The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (Cooldrumman), more popularly referred to as the “Battle of the Books”, took place in or about 560CE on the lower slopes of Benbulben, near present day Drumcliffe, County Sligo. Associated in legend with the High King’s ruling against him in copying a psalter belonging to St. Finnian, the battle saw the northern O’Neill kinsmen of St. Colmcille engage in combat with the southern O’Neill supports of the king.
It involved Legend has it that the battle resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths.
Other historical accounts give the violating of sanctuary – the death of the King of Connacht’s son while he was under the protection of Colmcille – as the reason for the battle. Conflict between the ruling dynasties of the time is also pointed to as a possible (and more likely) reason.
The actual site of the battle is not known, however, it is generally thought to have occurred in Cooldrumman townland and local tradition identifies a rock in Urlar, an adjacent townland, as the burial place of the last warrior killed in the battle (source: Dr. Brian Lacey, Cul Dreimne, Drumcliffe, & Colum Cille, Sligo Field Club Journal, Vol. 6, 2020).
Well-known local illustrator Annie West (https://www.anniewest.com), who lives in the immediate vicinity of the site of the battlefield, has produced a humorous take on the battle, which she has allowed us to share (image ©Annie West).