Irish Mountain
Running Association

Real Deal Art O Neill

Paul O'CallaghanJan 5 2022, 4:37pmThis Thursday, 6th January, will be the 430th anniversary of the 1592 escape of Art and Henry O’Neill, and Red Hugh O’Donnell from Dublin Castle. These are the only people recorded to ever escape Dublin Castle during its 7 centuries as a base of English rule. Henry went his own way immediately, while Art and Hugh headed for the safety of Feagh McHugh O’Byrnes stronghold in Glenmalure, over 60 kilometres away.

At this time Ireland was in the middle of its Little Ice Age, and during the trek across the deep snow covered mountains, Art succumbed to hypothermia, and died close to their destination. Hugh lost a number of toes to frost bite, but went on to be one of the main protagonists in the Nine Years’ War against Tudor rule.

Starting at midnight on the 6th, Paul O’Callaghan and Don Hannon will be attempting a period authentic retracing of the journey from Dublin Castle to Ballinacor in Glenmalure.

We will wear period relevant clothing and footwear, and will not carry anything else with us for the entire journey. We will travel without food, water, navigation aids, lights etc. Literally with only the clothes on our backs. The clothing will be knee high leather boots, wool trousers, linen tunic, wool and leather jacket, wool cloak, wool hood.

We will follow the road route through the city to Ballynultagh. This corresponds to a plausible escape route, following the course of the River Poddle from the back of Dublin Castle, as far as Tallaght. From there the next obstacle would have been the Dodder, which would have hemmed them in as far as Glenasmole. Then on to cross the Shankill River before it joins with the Liffey, and possibly cross the Liffey itself near Athdown and up along the presently named Ballydonnell Brook to Ballynultagh Gap.

Once we reach the Gap, by road, we will then traverse the open mountains to Ballinagee in complete darkness, relying on our feel for, and knowledge of the mountains. We will then take a kind of pilgrimage route to visit Art’s Memorial in Glenreemore, and Art’s Cross on the mountain above. From there we will make our way across the shoulder of Counavalla to Corrig and follow this ridgeline over Lugduff, Mullacor, Braigue and down by Cullentragh to Art’s Headstone at Cloughrawn. The final section will take us from here to their ultimate destination, which was Feagh McHugh O’Byrne’s stronghold in Ballinacor Estate.

As part of our preparations over the last few weeks we have individually solo traversed from Ballynultagh to Ballinagee, and from Ballinagee to Barravore, in darkness and bad weather, without light or compass. The mountain forecast is for patches of snow in winds up to 50kph, giving a windchill as low as -10 degrees in places. However, with our combined experience, and in respect to the tremendous ability and achievement of the original escapee’s we will be unsupported, and carry nothing by way of emergency backup.

With thanks to Rowan at Primal Tracking, we’ll carry trackers and this is the link

We’d also like to thank Barry Dalby of East West Mapping, for sharing his unparalleled knowledge of the Wicklow Mountains and their local history.

Thanks to the managers of Ballinacor Estate for allowing access to the land during a busy time of year for them.

Also, a big thank you to Deborrah Lisson, author of Red Hugh, who graciously trawled through her research notes to give us a better understanding of the entire saga.
Brian KitsonJan 5 2022, 5:05pmAs the annual Challenge itself becomes ever more safety orientated, it’s fantastic to see you guys attempt such an authentic recreation of the original escape.

Good luck in your adventures; let me know if you need soldiers to give chase.
Brendan LawlorJan 5 2022, 5:24pmBest of luck lads.. lets just hope the English soldiers in hot pursuit leave their smartphones back at the Castle!
Stuart ScottJan 5 2022, 5:43pmWow, that's some challenge Paul and Don and best of luck with it! You'll be well able!

That the interests of safety, I hope you'll be carrying a charged phone, torch, map and compass, just in case?! While you're unlikely to need them, you never know and the trackers aren't always reliable. They'd sit nicely into your period codpieces and won't weigh you down at all :-)
Juju JayJan 5 2022, 5:48pmSuper good idea lads. With all that wool on you’ll be nice and warm! Best of luck to you both.
Brendan RyanJan 6 2022, 1:19amWhat an amazing idea and challenge under extreme circumstances. I think the spirit of Art O Neill will be with you every step of the way, I wish you both great success. They say is the all about the journey not the final destination, I hope the weather is favorable for you. Respect for sure. B.R.
Angela FlynnJan 6 2022, 11:02amBest of luck lads- and if you need a tune in your head to distract you - 'follow me up to Carlow' might be appropriate as the 'air' is reputed to have played as a marching tune by the pipers of Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne in 1580, during the Battle of Glenmalure which saw the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers.
Brendan LawlorJan 6 2022, 11:14amAnd verse two of that classic song should hopefully fire you both up when the going gets tough or the chasing soldiers get too close

See the swords at Glen Imaal,
Flashing o'er the English Pale
See all the children of the Gael,
Beneath O'Byrne's banner
Rooster of a fighting stock,
Would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish Rock,
Fly up and teach him manners
Laura FlynnJan 6 2022, 11:31amWhat a challenge and the very best of luck you both. I come from very near Rathmullen, Co. Donegal the location of the Flight of the Earls and we were brought up with history of Red Hugh and the escape from Dublin Castle. It’s a fascinating story. It’s hard to imagine how they did it without the shoes, clothing and equipment we have today. It’ll be really interesting to hear how that works out for you. Well done on bringing it to life for us all. I’m really looking forward to following the tracker and to hearing how you fare.
Eoin Mac EochaidhJan 6 2022, 4:34pmEnjoy the journey. It sounds like a great challenge altogether, especially with that bit of snow forecast. Those hot drinks will be the business when you finish.
Barry BreslinJan 6 2022, 5:27pmBrilliant lads enjoy it. Best of Luck
Paul McRedmondJan 6 2022, 5:57pmBest of luck tonight. A lovely crescent moon tonight, perfect for navigating South
Richard NunanJan 6 2022, 8:21pmThat's going to be a super adventure ! Enjoy and the best of luck !
Seán O'Neill ClareJan 6 2022, 9:52pmGo neirí libh!
Graham K. BusheJan 6 2022, 11:57pmBest of luck lads.
Chris SiddellJan 7 2022, 1:08amTwo escaped prisoners just spotted past Firhouse and looking well! Keep going and best of luck
Conor McElroyJan 7 2022, 11:11amFair play and good luck lads.....just watching you pass Arts Cross this morning and remembering passing there in atrocious conditions in the 2018 event.
I hope the weather is fair and the sunrise warmed your bones this morning!