Cnoc Meadha is a hill west of Tuam, Co Galway.
It is said in legend to be the residence of Finnbheara, the king of the Connacht fairies. Of two large cairns on the hill, one was thought to be the burial-place of Finnbheara and the other of (the other) Queen Medb, whose name may be transformed in the name Cnoc Meadha. Knockma Hill is topped with prehistoric cairns.
G. H. Kinahan wrote of the place:
The soft breezes that pass one in an evening in West Galway are called fairy paths. They are said to be due to the flight of a band of the good people on their way to Cnockmaa, near Castle Hackett, on the east of Lough Corrib, which is their great resort in Connacht. A soft hot blast indicates the presence of a good fairy; while a sudden shiver shows that a bad one is near.
In Evans-Wentz’s classic The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, his informant Mr John Glynn, the town clerk of Tuam, mentions that:
The whole of Cnoc Meadha, is said to be the palace of Finnbheara, king of the Connacht fairies. There are a good many legends about Finnbheara, but very few about Queen Medb in this region.”
During 1846-7 the potato crop in Ireland was a failure, and very much suffering resulted. At the times, the country people in these parts attributed the Great Hunger to disturbed conditions in the fairy world. Old Thady Steed once said the conditions then prevailing, “Sure, we couldn’t be any other way; and I saw the good people and hundreds besides me saw them fighting in the sky over Knock Ma and on towards Galway.” And I heard others say they saw the fighting also.’
It was believed that the fairies inhabited the ‘Otherworld’. This ‘Otherworld’ connected with Ireland at various points, such as caves, cracks in the earth and other passageways, like springs. At its summit, the hill has many Burren-like cracks in its limestone scalp.
“The Tuath Dé Danann went into the hills, the region of the Sídhe, then, and they submitted to the Sídhe underground.”
Photo: Fairy Fortress Knockma Woods, Co Galway by Corey Taratuta