster took the younger daughter Fithir whom was fostered to the King of Connacht, as a wife and brought her back to Leinster and his home at Ráth Imil. When he arrived home his advisors told him that he had chosen the lesser of the two daughters and so Eochaid went back to Tara and told Tuathal that the girl had died. He was then given Dáirine whom had been fostered to the King of Ulster, and he took her back to Ráth Imil. As the story goes when Fithir saw Dáirine, she died of shame. Then likewise Dáirine died of grief after witnessing her sister’s death. As you could imagine, the news of Eochaid’s treachery quickly spread back to Tara and Tuathal, whom immediately sought vengeance for the deaths of his beloved daughters. Eochaid’s greed and deceit backfired on him. The armies of Ulster, Connacht and Muster joined forces with the armies of Tuathal and they waged a bloody campaign against Eochaid and the armies of Leinster which resulted in Eochaid’s death. As punishment under Brehon Law a blood price still had to be paid for the lives of Fithir and Dáirine. This was the Bórama, or Borumean Tribute which consisted of an annual payment of 5,000 cows, 5,000 sheep, 5,000 hogs, 5,000 cloaks, 5,000 bronze vessels, and 5,000 ounces of silver.
This was paid annually by the kingdom or people of Leinster, and here is where the details become unclear. The Book of Leinster mentions some battles and lifting of the tribute, including the involvement of Fionn McCumhaill and the Fianna. However, although not mentioned, this seems to tie in to the battle of Gabhra at which the Fianna were destroyed by the armies of the rest of Ireland and timelines don’t fit, although the events may do so. Back to our story after about five centuries of this tribute which was seen as oppressive by the people of Leinster. St. Molling was credited which having the tribute abolished for good. Teampall na Bó which I would say was not built until much later, commemorates this important time.
What remains of this little church is not much. the structure itself is about 8.5 meters in length and5 meters wide. The remaining walls are no more than a meter in height all built from drystone masonary. To the east end of the church there is still a small stone alter. Although the site is scarce and hidden away amongst the trees, I found it to be very peacefull and calm. It is believed that unbaptised children were buried here, although there is little sign of any grave markings in the area. Mass is said here each year for these little children whom have passed away, on the feast day of St. Moling 17th June.