An area of regal importance for Ulster before the sixteenth century
Tullyhogue Fort is situated between Stewartstown and Cookstown in County Tyrone. It is a site of huge historical and cultural significance, and attracts hundreds of visitors from throughout Ireland and overseas each year. It is presently maintained by Cookstown District Council.
Tullyhogue Fort was an area of regal importance in Ulster before the 16th century because it was here that the Kings of Ulster were inaugurated as ‘O’Neills’. The fort was the O’Neills ceremonial site. The inauguration took place on a large stone chair, which stood on a hillside nearby, but this was destroyed in 1602 by Lord Deputy Mountjoy, in accordance with the Elizabethan policy of destroying all Irish symbols of clan allegiance.
Following the reformation of the English Church, Elizabeth I sent Mountjoy against O’Neill (Ui Néill) to Tullyhogue; the last Gaelic chief of Ireland to hold out against the English crown. Mountjoy went and smashed the inauguration stone of the O’Neills. This marked the end of sacral kingship in Ireland and the end of the O’Neills, with Hugh O’Neill’s inauguration in 1595 being the last to take place at Tullyhogue Fort.
The Flight of the Earls abroad from Tyrone took place in 1607, and included the O’Neill clan who fled to Spain. The Reformation of the English Church led to the plantation of Ulster, and Tullyhogue Fort was not afforded the same prominence as under the O’Neills. Within a radius of approximately two miles the local inhabitants were converted to Anglicanism and the Fort became the property of the Church of Ireland.
During the Twentieth Century when Cookstown District Council initiated a tourism plan for visitors, Tullyhogue Fort became part of its marketing agenda due to its rich history. The area has been re-developed and signs directing visitors towards the site have been installed in Cookstown district.
It remains a popular tourist destination during the summer months, and in 1998 a Spanish descendant of Hugh O’Neill decided to begin an annual event taking place in August each year. Don Carlos O’Neill and his family commemorate the inauguration ceremony of the O’Neills on the exact spot were his predecessors were crowned the high kings of Ulster in centuries gone by. It is a highly symbolic act in an area that is steeped in royal history. Indeed, one of the most recent housing developments in the adjoining Tullyhogue village has been named ‘King’s Park’.
By Cathal Coyle 2005