|Newsletter Autumn 2008||page 3 of 5|
For those who like a walk in the countryside, why not tackle Sliabh na mBan (Slievenaman), mountain of the Women. I climbed it recently with my 9-year-old son, and we had a very enjoyable afternoon. For the brisk walkers, a trip to the summit and back down will take no more than two hours, and for those who prefer to move at a more leisurely pace, an extra hour or two can be allowed. Sliabh na mBan is the highest mountain in South Tipperary, and the 95th highest in Ireland.
According to oral tradition, Sliabh na mBan is named after the women who raced each other up the slopes for the hand of marriage of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. According to the Druids of Ireland, Fionn needed a wife. His philandering was the cause of national scandal and bloodshed. To avoid favouritism the druids decided that the winner of a race of eligible females to the top of Slievenamon would become his bride. His fancy was the beautiful Gráinne (paradoxically meaning "the ugly one") daughter of the High King, Cormac Mac Airt. Through sorcery he ensured that his favourite would win. However, Fionn was jilted when Gráinne at their wedding feast ran off with his friend, the womanising warrior, Diarmaid Uí Duibhne.
A darker story, dating from the eight century, tells of the engagement of Sabia to Fionn at the Sidhe ar Feimhin (this being a fairy palace at the peak of the mountain, where the cairn of rocks now lies) which was also the home of her father Bodhbh Dearg, king of the Munster Tuatha de Danann (a mythological race of Irish people, once regarded as gods). She and her handmaidens were ravished and slaughtered by Fionn's rivals, the Clanna Morna. It is suggested that, in their memory, the mountain was subsequently called Sliabh na mBan Feimhin.
The cairn of rocks at the summit of Sliabh na mBan, as mentioned previously, was believed to hide a door to the fairy World. Here it is said Fionn bruised his thumb trying to gain entry and thereafter each time he sucked it he acquired the gift of wisdom. In the 1980’s and 1990’s a race to this cairn at the summit and back was organized for August each year. The quickest runners took only 40 minutes to summit and return from the 2368 ft. peak, which seems incredibly quick.
To access Sliabh na mBan, travel to Kilcash village. From there, follow the signposts.