01 Dec 2021

Terrifying Kilkenny Tales: The Dunmore Cave Viking Massacre

The first in a four part series in the run up to Halloween

Terrifying tales from Kilkenny: The Viking massacre at Dunmore Cave

Fire was used in the massacre

Dunmore Cave is known to us as a geological visitor attraction but this dark cavernous hollow holds an unsettling secret.

There was a massacre at Dunmore, and this is what we know:

In the Annals of the Four Masters it is said to have occured in 928AD, and was led by Godfrey, a Viking chieftain from Dublin. 

Godfrey and his legion had been on their way to fight rival Vikings in Waterford and were savagely plundering the surrounding regions as they travelled.

Terrified of who they saw coming and ill-equipped to deal with the threat, local people who saw Godfrey fled in horror, hiding where they could. 

A large number of them (mainly women and children) were spotted descending into Dunmore Cave trying to escape.

Godfrey attempted  to smoke them out, lighting large fires around the cave, but this had tragic consequences.

One can only imagine the fear of those inside the cave, oxygen plummeting, slowly suffocating to death in the darkness as they scrambled deeper and deeper into the cave. 

Mothers and children. Entire families. Wiped out in one brutish stroke. 

In a visit to the cave in 1869, physician Arthur Wynne made the following note: 

“In the inmost recesses of Dearc-Fearna (Dunmore) unmistakable evidence that a massacre was perpetrated there, exists in the osseous remains of men, women and children that may be procured in quantities by disturbing the surface of the floor.”

The remains, continually recovered over passing centuries, serve as a reminder of the darkness in men’s hearts. 

The screams of native people from over a millennium ago can almost be heard echoing through the darkness of the caverns to this day.

Visitors to the cave are in for an other-worldly experience, a chance to descend into the underworld, an underworld haunted by a tragic history.

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