The Valley of Knockanure is one of those geographical features that could be said to run through both the natural landscape and the human psyche.
A century after three young men were summarily executed by the Black and Tans at Gortaglanna outside Knockanure, and the atrocity still haunts the imagination.
The brutal deaths of Flying Column fighters Paddy Dalton, Jerry Lyons and Paddy Walsh has persisted so much in large part thanks to the wealth of folk songs commemorating their sacrifice - in a particularly violent episode of the War of Independence that came as a direct reprisal for the IRA's execution of Sir Arthur Vickers of Kilmorna House just days earlier.
Sadly, a weekend of commemorations planned for around the anniverary of the May 12, 1921, atrocity has had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
But thanks to a writer hailing from just up the road from the site of the incident, we now have a striking narrative combining the historical reality of the killings and the myriad, and often inaccurate, ways in which it has been memorialised in song ever since.
Rhyming History: The Irish War of Independence and the Ballads of Atrocity in the Valley of Knockanure by poet and writer Gabriel Fitzmaurice is out now in a new book and CD publication from the Kerry Writers' Museum and the North Kerry Literary Trust, with the support of he Department of Tourism, Culture, Art, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries Programme.
It's a significant new addition to the national understanding of the period, focusing on an infamous event in North Kerry that has lived on in song across the country for the decades since.
"Seamus Heaney even told me that they used to sing it at the céilís in south Derry as he was growing up.
"The event itself happened on May 12 of 1921 when a company of Black and Tans came upon four members of the flying column at Gortaglanna, Paddy Dalton from Athea, Con Dee from Ballylongford, Paddy Walsh from Ballydonoghue and Jerry Lyons from Duagh. Con Dee, who had been in the British Army in the First World War, was the first to be shot but took his chance and ran when the Black and Tan chosen to shoot him hesitated. He was wounded in the thigh but got away. The other three were shot up against the ditch," Gabriel explained.
"Dalton, Lyons and Walsh are commemorated in several ballads, the most famous one being The Valley of Knockanure which was written by Bryan MacMahon in 1946 at the request of local school master Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin. It's one of the most accurate accounts of the event, but there were other ballads before it. I have it on supreme authority from people like Dan Keane and Donie Lyons that James Kiely O'Mahony from Athea wrote the first version. Unfortunately nobody seems to have it. I've been searching for it for 40 years.
"What I can verify is that the earliest ballad I know was written on Septmeber 21 of 1921 by Tim Leahy of Mount Rivers, Listowel. That's in the book as is Bryan MacMahon's of course. MacMahon's might even have been based on the lost Kiely O'Mahony one. Then we also have John B Keane's version that turned up last year when the notebook was found. He was only 19 when he wrote it. The last version I have in the book was by the great Connemara sean-nós singer Joe Heaney, who recorded it in London in 1964 for Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger!"
"MacMahon's version was also famously sung by everyone from Ceoltóirí Chualann under the great Sean Ó Riada, to the Clancy Brothers, The Wolfe Tones and many more," Gabriel added. Though the planned commemoration has to be for another day, Moyvane/Knockanure Parish Priest Fr Kevin McNamara kindly agreed to sponsor what will be a moving tribute on May 12 - when households in the parish obtain a special candle to light in memory of the fallen patriots.
"We had planned a huge celebration this year, that was to have included a football blitz between the parishes the lads came from as well as an oration at the momument in Gortaglanna. Instead, through the Irish Republican Soliders Memorial Committee we had suggested that everybody in the parishes would light a candle on Wednesday May 12 to commemorate all the those atrocities in the parish and Fr Kevin McNamara has very kindly sponsored candles available now from the church and Holly's in Moyvane."