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Title: Beauties and Antiquities of Ireland
Author: Russell, T. O.
Language: English
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[Illustration: CONG ABBEY.








To describe all the beauties and antiquities of Ireland, an encyclopedia,
instead of a volume the size of this one would be required. As one of the
objects of this book is to show that Irish history is as generally
interesting as Irish scenery is generally beautiful, few places are
noticed that are not historic; but in a volume of the size of this, all
the historic places could not be mentioned. Many books have been published
during the last three-quarters of a century that treat on Irish scenery
and antiquities. Some of them are very voluminous and copiously
illustrated. They were, for the most part, written by persons utterly
unfitted for the task they undertook. Their remarks on Irish scenery may
be of some value; they may have thought Killarney more beautiful than the
Bog of Allen; but wherever they touch on matters connected with history
and antiquities, they are so often incorrect and misleading that the books
they have published may, for the most part, be said to be useless. It is
not too much to say that many of these works would be actually increased
in value if the printed matter were torn out of them and nothing left but
the illustrations and covers. The people who wrote them were totally
unfitted to treat of Irish history and antiquities. They knew little about
the history of ancient Ireland, and nothing of the Irish language or its
literature. They could hardly be justified to treat of Irish architectural
remains, because they were ill-equipped to do so, and were unsympathetic
with the race that raised them.

If there is any country in Europe about the scenery and antiquities of
which an interesting book could be written, it is Ireland. In no other
country are scenery and antiquities so closely allied, for the finest
remains of her ancient ruins are generally found where the scenery is most
weird, most strange, or most beautiful. In no other country, perhaps, can
so many places be identified with historic events, or historic personages,
as in Ireland. It contains more relics of a long vanished past than any
other European land. Great Britain seems a new country compared with
Ireland. In spite of the wanton and disgraceful destruction of her ancient
monuments that has been going on for centuries, more of such can be found
in a single Irish county than in a dozen in Great Britain. Although
Stonehenge is the finest druidic monument known to exist, the quantity of
druidic remains is much greater in Ireland than in England. In the latter
country we miss the _dun_, the _rath_, the _lis_, the round tower and the
sepulchral mound, some of which are found in almost every square mile of
Ireland. And coming down to later times, when men began to erect
structures of stone, we find the remains of castles and keeps in such
extraordinary numbers that we wonder for what purpose so many strongholds
were erected. Counting _raths_, _duns_, _lises_, _cromlechs_, round
towers, crumbling castles, and deserted fanes, Ireland may be called a
land of ruins beyond any other country in Europe. To make these
multitudinous monuments of a far-back past still more interesting, it will
be found that mention is made of most of them even in the remnant of
Gaelic literature that by the merest chance has been preserved.

The place names of Ireland are as interesting and as extraordinary as her
antiquities, and to some are even more fascinating than her beauties. The
bewildering immensity of Irish place names is one of the most remarkable
things connected with Ireland; but like her ancient monuments, they are
every day disappearing--fading away with the language from which they
were formed. Even still, there are, probably, as many ancient place names
in a single Irish province as in the whole of Great Britain. If it is not
absolutely true when speaking of Ireland to say that, "No dust of hers is
lost in vulgar mould," it can at least be said that there is hardly a
square mile of her surface where some hoary relic of the past or some
beautiful object of nature can be met with that is not mentioned in
history, enshrined in legend, or celebrated in song.

T. O. R.



  KILLARNEY                                                              1

    Its fame world wide--Beauty of its name--Extract from
    Macaulay in its praise--Comparative smallness of
    Killarney--Admirable proportion of its scenic features--
    Softness and beauty its chief attractions--Its weather
    often moist--Autumn the best time to see it--Its
    overpowering beauty on fine autumn days--The country
    round Killarney a wonderland of beauty--Its ruins; and
    their historic interest.

  TARA                                                                  12

    Its antiquity its chief attraction--Beautiful view from its
    ruined ramparts--The most historic spot in these islands--
    Proof of the general correctness of early Irish history--Dr
    Petrie's great work on the antiquities of Tara--His map of
    it--Its adaptation for a seat of government in ancient
    times--Its profanation by the erection of modern buildings
    on it--Tracks of its principal monuments--No trace of stone
    buildings found--Its praise sung by Gaelic poets--Was the
    most important place in Ireland--The roads that centred
    there--The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny; prophecy
    concerning it; was brought from Tara to Scotland; now under
    the coronation chair at Westminster; Petrie's mistake about
    it; proofs that it was removed from Tara; the stone there
    now not the Lia Fail; is the Lia Fail a meteoric stone?--
    Tara the great political centre of ancient Ireland--The
    Leinster Tribute--Slaughter of 3030 maidens--Indifference
    of the Irish heretofore about their history and literature--
    Many valuable gold ornaments found in Tara--The "Tara
    Brooch"--King Laoghaire buried in Tara; his face to his
    foes, the Leinstermen--The old feud between Meath and
    Leinster not yet quite forgotten--Tara terribly uprooted--
    Saint Patrick's goat--Last King that reigned in Tara--Its
    vast antiquity worthy of credence.

  LOCH REE                                                              47

    One of the least known of the great lakes of Ireland--Its
    great beauty--Decline of population in the country round
    it--Want of steam-boats on the Upper Shannon--Number of
    Islands--Beauty of the Leinster shore of the lake; is
    studded with gentlemen's seats--Goldsmith's house--Historic
    interest of Loch Ree--The treaty of Blein Potóg--Athlone;
    its beauty of situation; the most prosperous town on the
    Upper Shannon; its manufactures--Decline of the Irish
    language--Improvement in the condition of the Irish

  "EMANIA THE GOLDEN"                                                   58

    Emania a Latinised form of Emain Macha--The second most
    historic spot on Irish soil--Its history--Its present
    desolation--Its great extent--Denationalisation of the
    peasantry in its vicinity; their almost total ignorance of
    its history--Emania and the "Children of Uisneach"; extreme
    beauty of that legend--The tomb of Deirdre--Many gold
    ornaments found near Emania--Long preservation of a place
    name--Queen Macha--The city of Armagh; its antiquity;
    founded by St Patrick; ruined and plundered by the Danes;
    was for some years the abode of a Danish King; its

  QUEEN MAB'S PALACE                                                    71

    Rathcroghan, where Queen Mab lived and reigned, a very
    celebrated place--She was contemporary with Cleopatra, and
    was Queen of Connacht--Few legends about her in Ireland; an
    historic personage there--Proofs of the comparatively high
    civilization of Ireland in ancient times--Extraordinarily
    long preservation of the legend of Queen Mab or Medb, in
    England; her very long reign and great age; death in
    Iniscloran; her fondness for cold water baths; the Four
    Masters do not mention her--Description of the Fort of
    Rathcroghan; the wooden palace that once stood on it;
    unlike any of the historic forts of Ireland--Rathcroghan
    desolate since the time of Queen Mab; its vast ancient
    cemetery; Queen Mab buried there--Longevity of the ancient
    Irish--Strong proofs that the Connacht queen was the
    prototype of the Mab of Shakespeare, Drayton, Spenser, etc.;
    her sister's name still preserved in an Irish place name--
    Beauty of the country round Rathcroghan; its fertility--
    Many mentions of Rathcroghan in ancient Gaelic writings.

  THE HILL OF UISNEACH                                                  84

    One of the most historic of Irish hills; its peculiar
    shape--Magnificence and beauty of the view from it--
    Knockcosgrey--Decay of rural population--Uisneach
    peculiarly adapted for a stronghold--Aill na Mireann, or
    rock of the divisions; now called the "Cat Stone"; its very
    peculiar shape; was supposed to mark the geographical
    centre of the island--Great Synod held in Uisneach in A.D.
    1111--Moat of Ballylochloe; its extreme beauty; supposed
    origin of its name.

   CLONMACNOIS                                                          97

    Strangeness and uniqueness of its situation--Love of the
    strange and beautiful among ancient Irish Churchmen--The
    Shannon--Views from Clonmacnois--Small size of its
    remaining ruined fanes--Its round towers and crosses--
    Wondrous beauty of its smaller round tower--Petrie's theory
    of the origin of round towers--Destruction of Clonmacnois--
    Vandalism manifest--Occupation by the Danes--The nunnery--
    Clonmacnois founded by St Kieran--De Lacy's ruined castle--
    Beauty and diversity of scenery of the Shannon; historic
    interest of so many places on its banks.

  KNOCK AILLINN                                                        111

    Third most historic hill in Ireland--Beauty of the view
    from its summit--On it is the largest fort in Ireland--
    Anciently the Residence of Kings of Leinster--The hill of
    Allen; Finn's residence according to all authentic
    documents; but no trace of earthworks on it--John
    O'Donovan's opinion about it--Probable confusion of the
    names Aillinn and Allen--Probability that Aillinn was
    Finn's dun--Immensity of the folk-lore about Finn; as
    widespread in Scotland as in Ireland; extraordinary way in
    which he impressed himself on his age; does not seem to
    have been a lovable personage--Dermot O'Duibhne--Real name
    of the Campbells of Argyle--Finn, the most powerful man in
    Ireland in his time--His name incorrectly spelt _Fionn_.

  "KILDARE'S HOLY FANE"                                                126

    Not much scenic beauty about Kildare--The Curragh--Few
    ancient remains in Kildare--Its round Tower--Kildare once
    a large place; famous on account of St Brigit--Its "bright
    lamp"--Moore's noble lyric, "Erin, O Erin"--St Brigit's
    life in the Leabhar Breac; extracts from it--Her benevolence
    and charity; her love of the poor and the sick; she was
    buried in Kildare.

  GLENDALOCH                                                           138

    Its weird situation--A good central point from which to
    make excursions--"Sugar-loaf" mountain; its horrible
    modern name, and grand ancient one--Glendaloch the most
    celebrated place in Wicklow--St Kevin; his youth; his
    piety; he did not drown Kathleen; he only whipped her with
    nettles--Kevin the most popular of Leinster Saints--"St
    Kevin's bed"--Glendaloch an almost utter ruin--Ancient
    Irish monasteries; their great wealth--Antique gold
    ornaments--The evils of Danish raids--How well the Irish
    fought the Danes--Round towers--Their uses--Books destroyed
    by the Northmen--Halo of legend and romance that is round

  "LORDLY AILEACH"                                                     157

    The second most historic spot in Ulster--Sublime view from
    it--Noble work done in its partial restoration--Its early
    history--Its destruction by a Munster King--A funny _rann_
    from the Four Masters about it--Its great antiquity--The
    great Circuit of Ireland made from Aileach--Quotations from
    an ancient poem on the Circuit--A great poem totally
    ignored by the Irish cultured classes--Muircheartach
    MacNeill a great prince--His capture of the provincial
    Kings--His tragic and untimely death.

  "ROYAL AND SAINTLY CASHEL"                                           172

    Peculiar situation--Ancient Irish churchmen's appreciation
    of the beautiful in nature--Superb beauty of the site of
    Cashel--A wonder that so few poets have been inspired by
    it--Sir Aubrey de Vere's Sonnet on Cashel--Marred by the
    erection of new monuments--Long the seat of Munster Kings--
    Antiquity of Cashel as a centre of Christian cult--Wondrous
    beauty of Cormac's Chapel; the most remarkable of early
    Irish churches--The ancient Irish had no castles; they were
    introduced by the Norman French--The city of Cashel--
    Cashel, Glendaloch and Clonmacnois the most interesting
    places of their kind in Ireland.

  LOCH ERNE                                                            186

    Loch Erne, Loch Ree and Loch Derg compared; the former the
    most peculiar of all Irish Lochs--Its innumerable islands,
    and the great beauty of its shores--Want of proper
    passenger steamers on it--Tourists must have good
    accommodation--Ireland's beauties can never be fully known
    until good hotels are provided--No other country of its
    size has so many lakes and rivers as Ireland--Historic
    attractions of Loch Erne--Devinish Island.

  MELLIFONT AND MONASTERBOICE                                          195

    They are the most interesting ecclesiastical ruins in
    Louth--Great beauty of the site of Mellifont--Terrible and
    wanton destruction of its ruins--Its name not Irish--Was
    generally known as "the Drogheda Monastery"--Size of the
    building--Was founded in 1142--Renaissance of Irish
    ecclesiastical architecture; it began when Danish plundering
    ceased--Effects of the Anglo-French invasion--Dearvorgil,
    wife of O'Ruarc, buried in Mellifont--Antiquity of
    Monasterboice--Its glorious ancient crosses--Its round
    tower--Became a ruin many centuries before Mellifont--Beauty
    and historic interest of locality--Drogheda--The burgs of
    the Boyne, New Grange and Dowth.

  TRIM CASTLE                                                          207

    It is the largest of Irish Castles--The Anglo-French great
    Castle builders--Hugo de Lacy--Many Castles erected by
    him--He was the greatest of the invaders of Ireland--He
    wanted to be King of Ireland--Distracted state of the
    country in his time--Trim once an important place--Claims
    to be the birth-place of Wellington; an anecdote about
    him--The country round Trim most interesting and historic--
    The Boyne the most historic of Irish rivers.

  CONG ABBEY                                                           218

    The most interesting ruin in Connacht--Roderick O'Connor;
    Moore's opinion of him--Cong founded by St Fechin--Was
    endowed by O'Connor--Description of the Abbey--Its
    sculptured stones--The Cross of Cong--Cong never plundered
    by the Danes--Peculiarities and beauty of the country round
    Cong--Loch Corrib--The Joyce country; a land of giants;
    anecdote about one of them.

  LOCH DERG                                                            231

    Its great size--Want of islands its principal drawback--Its
    hilly shores--Little traffic on it--Iniscealtra--St
    Cainin--Killaloe; its ruined fanes--The Palace of Kincora;
    no vestige of it remaining; totally destroyed by Turloch
    O'Connor in 1118--MacLiag's Lament for Brian and Kincora--
    The rapids of Doonas; their great beauty.

  HOLYCROSS ABBEY                                                      243

    Its beautiful situation--One of the largest ruined churches
    in Ireland--When founded--Its ruins not much marred--Was
    inhabited until the suppression of monasteries--Beauty of
    one of its sepulchral monuments--Founded too late to be
    plundered by the Danes.

  DUNLUCE CASTLE                                                       247

    The most remarkable ruined Castle in Ireland--From its
    situation it is the finest ruin of the kind in Europe--The
    narrow causeway by which it is entered--Unusual thinness of
    its walls--Was evidently erected before cannons were
    perfected--An awful place in a storm--Giant's Causeway--
    Dunseverick Castle--Meaning of the name _Dunluce_--Not
    known by whom or when it was founded--Was once owned by the
    MacQuillins--Sorley Boy--Terrible catastrophe that once
    happened at Dunluce--Must have been built before the
    fifteenth century.

  BOYLE ABBEY                                                          254

    Not much known to the general public--Its limpid river--
    Rivers of muddy water an abomination--Irish rivers
    generally clear--Extraordinarily luxuriant growth of ivy on
    the ruins; their effect marred by the erection of a new
    building close to them--Vandalism in Ireland--Ancient name
    of Boyle--History of its monastery--Loch Key; the burning
    of its _cranniog_--Loch Arrow.

  THE LAKES OF WESTMEATH                                               263

    Few in search of the beautiful know anything about them;
    are best known to fishermen--Not many places of historic
    interest in Westmeath--Loch Ouel--Turgesius, the Dane,
    drowned in it by Malachy the First--Legend about Malachy's
    daughter--Lover's poem about her--Quotation from the Book
    of Leinster about Turgesius--Loch Sheelin; beauty of its
    name--Beauty of Celtic place names--Beauty of the name

  KELLS IN MEATH                                                       271

    Its ancient name--Its great antiquity--Fertility of the
    country round it--The tower of Lloyd--Tailltean; its
    immense antiquity--The Irish Olympia--Proofs of the general
    authenticity of early Irish history--Sir Wm. Wilde's
    opinion of Irish chronology--Assemblies held in Tailltean
    in recent times--Early Christian Monuments--Kells often
    burned and plundered by the Danes--The Book of Kells and
    the Tara Brooch.

  CUCHULAINN'S DUN AND CUCHULAINN'S COUNTRY                            281

    Scandalous desecration of his _dun_; its situation and vast
    size; its existence another proof of the general truth of
    Irish history--Cuchulainn, the Irish Hercules--Origin of
    his name--Nothing told about his size or stature--Total
    ignorance about Cuchulainn in his birth-place; immensity
    of the literature in which he figures--Literary industry of
    early Irish monks--Cuchulainn loved by women; his abduction
    of Eimer; his _liaison_ with Fann; the tract about him in
    the Book of the Dun Cow--Fann's rhapsody--"Cuchulainn's
    Death" from the Book of Leinster; beauty of the view from
    his _dun_--Numerous antiquities of the County Louth--The
    Cooley and Mourne mountains--Neglect of the scenery of
    Louth and Down.

  THE WILD WEST COAST                                                  299

    Its magnificence; comparison between it and the coasts of
    Norway; its mild climate--Bantry Bay--The cliffs of Moher--
    Half Ireland has been swallowed by the sea--Constant
    erosion by the waves--Killary Harbour--Clew Bay, the queen
    of Irish Sea lochs; comparison between it and other bays--
    Croagh Patrick--Achill and its cliffs--Antiquities at
    Carrowmore--Loch Gill--Sligo--Slieve League--Loch Swilly--
    Grandeur of the scenery from Cape Clear to Inishowen; its
    wonderful variety; its mild climate and wild flowers--Ten
    people visit the coasts of Norway for one that visits the
    west coast of Ireland--Want of passenger steamers on the
    west coast; its beauties can only be seen to advantage from
    the sea--Few safe harbours on the Donegall coast.

  DUBLIN AND ITS ENVIRONS                                              325

    Dublin not sufficiently appreciated by some of its
    inhabitants--Its history--Its long Gaelic name--Danish
    domination in it--Many times taken and sacked by the
    Irish--Battle of Clontarf--Canute made no attempt to
    conquer Ireland--Dublin has not suffered from a siege for
    one thousand years--Its rapid growth in the eighteenth
    century--Greatly improved during the last twenty-five
    years--Its improvement undertaken under enormous
    difficulties--Its educational advantages--Its libraries--
    Its museum of antiquities; disgraceful management of it--
    Dublin supposed to be a dirty city--Its situation--Its
    public buildings--Its environs; their supreme beauty--
    Glasnevin Botanic Gardens--Dublin Bay; poem on it--Variety
    of scenery round Dublin--The Dargle--Howth--Fingall--Dublin
    situated in a land of flowers--Abundance of wild flowers in
    Ireland--Phoenix Park--Three round towers close to Dublin;
    error in its census--What the author has said in its praise
    is true.

  BELFAST AND ITS ENVIRONS                                             357

    Its rapid growth, and beauty of its environs--Its linen
    trade--Business capacity of its inhabitants--Its history
    and meaning of its name--The Giant's Ring--View from Davis
    mountain--Belfast Loch--Hollywood--Scenic attractions of
    the country round Belfast.

  CORK AND ITS ENVIRONS                                                366

    Its ancient name--Its history--Its situation--Is not
    growing as it should--Prophecy about it--Its fine public
    buildings--Its noble harbour--Cork should be where
    Queenstown is--Environs of Cork--Its antiquities--Its
    sufferings from the Northmen; their ravages; Lord
    Dunraven's theory about them; they met stranger opposition
    in Ireland than in any other Country; what the Irish
    suffered from them; the Northmen not builders-up of
    nations; gruesome revelation of their cruelty found at
    Donnybrook--The author's theory as to the cause of their

  GALWAY AND ITS ENVIRONS                                              388

    Its history--Was once a place of large trade--Frightful
    decline of its population--Its splendid situation and noble
    bay--Its environs--The Isles of Arran; their gigantic
    cyclopean remains the most wonderful things of their kind
    in Europe.

  THE CLOUD SCENERY OF IRELAND                                         394

    Ireland the land of cloud scenery; its situation far out in
    the "melancholy ocean"; its moist climate; its sunsets;
    their gorgeousness in fine weather; not often seen in
    perfection but in autumn.

  SOMETHING ABOUT IRISH PLACE NAMES                                    396

    Ireland a peculiar country; its abundance of place names as
    compared with Great Britain--Its _ballys_, _kills_, _raths_,
    _duns_ and _lises_; their immensity--Dense rural population
    of Ireland in ancient times--Antiquity of Ireland.


Killarney is famed and known all over the civilized world; but there are
places in Ireland where isolated scenes can be found as fair as any in
Killarney. Much has been written about this "Eden of the West," but most
of those who have attempted to describe it have omitted to mention its
chief charm--namely, diversity of scenic attractions within a small
compass. Almost everything that Nature could do has been done within a
tract of country hardly ten miles square.

Except some favoured spots in Switzerland, there is no spot of European
soil more famed for beauty than Killarney. Its very name is beautiful, as
any one can know who has heard Balfe's grand song, "Killarney." No sounds
more harmonious or more fitted for a refrain could be uttered by the
organs of speech. The name signifies in Gaelic the church of the sloe or
wild plum-tree. The real name of the lake, or chain of lakes, which is one
of the charms of Killarney, is Loch Lein, but the latter name is now
almost obsolete.

Before attempting to describe Killarney, it will be well to give the
reader an extract from Macaulay's "History of England." The passage is a
masterpiece of prose. It is a sketch of the scenic characteristics of that
part of Ireland where the famous lakes are situated:

"The south-western part of Kerry is now well known as the most beautiful
tract in the British Isles. The mountains, the glens, the capes stretching
far out into the Atlantic, the crags on which the eagles build, the
rivulets branching down rocky passes, the lakes overhung by groves in
which the wild deer find covert, attract, every summer, crowds of
wanderers sated with business and the pleasures of great cities. The
beauties of that country are often, indeed, hidden in the mist and rain
that the west wind brings up from the boundless ocean. But, on rare days,
when the sun shines out in his glory, the landscape has a freshness and
warmth of colouring seldom found in our latitude. The myrtle loves the
soil; the arbutus thrives better than in Calabria; the turf has a livelier
hue than elsewhere; the hills glow with a richer purple; the varnish of
the holly and the ivy is more glossy, and berries of a brighter red peep
through foliage of a brighter green."[1]

Macaulay, in spite of his Celtic name, was not a lover of Ireland and the
Irish, and there is no reason to suppose that this most wonderful
word-painting was evoked by any liking for the land it describes. He had
seen Killarney, and it must have inspired him to write the greatest
descriptive passage he ever penned.

Those who expect to find in Killarney the grandeur of the Alps, the Rocky
Mountains, or even of the Scottish Highlands, will be disappointed. It is
too small to be sublime, for it could be ridden round in a day. The most
wonderful of its many wonders is variety of scenery in a small compass. In
this respect few parts of the known world can compare with it. Almost
every possible phase of Nature, almost everything she could do with land
and water, can be found in Killarney, and found on a little spot of earth
hardly larger than the space covered by London. Mountains, lakes, rivers,
rocks, woods, waterfalls, flowery islands, green meadows and glistening
strands, almost exhaust Nature's materials for forming the beautiful. But
all are found at Killarney. Man, who mars Nature so often, has helped her
here, for the castles and abbeys he raised of yore still stand, and their
ivy and flower-decked ruins, tenanted only by the bat and the bee, put the
finishing touch on this earthly Eden, and make it one of the scenic
wonders of the world. If Killarney had glaciers and eternally snow-clad
peaks, it would have everything that Switzerland has.

Another wonderful thing about Killarney is the admirable proportion its
scenic features bear to one another. If the mountains were any higher they
would be too high for the lakes, and if the lakes were any bigger they
would be too big for the mountains. Even the rivers and waterfalls are
almost in exact proportion to the other phases of Nature. The monstrous
Mississippi or the thundering Niagara would spoil such a miniature
paradise; but the limpid Laune and O'Sullivan's babbling cascade suit it
exactly. Killarney is the most perfect effort of Nature to bring together
without disproportion all her choicest charms.

Small as Killarney is, it would take at least a week, or perhaps two
weeks, to see it and know all its loveliness. It is only on foot and
without hurry that its beauties can be seen in perfection. Its mountains
may be ascended, and glorious views of sea and craggy heights obtained;
but the charm of Killarney is not grandeur, but beauty. There are mountain
views in Scotland finer than can be had from the summits of Mangerton or
Carn Thual. It would be something like waste of time to climb those
hills. Let the tourist rather wander in the hundreds of shady lanes or
paths that skirt the lakes, or take a boat and navigate that most
picturesque river, for its length, in the world, the Long Range, that
connects the upper with the lower lake. Let him mark the wondrous
luxuriance of grass, leaf, weed and flower. The arbutus grows so large
that it becomes a tree. Ferns of such gigantic proportions may be found in
shady nooks that they seem to belong to some far-back geological age.
Softness, freshness, luxuriance and _beauté riante_ are the real glories
of Killarney. In these it has no rival.

There are two drawbacks to Killarney; there is the guide nuisance and the
rain nuisance. The nuisance of guides is probably no greater than in many
other places of tourist resort, and, by a strong effort of the will, can
be got rid of. But the rain is a more serious matter and must be borne
patiently. Some years come when not a dozen dry days occur throughout the
entire summer, but generally there is less rainfall than on the west
coasts of Scotland or England. There have been quite as many wet days in
Liverpool during the three last summers as there usually are in Killarney.
It does, however, too often happen that tourists are confined to the hotel
for four or five days at a time owing to the rain. It must be borne in
mind that this excessive moisture of atmosphere is what has given the
south-west of Ireland, and England too, their exquisite charm of verdure
and wild flowers. When a fine day comes after rain in summer or autumn all
Nature seems to laugh. Flowers of all hues open their petals, birds in
multitudes begin to sing, and wild bees and hosts of insects make the air
musical with their hum. The American tourist need have no fear when
insects are mentioned, for the mosquito is unknown in Killarney. Midges
are the only insect plague, but they never enter houses, and are
troublesome only before rain, early in the spring or late in the autumn.

Most tourists go to Killarney early in the summer. June and July are
favourite times for Americans to visit it. As it lies almost in the direct
route between New York and Liverpool, they generally visit it before going
to England or the Continent of Europe. But the time to see Killarney is in
the autumn--it is then in all its glory. It should not be visited before
the 15th of August; from then until the 1st of October it is the most
beautiful place, perhaps, on the earth, provided always that the weather
is not wet. There is only one thing that mars the weather in the south of
Ireland--namely, rain. Cold, in the general sense of the word, is almost
unknown. Every day that is not wet must be fine. There is, it must be
confessed, rather more probability of having dry weather in Killarney in
the spring or early summer than in the autumn, but, by visiting it in the
spring, the tourist would gain nothing, and would lose the wild-flower
feast of autumn. No American, or even native of England, no matter from
what part of his country he comes, can form the faintest conception of
what a Killarney mountain is in September, if the weather be fine. The
wild-flower that is the glory of Ireland is the heath. It blossoms only in
the autumn. Next in glory to the heath comes the furze. Both furze and
heath are indigenous in the whole of the south-west of Europe, but, owing
to the mildness and moistness of the climate of Ireland, they grow and
blossom there with a luxuriance unknown in any other country. When a great
mountain becomes a mighty bouquet of purple and gold, a sight is revealed
which surpasses anything on earth in floral beauty. Almost every mountain
round about the "Eden of the West" is clothed from base to summit in a
vast drapery of heath. Some of the Killarney mountains are wooded for a
few hundred feet up their sides, but most of them are entirely covered
with heath interspersed with furze. When a fine autumn occurs, tens of
thousands of acres of mountain and moorland gleam in the sunlight, an
ocean of purple heath and golden furze. Not only do the heath and furze
blossom in the autumn, but myriads of other wild-flowers appear only at
that time of year, or blossom most luxuriantly then. Even white clover,
which rarely blossoms in other countries except in the spring or early
summer, open its flowers widest and sends out its most fragrant perfume in
an Irish autumn. The air is heavy with fragrance of flowers, the mountains
are musical with the hum of bees, and

    "Every wingèd thing that loves the sun
    Makes the bright noonday full of melody."

Killarney in a fine autumn becomes not only entrancing, but overpowering
in its loveliness.

The whole country round Killarney is a wonderland. Macaulay's description
of it is true to the letter. In all his works nothing can be found of a
descriptive character equal to the passage quoted from him. He had a great
subject, and he handled it as no other writer of the English language
could. He has described one of the loveliest regions in the world in a few
lines that will stand for ever as one of the greatest efforts of a great
writer. His description is a brilliant gem of composition, just as the
place it describes is a brilliant gem of nature.

No one should visit Killarney without visiting Glengariff. It is only
about twenty miles from Killarney, and can be reached by a sort of
low-backed car peculiar to Ireland. This car is a very curious sort of
conveyance. The occupants sit back to back, with their sides to the
horses. In fine weather there is no pleasanter mode of travelling than on
a low-backed car, but when it rains one is anything but comfortable.
Glengariff is thought by some to surpass even Killarney in beauty. It is a
deep glen surrounded by mountains of the most fantastic shapes, clothed
with a wealth of foliage that would astonish any one who had not seen
Killarney. The lake that is seen at Glengariff is sea-water, and opens
into Bantry Bay. The tourist will find an excellent hotel there, and no
matter how he may be satiated with the beauty of Killarney, he will see
other and more striking beauties in Glengariff.

Killarney is well supplied with hotels. There are four or five, and they
are all good. Most of them are situated in sequestered places, where a
view of some enchanting scene spreads before the door. The village of
Killarney is about a mile from the lake; it is a place of no interest at
all, but there is a very good hotel in it, and many tourists stop there,
for it is just at the railway terminus. Hotel expenses at Killarney in the
tourist season are not so high as at some of the fashionable Continental
summer resorts. Guides are not much wanted, unless mountains are to be
ascended. Then they are indispensable, for mists may suddenly come during
the very finest day, and the tourist without a guide would run a chance of
spending a night on a bleak mountain or being drowned in a lake or
bog-hole. Ponies of a most docile character can be hired cheap. Pony-back
travelling is a favourite mode of "doing" Killarney, especially with
ladies and lazy men, but no one into whose soul the charm of Killarney
really enters would think of travelling through such lovely scenes on
horseback. On foot or in a boat is the way to see Killarney.

[Illustration: ROSS CASTLE.]

There are ruins of the most interesting kind in Killarney. Muckross Abbey
is not so large as some of the ruined shrines of England, but it is a
venerable and imposing building. It was built by one of the MacCarthys,
chiefs of the district, in 1340. Ross Castle is another imposing ruin. It
is situated on a green promontory that juts into the lake. There is some
doubt as to the exact time when it was erected, but it could hardly have
been before the fourteenth century. The most interesting ruin near
Killarney, and by far the most ancient, is the monastery on the supremely
beautiful island of Inisfallan. It was founded by Saint Finian in the
sixth century. It was there the yet unpublished "Annals of Inisfallan"
were compiled. Hardly any of the walls of the old monastery remain. The
arbutus and the hawthorn are growing where once were cloisters, and are
fast completing the ruin of what was one of the first of the ancient
churches that were erected in Ireland.


The supreme attraction of Tara is its antiquity. It must not, however, be
thought that a visit to this famous hill reveals no beauties. It is not
situated among mountains; hardly a lake is visible from its summit: yet
the view from it is so fine that if there was no historic interest
attached to it, the tourist in search of the beautiful alone would have
his eyes feasted with as fair a scene from one of its grassy ramparts as
could be gazed on in any part of Ireland. Eastward the view is obstructed
by the hill of Screen, but on every other side it is superb. Westward the
eye ranges over the fairest and most fertile part of Ireland, the great
plain of Meath and West Meath, anciently called _Magh Breagh_, or the fair
plain. And fair indeed it is in summer time, one great green sea of grass
and wild flowers, reaching to the Shannon, sixty miles away. But it is
southward that the view from Tara is most striking. The Dublin and Wicklow
mountains are more imposing when seen from Tara than from any other place.
They rise in a vast, blue rampart, and seem so colossal as to appear
thousands of feet higher than they are. Those old, barbaric Irish kings
and chieftains must have been lovers of the beautiful, for they almost
invariably fixed their strongholds not only in the fairest parts, but in
places commanding the fairest prospects. There are hardly two other places
in Ireland the surroundings of which are more beautiful than those of Tara
and Uisneach, or from which fairer prospects are to be seen. They were,
from far-back antiquity, the seats of those by whom the country was
_supposed_ to be ruled, for it often happened that he who was styled chief
king had but little control over his vassals.

There is no other spot of European soil the records of which go so far
back into the dim twilight of the past as do the records of Tara. Before
the first Roman raised a rude hut on the banks of the Tiber, when the
place where the Athenian Acropolis now stands was a bare rock, kings,
whose names are given in Irish history, ruled in Tara. When one gazes on
those grassy mounds, that are almost all that remain of what our ancient
poets used to call "the fair, radiant, City of the Western World," he can
hardly believe that such a place could ever have been the abode of
royalty, the meeting-place of assemblies, and the permanent home of
thousands. Other desolated strongholds of ancient royalty and dominion
bear ample evidence of their former greatness. Ruined columns of
Persepolis yet remain. The site of Tadmor is marked by still standing
pillars of marble, and vast piles of decomposed bricks tell of the
greatness of ancient Babylon; but green, grassy mounds and partially
obliterated earth-works are almost all that remain of Tara. It is so
ruined that it can hardly be ruined any more. Time may yet destroy even
what remains of the bricks of Babylon, but time can hardly change what
remains of the ruins of Tara.

No other spot of Irish earth can compare with Tara in historic interest or
in antiquity. Emania and Rathcroghan are little more than places of
yesterday compared with it. It is over three thousand years ago since the
first king reigned in Tara. Some may say that it is only bardic history
that tells of what took place in Ireland in those very remote times, and
that it is unworthy of credence. It is true that there is a great deal of
fiction mixed with the early history of Ireland, as there is with the
early history of all countries; but the ancient Irish chroniclers did not
attempt much more than a mere sketch of the salient points of Irish
history of very remote times, say from beyond the third century B.C. Some
of the facts they mention have been verified in remarkable ways by what
may be called collateral evidence. This evidence is found in place names,
and in the names of persons and things. One of those proofs of the general
correctness of what is related in Gaelic literature about far-back events
of Irish history is so remarkable that it deserves special mention. One of
the kings who ruled in Tara considerably over a thousand years B.C. was
named Lugh, or in English, Lewy or Louis. He established the games that
were held annually at Tailtean, near Kells, that were regularly celebrated
down to the time of the Anglo-French invasion, in honour of his mother,
whose name was Tailte. Those games were held in the first week in August,
and from them the Irish name for the month of August is derived; it is
_Lughnasa_. This is the only name known in Gaelic to the present hour for
the month of August, except a periphrastic one meaning "the first month of
autumn." This name for August is known in every part of Ireland and
Scotland where the old tongue still lives, but it has been corrupted to
_Lunasd_ in the latter country. The meaning of the word _Lughnasa_ is, the
games or celebrations of this same Lugh or Lewy, who lived and reigned
centuries before Rome was founded, and before a stone of the Athenian
Acropolis was laid. It seems almost impossible to conceive that the Gaelic
name for the month of August could have had any origin other than that
given above on the authority of one of the most learned of ancient Irish
ecclesiastics, Cormac MacCuillenan, Archbishop of Cashel, in the ninth

The descriptions of Tara given in ancient Gaelic writings have been
verified in the most remarkable manner by the researches of modern
archæologists. Dr Petrie's great work, "The Antiquities of Tara Hill,"
would go far to remove the prejudices of the most bigoted despiser of
Irish historic records. He was one of the most learned and scientific
investigators of antiquities that ever lived, and was not only a good
Gaelic scholar himself, but had the assistance of the greatest Gaelic
scholar of the century, John O'Donovan. Those two gentlemen translated
every mention of Tara that they could find in prose or verse in ancient
Irish manuscripts; they compared every mention they could find of the
monuments of Tara with what remains of them at present; and they found
such a general agreement between ancient descriptions of those monuments
and the existing remains of them as proved what is said in Gaelic
manuscripts about the extent and splendour of Tara in Pagan times to be
well worthy of credence. Every one who visits Tara, and who is in any way
interested in archæology, should have Doctor Petrie's map of it, which
will be found in his minute and elaborate work on the "Antiquities of Tara
Hill." That map is reproduced here. The book is very scarce, as only a
small edition of it was printed, but it can be found in the "Transactions
of the Royal Irish Academy." Armed with Petrie's map a visit to Tara would
be one of the most interesting and enjoyable excursions that could be made
from Dublin. Kilmessan Station can be reached from the Broadstone terminus
in an hour, and less than two miles of a walk through a beautiful country
brings one to the summit of "the Hill of Supremacy," as it was called of
old when he who ruled in Tara ruled Ireland. No matter how confirmed an
archæologist he may be who stands for the first time on this celebrated
hill, his first feeling will be of joy at the beauty of the prospect that
is spread before him. To know how beautiful Ireland is, even in those
places that are not on the track of tourists, and that are seldom
mentioned in guide books, one should see the view from the hill of Tara.

It would be hard to find any other hill in Ireland so well adapted for a
place of assembly or for the dwelling of a ruler as Tara. Uisneach, in
Westmeath, is, perhaps, the only hill in Ireland that possesses all the
advantages of Tara. In ancient times, when war was the rule and peace the
exception, it was imperative that a stronghold should be on a height.
Athens had its acropolis and so had Corinth. Tara had the advantage of
extent as well as of height, and could be made a permanent dwelling-place
as well as an acropolis, for there are fully a hundred acres on what may
be called the summit of the hill. It is unfortunate that some of the hill
has been enclosed, planted with deal trees, and a church erected on the
very track of some of the most ancient monuments. This plantation and
church have terribly interfered with the picturesqueness and antique look
of Tara. Planting deal trees and erecting a modern church amid the
hoariest monuments, and on the most historic spot of European soil, was
little less than sacrilege. If there had been a proper national spirit, or
a due veneration for their past among the Irish, they never would have
allowed a church or any modern building to be erected on the most historic
spot on Irish soil; and even now they ought to have the church removed,
the wall torn down, and the plantation uprooted. All Greece would rise up
in indignation were any one to erect a church or chapel amid the ruins of
the Athenian Acropolis.


(_After Petrie's Map._)]

The most interesting and best preserved of the antiquities of Tara is the
track of the banquetting-house. It must have been an enormous building,
for it was about 800 feet long and about 50 wide. It is wonderful how
perfectly plain and well-defined the track of this once great structure
appears after nearly fourteen hundred years, and in spite of the way this
historic spot has been uprooted and levelled. But not a vestige of
stone-work or of stones is to be seen near the ruins of the
banquetting-house. It seems absolutely certain that there were no
buildings of stone in Tara when it was at the height of its grandeur, and
that seems to have been about the middle of the third century, during the
reign of Cormac MacAirt. It must not be thought that buildings cannot be
fine unless they are of stone; but buildings of stone were very rare in
northern countries until comparatively recent times. Moore, in his
"History of Ireland," says, speaking of wooden buildings and of
Tara--"However scepticism may now question their architectural beauty,
they could boast the admiration of many a century in evidence of their
grandeur. That those edifices were of wood is by no means conclusive
either against the elegance of their structure or the civilisation of
those who erected them. It was in wood that the graceful forms of Grecian
architecture first unfolded their beauties." So the absence of stone
buildings in Tara in no way proves that it was not a place of grandeur as
well as of beauty; and the tenth century Gaelic poet may have been
justified in saying of it,

    "World of perishable beauty!
    Tara to-day, though a wilderness,
    Was once the meeting-place of heroes.
    Great was the host to which it was an inheritance,
    Though to-day green, grassy land."

Every mention of Tara in the vast remnant of Gaelic manuscripts of the
ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries that still exists shows it
to have been, beyond all comparison, the most important place in ancient
Ireland. Oengus the Culdee, author of the longest poem in ancient Gaelic,
the famous Félire, recently translated by Mr Whitley Stokes, speaks thus
of this renowned but now ruined spot:

    "Tara's mighty burgh hath perished
    With its kingdom's splendour;
    With a multitude of champions of wisdom
    Abideth great Ardmagh."

The poet contrasts the desolation into which the strongholds of the Pagans
had fallen with the then flourishing condition of the centres of
Christian teaching. Tara was the political as well as the social centre
of ancient Ireland. It is in connection with it that the only mention made
of roads having names is found in ancient Gaelic writings. Five great
roads, as will be seen by the annexed map, led from Tara to the
extremities of the Island. The Slighe Dala went southward; the Slighe
Asail went north-west; the Slighe Midhluchra, went north-east; the Slighe
Cualann went south-easterly; and the Slighe Mór went in a south-western
direction. Traces of those roads may still be seen by the practised eye of
the archæologist.

One of the most interesting things connected with Tara is the Lia Fail, or
Stone of Destiny. It was upon it the over-kings of Ireland had been
inaugurated from far-back antiquity. It is said to have been brought by
Fergus, brother of the then reigning chief King, to Scotland, in order
that he might be crowned king on it over the part of Scotland he had
conquered. It remained under the coronation chair of the Kings of Scotland
down to the time of Edward the First, who seized it and brought it to
Westminster, where it is now, and the sovereigns of England have been
crowned on it ever since his time. Petrie maintains that the Lia Fail is
still in Tara, and that the pillar stone that stands over the graves of
the men who fell in '98 is it. He adduces very strong evidence from
manuscripts of high authority and of great antiquity to prove what he
says. There is, on the other hand, strong testimony to prove that it was
brought to Scotland by Fergus. The question will probably never be finally
settled. The principal virtue supposed to be possessed by the Lia Fail was
that it would bring political power to the country in which it was,
particularly if its people were of Celtic stock. It is very remarkable
that soon after the stone supposed to be the Lia Fail was taken out of
Ireland, her political power began to decline, her over-kings lost a great
part of their former authority, and in the long run she lost her
independence. Scotland's political power and national independence
vanished not long after she had lost the Lia Fail, and in a few centuries
after England had got it she became one of the foremost nations in the
world. The English claim to be Saxons, but it is now generally admitted
that the Celtic element preponderates in the island of Great Britain, so
that the prophecy attached to the Lia Fail seems to be fulfilled.

The Lia Fail is certainly the most extraordinary stone in Europe, if not
in the world. The famous Rosetta stone, covered as it is with archaic
writing, and verifying, as many suppose, the truth of Old Testament
history, is hardly more interesting than the rude granite slab that lies
under the coronation chair in Westminster, unmarked with a single letter.
It is about 25 inches in length, about 15 in breadth, and 9 in depth. How
such a rude, unshapely flag-stone could have such a history, and have been
an object of veneration and interest for so many centuries, is what
strikes with wonder those who see it. But if it is not the real Lia Fail,
if it is a sham, and if the stone still standing in Tara is the genuine
one, the wonder increases; for the fact of a spurious article having
become invested with such fame and regarded with such veneration is the
greatest wonder of all.

Doctor Petrie says, in his "Antiquities of Tara Hill," that "it is in the
highest degree improbable that to gratify the desire of a colony the Irish
would have voluntarily parted with a monument so venerable for its
antiquity and considered essential to the legitimate succession of their
own kings." He quotes verses from a tenth century poet, Kenith O'Hartigan,
who says that the Lia Fail is

    "This stone on which are my two heels";

and he quotes from an ancient tract called the _Dinseanchus_, another
proof that when it was composed, and that time could not have been later
than the tenth century, the Lia Fail was in Tara. It often happens,
however, that Irish annalists and historians, so fond were they of looking
backward to the past, make things appear as they had been, and not as they
were when they wrote. The over-kings of Ireland were called Kings of Tara
five hundred years after Tara had been abandoned, and when it was as waste
and desolate as it is to-day. O'Dugan, in his topographical poem, written
in the fourteenth century, tells of clans inhabiting the English Pale,
when they had been banished westward by the invaders nearly two hundred
years before he wrote. He prefaces his topographical poem by saying

    "O'Maolseachlinn, chief King of Tara and Erin,"

but the last O'Maolseachlinn that was nominally chief King of Ireland and
Tara had died three hundred years before O'Dugan wrote! Why those old
Gaelic poets were so fond of describing things as they had been, and not
as they were when they wrote, is hard to understand. They may have got
their information from documents that were centuries old when they copied
them. It seems a certainty that the men whose writings Petrie quotes to
prove that the Lia Fail was in Tara in the tenth century, did what O'Dugan
did in his topographical poem--that is, speak of things as they had been
hundreds of years before. He never mentions the English at all. This
partially accounts for Irish writers of the tenth century speaking of the
Lia Fail being then in Tara. They intended to describe where it used to
be, but not where it was. When Petrie says that the Lia Fail is spoken of
by all ancient Irish writers in such a manner as to leave no doubt that it
remained in its original situation at the time when they wrote, he makes a
great mistake. Here is a quotation from the "Book of Leinster," a
manuscript of the highest authority, compiled in the early part of the
twelfth century, and mostly from writings of a much earlier date:--"It was
the Tuatha De Danaans who brought with them the great _Fal_, that is, the
stone of knowledge that _was_ in Tara; from which [the name of] Magh Fail
is on Ireland. He under whom it would roar was then [rightful] King of

There is another very strong proof brought to light by the publication of
"Silva Gadelica," by Mr Standish Hays O'Grady, that the Lia Fail was
removed from Tara. In the tract called the "Colloquy," one of the speakers
says: "This, then, and the Lia Fail, or stone of destiny, that _was_ there
(in Tara) were the two wonders of Tara. When Ireland's monarch stepped on
it, it would cry out under him," ... "And who was it that lifted that
flag, or that carried it away out of Ireland?" asked one of the listeners.
"It was a young hero of great spirit that ruled over" ... Here,
unfortunately, the tract ends abruptly. The "Colloquy," or "Agallamh na
Seanorach," is a tract of respectable antiquity. Its language seems to be
that of the fifteenth or perhaps the fourteenth century, but the version
that has come down to us may be, and probably is, but a transcript of a
much more ancient tract, the language of which was modernised.

If Doctor Petrie had known of the existence of those two proofs given of
the Lia Fail having been removed from Tara, he never would have said that
all ancient Irish writers spoke of it in such a way as to leave no doubt
of its being there still. O'Reilly, author of Irish dictionary, says: "Lia
Fail, the stone of destiny, on which the ancient Irish monarchs used to be
crowned until the time of Mortogh Mac Earc, who sent it into Scotland
that his brother Fergus, who had subdued that country, might be crowned on
it. It is now in Westminster Abbey." O'Reilly was the most learned Irish
scholar and historian of his day, and was a painstaking, conscientious
man, who would hardly state any thing for which he did not have good
authority. It must, however, be admitted that up to the present no
positive statement seems to have been found in ancient Irish writings as
to when and by whom the Lia Fail was brought from Tara to Scotland;
neither does it seem to be known where O'Reilly got his information about

When Petrie spoke of the improbability of the Irish allowing such a
venerated monument as the Lia Fail to be taken out of Ireland, he should
have remembered that at the time when it is said to have been taken, in
the beginning of the sixth century, Christianity had become established in
Ireland. Paganism or Druidism may have survived among a few, but it had
got its death-blow. Pagan monuments of every kind had begun to be
disregarded. The Lia Fail was essentially a Pagan monument, and
consequently an abhorrence to Christians. The fathers, or at least the
grandfathers, of the men who allowed Fergus to take it to Scotland, would
probably have shed the last drop of their blood to keep it in Ireland. The
disrepute into which everything connected with Paganism had fallen after
the introduction of Christianity is plainly set forth in the "Book of
Leinster" in the very page from which the Gaelic extract about the Lia
Fail has been given:--"It happened that Christ was born not long after; it
was that which broke the power of the idols."[3] The Lia Fail was an idol
that had lost its power and prestige, so that the people would not be
likely to have any objection to its being removed to Scotland or anywhere

But there are still other even stronger objections for accepting Petrie's
theory that the Lia Fail is still in Tara. The pillar stone that is there
is not a _lia_, and never would have been called such by the ancient
Irish. _Lia_ means a stone of any kind in its general sense; but the
pillar stone in Tara would not be called a _lia_, but a _coirthe_. _Lia_
is always applied to a flag-stone, both in ancient and modern Gaelic. The
stone under the coronation chair in Westminster is a real _lia_ or
flag-stone; the one in Tara is a _coirthe_, or pillar stone, for, judging
from its height above the ground, it cannot be much less than eight feet
in length; it is very nearly round, and was evidently fashioned into its
present shape by man. If the stone in Tara is the real Lia Fail, how did
it come to lose its original name and be know even still by an Irish name
that connects it with Fergus, the person by whom the real Lia Fail is
popularly believed to have been brought to Scotland? This loss of an
original name, and its substitution by a new one, could hardly have
occurred in the case of such a famous monument as the Lia Fail. If the
superstitious reverence with which it had been regarded before the
introduction of Christianity had vanished, its original name would have
remained. There are many place names in Ireland that have not changed
during twenty centuries, and it is almost impossible to conceive how the
name of the most venerated monument in all Ireland could have changed had
the monument itself remained in the country. Another strong objection
against the pillar stone in Tara being the real Lia Fail is its shape. The
real Lia Fail was intended to be stood upon by the chief king at his
inauguration; but the most flat-footed monarch that ever ruled Ireland
would have considerable difficulty in standing steadily on the _coirthe_
in Tara, even if it were prostrate, for it is round and not flat.
Standing steadily on it would be nearly as difficult a performance as
"rolling off a log" would be an easy one.

Taking everything into consideration, there seem to be very strong reasons
to believe that the Lia Fail was taken from Tara to Scotland at the time
it is popularly believed to have been taken--namely, about the year 503 of
the Christian era; that it was taken in order to have Fergus Mac Earc
inaugurated on it as king over that part of Scotland which he had brought
under his domination; that it was taken from Scone to Westminster by
Edward the First in the year 1296, and that it is now under the coronation
chair in Westminster Abbey. It seems strange how a man of Doctor Petrie's
archæological knowledge could have been led to believe that the pillar
stone still in Tara, for whatever use it may have been originally
intended, was the real Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny.

It would be most instructive and interesting if a scientific examination
was made of the stone under the coronation chair. If it was proved to be a
meteoric stone, its fame and the reverence with which it was so long
regarded could be easily understood. If an ancient tribe saw a stone
falling from heaven among them, they would regard such a thing as a
miracle, and think that the stone was sent to them for some special
purpose. They would, if possible, take it with them wherever they went. If
the Lia Fail was proved to be a meteoric stone, the esteem and honour in
which it was so long held, and the power which it was believed to possess,
would be easily accounted for.

The history of Tara is, to a great extent, the history of ancient Ireland
of pre-Christian times. It was more of a political centre than London or
Paris is at present. The event that above all others left a permanent mark
as well as a blot on Irish history may be said to have had its origin in
Tara. The horrible Leinster Tribute and Tara are closely connected.

In the first century of the Christian era, an over-king called Tuathal,
from whom the common Irish surname O'Tool, or Tool, seems to have
originated, reigned in Tara. He had two daughters, famed for their beauty.
We are told in the "Book of Leinster" that they were "fairer than the
clouds of heaven." Their names were Fihir and Darine. A king of Leinster
named Eochy married Fihir, the elder of the two sisters. He got tired of
her after a short time, went to Tara, told Tuathal that Fihir was dead,
and that he wanted to marry her sister Darine. Tuathal consented, and
Eochy took his new wife home to his _dun_, which was in the western part
of the present county of Wicklow. Darine had been only a short time in her
new home when she met her sister Fihir, who she had been told was dead.
Darine was so overwhelmed by shame that she died, and Fihir was so shocked
at the death of her sister that she died of grief. So Tuathal's two
beautiful daughters were dead, and were buried in the same grave. When
Tuathal heard of their deaths he summoned his vassals, the kings of Ulster
and Connacht; his army and theirs invaded Leinster, defeated and killed
its king, ravaged it, and imposed the celebrated Tribute on the
unfortunate province--namely, fifteen thousand cows, fifteen thousand
sheep, fifteen thousand pigs, fifteen thousand silver chains, fifteen
thousand bronze or copper pots, and fifteen thousand linnen (?) cloaks,
together with one great cauldron into which, _Hibernicè_, "twelve beeves
and twelve pigs 'would go,' in the house of Tara itself." This was,
indeed, a prodigious pot that could boil four-and-twenty quadrupeds of the
sort, for Ireland was always famous for its large pigs and beeves. Such a
cauldron having been used, shows that however poorly the inhabitants of
other parts of Ireland may have fared in ancient times, the people of
Tara lived well. When it is remembered that ancient Leinster was little
more than half the size of the modern province, such a tribute appears
enormous. Ancient Leinster, or, to speak more correctly, the Leinster of
the time of Tuathal, went no further north than a line running from Dublin
to Athlone. The counties of Meath, Westmeath, Longford, and Louth belonged
to the province of Meath that had been carved out of parts of the four old
provinces by Tuathal himself. The Tribute was to be paid every year, but
it was not, for, as the Leinstermen's own great Chronicle says, "It never
was paid without a fight"; and sometimes when they succeeded, as they very
often did, in licking the combined armies of all the other provinces, it
used not to be paid for many years. It was, however, paid on and off for
over five hundred years, and to forty over-kings. It was remitted in the
seventh century; but many attempts were subsequently made to re-impose it
on the unfortunate Leinstermen, who paid more dearly for the treacherous
act of one of their kings than any other province or nation mentioned in
history. One of their poets has said in a yet untranslated poem in the
"Book of Leinster":

    "It is beyond the testimony of the Creator,
      It is beyond the word of supplicating Christ,
    All the kings of the Irish
      That make attacks on Leinstermen!"[4]

It is not to be wondered at that the Leinster Tribute totally
denationalised the province on which it was levied, and made its harried
inhabitants side with the Danes and with the Anglo-Normans against their
own countrymen. But what is most astonishing about the Tribute is its
enormousness. That part of Leinster which was the ancient province could
hardly pay such a tax to-day. This matter seems to show that ancient
Ireland, in spite of a state of almost continual intestine warfare, was
far richer and more populous than is generally supposed.

The most horrible act recorded in Irish history was committed at
Tara--that is, the slaughter of 3030 women by the Leinstermen in the year
241. Here is what the Four Masters say of it under that year:--"The
massacre of the girls at Cloonfearta at Tara, by Dunlang, King of
Leinster. Thirty royal girls was the number, and a hundred maids with
each of them. Twelve princes of the Leinstermen did Cormac put to death in
revenge of that massacre, together with the exaction of the Borumha
(Tribute) with an increase after Tuathal." The Cormac here spoken of was
the celebrated Cormac Mac Airt, one of the best over-kings that ever ruled
ancient Ireland. This horrible massacre of maidens in Tara is so often
mentioned in ancient Irish history and annals, and the same number of
victims so invariably given, that there cannot be any doubt whatever about
its having occurred. But particulars about it seem wanting. There was
probably some pagan festival to be celebrated in Tara, at which the
children of the upper classes only attended. The ladies may have arrived
from the different parts of the country before the men, and when the
harried Leinstermen made a raid on Tara, they found it unguarded save by
women, and killed them and burned Tara to the ground at the same time; or
it may have been that the women tried to help the few men that happened to
be there in protecting the place, and Dunlang made an indiscriminate
massacre of every one he found in it. This horrible act was caused by the
imposition of the Leinster Tribute. It is to be presumed that there were
no Leinster girls among those who were slaughtered.

Those interested in Irish history, or in ancient history in general,
should read the tract called the _Borumha_, or Tribute, in the "Book of
Leinster." Translations of it have been recently made in the _Revue
Celtique_ and in _Silva Gadelica_. There is not in any ancient or mediæval
literature anything to excel it in general interest. It is an historic gem
that has been forgotten or overlooked for centuries. The indifference
which the educated classes of the Irish people have heretofore shown about
the ancient literature of their country was one of the most shocking,
sickening symptoms of national degradation ever shown by any civilised
people. They are latterly beginning to take more interest in it; but it is
greatly to be feared that they have been induced to turn their attention
to it more by the example shown them by foreigners than by any change of
opinion originating among themselves. Much as O'Donovan, O'Curry, and
Stokes have done to call the attention of the cultured classes of the
Irish people to the study of Celtic literature, it is doubtful if they
would have succeeded if the scholars of Continental Europe had not taken
an interest in it. The _renaissance_ of Celtic studies which seems to
have taken place owes a large part of its origin to the Germans and the

Many valuable gold ornaments of antique and beautiful design and
workmanship have been found in Tara and its immediate vicinity, but very
few of them have found their way to the Kildare Street Museum in Dublin,
one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, collection of ancient
weapons, implements, and ornaments to be seen in Europe. Most of the gold
ornaments found in Tara have been melted down. If one is to believe what
the peasantry living in its vicinity say, the quantity of gold ornaments
found there was very great. The famous Tara Brooch, preserved in the
Dublin Museum, and considered the most beautiful piece of metallurgy,
either ancient or modern, that is known to exist, was not found in Tara,
but on the seashore about three miles from Drogheda, and nine or ten from
this famous hill. It was found by an old woman, who is said to have sold
it to a shopkeeper in Drogheda for ninepence. The Royal Irish Academy paid
£500 for it. Many think that a regular, scientific exploration of Tara
Hill ought to be made, such an exploration as Schlieman made of the site
of Troy. If this were done under government surveillance, or by some
responsible and skilled antiquarian, there is hardly a doubt but that many
and precious ornaments in gold, and implements and weapons in bronze,
would be found, especially the latter, for there seems every reason to
believe that Tara was the seat of government long before iron was known,
and long before the bronze age came to an end. It would, however, be a
tremendous task to uproot several hundred acres merely on speculation. But
the quantity of antique gold ornaments that has been found in Ireland was
immense, more, it is thought by some, than has been found in all the rest
of Europe. They are being found almost every year. Nearly £300 worth of
golden fibulae was found in the County Waterford in 1894. They are now to
be seen in the Dublin Museum.

[Illustration: TARA BROOCH.]

The many things that are told about Tara in old Gaelic books would fill a
large volume. They are all interesting. They may be incredible, grotesque,
or funny, but they are never common-place: it is this uniqueness that is
the great charm of ancient Irish literature. What could be more unique
than this account of the burial of Laoghaire, the chief king who was
cotemporary with St Patrick, but of whom the Saint never succeeded in
making even a half decent Christian. It is taken from the book of the Dun
Cow. When Laoghaire was killed by "the elements," by lightning probably,
"his body was taken from the south and was buried with his warrior weapons
in the outward(?) south-eastern rampart of the Kingly Rath Laoghaire in
Tara, and its face to the south against the Leinstermen [as if] fighting
with them, for he had been an enemy of the Leinstermen when alive." The
idea of facing his enemies with his dead body, for Laoghaire must have
given orders as to how and where he should be buried, could only have
entered into the brains of ancient Irish kings, for they were grotesque or
original in almost everything.

It is strange how long political memories last. The enmity between
Leinster and Meath has not even yet quite died out. Meath, as the seat of
the over-kings, represented Ireland, and was also the place from which the
hateful Leinster Tribute originated. This is not yet forgotten, for
whenever wrestling matches, or athletic sports of any kind, are held near
Dublin by the people of adjoining counties, the counties of Dublin,
Kildare, and Wicklow are always pitted against Meath. Dubhthach Mac U
Lugair, one of the first converts St Patrick made in Ireland, tells us, in
a poem of his in praise of his native province of Leinster, that its war
cry was "The magnification of Leinster, the destruction of Meath."
Dubhthach may have been a good Christian, but there are good grounds for
thinking that he was a better Leinsterman; for he says in the same poem

    "Except the host of Heaven round the Creator
    There never was a host like Leinstermen round Crimhthan."

Crimhthan was a king of Leinster, who is said to have had a stronghold in
Howth, where the Bailey Lighthouse now stands.

Although few traces of cultivation are to be seen on the Hill of Tara,
there can be no doubt that it has been very much defaced and uprooted.
The great _rath_ of King Laoghaire, who was cotemporary with St Patrick,
has almost entirely disappeared. Its earthen rampart must have been of a
good height, when it served as a sepulchre for Laoghaire with his body in
an erect position, with its face turned southward, against the
Leinstermen. Laoghaire was never a Christian; or if he was such at one
time, there seems strong reason to think that he relapsed into paganism
towards the end of his career. At all events it is evident that he was not
a favourite of St Patrick's or of the early Irish Christians, and it is
quite likely that when Tara was abandoned, his _rath_ was uprooted, and
his body, or what remained of it, consigned to some unmarked grave. But
from whatever cause, this _rath_ has certainly been almost entirely
obliterated. It must have been considerably over two acres in area, if one
can judge by the small segment of it that can still be traced.

The following story is told in the life of St Patrick in the Leabhar
Breac. Mr. Whitley Stokes says in his translation of the lives of the
Saints from the "Book of Lismore," that it so disgusted Thomas Carlyle
that it caused him to give up the study of Irish history:

"Then three of Ui Meith Mendait Tire (a tribe that were located in the
vicinity of Tara) stole and ate one of the two goats that used to carry
water for Patrick, and came to swear a lie. Whereupon the goat bleated
from the stomachs of the three. 'By my good judge,' said Patrick, 'the
goat himself hides not the place where he is.'" It is hardly to be
wondered at that a story like this, that would make any right-minded man
laugh, only disgusted a hypochondriacal crank like Carlyle.

The last chief king who lived in Tara was Dermot MacCarroll, who died in
the year 565. He was evidently only half a Christian, for it has been
fully proved that Druidism lingered in Ireland for many years after the
death of St Patrick. Dermot got into a dispute with the clergy because
they sheltered a man who had done something that displeased him. The end
of the dispute was that St. Ruadhan, one of the prominent ecclesiastics of
the time, cursed Tara, and it was forever abandoned as the seat of
royalty. It is almost certain that the real cause of the cursing of Tara
by the clergy was that druidical or pagan rites continued to be practised
in it after the bulk of the people had become Christians; for it had been
for untold centuries the seat of paganism as well as of royalty. It has to
be admitted, however, that great a benefit to the true faith as the
abandonment of Tara as a political centre undoubtedly was, it was
disastrous to the authority of the chief kings, for they appear to have
lost much of their authority over the provincial rulers when they
abandoned Tara and made their abodes in various places in Meath,
Westmeath, and Donegal.

The vast antiquity given to Tara cannot be reasonably considered as the
mere invention of Irish bards or chroniclers. It is inconceivable that
they would invent the names of forty or fifty kings, most of whom ruled
there over a thousand years before the Christian era. The Irish annalists
who wrote about the very remote historical events of Irish history lived
and wrote long before Ireland came under English domination. They would
have no object in inventing historic falsehoods. The Tuatha de Daanans and
Firbolgs, who possessed the country before the Milesians, had vanished
more than a thousand years before the most ancient annals we possess were
written. What object could men who claimed to be Milesians have in
inventing historic falsehoods about races who possessed the country before
them? Besides, the general correctness of Irish annalists in recording
purely historic events is now admitted by all those capable of forming an
opinion. The men who wrote the oldest chronicles that we possess of
events in the very far-back past of their country, evidently wrote what
had been handed down to them, either in writing or by tradition. They
would have had no object in becoming fabricators.

So far, then, Tara with its glamour of greatness and antiquity, its
uprootedness, its ruin, and its utter desolation.


Of all the great lakes of Ireland there is none so little known to
tourists or the public in general as Loch Ree. It is the fourth in size,
Loch Neagh, Loch Erne, and Loch Corrib being the only Irish lakes of
greater extent, but none of them exceeds Loch Ree in beauty. Loch Erne is
a noble sheet of water, and is adorned with many beautiful islands, but
owing to its peculiar shape, one cannot take in all its charms from any
point on its shores; but there are dozens of places on the banks of Loch
Ree from which all its great expanse of water, and most of the charming
features of the country that surrounds it, can be taken in at a single
glance. If the shores of Loch Ree were mountainous it would be one of the
most beautiful lakes, not only in Ireland, but in the world. It is strange
that it is not more generally known, and it lying almost in the
geographical centre of Ireland, and surrounded by some of the richest land
and most beautiful _paysage_ scenery to be found anywhere. People rush to
Killarney, Connemara, Achill and many other places, and almost totally
neglect this noble expanse of the king of Irish rivers, the Shannon. It is
the unfortunate commercial state of Ireland that has caused the scenery of
the Shannon to be so little known. If there were dozens of thriving and
populous towns on its banks, as there would be if it flowed through any
other country than Ireland, large and commodious steamers would be plying
on its waters, and the beauties of Loch Ree and Loch Dearg would be as
well known as those of Windermere or Killarney. Nothing can more plainly
show how fast Ireland is retrograding from even the very mediocre trade
she enjoyed half a century ago than the fact that the passenger
steam-boats that used to ply almost daily in the summer season between
Carrick-on-Shannon or Lanesboro' and Killaloe have long ceased to run, and
are now rotting somewhere on the Lower Shannon. The decline in the
population, and the consequent decline in trade, became so great that it
was found that the money taken did not pay more than seventy per cent. of
even the working expenses of those steamers, and they had to stop running.
The writer travelled in one of them more than thirty years ago between
Athlone and Killaloe. They were large side-wheel steamers that would
carry over one hundred passengers, and on which excellent meals could be
obtained at a moderate price. There is probably not in Europe a more
generally interesting river than that from Athlone to Killaloe, but it is
now practically closed, not only to tourists, but to the public in
general, for a passenger steamer has not traversed the Upper Shannon for
well-nigh thirty years. It is no wonder, then, that the glories of Loch
Ree, with its almost countless islands, and the glories of Loch Dearg,
with its mountain-girded shores, are now nearly as unknown to tourists and
to the Irish public in general as are the reaches of the Congo or the
Niger. It is simply heartrending to think that decline of population and
general decay have made the mighty waters of the Shannon, that runs almost
from one end of Ireland to the other, an almost lifeless stream, for the
few little row-boats and sailing smacks one sees on it would not, all
told, hold more people than the life-boats of a single Atlantic steamer.
Bad as things are, they seem to be getting worse, for there is hardly a
single town or city on the Shannon that is not declining in trade and
population. At the rate things are going on, a turf boat will soon be the
only sort of craft to be seen on the waters of Ireland's greatest river!
It is, however, cheering to be able to state that there is good reason to
believe that steps are being taken to re-establish a line of passenger
steam-boats on the Upper Shannon.

The tyranny and folly of man may mar towns and turn fields into
wildernesses, but they cannot mar nature. If no steam-boats plough the
waters of Loch Ree, and if men have given place to cattle and sheep on its
banks, it is still as beautiful as ever. Its sinuous shores are still as
fair to the eye as they were fifty years ago, when a teeming population
lived on them, and when twenty thousand people might be seen at the annual
regatta that used to be held every autumn on its waters. Nothing less than
an earthquake could destroy the beauty of Loch Ree. It has every element
of scenic beauty save mountains, but such are its general beauties that
mountains are hardly missed. Loch Dearg is almost surrounded by mountains,
but it is not nearly so fair to look upon as Loch Ree. The former lake is
almost entirely islandless, but Loch Ree is studded with them. In
traversing its entire length, from Lanesboro' to Athlone, a distance of
twenty miles, islands are ever in view. Hare Island is the most beautiful
island in the lake; seen from the waters or from the mainland it seems a
mass of leaves. The trees grow on it so thickly that they dip their
branches into the water almost all round it. Lord Castlemaine has a
charming rustic cottage on Hare Island, and the pleasure grounds attached
to it are laid out with very great taste and skill. It is one of the most
beautiful sylvan island retreats in Europe. Hare Island contains nearly a
hundred acres. Inchmore is still larger, but not so well wooded. Then
there are Inchbofin, Inis Cloran, Inchturk, Saints' Island, Hag's Island,
Carberry Island, and many others, the names of which would be tedious to
mention. The islands of Loch Ree are of almost all sizes, from a hundred
acres to a square perch. Except in the vast St Lawrence alone, with its
famed thousand islands, there are few river expansions in the world that
contain so many islands as Loch Ree. Its shores are fully as beautiful as
its islands. It would be hard to conceive anything in the way of shore
scenery more beautiful than the shores of Loch Ree for eight or ten miles
on the Leinster side of the lake between the mouth of the river Inny and
Athlone. The shores are so irregular and cut up into so many promontories
and headlands that, to follow the water's edge from Athlone to where the
Inny enters the Shannon, a distance of not more than ten miles as the crow
flies, would involve a journey of over fifty. Every headland is
tree-crowned, and every promontory rock-girded. Very little of the shores
of this beautiful lake are swampy; they are generally as rocky as those of
a Highland tarn, with deep, blue water ever fretting rock and stone into
thousands of fantastic shapes. So rocky are most parts of the shores of
Loch Ree, that those æsthetic persons living near it who wish to form
rock-works in their pleasure grounds find abundance of water-worn stones
on the shores of Loch Ree to make rock-work of any shape required.

The shores of Loch Ree, particularly the Leinster shore, are more adorned
with gentlemen's seats than the shores of perhaps any other lake in
Ireland. From Athlone to nearly the head of the lake there is a succession
of gentlemen's seats. Many of them are kept with great care and taste, and
are in themselves well worth a visit. The house in which Goldsmith spent
his early youth is about two miles from Loch Ree, and about two-and-a-half
from the village of Glassan. The house is a ruin, but a well-preserved
one. When it was built seems unknown, but from what can be gathered from
the old men living in its vicinity, it seems to have been built about the
year 1700. The walls are still intact. It was two storeys high, and must
have contained seven or eight apartments. The name Auburn is still
applied to the townland on which the house stands; but the name seems to
have originated with Goldsmith himself, for the place does not appear to
have been so called before his time. Lissoy is its Irish name, but Auburn
does not seem to be an Irish name at all. The "Jolly Pigeons" public-house
still exists. It is about a mile from Auburn. There never was a village
called Auburn in the locality. The nearest place to Goldsmith's house that
could be called a village is Glassan.

Loch Ree is not void of considerable historic interest. There are many
noble ruins on its shores; among them Randown Castle is the most
remarkable. It was one of the earliest Norman-French keeps erected in
Ireland. It is situated on a bold promontory jutting into the lake on the
Connacht side, about ten or twelve miles north of Athlone. It is now
generally called St John's Castle. At _Blein Potog_, or Pudding Bay, took
place in the year 999 one of the most important events in Irish
history--namely, the surrender of the sovereignty of Ireland to Brian
Boramha by Malachy the Second. The Munster king came up the Shannon with a
large army in a flotilla of boats, and Malachy met him there and
surrendered to him. Many think that it was, in a political point of view,
one of the most disastrous events of Irish history, for the usurpation of
the chief sovereignty by Brian caused such weakness and confusion after
his death, that each provincial ruler wanted to be chief king, and created
such wars and political chaos that no chief king that succeeded possessed
complete sway over the country, the so-called chief kings that succeeded
being kings only in name. For a full account of the treaty of Blein Potog,
the reader is referred to the "Wars of the Gaels and the Galls,"
translated by the late Rev. Dr Todd. The site of the treaty is some ten
miles north of Athlone, on the Leinster shore of Loch Ree.

Athlone is one of the most picturesque and interesting inland towns in
Ireland. Its situation is simply superb,--in the almost exact geographical
centre of Ireland, at the foot of one of the most beautiful of lakes, and
on the banks of a noble river, deep and wide enough to carry ships on its

Athlone is one of the few towns--perhaps the only one--on the Shannon that
is not decaying at present. For many years after the famine it decayed
rapidly, but some thirty years ago a woollen factory was established; now
there are two woollen factories and a saw-mill that give employment to
some hundreds of hands, consequently Athlone has been saved from decay.
But comparatively prosperous as it is, it is not one-fourth as prosperous
as it ought to be considering its splendid situation and the fertility and
beauty of the country that surrounds it. It has recently become a great
railway centre; one can go by rail from Athlone to almost any part of
Ireland. But all the railways and all the fertility of all the world
cannot bring real prosperity to any country in which the population is
declining. The decline of the population in Athlone itself and in the
country surrounding it has, during the last fifty years, been something
frightful, and can only be fully realised by those who remember what it
was in former times. A market day in Athlone now is very different from a
market day there half a century ago. The writer recollects having been at
a market in Athlone when a small boy, about the year 1841 or '42, and saw
more people there in one market than could be seen in twenty markets there
now. The town was too small to contain much more than half of them; they
flowed out into the fields surrounding it. The crowds in the streets were
so dense that it would take hours to jostle one's way from one end of the
town to the other, and, what will hardly be credited by those whose
memories do not go back fifty years, there were certainly three persons
speaking Irish for one who spoke English. One might attend markets in
Athlone now every week in the year and not hear a word of any language but
English. Irish has completely died out of the country surrounding Athlone,
save in the south-western corner of the county Roscommon, where some old
people still speak it. There is something inexpressibly sad in the fading
away of any form of National speech, but, above all, in the fading away of
a tongue so old and once so cultivated as Irish. It seems to forebode not
only the death of all real National aspirations, but the death of heart
and soul. It seems to show that Philistinism is rapidly driving away
sentiment from the Irish people. But the life of the Irish peasant has
been so long such a battle for mere existence that it is no wonder that he
came to look with contempt on everything that did not administer to his
mere animal wants. He is rapidly improving since he has had a barrier put
between him and the generally cruel treatment he was wont to receive from
his landlord. None but those who remember what his position was fifty
years ago, and who see what it is now, can fully understand all the
advance he has made. In spite of the awful decline of population in the
rural districts of Ireland during the last fifty years, there is much to
be seen in them to gladden the heart of the philanthropist. Small farmers'
cottages, that would formerly be a disgrace to a Zulu or an Esquimaux, are
now not only generally clean, but sometimes beautiful. Flowers in pots in
the windows and evergreens creeping up the walls of a peasant's cottage
would have caused him to be laughed at by his neighbours fifty years ago,
but now they cause him to be respected instead of being laughed at. He
will become again what he once was, one of the most soulful and
un-Philistine of beings; it is probable he will become such when better
laws and freer institutions shall have raised him from the slough of
poverty and despondency in which he has been steeping for centuries.

Tourists and the travelling public in general will find good accommodation
at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone, in which town boats can be hired
by those going either up or down the Shannon.


Two miles west of the city of Armagh lies an earthen fort known as the
"Navan Ring." This is all that remains of the renowned palace of the Pagan
Kings of Ulster, the real name of which was Emain Macha, which has been
Latinised Emania, and corrupted into Navan.

After Tara, Emania is the most historic spot of Irish soil. No other place
in all Ireland, Tara only excepted, is so often mentioned in the historic
and romantic tales that have been preserved in such abundance in ancient
Gaelic. Emania is the great centre of that wondrous cycle of legend,
history, and song known as the Cuchullainn cycle of Celtic literature.
Every tale and legend in it refer more or less to Emania. It is curious
that while hardly any of the treasures of ancient Irish manuscript
literature we possess were compiled in Ulster, there is hardly a page of
them, no matter in what province they were originally composed, that does
not mention this now almost obliterated stronghold of the Ulster kings.
The "Book of Leinster" was compiled in Kildare or in Glendoloch, and for
nearly a thousand years, or from the imposition of the Leinster Tribute
early in the second century down to the time of Brian Boramha, Leinster
and Ulster were inveterate enemies, yet the "Book of Leinster" teems with
mention of Emania. Even in the great manuscript books compiled in Connacht
and Munster, the name of Emania occurs next in frequency to that of Tara.

So far as can be gathered from the most authentic sources, the palace of
Emain Macha, or Emania, was erected by the over-king Cimboath, about five
hundred years before the Incarnation. It continued to be the seat of the
Ulster kings down to A.D. 331, when it was destroyed by the three Collas,
chieftains of the race of the over-kings of Ireland from a hostile
province, that made war on Ulster. The destruction of Emania is recorded
by the Four Masters under the year 331, when Fergus, King of Ulster, was
defeated and slain by the three Collas. Emania was burned, and the ancient
dynasty that had so long ruled the province of Ulster was destroyed.
Emania may be said to have been a desolation since then; for though we are
told that one of the O'Neill's built a house within the ruins of the fort
in 1387, no vestige of it now remains, and it is not probable that it was
long in existence.

None of the ancient palaces or great _duns_ of ancient Ireland shows such
utter desolation, or bears evidence of having been so uprooted as does
Emania. The great fosse by which it was once surrounded is entirely
obliterated save on the west side, where it is nearly twenty feet in
depth. Much as Tara has been obliterated, its monuments are more easily
traced than are those of Emania. The county Meath seems to have been a
grazing country almost from time immemorial. This saved Tara from being
entirely uprooted; but the country round this ancient seat of the Ulster
kings is essentially agricultural; it is mostly in the possession of small
farmers owning from ten to twenty acres; consequently they have levelled
most of the great circular embankments that formerly enclosed an area of
nearly a dozen acres, and have filled up most of the deep fosse which, if
we can judge by the small part of it that still remains, must have been,
when Emania was in its glory, between twenty and thirty feet deep. So
potatoes are growing and corn is waving over a large extent of the inside
of the fortress, where vast wooden buildings once stood, and where mirth
and revelry and clash of arms once resounded.

Mons. Darbois de Jubainville, the eminent French archæologist and Celtic
scholar, made an exhaustive examination of Emania some years ago. He
found that the area within the original enclosure was four and a half
hectares, or between eleven and twelve English acres in extent, and that
the space enclosed was nearly circular. Like Tara, the buildings in Emania
must have been almost entirely of wood. Some of them may, like many of the
wooden houses in America, have been built on stone foundations, and there
are some traces of stone-work still to be seen. There is a magnificent
passage in the Féilere of Oengus the Culdee, written about A.D. 800, in
which the greatness and glory of the Christian cities of Ireland are
contrasted with the state of utter desolation into which the strongholds
of the Pagan kings had fallen. Speaking of Emania he says--

    "Emain's burgh hath vanished
    Save that its stones remain;
    The Rome of the western world
    Is multitudinous Glendaloch."

There is no doubt that the ruins of Emania were in a much better state of
preservation when Oengus wrote, nearly eleven hundred years ago, than they
are in at present, and it is certain that many of its stones have been
carried away to build walls and houses. But it is also quite certain that
neither in Ireland, Great Britain, or in any northern country, were stone
buildings general in ancient times, and we may be sure that when Emania
was at the height of its splendour its best and largest buildings were of

The area of eleven or twelve acres that was once surrounded by a deep
fosse and high embankment, and within which all the buildings of Emania
were erected, is not quite circular, nor is its surface level.
Considerable inequality of surface evidently existed in it before it was
chosen for the site of palace or _dun_. The highest part within the
enclosure is a good deal removed from its centre, and it was evidently on
it that the citadel stood. There was a dun within a dun, as there
generally was in all ancient Irish fortresses of any great extent. The
citadel having been on the highest ground within the enclosure, commanded
a view of the surrounding country for a considerable distance. Emania,
when at its best, with its vast surrounding fosse and high earthen
rampart, capped with a strong fence of wood, might, if properly
provisioned and manned, defy almost any army that could be brought against
it in ancient times when firearms were unknown.

It is for the antiquarian rather than for the seeker of the picturesque
that Emania will ever have the most attraction. There is nothing very
striking from a scenic point of view in its environs. Its present
shockingly uprooted condition, and the almost total lack of interest the
peasantry living in its immediate vicinity take in it, have a depressing
effect on anyone interested in Irish literature, history, or antiquities.
During the writer's last visit to this historic spot he met a small farmer
whose potatoes were planted over part of the obliterated fosse and rampart
of this famous stronghold of Ulster. He had never heard of King Connor
MacNessa, of Connall Carnach, of Cuchullainn, or of the Red Branch
Knights. He knew no more about them than about the heroes of ancient
China. He said that he "ever an' always hard that the Navan Ring was built
by the Danes." This man had been born and bred in the locality, but he
took no more interest in the historic spot that had given him birth than
if he were a Hottentot instead of an Irishman. Anglicisation has indeed
been carried to an extreme pitch in most parts of Ireland, and is rapidly
turning the Irish peasant into the most generally uninteresting, prosy,
and least _spirituel_ of mortals. As a rule, the more Anglicised he
becomes the more intolerable he is. If the peasantry living round Emania
had preserved their native language, while at the same time knowing
English, if they were bilingual, like millions of their class in different
European countries, many things connected with the history of this
celebrated place would be known to them; but having lost the link that
bound them to the past, they are like a new race in a new country. It is
well known that the masses of the Greek peasantry, notwithstanding that a
large percentage of them are illiterate, know more about the history and
traditions of their country than any Irishman, save a specialist, knows
about the history and traditions of Ireland. In very few European
countries will such a knowledge of its past be found among the masses as
in Greece, and principally because the Greeks have preserved their

Although Tara is more ancient and more historic than Emania, the latter
place is connected with the most pathetic, the most dramatic, and most
generally beautiful tale in all the vast mass of ancient Gaelic
literature--"The Fate of the Children of Uisneach." It was in Emania that
their betrayer and murderer, Connor, King of Ulster, lived; it was there
that they themselves were killed, and it was there that Deirdre died. The
tale appeared almost a century ago in a book brought out by a Gaelic
Society that then existed in Dublin. The Irish text was given, with a
translation by Theopholus O'Flanagan. It was thought by some that he had
no ancient copy of the tale, and that he might have embellished it, for he
did not say from what manuscript he had taken it. The story, as given in
the "Book of Leinster," while agreeing in the main with O'Flanagan's
version, is not nearly of such literary value as his, and is not more than
one quarter the length. But all doubts as to the existence of an ancient
version of the story given by O'Flanagan have been removed, for an ancient
copy of it, supposed to be of the fourteenth century, was found some years
ago in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, and has been edited and
translated by Mr. Whitley Stokes. It may be seen in Windische's _Irische
Texte_. It agrees almost exactly with the version given by O'Flanagan. It
would be hard to give a clearer proof of the utter neglect with which
Celtic literature has heretofore been treated, than by a statement of the
fact that there are not probably a hundred persons living, at least of the
literary class, who have read this wondrously beautiful tale of the
Children of Uisneach. For pathos, dramatic power, and pure poetry it would
be hard to get anything in the way of romance superior to it. If such a
literary gem existed in the literature of any European language but Irish,
if such existed even in Arabic or Persian, it would be known to literary
people almost all over the world. But how can people of other nations be
blamed for their ignorance of Gaelic literature when the Irish themselves
are more indifferent about it than the Germans or the French? A text and
translation of the "Fate of the Children of Uisneach" is sorely
wanted--not merely as a text for scholars, but for the people at large.
When such appears it will make a visit to Emania infinitely more
interesting; for, after reading such a pathetic tale, he would indeed be
hard-hearted and unsympathetic that would not, if he could find where she
was buried, shed a tear over the grave of Deirdre. The very fine poem by
the late Doctor Robert Dwyer Joyce, published in Boston, America, in 1877,
was the only attempt ever made to popularise the story of the Children of
Uisneach and the fate of the unfortunate but true and noble Deirdre.

The country in the vicinity of Emania, while containing no striking
objects of scenic interest, is, at the same time, picturesque and
beautiful. Southern Ulster, even where it is not mountainous, is usually
most varied and interesting in its general features. It is essentially a
land of hills and valleys; but the hills are never so high that they
cannot be cultivated, and the best land is sometimes found on their very
tops. The country round Emania is extremely broken, hill and valley are on
every side. It is generally, like most parts of Ulster, well cultivated.
There are many antiquarian curiosities in the neighbourhood of this
ancient fortress. Some of the most perfect Druid circles in Ireland are in
its vicinity. There is a very remarkable one about a mile from it which a
thrifty farmer has turned into a haggard. It encloses about quarter of an
acre of ground. The stones of which it is composed stand about four feet
over the surface, and must average nearly a ton each in weight. But
vandalism is strong in the vicinity, for it is only a short time since
another splendid Druid circle, nearly as large as the one mentioned, was
torn down, and its stones broken to mend roads withal. Thus are many of
the relics of ancient Erin disappearing before the march of

Those who live in the vicinity of Emania tell many stories about the
finding of treasure-trove close to and in this ancient fortress. According
to them, gold ornaments of great value were found by some persons many
years ago who suddenly became rich, much to the surprise of their
neighbours. Those ornaments were, of course, melted down, and like
hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of similar articles found in almost
every part of Ireland, never found their way to any museum, and are lost
to the country for ever. There can hardly be any doubt that some very
valuable articles in gold have been found near Emania.

One of the most interesting instances of the long survival of a place name
is to be found adjacent to this celebrated spot. Most Irish persons have
heard of the Red Branch Knights. Moore has immortalised them in his
exquisite lyric, "Let Erin Remember the Days of Old." Few believe that
such an institution as the Red Branch Knights ever existed. It is
generally looked on as a bardic fable; but there is a townland close to
Emania which is still called Creeve Roe, in correct orthography, _Craobh
Ruadh_, which means Red Branch. The preservation of this place name for
nearly two thousand years cannot be regarded as an accident. It goes far
to prove that the Red Branch Knights did exist, and that the townland took
its name from them. This extraordinarily long survival of a place name,
the historic fame and antiquity of the locality, lend a supreme interest
to this ruined stronghold, which, centuries after its glories had
vanished, Gaelic bards used still to call "Emania the Golden."

Ardmagh is so near Emania, only two miles from it, that one place could
hardly be described without saying something about the other. Its ancient
name was Ardmacha, meaning the height of Macha. This Macha was queen, or
at least ruler, of that part of the country in far-back pagan times. It
was also from her that Emain Macha, or Emania, was named. Ardmagh was
founded by St Patrick in the year 457. A man named Daire, chief of the
district, is said, in the "Annals of the Four Masters," to have given
Patrick the site on which the city is built. Patrick appointed twelve men
to build the town, and ordered them to erect an archbishop's city there,
and churches for the different religious orders. It seems strange that the
saint should have chosen Ardmagh for the site of the chief religious
establishment in Ireland. Emania had been ruined and desolated in the
previous century, but it is evident that it was the fame of the ancient
stronghold of Ulster that induced Patrick to choose its immediate vicinity
as a site for his new Christian city, because Emania had been for so many
centuries previous the political centre of the province, and, next to
Tara, the chief political centre of Ireland. Of the old ecclesiastical
buildings of Ardmagh, not a vestige remains. Some of its new ones are,
however, magnificent. The new Catholic cathedral is the finest building of
its kind in Ireland. It is hardly to be wondered at that none of the
ancient buildings of Ardmagh should remain, for of all towns in Ireland,
it was burned, plundered, and razed the oftenest. In the course of the two
centuries and a half ending in 1080, it was plundered and wholly or
partially burned _twelve times_ by the Danes. No other city in Ireland
seems to have suffered so much from the Northmen. Turgesius, the Danish
king, captured it and lived there for some years. The present city is one
of the most picturesque towns of its size in Ireland, but it is not
growing much. It once had a good linen trade, but since the introduction
of cotton fabrics, its linen trade has entirely ceased.


Rathcroghan, about two miles from Tulsk, in the county Roscommon, is one
of the most celebrated places in Irish history, legend, and song. It was
there that Queen Mab, spelt Medb in old Irish, and Meave at present, had
her palace, and it was there she was buried. That she was a real historic
personage, and not a myth or a fairy, there can be no doubt at all, and
that she was a very extraordinary woman cannot be doubted either. She was
Queen of Connacht, and was cotemporary with Cleopatra; but if the Egyptian
queen is mentioned in history she is forgotten in legend, while Mab has
lived in legend for more than eighteen centuries. It is remarkable that
the myths and legends about her should have been more prevalent during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in England than in Ireland. There are
few legends about her in Ireland; she is simply an historic personage
there, but in England she became a fairy. There is hardly a popular
English writer of the two centuries referred to that has not said
something about Queen Mab; and it is very probable that none of them knew
that she was a reality in Irish history. Shakespeare, Spenser, Drayton,
and other English writers contemporary with them, speak of her as a fairy,
and even Shelley considers her a sprite; but she is rarely, if ever,
mentioned as such by the Gaelic writers of any epoch. Why legends about
Queen Mab, or, as we call her at present, Meave, should be so rare in
Ireland is probably owing to the fact that she belongs to what is known as
the Cuchulainn cycle of Irish history and legend. That cycle is almost
forgotten by the people, and has been for many centuries. It has been
eclipsed by the greater popularity of the Finn cycle, which is some
centuries more recent. For the one legend existing in the most
Gaelic-speaking parts of Ireland and Scotland about Cuchulainn or his
cycle there are a score about Finn, Oisin, Caoilte, and others of their
contemporaries. It may have been that the introduction of Christianity had
much to do in stereotyping the legends of the Finn cycle in the memories
of the masses, for Finn is said to have lived so long that he saw St
Patrick, and held converse with him. One of the most remarkable literary
productions in Irish, the "Dialogue of the Sages," consists of converse
between the Saint and Finn, and others belonging to the same cycle.

There could hardly be a stronger proof of the high civilisation that
existed in Ireland in ancient times as compared with that which existed in
England than the fact that the remembrance of Irish historic personages
continued widely spread in England in spite of so many changes, not only
in government, but in race and language. There is no traditional
remembrance in Ireland of any English historic personage contemporary with
Queen Meave, or of any such that lived for many centuries after her time.
That a knowledge of her and Lir, the Lear of Shakespeare, should have
existed among the ancient Britons is not to be wondered at, for they were
kin to the Irish, and must have spoken the same, or nearly the same,
language; but that this remembrance of Irish historic personages should
have continued to exist in England under Roman, Saxon, Dane, and
Frenchman, is very remarkable. If it was knowledge obtained through books
it would be less to be wondered at; it was knowledge transmitted by
legend, and like all legendary knowledge, it had a tendency to go astray.
The legends that existed in England about Meave and Lir did go astray, for
they made a little fairy of the one and a King of Britain of the other.
But Meave was not a little fairy, but a very fine woman of flesh and
blood; and Lir was not King of Britain, but an Irish pirate whose
principal stronghold appears to have been the Isle of Man. It is called
after him, for his full name was Mananan Mac Lir. It seems more than
probable that both Dunleer and Liverpool are also called after him, for
the latter place is written "Lyrpul" in the earliest known document in
which the name occurs, and it is Lyrpul still in Welsh. It is probable
that Lir had possessions in England as well as in Ireland and the Isle of

Medb or Meave, Queen of Connacht, was daughter to Eochy Fayloch, over-king
of Ireland. She lived about half a century before the Christian era.
Keating says, in his "History of Ireland," that she reigned ninety-eight
years. This very long reign is doubted by some Irish historians, but it is
generally admitted by them that her reign, as well as her life, was
remarkably long. She had more husbands than even the woman of Samaria is
credited with. It was evidently her extraordinary long life and reign that
caused her to be ultimately believed to be something supernatural, and to
be regarded as a fairy. She was, however, no fairy, but a bold, bad, and
warlike woman. She, even more than Cuchulainn, is the central figure of
the greatest prose epic in the Irish language, the _Tain Bo Chuailgne_, or
Cattle Raid of Cooley. By lies and bribes she persuaded the other
provincial rulers to join her in a totally unjustifiable war on Ulster, so
that she was able to invade that province with a great army of fifty-four
thousand men. She carried off a great prey from Ulster, but not without
suffering some defeats and losing some of her bravest warriors. It is said
that Mr Ernest Windisch is engaged in translating this great epic into
German, but it seems not yet finished. Meave, like most of the prominent
people of her day, met with a violent death. She had many enemies,
especially in Ulster. One of them, a son to the king of that province,
killed her by a cast from a sling as she was about taking a cold water
bath in Iniscloran, an island in Loch Ree. She must have been considerably
over a hundred years old when she was killed, but she appears, even at
that great age, to have been the admiration of every one that saw her on
account of the great beauty of her face and figure. Perhaps it was her
cold water baths that were the chief means of preserving her youth and
good looks, for we are told in the "Book of Leinster" that she was under
_geis_, or bonds, not to let any morning pass by without taking a bath.
It is no wonder that such a person should have in the long run passed into
the realm of fairie, and have been thought something supernatural. It is,
however, a wonder that the Four Masters do not mention the name of Meave,
although they do mention the name of her father; but there are many
similar strange omissions in their annals. Meave is, however, mentioned in
the Annals of Clonmacnoise, in which many hard things are said of her.

The fort, as it is generally called, of Rathcroghan, upon which Queen
Meave's palace must have stood, is unlike any other place of its kind
known to the writer. Strictly speaking, it is not a fort at all, and it is
impossible to conceive how it ever could have been used for purposes of
defence, or for any purpose other than to build some sort of habitation
on. It is nothing but a raised circular elevation, an English acre in
area, in a perfectly level field, without a vestige of the fosse or
rampart that usually surrounds the ruined strongholds of Celtic chiefs and
kings. Long ago as it is since Rathcroghan was the seat of kings or queens
of Connacht, some traces of the surrounding ramparts would almost
certainly be yet visible had they ever existed. Queen Meave seems to have
depended more on her soldiers to defend her than on ramparts of stone or
earth. She seems to have relied on "castles of bones" rather than on
castles of stones; for her palace, so far as can be judged from existing
remains, seems to have been without defending ramparts of any kind. There
are many references in old Gaelic manuscripts to the splendour of Queen
Meave's palace. It is said to have been built of pine and yew, and to have
contained beds enough to accommodate a small army. It was probably an
immense round wigwam that covered all or nearly all of the raised platform
that still remains. That platform is about eight or nine feet above the
level of the field on which it stands, and has two entrances into it, one
exactly opposite the other. If the vast circular wooden building that
stood on it was roofed, as it almost certainly was, the walls would have
to be fifty feet or more in height to give it anything of an imposing
appearance. It may have been that the entire raised platform was not
covered by the wooden structure, but the descriptions of its great size
given in old books would lead one to think that it was.

Rathcroghan does not appear to have been a place of residence of any of
the rulers of Connacht since the time of the celebrated Queen Meave. If it
was, the writer has not been able to find trustworthy evidence of the
fact. It may, however, have been used as a place for assemblies in
comparatively recent times. _Relig na Riogh_, or the cemetery of kings, at
Rathcroghan, was one of the great burial places of the Pagan Irish Kings.
It is a circular enclosure, about half a mile from the platform on which
Queen Meave's palace stood. It bears all the marks of extreme antiquity,
and has suffered much from the ravages of time. It covers between two and
three acres, and at first sight appears nothing more than a piece of
ground of very broken surface, for the mounds that marked the graves of
kings and chiefs have become nearly obliterated. But it was here that many
of the kings and heroes of ancient Ireland were buried, and it is here
that the bones of Queen Meave rest, that is, if we are to believe the most
trustworthy records of Irish history. It is thought by some that she was
buried under the vast cairn of stones that crowns the summit of
Knocknarea, near Sligo, for it is called to this day _Moisgan Meabha_,
literally Meave's butter-dish; but by extension it probably means Meave's
heap or cairn. There is no historic evidence to prove that she was
interred under the cairn on Knocknarea, however it came to be called by
its present Irish name; and according to the late Sir Samuel Ferguson, her
name, or a name closely resembling it, has been found written in Ogam
characters on a stone in _Reilig na Riogh_.

That there was such a person as Queen Meave there cannot be any doubt
whatever. History and legend never yet existed about a fabulous personage,
and Meave figures in both. Whatever impossible things may be related about
her in legend, history says nothing about her that cannot be easily
believed, her great age and length of reign excepted. It must, however, be
remembered that the ancient Irish were a very long-lived people. This fact
is so apparent in so many places in ancient Gaelic literature that it has
to be believed. We have as strong proof as can be afforded by history that
in comparatively modern times Henry Jenkins lived to be over a hundred and
sixty, and Old Parr to be over a hundred and fifty years old, and why
could not Queen Meave have lived to as great or even a greater age? She
was an extraordinary woman, and her name sheds a halo of romance round the
place where she lived, and where her remains rest in peace after her long
and stormy career. It was also in _Reilig na Riogh_ that Dathi, the last
pagan Irish Chief King, was buried. His mound is marked by a pillar stone,
and O'Donovan, one of the most cautious and least impulsive investigators
of Irish history and antiquities, saw no reason to doubt that the pillar
stone marks his grave.

It may be said that no proof has been given that the Connacht Queen Medb
or Meave was the prototype of the Mab of Shakespeare, Drayton, Spenser,
and other English poets. True, no absolute proof has been given, and
probably never will; but there is that which may be called negative proof,
which in such a case is very strong. The negative proof, if it can be
called such, that the Connacht queen was the prototype of the Queen Mab of
English poets and English legend, is found in the complete silence of
history and of tradition as to how else the legend of Queen Mab
originated, for it must have originated somewhere and from some one. We
are, then, and in a great measure by the total lack of any other way to
account for the origin of the legend of Queen Mab being queen of the
fairies, forced to come to the conclusion that the Connacht queen is the
only person known to history who furnishes the prototype for her. But
there is something more. It has been stated that the old Irish form of the
name was _Medb_. It is well known to Celtic savants that what is now
called "aspiration," or the change in sound, and sometimes the entire
suppression of certain consonants in pronunciation, did not take place
nearly so often in old Irish as in the modern language; so that the name
_Medb_ would in ancient times be pronounced _Mab_, or something very like
it. It is curious that in Drayton's poem, "The Nymphadia," Queen Mab,
though a fairy, is remarkable for those things for which her Irish
prototype was also remarkable--namely, her chariots, her amours, and her

A very strong proof that Queen Meave was an historic personage and not a
myth is to be found in the name of the island in Loch Ree where she was
killed. It is usually pronounced and written Iniscloran; but Inis Clothran
is how it ought to be spelled, and how it is invariably spelled in the
"Annals of the Four Masters" where the name frequently occurs, the island
having been the seat of more than one church in early Christian times, and
therefore often mentioned in annals. Meave had a sister named Clothru who
lived in Iniscloran, and who was Queen of Connacht before Meave. Here is a
translation from the "Book of Leinster," page 124: "It was there that
Clothru used to explain the laws of Connacht in Inis Clothran in Loch
Ree." The island was evidently called after Clothru (Clothran in the
genitive), sister to Meave. This preservation of a place name connected
with the name of an historic personage for two thousand years is most
remarkable, and shows that Irish history is more truthful than is
generally supposed. It is thought that Meave had Clothru killed, in order
that she herself might become Queen of Connacht.

The country around Rathcroghan abounds in antiquities of far-back ages.
Sepulchral mounds, ruined raths, tortuous caves, and weather-worn
cromlechs are to be found on almost every side. It is a spot where the
antiquarian might revel for weeks and find something every day to interest
him. It is a beautiful country also, not a plain, in the strict sense of
the word, and yet not hills, but what an American would call "rolling,"
and a Frenchman "accidenté." It is the "Magh Aoi" of Queen Meave's time,
and "Machaire Chonnacht," or plain of Connacht, of later days. It is part
of the celebrated Plains of Boyle, and is considered to contain some of
the best grass land in Ireland. No fairer spot could be found in Connacht
for the dwelling of a potentate who dealt largely in cattle than the green
eminence on which Queen Meave had her palace, and both history and legend
say that her flocks and herds were well-nigh innumerable. She made her
home in the centre of the fairest and richest part of the province she
ruled; and long as that home has been desolate, it has not been forgotten
in history or in song, for that noble melody which Moore has made
immortal--"Avenging and Bright Fall the Swift Sword of Erin"--was first
known as "Croghan na Veena," or "Croghan of the Heroes"; and the incident
to which it refers--the murder of the children of Uisneach--occurred when
Queen Meave was at the height of her splendour, when Rathcroghan was in
its glory, and when it was really the dwelling-place of heroes.

There are many mentions of Rathcroghan in ancient Gaelic writings, and all
of them speak of it as one of the most important places in Ireland in
Pagan times. Oengus, the Culdee, whose poem has been already referred to,
says of it--

    "Rathcroghan hath vanished
      With Ailill, offspring of victory;
    A fair sovranty above Kingdoms
      Is in Cluain's city."

The Ailill mentioned was one of Queen Meave's many husbands, and "Cluain's
City" means Clonmacnois.

The nearest railway station to Rathcroghan is Castlerea, from which it is
about eight miles distant. Its long distance from a railway and the want
of good accommodation for tourists in its vicinity have helped to cause
this celebrated place to be so neglected and forgotten.


Uisneach is one of the most historic hills in Ireland, yet there are
probably not five per cent. of the people of Ireland that have ever heard
of it, and not one per cent. of them that has ever seen it. Apart even
from its historic interest, it is well worth seeing, for it is not only a
beautiful hill, but it affords from its summit one of the most extensive
and lovely views in Ireland. The hill of Uisneach is in the Barony of
Rathconrath, County Westmeath, and only about four Irish miles from
Streamstown Station on the Midland Great Western Railway, so that it is
easily reached. There is, unfortunately, no hotel where tourists could be
accommodated nearer to it than Moat, which is about eight Irish miles from
it; and Mullingar is about the same distance. The village of Ballymore is
five miles from the hill, but as there is no hotel there, Moat and
Mullingar are the only towns within any moderate distance of it where
tourists could get either lodgings or meals. It is not certain if even a
car could be hired at Streamstown or near it, consequently those wishing
to visit Uisneach should either have a private conveyance or make up their
minds to "do it" on foot.

Uisneach is one of the most peculiarly-shaped hills in Ireland. It is only
six hundred feet in height--a fair elevation in a part of the country
where there are no mountains--but no matter from what side it is
approached, it cannot be seen until one is almost at its base. The country
immediately around it is so broken and so cut up by many hills and hollows
of almost all shapes, that Uisneach, the highest of all the hills near it,
can hardly be noticed until one is just at it. A public road runs close to
its base, so there is no difficulty in reaching it, and the ascent is by
no means steep. It is not until one is on the top of Uisneach that he
finds out how high it is, for the view from its summit is extensive and
beautiful almost beyond power of description. The country on every side of
it consists of some of the richest pasture lands, not only in Ireland, but
in the world. No matter in what direction one looks, a vast, undulated
expanse of green meets the eye. If the view from Uisneach is seen in
autumn, when the too few and far between grain-fields are turning yellow,
it is as fair a sight as human eye ever gazed on. The country for scores
of miles on every side is so rich, so green, and so varied with hill,
dale, wood, and water, that the Biblical phrase that is applied to parts
of Palestine, "the garden of the Lord," might well be applied to the land
round this hill. But it is safe to say that no Israelite ever gazed from
Gilboa or Carmel on so fair a prospect. The vast extent of the view from
this hill seems out of all proportion with its moderate height. On a clear
day one can very nearly see from the Irish Channel to Galway Bay. The
Wicklow hills seem close by. The mountains, not only of Cavan, but of
Leitrim, are distinctly visible. On every side, save the south-west, the
prospect is what some would be tempted to call boundless. On the
south-west the view is obstructed by the hill of Knock Cosgrey, an
eminence slightly higher than Uisneach, and one of the most beautiful
hills in Ireland. It is about four miles south-west of Uisneach. Unlike
Uisneach, however, it is, seen from a distance, both striking and bold. It
has the misfortune to be called by so many different names, or rather, its
name is pronounced in so many different ways, that strangers are often
sadly puzzled what to call it. It is called Kunna Kostha and Kruck Kostha
by the peasantry, and by the gentlefolk generally Knock Ash. But its
proper name is _Cnoc Cosgraigh_, and is so written by the Four Masters,
who are, undoubtedly, the highest authority we possess on place names.
Seen from the road from Moat to Ballymahon, Knock Cosgrey is one of the
most charming sights imaginable. It is nearly a mile from top to base, and
forms a green pyramid of almost perfect symmetry. Its surface is entirely
under grass; for this part of Ireland has been largely turned into
pastures; and sometimes one may drive for six miles and not see a field of
grain. "The bold peasantry" of whom Goldsmith speaks in his "Deserted
Village" have become so few in these parts that miles may be travelled at
mid-day through as fine a country as there is in the world without meeting
a human being. Sheep and cattle, and not men and women, seem the
prevailing living creatures. Knock Cosgrey is not only higher than
Uisneach, but more near the true geographical centre of the island; but it
possesses hardly any historic interest from the fact that its summit was
too narrow to allow the ancient Irish either to build or assemble on it.
Uisneach, with its over a hundred acres of nearly level land on its top,
was therefore chosen, for a hundred thousand men could find space on it.
It became, for that reason, one of the most historic, and in ancient times
one of the most celebrated, hills in Ireland.

There is probably not another hill in Ireland so well adapted both for a
place for assemblies and a site for building as Uisneach. Its summit is
extensive. There are springs of the purest water on it. Plenty of stones
of almost every size abound, and the soil, even in the most elevated
parts, is of great fertility. In the troublesome times of yore, Uisneach
possessed advantages that were most important in its elevation, and the
extensive view it commanded; for they made it impossible for an army to
approach it from any side without being seen by the watchers on its top.
From the many advantages that this beautiful and extraordinary hill
possesses, it seems strange that it was not chosen by the ancient Irish
for a place of central government. It would have been even better suited
for such a purpose than Tara. It probably would have been the chief seat
of ancient Irish sovereignty if it had not been that the mistake made in
selecting Tara instead of it, occurred so far back in what may be called
prehistoric times, and antiquity had given Tara such a prestige that it
continued to be the most important place in Ireland until it was
abandoned as a seat of government in the sixth century. But Uisneach was
also used as a place of residence by the Irish over-kings. That they
sometimes resided there can be proved from ancient Gaelic writings. It was
supposed to be the geographical centre of Ireland, and before the
formation of the province of Meath by the over-king, Tuathal, in the early
part of the second century, the four provinces met at Uisneach Hill. It is
curious what a close guess the ancients made to locate the exact centre of
the island. They seem, however, to have placed it four or five miles too
far to the north-east, for, according to the most recent surveys, the hill
of Knock Cosgrey is in the exact geographical centre of Ireland. In
far-back ancient times, before the province of Meath had been formed by
taking parts of the four original provinces, the hill of Uisneach was in
Connacht. This almost exact quaternal division of Ireland into provinces,
and their meeting at a point that was supposed to be the exact centre of
the island, is a very curious and interesting feature in ancient Irish
polity. In other countries, provinces seem to have originated by mere
accident, some being big, and some little; but in Ireland they seem to
have been laid out by line and rule, for the four provinces that met at
Uisneach must have been very nearly of equal area. The celebrated Cat
Stone on the hill of Uisneach was known from remote antiquity as _Ail na
Mireann_, or "the rock of the divisions," because the four provinces met
at it. This rock was known by this name among the peasantry of the
neighbourhood up to recent times, until Irish became a dead language in
this part of the country.

Ail na Mireann, or, as it is now called, the Cat Stone, is the greatest
curiosity on Uisneach Hill. It is not on the top of the hill, but on its
side. It is, perhaps, the most puzzling rock in Ireland, for it is hard to
say whether it was placed in its present position by an iceberg in the
glacial age, or whether it was placed there by human agency, and intended
for a rude cromlech. Here is what the eminent scholar and antiquarian,
John O'Donovan, says about it in his yet unpublished letters when he was
on the Government Survey of Ireland in 1837:--"The huge rock on this hill
of Uisneach, a part of which was split and formed into a cromlech, is now
called the Cat Stone, from a supposed resemblance to a cat sitting and
watching a mouse." If this stone is a cromlech, or Druid's altar, it is
unlike anything of the kind found elsewhere in Ireland or other
countries, for the four upright stones which usually support the flat one,
are not to be seen here. The weight of this enormous mass of stone can
hardly be less than twenty tons, and if it was put in its present position
by human agency, it is by far the most extraordinary thing of its kind in
Ireland. But a majority of those who see it think that it is merely a
boulder of peculiar shape. If it is a boulder it is a very extraordinary
one, and if it is a cromlech it is a more extraordinary one still.

It was on Uisneach Hill, or in its immediate vicinity, that the
ecclesiastical synod met in the year 1111. This great meeting is mentioned
in almost all Irish annals. It was attended by fifty bishops, three
hundred priests, and upwards of three thousand students, and by the nobles
of the southern half of Ireland, with Muircheartach O'Briain, King of
Munster, at their head. We are told that the synod was convened to
regulate the manners and mode of living of both clergy and laity. It does
not seem to have done much good on account of the then chaotic political
state of the country, caused by almost constant wars between the aspirants
for chief kingship.

There are many interesting things besides the cromlech to be seen on the
vast undulated summit of Uisneach. There is a hollow known as St
Patrick's bed, and there are the remains of the walls of large stone
buildings on the most elevated part of the hill. There is also one of the
finest raths in Ireland, which must have been a place of great strength,
for the embankments are still of immense height, and are overgrown with
hawthorn bushes of great size. This rath, unlike the generality of such
structures, is not round, but oblong. It encloses a space of nearly an
acre in extent.

Apart from antiquarianism, the hill of Uisneach is well worth seeing, for
it is as strange in shape as it is beautiful in verdure. It is only a few
miles from a railroad; it is easy to ascend, for a carriage might be
driven to its summit. The longest summer day might be passed on it, and
some new curiosity of antiquity or some fresh beauty of scenery be
continually discovered. The surface of the hill is so broken, and is of
such great extent, that to explore it thoroughly, and to enjoy all the
varied prospects to be seen from it, even a long summer day would hardly
be long enough.


When treating of hills and of the country in the vicinity of Uisneach, it
may be interesting to say something about the most beautiful and
perfect _artificial_ hill in Ireland--namely, the Moat of Ballylochloe. It
is about nine miles west of Uisneach, and three north-west of Moat. It was
evidently erected for a sepulchral mound, but seems to have also been used
as a place of defence. A ridge of sand-hills has been cut, and a most
perfect and symmetrical _moat_ has been formed. It cannot be less than a
hundred and fifty feet in height. When seen from the road approaching it
from the east, it is almost Alpine in appearance, and looks like a small
mountain. Neither history nor legend throws much light on the origin of
this gigantic mound. We are told, however, that in the time of Queen
Meave, about the year 50 B.C., there was a terrible battle in a place
called Cloch Bruighne, now called Cloch Brian, some two miles from where
the moat now stands, in which battle a wealthy farmer called Da Choga was
killed, and his house burned. His wife, whose name was Lucha, died of
grief, and was buried, it is said, near Loch Lucha, which seems to have
been called after her. In Irish, the name of this place is _Baile Loch
Lucha_. From the fact of the name of the wife of the farmer, or _bruighe_,
being contained in the name of the stead, the late Mr W. M. Hennessy, an
excellent authority on such matters, thought that the mound was erected
over the remains of the woman Lucha. In former times, there was a small
lake at the foot of the moat, hence the modern name Ballylochloe.

This beautiful artificial hill is well worth seeing. It is only three
miles from the railway station at Moat.


The ruins of Clonmacnois form by far the most interesting architectural
remains on the Shannon. Their situation is unique--on a sandy knoll
overlooking the winding river, as it flows in great reaches among marshy
meadows of apparently illimitable extent. Thousands of acres of them on
both banks of the Shannon are spread before one's gaze when standing at
the base of any of the ruined shrines of this ancient seat of piety and
learning. The ecclesiastics of ancient Ireland seem to have been gifted
with an extraordinary amount of appreciation for the beautiful and unique
in nature. The wilder and the more beautiful a place was, the more it
seems to have attracted them. Cashel's solitary Rock, Glendaloch's gloomy
vale, and this barren sandhill overlooking the most peculiar scenery in
all the island, were the places in which they reared their most cherished
fanes and most beautiful buildings. The situation of Clonmacnois cannot be
said to be beautiful, but it is strange and weird to the last degree--more
strange and weird, perhaps, than any other place in Ireland.

The best and most agreeable way to reach Clonmacnois is from Athlone. It
is twelve English miles from Athlone by road, and ten by river. By river
is not only the cheapest way but the most interesting. Sails can be used
on this part of the Shannon almost as well as on Loch Ree, for the banks
are so low that every breeze that blows can be fully utilised; and the
river is so crooked, that no matter from what quarter the wind comes it
can sometimes fill the sail. The Shannon here is no tiny stream like the
Liffey, but a wide river, never less than from 150 to 200 yards in
breadth, and generally deep enough to float a small ocean steamer. The
current is, however, not rapid.

The first thing that strikes the stranger who sees Clonmacnois for the
first time is the extraordinary view from it over the largest extent of
callow meadows to be seen in any part of Ireland. It must not be thought
that these meadows are mere bogs, for some of the finest hay is raised on
them. The grass that grows on them must be of a fairly good quality, for
they let at from £5 to £6 per Irish acre, the purchaser having to save the
hay, and run all the risk attending the making it in land so liable to be
flooded. Not infrequently, the taker of meadow on the vast flats that
border the Shannon between Loch Ree and Loch Derg, will awaken some fine
morning and find all his small cocks of hay afloat, sailing placidly
southward, and more likely to find their way to Killaloe than to his
haggard. The second thing that will strike the observant stranger in
Clonmacnois is the small size of the churches. That it was one of the most
important ecclesiastical establishments in ancient Ireland there cannot be
any doubt, for it is more frequently mentioned in ancient Irish history
and annals than any other place of its kind in the country. Yet the
largest church in it, the ruins of which exist, would not, by any stretch
of imagination, accommodate more than three or four hundred worshippers.
There are the ruins of but three churches existing in Clonmacnois; the
largest of them is called Cathedral, the two smaller ones can hardly be
called churches. They must have been oratories, and would not combined
contain over two hundred persons. When Clonmacnois was in its most
prosperous condition--that was in the early part of the ninth century, or
about the time when the Danish invasions were heaviest and most
harassing--Ireland must have been a very populous country. There are so
many proofs of this in ancient Gaelic annals and literature that it may
be regarded as a fact. How, then, did it happen that the churches in
Clonmacnois were so small? This is a question that cannot be answered
fully. It may be that what now remains of its churches is of comparatively
recent origin, and may not have been erected until the decadence of the
population had commenced at the time of the Danish invasions, which
decadence became more and more pronounced down to the latter part of the
sixteenth century. Or it may have been that there were large wooden
Churches in Clonmacnois in ancient times, not a vestige or trace of which
would be found after fire had done its work on them.


The two round towers are by far the most interesting and beautiful
buildings in Clonmacnois. The larger one wants apparently twenty or thirty
feet of the top; whether it was struck by lightning, or knocked off by
cannon, no one seems to know. The smaller tower is as perfect as it was
when its builder pronounced it finished a thousand years ago. No more
beautiful piece of architecture in the way of a tower ever was erected. It
seems to be absolute perfection. The most skilled modern artisan in stone
could not find an imperfection in it. It is built entirely of cut
stones. The roof or dome is made of lozenge-shaped stones, fitted so
closely and finished so well that time and weather seem to have passed
over it in vain, for it is, as far as can be seen from the ground at its
base, as perfect as it ever was. Of all round towers in Ireland, it is the
most beautiful and perfect. The larger tower seems to have been built of
stones similar to those of the smaller one, but as it wants its top its
beauty is almost entirely spoiled. What remains of it seems about as
perfect in its architecture as human hands could make it. The smaller
tower appears to afford positive proof of Petrie's theory as to the
post-Christian origin of the Irish round towers, for it and the little
church or oratory at its base, and out of which it rises, were evidently
built at the same time, for the walls of both are actually in some places
one. Like some few of the existing round towers (the one near Navan, for
instance), the smaller one at Clonmacnois has no opening in the roof by
which the sound of bells could be emitted, showing clearly that it could
never have been erected solely for a belfry; for no matter how big a bell
might be, its sound would not have been heard a hundred yards away, if
rung under the windowless stone roof of this most perfect and beautiful of
Irish round towers. That round towers were sometimes used as belfries
seems very probable; but that their principal use, and the prime object
for which they were erected, were to protect the clergy and the treasures
of the churches from the marauding Northmen is the theory regarding them
that is now most generally accepted.

Clonmacnois is not so rich in ancient crosses as some other places like
it. There are only two to be seen there at present. They are not nearly so
well carved and ornamented as many that still remain in other Irish
cemeteries. There is not, so far as can be seen by the passer-by, a single
inscription in the Irish language visible, though some scores of such
inscriptions exist in it, every one of which has been faithfully copied
and translated by Doctor Petrie in his great work, "Christian Inscriptions
in the Irish Language." The inscribed stones are, very properly, stowed
away in a vault under lock and key where they are safe from the mischief
of so many who would delight in marring and effacing any thing they could
not understand. There are plenty of inscriptions in English to be seen in
Clonmacnois, for it is still used as a place of interment. This takes away
a great deal of its antique charm and general interest. It seems a sort of
profanation to erect a modern tomb with an English inscription on it at
the very base of a hoary round tower that was a wonder of art and beauty
when London was little else than a large village, and when England itself
was hardly civilised, and as politically powerless as Saint Domingo or

Clonmacnois has suffered as much from vandalism as any other place of its
kind in Ireland. It was taken and spoiled by the Danes when at the height
of its splendour in the ninth century. But it was not the Danes that
committed the worst depredations in this wonderfully unique and ancient
place. They were committed by men who used gunpowder, for it was evidently
by it that most of the old buildings of Clonmacnois were destroyed. It is
generally believed that it was by one of Cromwell's captains who was
stationed with some troops at Athlone when the Royalist cause had been
lost that most of the destruction at Clonmacnois was accomplished. The
blowing up of the magnificent castle erected here by Hugo de Lacy in the
twelfth century, is attributed to Cromwell's troopers, as is also the
demolition of some thirty or forty feet of the larger of the two round
towers, known as O'Ruarc's tower.

There are the remains of only three churches extant in Clonmacnois; but
we know from authentic annals and history that there were nearly a dozen
churches in it at one time. What became of them, or where they stood,
cannot now be known. Many of them were, probably, wooden churches, and,
when once destroyed, left no trace. The ruins of the ancient nunnery are
distant nearly quarter of a mile from the churchyard, on the grounds of a
gentleman named Charlton. It is only about thirty years ago since an
attempt was made to clear away the rubbish in which they were buried, and
to try if any of the sculptured stones could be recovered. The excavations
were made under the supervision of the Protestant Bishop of Limerick.
Sculptured stone-work of the highest order of art was dug up from many
feet under the surface where the destroyers had buried it. Visitors to
Clonmacnois will not have any difficulty in seeing the ruins of the
nunnery, for Mr Charlton willingly permits visitors to see them. It is not
only curious, but hopeful and pleasant, to find people of the same
religious belief altering so much for the better as time rolls by. Whilom
Protestant men and a whilom Protestant Government did all they could in
the seventeenth century to turn Clonmacnois into a heap of ruins, almost
as void and as shapeless as those of Babylon; but Protestant men and a
Protestant Government in the nineteenth century have done everything in
their power to save it from further decay, and to dig up its sculptured
stones from the dust in which ancient Protestant fanaticism and bigotry
had buried them.

Clonmacnois was founded by St Kieran, who died in the year 549. There are
records of the erection of most of its ancient buildings to be found in
Irish annals and history. According to the _Chronicon Scottorum_, a work
of high authority, the Cathedral was built in the year 909. The Cathedral
that existed when Turgesius the Dane obtained sway for some years over the
greater part of Ireland, and when his wife used to issue her orders from
that building, was probably of wood, for no trace of it appears extant.
Doctor Petrie says that the larger round tower was erected in the tenth
century, and the smaller one in the eleventh or early part of the twelfth.
There is good authority to prove that the nunnery was erected and endowed
by the too well-remembered Dearvorgil, wife of O'Ruairc, whose _liaison_
with Dermot Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, is popularly believed to have
brought about the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.

One of the great curiosities of Clonmacnois is the powder-blown-up castle
built by Hugo de Lacy in the latter part of the twelfth century, the
remains of which stand on a hill about two hundred yards from the
cemetery. It is generally known as the Prior's house, but it was evidently
built as a place of defence. It was one of the strongest castles ever
erected in Ireland. Although comparatively small, building and enclosure
not covering more than half an acre, it was a place of immense strength,
and before the invention of gunpowder could have defied a host. It is
encompassed by a fosse in some places forty feet in depth, that descends
sheer from the walls. The walls are of immense thickness and strength,
from six to eight feet thick in many places, and so firmly are the stones
embedded in grouting that to detach one of them from the powder-riven
walls, or from the vast masses of blown-up masonry that lie scattered
around, a hammer and chisel would be required. Huge heaps of the ruined
walls, some of them tons in weight, have been tumbled into the deep fosse
that surrounds the castle, but they are still almost as solid as rocks. If
ever the art of building solid walls was brought to perfection, it was by
those who reared this now ruined pile. To know the strength of gunpowder
and the solidity of ancient masonry, one should see this ruined castle of

With all the beauties and diversity of scenery of the Shannon, on the
banks of which stands all that remains of Clonmacnois, and with all the
places of historic interest laved by its waters, it is a disgrace to
Ireland at large that there is not a single passenger steam-boat on it
above Limerick. It is nearly a hundred and fifty miles from
Carrick-on-Shannon to Killaloe, and in all that vast distance of spreading
lake and winding river there is not a passenger steam-boat to be seen!
There may be said to be no obstacle to navigation in all that distance for
boats drawing from five to six feet of water, and there are only four or
five locks to pass through. No other river of equal length affords more
variety of scenery than the Shannon. Sometimes the voyager passes by
wooded banks, anon through apparently illimitable meadows, and then
through great lakes like veritable inland seas,--island-studded or
mountain-girded,--change of scene occurring in almost every mile. Let it
be hoped that a line of passenger steamers will soon again be seen on the
waters of this great and beautiful river,--this "ancient stream," as its
Gaelic name is said to mean,--that has on its banks so many relics of the
past-the grass-grown rath, the hoary round tower, the crumbling castle,
and above all, the ruined fanes of Clonmacnois.


After Tara and Uisneach, Knock Aillinn is the most historic hill in
Ireland--that is, if it was really the seat of the celebrated Finn, the
son of Cumhail. It is a different hill from the hill of Allen, which is
about nine miles north of it, and must not be confounded with it,
although, as it will be shown further on, the confusion of the two hills
seems to have taken place very long ago indeed. Knock Aillinn is some five
or six miles south of Newbridge, in the County Kildare. Apart from its
historic interest, it is well worth visiting, for it is situated in a rich
and beautiful part of the country, and the view from its summit is one of
the fairest and most extensive to be seen in any of the eastern counties.
Eastward the view is obstructed by the Wicklow mountains, but on every
other side it is very extensive, for Knock Aillinn is 600 feet high. So
fine is the view from this hill that O'Donovan, the celebrated Gaelic
scholar, was inspired by it to write a poem in Irish in praise of it, when
he was employed on the Government Survey in 1837. The poem may be seen in
his unpublished letters in the Royal Irish Academy. One verse of it,
translated into English, will show that it is a composition of more than
ordinary merit:--

    "Beautiful the view from the hill of Aillinn,
    Over lofty hills and fair plains,
    Over mountains wreathed in veils of cloud;--
    The view will remain in my memory for ever."

But beautiful and extensive as the prospect is from Knock Aillinn, and
greatly as the lovers of the beautiful may enjoy it, the chief interest
possessed by this hill is historic rather than scenic. On its summit is to
be seen the most gigantic of all Irish raths. O'Donovan called it
"prodigious." The whole top of the hill is surrounded by a mighty rampart
of earth, four hundred yards in diameter, that encloses over twenty acres.
After nearly two thousand years those earthen ramparts are still of great
height; and when, according to the fashion of the times, they were topped
with a strong palisade of timber, Knock Aillinn might be said to be an
almost impregnable fortress. To render it still stronger, the hill on
which it is placed is steep, and its ascent difficult. It was on this hill
that some think the renowned in Celtic song and legend, Finn, the son of
Cumhail, had his stronghold; but others, and it must be confessed that
they are the most numerous, think that Finn's dun was on the hill of
Allen, some eight or nine miles to the north.

That the vast _dun_, or enclosure, on Knock Aillinn was an ancient
residence of the Kings of Leinster is generally admitted; and that it was
erected long previous to the Christian era is also the opinion of those
best acquainted with early Irish history and literature. Proofs of this
can be obtained from the most reliable and ancient Gaelic writings. There
is hardly a vestige of antiquity to be seen on the summit of Knock Aillinn
save the vast earthen rampart. When one stands within it, and recalls to
mind what it must have been in days long gone by, when a large population
dwelt in it, and when armed multitudes issued from it, he will be tempted
to exclaim with Byron:--

    "Shrine of the mighty! can it be
    That this is all remains of thee?"

He will wonder that no vast masses of ancient masonry are to be seen. But
stone buildings of the kind that have been in use in these islands for
nearly a thousand years were unknown when the vast earth-works on Knock
Aillinn were erected. Walls built of dry stone have been used in Ireland
as fortresses from the most remote antiquity; but the art of building with
mortar was entirely unknown until after the introduction of Christianity.

The hill of Allen is the one on which, it is over and over again stated by
the most ancient and trustworthy Gaelic documents extant, Finn, the son of
Cumhail, had his palace. We are even told how, partly by force and
threats, he obtained Allen from his grandfather, Tadg; that he went to
live on it, and that it was his habitation as long as he lived. But here a
great difficulty meets us--there is not a vestige of dun or fort on the
hill of Allen. O'Donovan says in his unpublished letters, while on the
Ordnance Survey of Ireland, that Knock Aillinn was, according to various
ancient Irish authorities, one of the royal residences of the Kings of
Leinster, and that it received the name of _Aillinn_ from the _ail_, or
stone which was placed in the mound of the rath. On speaking of the hill
of Allen, where the celebrated Finn Mac Cool or Cumhail is said to have
had his seat, he says, "There are no traces of forts nor any other
monuments excepting one small mound called _Suidhe Finn_, or Finn's chair,
which occupies the highest point of the hill. On every side of this mound
there are faint traces of field works, but so indistinct that I could not
with any certainty decide whether they are traces of forts or of recent
cultivation, for the hill was tilled on the very summit. I travelled all
the hill, but could find upon it no monument from which it could be
inferred that it was ever a royal seat like Tara, Emania, Maistean, or any
of the other places of ancient celebrity whose localities have been
identified; and still in all Fingallian or Ossianic poems this hill (the
hill of Allen) is referred to as containing the palace of the renowned
champion, Finn Mac Cool, who seems to have been a real historical
character, who flourished here in the latter end of the third century."

O'Donovan says also in the same unpublished letters that "The antiquary
may draw his own conclusion from the non-existence of a dun on the hill of
Allen at this day. It is possible that there were forts on it a thousand
years ago, and that the progress of cultivation has effaced them; but it
is strange that these alone should disappear, while those of Tara, Emania,
Aileach, Naas, Maistean, and Raoirean remain in good preservation.... It
is curious to remark that all the monuments mentioned in the
_Dinnseanchus_ and the authentic annals still exist, while no trace is to
be found of Finn Mac Cool's palace on the hill of Allowin (Allen).... If
he had such a palace as this on Aillinn, near Kilcullen, on his hill of
Allowin, it would not disappear, because the labour of levelling it would
be so great that no agriculturist would undertake to level it."

It would seem as if the two hills, Aillinn, or Knock Aillinn as it is now
called, and Allen got confounded, and at an early date too. Allowing
liberally for exaggeration and discounting tradition, one has to believe
in the extent of Finn's house or palace, however rude and barbaric its
arrangements may have been. He was the most powerful man in Ireland, more
powerful even than the chief king. The fame of his household was spread
abroad, not only over all Ireland, but all Scotland. This we know by the
publication of the poems collected in the Highlands by the Dean of Lismore
in the sixteenth century, and translated by the late Mr T. M'Lauchlan, and
also from a host of other poems. They abound with allusions to Finn and
his house and household, as does almost all the folk-lore of the
Celtic-Scotch. One thing seems certain, that neither Finn nor his house or
palace were myths; his house must have existed, and, like all places of
its kind in the days when it existed, it must have been surrounded with an
earthen rampart no less high than that to be seen on Knock Aillinn. But no
vestige of house or rampart can be traced on the hill of Allen. A still
greater difficulty meets one in the size of the summit of the hill. It is
not much over half an Irish acre in extent, and where would there be room
on such a limited space for the vast household of Finn? His residence was
known from far-back times as "Almhuin riogha leathan mór Laighean," the
kingly, great-broad Allen of Leinster; but no _dun_ or habitation situated
on the narrow space on the top of the hill of Allen could be
"great-broad;" but the existing remains on Knock Aillinn would suit the
description almost exactly. We may be sure that if any man in Ireland in
those days had a big house, it was Finn. The names Allen and Aillinn are
so much alike, and both hills are so comparatively near each other, and
both seem to have been abandoned as strongholds at such an early date,
that confusion of one with the other could easily have taken place;
besides, Finn's name does appear to be, in some measure at least,
associated with Knock Aillinn. Here is a passage from the "Dinnseanchus"
at page 162 of the "Book of Leinster." Treating of Knock Aillinn, these
lines occur:--

    "Faichthi ruamand ruamnad rinn
    Co failgib flatha for Fhind."

Irish scholars may interpret these lines as they like, but it would seem
that the last word is a proper name, and that it relates to Finn.

But whether Finn lived in Knock Aillinn or in Allen, or whether he lived
in both places off and on, is a matter of minor importance. The real
wonder about him is the way he impressed himself not only on the age in
which he lived but on every age since then. No other man in any age or
country seems to have so fastened himself in the memories of the people of
his own race and lineage. It may be safely said that neither Julius Caesar
nor Charlemagne have impressed themselves on popular imagination so much
as Finn and those associated with him have. Those who have not studied the
Celtic folk-lore of Ireland and Scotland can form but an incomplete idea
of the overwhelming immensity of the folk-lore about Finn and his cycle
that exists even yet. But with the decay of Gaelic speech it is rapidly
fading away. It is hardly too much to say that when Gaelic was the
language of the fireside all through Ireland and a large part of
Scotland, and that is only a few centuries ago, there was not a parish
from Kerry to Caithness in which dozens of different stories about Finn
and his contemporaries did not exist; and it is equally safe to say that
not the tenth, probably not the twentieth, part of them was ever committed
to writing. Finn, Ossian, and Caoilte were the _dramatis personæ_ of the
most extensive, if not the choicest, popular, unwritten folk-lore that
probably ever existed in any country. But one of the strangest things
connected with the cycle of Finn and Ossian is that its folk-lore hardly
appears at all in really ancient Gaelic literature. The Gaelic scribes of
the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries took but little notice of it;
it was to the events of the Cuchulainn cycle that they gave almost their
entire attention. In the "Book of Leinster," the greatest repertory of
Gaelic literature that exists in one volume, there is only one story that
can be called an Ossianic or Finnian one, while nearly half the book is
taken up with tracts and stories relating to the cycle of Cuchulainn,
which was nearly three centuries earlier than that of Ossian and Finn. But
the Cuchulainn cycle, from whatever cause will probably be never known,
seems to have entirely failed to take hold of the popular imagination.
Folk-lore relating to the Cuchulainn cycle is rare. There are a few in
which Cuchulainn is mentioned, and M'Pherson in his Ossian mixes the
Ossianic and Cuchulainn cycles together, although they were three
centuries apart. Of all the prominent names belonging to the Cuchulainn
cycle, Queen Medb or Meave was one of the most prominent, but not a single
story exists about her in the oral Gaelic folk-lore of Ireland or Scotland
of which the writer has ever heard. She seems to have found her way into
the folk-lore of England, but not into that of Ireland or the
Gaelic-speaking parts of Scotland. She figures very prominently in Irish
history and literature, but in folk-lore she does not figure at all. The
reason of this may be that Finn, Ossian, and others of their "set" were
supposed to have lived so long that they met St Patrick and were converted
to Christianity by him; but there is no foundation for such a belief, for
authentic Irish history says that Finn was killed in the year 283 at Ath
Brea on the Boyne.

It is not easy to see clearly why Finn so impressed his memory and his
cycle on the minds of his countrymen, for he does not appear to have been
an altogether amiable personage. There are very many discreditable things
told of him in the multitudinous stories of which he is the central
figure. In one of them, the "Pursuit of Dermot and Gráine," he plays the
part of a revengeful, unforgiving, bad man; while his great enemy, Dermot
O'Duibhne, is a bold, open-hearted hero, the very opposite of his
unrelenting pursuer. With all the absurdities and impossibilities of the
"Pursuit," the leading characters in it are sustained with a consistency
that would do credit even to Shakespeare. Finn at the end of the story is
just what he was at the beginning, unforgiving and bad; and Gráine, who is
bad at the beginning is bad also at the end; while Dermot, a hero at the
beginning of the story, is still a hero at its close. It may interest some
to know that most Irish historians and scholars think that Dermot
O'Duibhne was the person from whom the barony of Corcaguiney, in the
County Kerry, is called. In correct orthography it would be _Corc Ui
Dhuibhne_, and would be pronounced very nearly as the name of the barony
is written at present. If it be true that Corcaguiney got its name from
Dermot O'Duibhne, and there seems no reason to doubt that it did, another
proof is given of the general correctness of at least the salient points
in Irish history. It may also interest some to know that the Campbells of
Argyll are popularly believed, even in their own country, to be descended
from this same Dermot O'Duibhne. They have been known for centuries as the
Clann Diarmid, or children of Dermot, as will be remembered by any one who
has read Scott's "Legend of Montrose." The real name of the Argyll
Campbells seems to be really O'Duibhne. It was so that they generally
signed their names up to a comparatively recent date. Bishop Carsewell,
who translated John Knox's Prayer Book into Gaelic in 1567, the first
Gaelic book that was ever printed, dedicates it to the Duke of Argyll,
whom he calls Gilleasbuig O'Duibhne.[5] Carsewell would hardly have dared
to address his patron, and the most powerful nobleman in Scotland, by a
false name or a sobriquet. The Campbells seem to have been called
O'Duibhne down to the middle of the seventeenth century, for in the
national manuscripts of Scotland there is a very fine Gaelic poem on the
death of a Campbell, who is styled "O'Duibhne" in the Gaelic.

Translations that have been recently made from Gaelic manuscripts of high
authority have thrown considerable light on Finn, and the events of his
epoch. We are told in the tract called the "Boramha," or "Tribute," to
which reference has been already made, that when Bresal, a king of
Leinster, in the third century, was given his choice to pay the tribute or
fight the rest of Ireland, he asked help from Finn. A person called
Molling was sent to ask Finn to help the men of Leinster. Molling told
Finn that he should not come with a small army to fight the chief king,
who had the national army with him. The number of men that Finn had, was,
we are told in the "Boramha," fifteen hundred chiefs, each having thirty
men under him, making the total number of men that Finn brought to help
Leinster forty-five thousand, a very large army in those days. They joined
the Leinster men, inflicted a crushing defeat on the forces of the chief
king, so that the tribute was not paid for many years after. Nine thousand
of the "men of Ireland," as the "Book of Leinster" almost invariably calls
the national forces, were slain in the battle.

The militia of which Finn was the Commander-in-Chief, and of which his
father and grandfather had also been commanders, are the heroes of
hundreds of Ossianic tales and poems. It would appear that they numbered
twenty-one thousand men on a peace footing, but could raise their numbers
to double that amount in time of need. They became so extortionate and
arrogant in the long run, that the chief king, Cairbre, and it would seem
all the provincial rulers except the King of Leinster, determined to crush
them. So a great battle was fought at Garristown in the County Dublin in
the year 290 or 296, and the militia of Finn was totally destroyed. It
would seem that neither Knock Aillinn nor the hill of Allen has been since
then inhabited.

It may not be out of place to state here that students of Gaelic are often
puzzled on seeing the name of Finn spelt _Fionn_. It seems certain that
_Finn_ is the proper orthography. The name is invariably so spelt in all
cases in the "Book of Leinster," one of the most correct of all the great
Gaelic books; but the editor of "Silva Gadelica" makes it _Fionn_ in all
cases except in the genitive. It is difficult to understand why, when
copying from a manuscript of such high authority as the "Book of
Leinster," he did not follow its orthography. In the northern half of
Ireland the name is pronounced according to its correct orthography, but
in the south of Ireland it is pronounced as if written _Fyun_.

Those who visit Knock Aillinn and its mighty _dun_ should also visit the
hill of Allen. If there is nothing to be seen on it, there is a great
deal to be seen from it, for the view is very extensive. If any one wanted
to know how vast the bog of Allen is, he should ascend the hill of Allen,
from which he will see a very large part of it. If he is in any doubt as
to the exact place in which Finn had his dwelling and _dun_, he will at
least be in the locality that has given birth to the most colossal
folk-lore that perhaps ever existed,--stories that in the far-back past,
before the world was tormented by newspapers and bewildered by
politicians, beguiled many a tedious hour and delighted many a sad heart.


Those in search of the picturesque alone will not find very much to
interest them in Kildare or its immediate vicinity. There may be said to
be hardly any remarkable scenic beauties in its neighbourhood. There is
the broad expanse of the Curragh not far from the town, one of the finest
places for military manoeuvres in the British Isles. It is strange why it
is called a curragh--more correctly, _currach_--for the word means a
marsh, a place that _stirs_ when trodden on. There is only a very small
part of the land to which the name is applied that is a marsh. It is
almost all perfectly dry upland. However, it was called _Currach Life_
from very early times, that is the marsh or swamp of the Liffy. It would
seem as if the word _Life_ meant originally the country through which the
river Liffy flows, and that the river took its name from the country; for
when King Tuathal wanted revenge on Leinstermen, for the death of his two
daughters, who have been mentioned in the article on Tara, he says--

    "Let them be revenged on Leinstermen,
    On the warriors _in_ the Life."

It is thought that the name Liffy comes from the adjective _liomhtha_,
meaning smooth, or polished, for part of the country through which the
river flows is very smooth and beautiful.

Hardly a vestige of the ancient buildings of Kildare remain save the round
tower. It is over one hundred and thirty feet in height, and therefore one
of the highest in Ireland. It seems as perfect as it was the day it was
finished. It is sad to say that it is the most completely
spoiled--bedevilled would probably be a better word--of all the Irish
round towers; for some person or persons whose memories should be held in
everlasting abhorrence by every archæologist, have put an incongruous,
ridiculous, castellated top on it that makes it look as unsightly and as
horrible as a statue of Julius Cæsar would look with a stove-pipe hat on
its head. The people of Kildare and its vicinity should at once raise
funds and have a proper, antique roof put on their tower, for it is an
absolute disgrace to them as it is at present. The top of the tower may
have been destroyed by lightning, or, like many other round towers, it may
have been left unfinished, and may never have had a top or roof on it. But
whatever may have happened to it, its present castellated roof is a
disgraceful incongruity.

The cathedral of Kildare is a modern and rather plain building of mediocre
interest. It is supposed to be built in, or nearly in, the place where the
old church stood that was founded by St Brigit in the sixth century.
Kildare seems to owe its origin to St Brigit, for the name means the cell
or church of the oak; and as Brigit was contemporary with St Patrick, hers
must have been the first Christian establishment founded at Kildare. It is
stated in the _Trias Thaumaturga_ of Colgan that when she returned to her
own district, a cell was assigned to her in which she afterwards led a
wonderful life; that she erected a monastery in Kildare, and that a very
great city afterwards sprang up, which became the metropolis of the
Lagenians, or Leinster folk. It requires a great stretch of imagination to
conceive how Kildare could ever have been a "very great city," for it is
now, and has for many years, been a small, a very small country town,
hardly any more than a village. It seems strange that Kildare is not
larger and more prosperous, for if not situated in a picturesque part of
the island, the country round it is very fair and fertile, and beautiful
as any flat country could be. There is, however, a passage in the
"Calendar of Oengus," written in the latter end of the eighth or the
beginning of the ninth century, that goes far to prove that what is said
in the _Trias Thaumaturga_ about Kildare having been once a large place is
true. Speaking of the fall of the strongholds of the Pagans, and the rise
of Christian centres, Oengus says--

    "Aillinn's proud burgh
    Hath perished with its warlike host:
    Great is victorious Brigit:
    Fair is her multitudinous city."

The "multitudinous city" was, of course, Kildare. It is curious that
Oengus should mention Aillinn, and not mention Allen, the supposed seat of
Finn, for wherever he had his stronghold must have been, in his epoch, the
most important place in Ireland, Tara alone excepted.

Kildare is famous and historic solely on account of St Brigit. Of all
Irish Saints, she is the most to be loved. Her charity, her love for
humanity, was so absolutely divine, that reading her life as narrated in
the _Leabhar Breac_, we are moved to our very heart's depths. The miracles
she is said to have performed are so wondrous, and show such a love for
mankind, especially for the poor, that when we read them we long to be
children again in order that we might unhesitatingly believe such
beautiful fables. It was in Kildare that that wondrous lamp was which is
said to have

    "Lived through long ages of darkness and storm,"

without having been replenished by human hand; and it was this legend that
inspired Moore to compose the noblest national lyric ever written, "Erin,
O Erin." If he never wrote a line of poetry save what is contained in that
song, the Irish people would be justified in raising a statue of gold to
his memory. It is, beyond anything of the kind known to humanity,

    "Perfect music set to noble words";

yet, heart-sickening to think of, the masses of the Irish people hardly
know it at all!

When St Brigit is contrasted with St Patrick, she appears very different
from him. The lives of Ireland's three great Saints are in the _Leabhar
Breac_, an Irish manuscript compiled early in the fourteenth century; but
the greater part of it is made up of transcripts from documents that were
probably many hundred years old when they were copied into it. The three
Saints whose lives appear in it are Patrick, Brigit, and Columba, or Colum
Cill, as he is generally called in Ireland. These lives were translated
some years ago by Mr Whitley Stokes, the greatest of living Gaelic
scholars; but as only a few dozen copies were printed for private
circulation, the book is practically as unknown to the general public as
if it never had been printed at all. Extracts from it, therefore, cannot
fail to be interesting to the readers of this book.

Brigit shines out a star of the first magnitude, totally eclipsing the
lesser two lights, Patrick and Columba. Nothing shall be said about
Columba at present, but it has to be admitted that Patrick, as he is
represented in the _Leabhar Breac_, makes a poor show when contrasted with
glorious St Brigit. Patrick is represented as spending a large part of his
time in cursing and killing, but St Brigit spends most of hers in blessing
and relieving. If St Patrick converts a great many, he is represented as
killing a great many; but St Brigit kills nobody. The narrative of her
life in the _Leabhar Breac_ is probably as wonderful a piece of biography
as ever was written. There is no effort at style in it, and no attempt at
book-making. The narrative is simplicity in the true sense of the word.
One of the wonderful things about it is the side light it throws both on
the social and political conditions of ancient Ireland; but, curiously
enough, no such light is thrown on the state of the country by the lives
of St Patrick and St Columba, written in the same book and probably by the
same author.

St Brigit seems to have acted on some of the precepts found in the
"Ancient Mariner" fourteen hundred years before the poem was written. She
seems to have known that--

    "He prayeth best
    Who loveth best
    All things both great and small,"

for we are told that her father, who at present would be called Duffy,
"sundered a gammon of bacon into five pieces, and left it with Brigit to
be boiled for his guests. A miserable, greedy hound came into the house to
Brigit. Brigit, out of pity, gave him the fifth piece. When the hound had
eaten that piece, Brigit gave another piece to him. Then Duffy came and
said to Brigit, 'Hast thou boiled the bacon, and do all the portions
remain?' 'Count them,' saith Brigit. Duffy counted them and none of them
was wanting. The guests declared unto Duffy what Brigit had done.
'Abundant,' said Duffy, 'are the miracles of that maiden.' Now the guests
ate not the food, for they were unworthy thereof, but it was dealt out to
the poor and needy of the Lord."

The following narrative shows St Brigit's love of animals in a still
stronger light:

"Once upon a time a bondsman of Brigit's family was cutting firewood. It
came to pass that he killed a pet fox of the King of Leinster's. The
bondsman was seized by the King. Brigit ordered a wild fox to come out of
the wood. So he came, and was playing and sporting for the hosts and for
the King at Brigit's order. But when the fox had finished his feats, he
went safe back to the wood, with the hosts of Leinster after him, both
foot and horse and hounds."

This is simply beautiful. St Brigit, while she got the poor bondsman out
of trouble, managed to do so without depriving the fox of his liberty.

Here is another extract that makes one wish that the life of St Brigit in
the _Leabhar Breac_, instead of containing only about twenty octavo pages,
contained a thousand:--

"Then came Brigit and her mother with her to her father's house.
Thereafter Duffy (her father) and his consort were minded to sell the holy
Brigit into bondage, for Duffy liked not his cattle and his wealth to be
dealt out to the poor, and that is what Brigit used to do. So Duffy fared
in his chariot, and Brigit along with him. Said Duffy to Brigit, 'Not for
honour or reverence to thee art thou carried in a chariot, but to take
thee and sell thee, and to grind the quern for Dunlang Mac Enda, King of
Leinster.' When they came to the King's fortress, Duffy went in to the
King, and Brigit remained in her chariot at the fortress door. Duffy had
left his sword in the chariot near Brigit. A leper came to Brigit to ask
alms. She gave him Duffy's sword. Said Duffy to the King, 'Wilt thou buy a
bondmaid, namely, my daughter?' says he. Said Dunlang, 'Why sellest thou
thine own daughter?' Said Duffy, 'She stayeth not from selling my wealth
and giving it to the poor.' Said the King, 'Let the maiden come into the
fortress.' Duffy went for Brigit, and was enraged against her because she
had given his sword to the poor man. When Brigit came into the King's
presence, the King said to her, 'Since it is thy father's wealth that thou
takest, much more if I buy thee, wilt thou take of _my_ wealth and _my_
cattle, and give them to the poor.' Said Brigit, 'The Son of the Virgin
knoweth if I had thy might with all Leinster and with all thy wealth, I
would give them to the Lord of the Elements.' Said the King to Duffy,
'Thou art not fit on either hand to bargain for this maiden, for her merit
is higher before God than before men.' And he gave Duffy for her an
ivory-hilted sword. So was St Brigit saved from bondage."

The idea of giving a sword to a poor crippled leper because she had
nothing else to give could hardly have entered into the head of any saint
but an Irish one.

The next extract from this marvellous biography is, perhaps, the most
curious and interesting of all. In another interview that Brigit had with
the King of Leinster, "a slave of the slaves of the King came to speak
with Brigit, and said to her, 'If thou wouldst save me from the servitude
wherein I am, I would become a Christian, and would serve thee thyself.'
Brigit said, 'I will ask that of the King.' So Brigit went into the
fortress and asked her two boons of the king, the forfeiture of the sword
to Duffy, and his freedom for the slave. Said Brigit to the King, 'If thou
desirest excellent children and a kingdom for thy sons, and heaven for
thyself, give me the two boons I ask.' Said the King to Brigit, 'The
kingdom of heaven, as I see it not, and as no one knows what thing it is,
I seek it not; and a kingdom for my sons I seek not, for I shall not
myself be extant, and let each one serve his time. But give me length of
life in my kingdom, and victory always over the Hui Neill, for there is
often war between us; and give me victory in the first battle, so that I
may be trustful in the other fights.' And this was fulfilled in the
battle of Lochar which was fought against the Hui Neill."

By the "Hui Neill" the people of the entire north of Ireland, including
Meath, were meant. They represented the national party because the chief
kings, for some centuries previous, were of the race of Niall of the Nine
Hostages. Mr Stokes says, speaking of the above extract in his preface to
the translation, "The conversation between Brigit and Dunlang (King of
Leinster) seems to preserve the authentic utterance of an Irish pagan

One extract more to show in a still stronger light the angelic kindness
and love for humanity, especially for suffering humanity, that glowed in
the heart of this wonderful woman:

"Once upon a time the King of Leinster came unto Brigit to listen to
preaching and celebration on Easter Day. After the ending of the form of
celebration the King fared forth on his way, and Brigit went to refection.
Lomman, Brigit's leper, said he would eat nothing until the warrior
weapons, _arm gaisgedh_, of the King of Leinster were given to him, spear,
sword, and shield, that he might move to and fro under them. A messenger
was sent after the King. From mid-day to evening was the King going
astray, and attained not even a thousand paces, so that the weapons were
given by him and bestowed on the leper."

This instance of going to such trouble to please a poor crippled pauper,
for Lomman was evidently such, and of working a miracle so that the King
of Leinster should lose his way, and not go so far that he could not be
overtaken, is one of the most extraordinary instances of trouble taken to
please a pauper that is to be found in all the records of benevolence and

The "Annals of the Four Masters" say that St Brigit was buried in
Downpatrick, in the same grave with St Patrick; but the learned editor and
translator of their annals says that she and Bishop Conlaeth were buried,
one on the right, and one on the left of the altar, in the church of
Kildare, and he gives Colgan's great book, _Trias Thaumaturga_, as his
authority, and no authority could be higher.


There are not many places in Ireland more interesting than this strange
and weird glen. It can hardly be called beautiful. It is gloomy and grand;
and there is something depressing about it even in the finest day in
autumn when the sombre mountains by which it is surrounded on all sides
but one are mantled in their most gorgeous crimson drapery of
full-blooming heather. It is just such a spot as an anchorite like St
Kevin would choose as a place for contemplation and prayer.

Glendaloch--it ought _not_ to be spelled _Glendalough_--is very nearly in
the centre of the romantic county of Wicklow. It is a good central point
from which to make excursions to the many beautiful and interesting places
in its vicinity, such as Glen Molur, the Glen of Imail, the Meeting of the
Waters, and the Mountain of Lugnacuilla, the highest in Leinster. The
interior of the County Wicklow may be said to be a vast wilderness of
mountains, bogs, and glens. But its mountains have, with one exception,
the defect of being round-topped. They lack the boldness of the hills of
Connemara and Donegal. The mountain that is the most bold and alpine in
the county, and that forms an exception to the general contour of its
hills, is the famous one called the "Sugar-loaf," near Bray. The Dublin
grocer, or whoever he was that gave this beautiful hill such an abominable
name, should have his memory held in everlasting contempt. Its real name
is a grand one, Sleeve Coolan, _rectè_ Sliabh Cualann. But in spite of
the generally rounded outlines of the Wicklow Mountains, there are some
splendid alpine views to be seen among them; and none finer than from the
Glen of Lugalaw, about seven or eight miles from Bray.

[Illustration: GLENDALOCH.]

But of all places in Wicklow, Glendaloch is the most famous. It ought to
be so, for there is nothing like it in Ireland. There are many glens as
wild and as gloomy as it, but they lack the historic interest and the
legendary halo that make Glendaloch dear to the archæologist, the poet,
and the dreamer. Its history goes back almost to the beginning of
Christian times. For five hundred years it was one of the most important
ecclesiastical and educational places in Ireland. Its name constantly
occurs in Irish annals and history; and its history was for centuries as
gloomy as itself, for the Danes plundered it and burned it so often that
it seems strange that it was not abandoned many centuries sooner. It was
so near their great stronghold, Dublin, that it was harried by them on and
off for over two hundred years.

St Kevin's name is indissolubly associated with Glendaloch, or the Seven
Churches, as it is most frequently called, for it is supposed that there
were seven churches in it at one time. St Kevin, according to the best
authority who ever wrote on Irish history and archæology, the famous John
O'Donovan, came of a distinguished family in the County Wicklow. His name,
in correct orthography, _Coemhgen_, means "fair offspring." He seems to
have been predestined to be a Saint, for many miraculous things are told
of his infancy and early youth. When he was a baby a white cow is said to
have come miraculously to supply him with milk. The story about his having
murdered Kathleen, the girl with eyes of "unholy blue," by throwing her
into that lake that the "Skylark never warbles o'er," is a mere fable. It
seems a pity that the story upon which Moore founded his very beautiful
lyric, "By that Lake, whose gloomy Shore," should have hardly any
foundation in fact. That a certain girl fell in love with him and caused
him a good deal of annoyance is quite true; but he did not kill her or
throw her into the lake. He only administered a rather mild castigation,
as shall be seen. O'Donovan says that the following extract, taken from
the _Codex Killkenniensis_, which, there are good reasons to believe, has
never yet been made public by translation, is the oldest and most
trustworthy account of the transaction known to exist; and that the
trouble between St Kevin and the girl did not take place in Glendaloch,
but in another place in the County Wicklow. O'Donovan's translation of
the story is the one now given:--

"While the most holy Caemhgen (Kevin) was as yet remaining in the house of
his parents, the Lord performed many miracles through him.... The parents
of Kevin observing so great a grace in him, committed him to the care of
the holy seniors, Eoganus, Lochanus, and Enna, in order that he might in
their cell be brought up for Christ; and St Kevin was sedulously reading
with those saints. When he was grown up in the first flower of his youth,
a young girl saw him out in a field along with the brethren, and fell
passionately in love with him, for he was exceedingly handsome. And she
began to make known her friendship for him in astute words. And she was
always laying snares for him in every way she could, by looks, by
language, and sometimes by messengers. But the holy youth rejected all
these allurements. On a certain day she sought the opportunity of finding
him alone, and on a day when the brethren were working in a wood, she
passed by them, and seeing St Kevin working by himself in the wood, she
approached him, and clasped him in her arms with fondest embrace. But the
soldier of Christ arming himself with the sacred sign, and full of the
Holy Ghost, made strong resistance against her, and rushed out of her
arms in the wood; and finding nettles, took secretly a bunch of them, and
struck her with them many times on the face, hands, and feet. And when she
was blistered with the nettles, the pleasure of her love became extinct.
And she being sorrowful of heart, asked on her bended knees pardon of St
Kevin in the name of the Lord. And the Saint praying for her to Christ,
she promised him that she would dedicate her virginity to the Lord. The
brothers finding them discussing together, wondered very much; but the
virgin related to them what had passed; and the brethren hearing such,
were confirmed in their love for chastity. And that little girl afterwards
became a prudent and holy virgin, and diligently observed the holy
admonitions of St Kevin."

The above translation has not, to the writer's knowledge, ever been
previously published. John O'Donovan, the greatest authority on such
matters that ever lived, says in his unpublished letters, while on the
Ordnance Survey of Ireland, that the above extract "is the oldest and only
authority for the story about St Kevin and the lady, and shows clearly
that the scene of it is erroneously placed at Glendaloch by oral tradition
and modern writers. It will also be sufficient evidence that this Saint
did not murder the lady Kathleen, but inflicted a somewhat mild
punishment by flogging her with a bunch of nettles!"

So poor St Kevin's memory is cleared. It is a pity that Moore did not see
the _Codex Killkenniensis_ before he wrote the beautiful lyric that casts
such a cloud on Wicklow's greatest saint. That the name of St Kevin was
highly esteemed not only in Wicklow in ancient times, but all through
Leinster, there is ample proof in ancient Gaelic literature. A poet named
Broccan, writing in the tenth century in praise of his native province of
Leinster and the great people it produced, said:

    "I never heard in any province,
      Between earth and holy heaven,
    Of a nun like St Brigit
      Or a cleric like Kevin."[6]

Glendaloch must have been founded in the latter part of the sixth century,
for St Kevin died in 617, aged 120 years. There cannot be any doubt that
it was he who founded Glendaloch. We are told that he sought the sombre
valley for a retreat in which to contemplate and pray, and that before
there were any buildings in it he lived for a long time in a hollow tree,
and subsisted on wild fruit and water. The cave in the cliff overhanging
the lake, known as St Kevin's Bed, the entrance to which is not only
difficult but dangerous, seems also to have given him shelter for a long
time before there were any habitations in the glen. It is said that if
_nouvelles mariées_ succeed in getting into this dark and dismal cavern,
they are sure to be blessed with large families. Why such a belief should
be current is not easy to understand, because St Kevin, after whom the
cavern is called, not only had no children, but was a decided woman-hater.
If he did not drown Kathleen, he at least whipped her with nettles, a
thing that no gallant man would think of doing to a girl who loved him. It
will, however, be the general opinion of most of those who read this
version of the story, that St Kevin "served her right."

Glendaloch has been ruined and uprooted in a shocking manner. Of all its
edifices there are only two that still stand--namely, the round tower and
the building known as "Kevin's Kitchen." This latter is stone-roofed, and
is considered to be one of the oldest buildings of the kind in Ireland.
Archæologists are not agreed as to what particular use it was originally
intended, but that it was an ecclesiastical edifice of some kind seems to
be the opinion of everyone. There are, it is said, the remains of seven
churches still to be seen in Glendaloch. It appears to have been a walled
city, and Petrie, one of the most painstaking and learned archæologists
that ever Ireland produced, claimed to have traced the tracks of the walls
in many places. That it contained a large population in the eighth and
ninth centuries seems to admit of little doubt. Oengus the Culdee, whose
verse in which Glendaloch is mentioned has been given in the article on
"Emania the Golden," calls it "multitudinous Glendaloch," and "the Rome of
the western world." Allowing for the exaggeration of which ancient Gaelic
poets may have been rather too fond, it must be admitted that what they
say cannot be entirely ignored; and it is more than probable that
immediately before the Danes and other northern nations began their raids
on Ireland, Glendaloch may have been, and probably was, a large monastic
city, as cities were in those days. The Irish monasteries of the eighth
and ninth centuries were probably the wealthiest in the world, if not in
lands, at least in gold and silver. Where or how they got, or where or how
the ancient Irish got, such quantities of the precious metals is a mystery
that may never be solved; but that Ireland had an enormous amount of gold
and silver in ancient times there can be no doubt at all. This would be
sufficiently proved by the quantity, not of coined money, for they had
not any, but of ornaments of almost every kind that have been found in all
parts of the country, more, it is said, than have been found in the rest
of Europe. There is hardly a barony in Ireland, it might be said hardly a
parish, in which stories are not told of people having become suddenly
rich by finding, it is naturally supposed, treasure trove in the shape of
gold ornaments, very few of which have been preserved, for they were
generally melted down. Sir Wm. Wilde mentions, in one of his catalogues of
articles in the Royal Irish Academy, a find of £3000 worth of gold
ornaments in the County Clare some fifty years ago. It seems a
well-ascertained fact that two labourers found over £20,000 worth of gold
ornaments when working on a railway in Munster some forty odd years ago.
The founder of one of the largest jewellery houses in Ireland told a
friend of the writer's that his first "rise" in business was brought about
by buying antique gold ornaments, at sometimes not half their value, from
people who brought them to him from the country.

When the marauding Northmen first raided Ireland, they seem not to have
had the most remote idea of either conquering the country or making
permanent settlements in it. They may not have despised Irish beef and
mutton, but what they wanted above all was gold and silver. When
Christianity was firmly established in Ireland, the monasteries became the
great depositories of the wealth of the country, and the clergy may be
said to have become its bankers. The monasteries, therefore, became, to a
certain extent, what banks are now, and it was to the monasteries the
Danes gave their first attention. It can hardly be proved from Irish
history that the Danes ever tried to conquer Ireland but once, and that
was at the battle of Clontarf. Even under Turgesius, when they succeeded
in establishing themselves almost everywhere there was salt water or fresh
water to float their ships, they played the part of raiders and not of
conquerors, and never formed a permanent settlement out of sight of their
galleys. In England and in France they acted quite differently. They
conquered and kept all England and a considerable part of France. They
went to England and France to establish themselves, but they went to
Ireland to plunder. The question to be solved is, Why did the Danes act so
differently in Ireland from the way they acted in England and in other
countries? There seems to be no way to answer this question except by
saying that there was so much more of the precious metals in Ireland,
that to get them, and not to conquer the country or form permanent
settlements in it, was their prime object. If history was absolutely
silent about the doings of the Northmen in Ireland, we would, from a surer
guide than history, know that plunder and not settlement was what they had
in view. That guide is place names. There are more Scandinavian place
names to be found in some parishes in the north-east of England than there
are in all Ireland. There are hardly a dozen Scandinavian place names in
Ireland, and they are _all_ on the sea coast but _one_. That one is
Leixlip, and it is only a few miles from the sea, on a river which the
galleys of the Northmen could easily ascend. The only time at which a
serious attempt seems to have been made by the Northmen to become
possessed of Ireland was shortly before the battle of Clontarf, and that
attempt seems to have owed its origin to that horrible but beautiful
woman, Gormfhlaith, sister to the king of Leinster, and whose last of many
husbands was Brian Boramha. That attempt utterly failed, and no other was
ever made. If the Northmen cannot be said to have seriously contemplated
the conquest of Ireland prior to the time immediately before the battle of
Clontarf, it does not seem to have been from lack of men in the country,
for Irish annals and history speak of their vast numbers in such a way as
hardly leaves a doubt as to the awfulness of the scourge they were to the
country at large. So great were their numbers at one time during the ninth
century that we are told that it seemed as if the sea vomited them forth,
and that there was hardly a harbour on the Irish coasts in which there was
not a Danish or a Norwegian fleet. It has to be admitted that the Irish
fought them with the most astonishing persistency and valour. In spite of
the way the country was split into petty kingdoms, with chief kings, who
were generally such only in name, the reception the Northmen got in
Ireland was very different from that which they got in England. The Saxons
often got rid of them by paying them to go away, but the Irish got rid of
them only by the sword. Those who want to know what Ireland suffered from
the raids of the Northmen should read the "Wars of the Gael and the
Gaill." The book is generally believed to have been written by M'Liag, who
was living when the battle of Clontarf was fought, and who was chief poet,
or secretary, to Brian Boramha.

Although the Northmen were allies of Leinster for a long time, they
plundered Glendaloch in the years 833, 886, and 982. It was so near
Dublin and so near the sea that their alliance with Leinster did not
prevent them from raiding it. It was one of the rich ecclesiastical
establishments in Ireland, and one of those most exposed to the incursions
of the Northmen. Its round tower was, therefore, in all probability, one
of the first that was erected. It is now generally believed by those most
competent to form an opinion that the round towers of Ireland were erected
as places of security against the Northmen, and that they were sometimes
used as belfries. Their Irish name, _cloigtheach_, means a bell house and
nothing else; but it is quite clear that, although they sometimes served
as belfries, the primary object of their erection was to secure a place of
safety for the treasures of the church or monastery, close to which they
were invariably erected. Of the hundred and eight round towers which are
known to have been erected in Ireland, and of which remains exist, every
one of them is known to have been erected close to where a church or
monastery stood. More than half of them are in ruins; of some only a few
feet of the walls remain; and of some others the foundations only remain.
It may seem hard for some, in these days of far-reaching projectiles to
imagine how those slender towers, so chaste and beautiful in their
construction, could serve as places of defence or security against the
Danes. They could not have served as such if the Danes had come as
conquerors to form permanent settlements, but as they were only raiders
the towers were generally perfect defences against them. A dozen men shut
into a round tower, the door of which was generally from ten to fourteen
feet from the ground, could laugh at an army of Danes who had neither
battering rams nor artillery of any kind. There was only one way by which
a round tower could be taken or destroyed by men like the plundering hosts
of the Vikings, who did not, and could not, take ponderous implements like
battering rams with them on their raids, and that was by undermining
it--digging its foundations so that it would fall. But this would have
been a very tedious business, for the foundations of many of the round
towers are six and even ten feet below the surface. A few dozen resolute
men in a round tower might defy an army of Danes, provided the besieged
had enough of food and drink in their stronghold. It must, however, be
admitted that the Northmen did sometimes succeed in taking and plundering
round towers, but by what means we do not know.

Those who maintain that the round towers are pre-Christian structures, and
that there is nothing said in Irish annals about their erection, have very
little warrant for such an assertion. If they read Lord Dunraven's work on
ancient Irish architecture, they will find copies of more than one
allusion to their erection from the most authentic Irish annals known to
exist. Here is one taken from the _Chronicon Scottorum_, a work of the
highest authority and authenticity, compiled about the year 1124. "The
great _Cloigtheach_ (or belfry) of Clonmacnois was finished by Gillachrist
Ua Maeleoin and by Turloch O'Connor." This entry refers to the year 1120.

While speaking of the uses of round towers, the wealth of Irish
monasteries, and of Ireland in general in ancient times, it may not be out
of place to say that that very wealth proved a curse to the country, for
if Ireland had not been so rich in precious metals, the Northmen would
probably never have invaded and raided it; or if they did invade it, they
would have done so with a view to subjugating it and forming permanent
settlements in it, as they did in England and France,--things that might
have been, and that probably would have been, of benefit to the country.
If Ireland had been conquered by the Northmen they would certainly have
destroyed the provincial kingdoms, and have brought the whole island under
the sway of one ruler; and whether that ruler was Irish or Norse, it would
have been of immense benefit to the country at large. Ancient Irish polity
was very good theoretically, but practically it was a frightful failure.
The Scandinavian invasions only added to the political confusion of
Ireland. They were of benefit to England and France, for they brought an
infusion of fresh blood into those countries. But to Ireland they brought
destruction and ruin, with only a slight infusion of fresh blood. They
made the political confusion of the country more confounded. They robbed
it of an immense quantity of its wealth, but worse than that, they
destroyed a large part of its literature. The monasteries were not only
the repositories of wealth but of books. It was impossible that
monasteries could be plundered and burnt without damage being done to the
books they contained. There is positive proof in Irish annals that the
Northmen were in the habit of _drowning_ the books they found in the
religious houses. Books were in those days, as is well known, made of
vellum, or prepared leather, a material hard to burn; they were
consequently cast into the nearest lake or river, from which very few of
them were probably ever recovered. If it had not been for Scandinavian
burnings and plunderings, mediæval Gaelic literature would, even now, be
so immense that it would command the respect of the world at large. Those
who say that the bulk of mediæval Gaelic writings has come down to us--and
there are those that have the unspeakable hardihood to say so--must be
classed as very prejudiced, or very ignorant of Irish history.

The last entry in the Four Masters relating to Glendaloch occurs under the
year 1163. It appears to have been abandoned shortly after that date; but
why it was abandoned as an ecclesiastical establishment when Danish raids
and plunderings had ceased does not seem to be clearly known.

Glendaloch has been thus lengthenedly treated on because it is the most
interesting ecclesiastical ruin in the province of Leinster, Clonmacnois
only excepted. Its strange and gloomy, yet romantic situation, its
antiquity, its sad history of burnings and plunderings, the utter ruin
that has overtaken most of its monuments, the halo of legend and romance
that is around it, give it a charm even to the non-imaginative and the
rude. For the archæologist, the poet, the romancer, or the dreamer, it has
attractions and charms greater, perhaps, than they could find on any other
spot of Irish soil.


Next to Emania and Ardmagh, Aileach is the most historic spot in the
province of Ulster. It lies four miles west of the city of Derry, on a
round, heath-clad hill, some eight hundred feet above the level of the
sea. It is one of the most ancient cyclopean fortresses in Ireland, or,
perhaps, in the world. There is no scenic beauty in the immediate vicinity
of Aileach, but there is a view from the hill-top on which it is situated
that for wildness and sublimity can hardly be equalled anywhere in the
British Isles,--a view which will amply repay any one who sees it on a
clear day. On the north the hills of Inishowen obstruct the view, but west
and south-west it is sublime. The eye ranges over a wilderness of
fantastic-shaped mountains, some shooting up sharp as arrows, others round
and ridgy, separated by sinuous sea-lochs and glittering tarns,--a land of
awful ruggedness and desolation,--of rock-bound shores cleft into myriad
bays and fiords by the thundering almost ever restless northern sea that
beats against them. If no hoary ruin crowned the hill on which the
"Lordly Aileach" of Gaelic poets stands, the view from its summit would be
worth a journey of a hundred miles to see, for most of the wildness and
grandeur of "Dark Donegall" are spread before the eye. On the north-east
and north-west the waters of Loch Foyle and Loch Swilly spread themselves
almost beneath the feet of the gazer from Aileach. It stands on a hill
that commands a view of both Loch Foyle and Loch Swilly; and the site of
this ancient fortress was evidently chosen on account of the view it
commands of those two sea-lochs, for no fleet could enter them for any
distance without being seen by the watchers on the walls of Aileach.

The first thing that should be mentioned when speaking of Aileach is the
noble work that has been lately accomplished regarding it. An article
appeared about it some twenty years ago in the _Irish Times_ of Dublin,
calling attention to its antiquity, the historic and legendary renown of
that ancient place; and a Mr Barnard of Londonderry became interested in
Aileach and determined to make an effort to have the demolished fortress
restored as far as was possible. He made a pilgrimage among the farmers
living in the locality, and got promises of help in the way of men to
work for so many days at the restoration of the fortress. The farmers kept
their word, gave him the help of the men they had promised, and in a
comparatively short time the walls of the ruined fortress, under the
surveillance of Mr Barnard, once again crowned the hill of Greenan, after
having been in ruins for well-nigh eight hundred years. Mr Barnard, and
the farmers that gave him assistance in the good work, deserve the thanks
of every one who is a patriot, or has any reverence for the ancient
monuments of his country, or any respect for the hallowed past.

The early history of Aileach is "lost in the twylight of fable." It is a
pre-historic building, almost as much so as a Pyramid of Egypt. It was
used as a stronghold down to the beginning of the twelfth century; but
when it was built, or by whom, cannot be said to be known from authentic
history, for the many poems that exist about its origin in ancient Gaelic
are legendary rather than historic. There may be, and there probably is, a
great deal of truth in them, but they cannot be accepted as history.

Aileach is a circular, dry-stone fortress with walls nine feet thick. It
was levelled down to the ground when Mr Barnard undertook its restoration.
The history of its destruction is so strange, so unique, and so Irish,
that it must be given. Let the Four Masters tell it. They say, under the
year 1101, that "A great army was led by O'Brian, King of Munster, with
the men of Munster, Ossory, Meath and Connacht, across Assaroe into
Innishowen.... He demolished Grianan Aileach in revenge of Kinncora, which
had been razed and demolished by Muircheartach O'Lochlainn some time
before. O'Brian commanded his army to carry with them from Aileach to
Limerick a stone of the demolished building for every sack of provisions
they had. In commemoration of which was said (by some unknown poet)--

    "'I never heard of the billeting of grit stones,
    Though I heard of the billeting of companies,
    Until the stones of Aileach were billeted
    On the horses of the King of the West.'"

This is the only attempt at anything like humour in all the dreary annals
of the Four Masters. Such quiet sarcasm would be a credit to Mark Twain.
But if the poet had said "King of the South" instead of "King of the
West," although it might not have answered his Gaelic rhyme or assonance
quite so well, it would have been more correct, for although Munster is
west of Aileach, it is more south than west. It can never be known how
high the walls of Aileach had been before they were pulled down by
O'Brien, because we don't know how many cavalry he had, or how many stones
he carried to Limerick. Never before was an army loaded with such
impedimenta; but that the story of the stones of Aileach, or at least,
stones similar to them, having been brought to Limerick or its immediate
vicinity, there cannot be much doubt, for they were found there.

The fortress of Aileach is nearly a hundred feet in diameter in the
inside. It is not known if it was ever roofed, but it is probable that it
was. There were two lines of earthen ramparts round it, but they have
nearly disappeared. John O'Donovan thought that the entire hill of
Grianan, on which the fortress stands, was once enclosed by a vast rampart
of earth, and that cultivation has destroyed all but the faintest traces
of it. It seems probable that Aileach was intended more for a stronghold
than for a permanent dwelling-place. It may have been inhabited only when
a siege or an invasion was expected. One of its names, or rather the first
part of one of its names, "Grianan," would indicate that it was intended
only as a summer residence, like the Dunsinane = _Dún soinine_, fine
weather fortress, of Macbeth. Those who could live in winter on top of
the wind-swept hill on which Aileach stands without getting coughs or
colds would require constitutions of iron and lungs of brass.

O'Donovan says that if any reliance can be placed on Irish chronology, the
antiquity of Aileach must be very great, no less than upwards of a
thousand years before the Christian era. He says, also, that the poet,
part of whose poem on Aileach is given below, in making the Tuata de
Danaan King, Eochy, generally known in Irish history and legend as the
Dagda, contemporaneous with the Assyrian King, Darcylus, exactly agrees
with the chronology of O'Flaherty and Usher, who say that he reigned 1053
years before the Christian era.

There is a poem in the "Book of Lecan" on Aileach by the poet to whom
O'Donovan alludes, that in language and _tournure_ bears the marks of
extreme antiquity. Even O'Donovan, great a Celtic scholar as he was, had
apparently extreme difficulty in translating it. It has never been
published. The first dozen or so lines are given here:--

"Aileach Fridreann, arena of mighty kings. A _dun_ through which ran roads
under heroes through five ramparts. Hill on which slept the Dagda. Red its
flowers. Many its houses. Just its spoils. Few its stones. A lofty castle
is Aileach. Fort of the great man. A sheltering _dun_ over the lime
[white] schools. A delightful spot is Aileach. Green its bushes. The sod
where the Dagda found the mound wherein rested Hugh."

But it is in more recent times that the history and records of Aileach
become supremely interesting. It was from there that Muircheartach Mac
Neill, styled the Hector of the west of Europe by old annalists, started
on his celebrated "Circuit of Ireland" in the year 942. He was heir
apparent to the chief kingship of Ireland, and wanted to show the
provincial rulers that he was fit to rule _them_. So he determined to
start on his circuit in the depth of winter, when it appears the ancient
Irish seldom went on forays, and either make or persuade the provincial
rulers to acknowledge his right to the throne when the then reigning chief
king, Donacha, died. The way he is said to have chosen men for the
expedition is very curious and very Irish. He caused a tent to be erected,
keeping the cause of its erection unknown, and made his men to go into it
at night. A fierce dog attacked every one that entered; and opposite to
where the dog was, an armed man also attacked those that entered; both man
and dog simultaneously attacking the intruder. If he who entered the tent
flinched neither from dog nor man, but showed fight to both, he was
chosen; but whoever showed the least sign of cowardice was rejected. Out
of his whole army we are told that Muircheartach could only get a thousand
men, and with that small army, protected by strong leather cloaks, he
started on his Circuit of Ireland to force, intimidate, or coax the
provincial kings to acknowledge that he was their master, and that he was
to be their next suzerain.

Our principal source of information about the Circuit comes from a poem of
undoubted authority and antiquity, written by one called Cormacan Eigeas,
who accompanied Muircheartach on the expedition. It is one of the most
remarkable poems of its age, not only in Gaelic, but in any language. It
was translated more than forty years ago, and may be seen in the
"Transactions" of the Royal Irish Academy; but it is not probable that
even forty persons have ever read it, so little general interest has
heretofore been taken in Gaelic literature or Irish history. For these
reasons it cannot be uninteresting to give some extracts from it. It

    "O Muircheartach, son of the valiant Niall,
    Thou hast taken the hostages of Inis Fail,
    Thou hast brought them all into Aileach,
    Into the stone-built palace of steeds!

    "Thou didst go forth from us with a thousand heroes
    Of the race of Eoghan of red weapons,
    To make the great Circuit of Ireland,
    O Muircheartach of the yellow hair!

    "The day thou didst set out from us eastwards
    Into the fair province of Connor,[7]
    Many were the tears down beauteous cheeks
    Among the fair-haired women of Aileach."

Muircheartach carried off the King of Ulster; and, as the old chroniclers
tell us, keeping his left hand to the sea, he fared to Dublin, then the
greatest stronghold the Danes had, not only in Ireland but in the west of
Europe. He did not have to fight the Danes of Dublin, although he had
often fought them before, for their king, probably thinking that
"discretion was the better part of valour," surrendered himself a
prisoner. And here one of these inconsequential incidents is related,
which no one but an ancient Irish poet would dream of mentioning.
Muircheartach seems to have had no objection to make love to a Danish
maiden, often as he had fought Danish men. Cormacan, the poet, tells us
that they

    "Were a night at fair Ath-cliath [Dublin];
    It was not a pleasure to the foreigners:
    There was a damsel in the strong fortress
    Whose soul the son of Niall was;
    She came forth until she was outside the walls,
    Although the night was constantly bad."

Muircheartach then proceeded south-west from Dublin to Aillinn, and
carried away the King of Leinster. He then made for Cashel, where the
King of Munster lived. But Callachan, that was his name, showed fight, and
Muircheartach's men threw off their leather cloaks and prepared to stand
by him. However, seeing that things were beginning to look serious, the
King of Munster yielded and was carried away prisoner with a golden fetter
on him. The leader of the Circuit then turned northwards into Connacht,
and carried away the king of that province. So he had the four provincial
kings in his power, and also the Danish King of Dublin. But he did them
neither hurt nor harm, for he seems to have been in a good humour all the
time he was "on circuit"; and we are told by his poet laureate that on
their halts the soldiers amused themselves in many ways, especially by
music and dancing, and he says--

    "Music we had on the plain and in our tents,
    Listening to its strains, we danced awhile;
    There, methinks, a heavy noise was made
    By the shaking of our hard cloaks."

The next three verses are magnificent. They are full of dramatic power and
naturalness. When the triumphant army, but triumphant without having shed
a drop of blood, approach Aileach, a messenger is sent forward to announce
its arrival:--

    "From the green of Lochan-na-neach
    A page is despatched to Aileach
    To tell Duvdaire[8] of the black hair
    To send women to cut rushes.

    "'Rise up, O Duvdaire (_said the page_),
    There is a company coming to thy house;
    Attend every man of them
    As a monarch should be attended.'

    "'Tell me (_she said_) what company comes hither
    To the lordly Aileach Rigreann,
    Tell me, O fair page,
    That I may attend them?'

    "'The Kings of Erin in fetters (_he replies_),
    With Muircheartach, son of the warlike Niall.'"

The kingly prisoners were all brought to Aileach, where they were feasted
for five months; and the following list of their bill of fare will show
that they lived well. Let the same poet tell it:--

    "Ten score hogs--no small work,
    Ten score cows, two hundred oxen,
    Were slaughtered at festive Aileach
    For Muircheartach of the great fetters.

    "Three score vats of curds,
    Which banished the hungry look of the army,
    With a sufficiency of cheering mead,
    Were given by magnanimous Muircheartach."

When the five kings were feasted--and it is to be hoped fattened--for five
months, Muircheartach brought them to the chief king or emperor, Donacha,
and gave them up to him. The following extraordinary dialogue, taken from
the same poem, occurs between them. Muircheartach says:

      "'There are the noble kings for thee.'
      Said Muircheartach, the son of Niall;
      'For thou, O Donacha, it is certain to me,
      Art the best man of the men of Erin.'

      "'Thou art a better man thyself, O King,
      With thee no one can vie;
      It is thou who didst take captive the noble kings,
      O Muircheartach, son of the great Niall.'

      "'Thou art better thyself, O Donacha the black haired,
      Than any man in our land;
      Whoever is in strong Tara
      It is he that is monarch of Erin.'

      "'Receive my blessing, nobly,
      O son of Niall Glundubh, bright, pure;
      May Tara be possessed by thee,
      O Prince of the bright Loch Foyle![9]

      "'May thy race possess Moy Breagh,[10]
      May they possess the white-sided Tara,
      May the hostages of the Gael be in thy house,
      O good son, O Muircheartach!'"

It is sad to know that this extraordinary poem, with its uniqueness, its
dramatic power, and its raciness of the soil and of the time,
notwithstanding the fact that it was translated and published in the
Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy over forty years ago, is to-day
hardly any more known than it was when it lay unheeded and unknown in the
archaic Gaelic of the tenth century. It might, for all the notice that has
been taken of it, as well not have been translated at all. No other people
on earth would have treated such an archaic literary gem with such
coldness and contempt. It would seem as if the Irish people were losing
not only their soul but their brains. If such a poem were written in
Finnish or in Ojibaway it could not have been more ignored than it has
been by a people who call themselves intellectual.

In this poem the same anachronism may be noticed that led Petrie so much
astray about the Lia Fail having been in Tara in the tenth century.
Muircheartach addresses Donacha as if he were living in Tara, although
Tara had been abandoned four hundred years before, and was as waste and as
desolate in the time of Donacha as it is to-day; the chief kings of his
epoch and for centuries before it, lived usually in Westmeath or in

That Muircheartach Mac Neill, though a sort of Rory O'More of the tenth
century, was a great man can hardly be doubted. He seems to have
contemplated the entire overthrow of the pentarchy and the union of all
the provinces under one sole king, namely, himself. He could hardly have
been ignorant of what had occurred in England in the century previous--how
Alfred had broken up the Saxon heptarchy and made himself practically sole
king in England. If Muircheartach had succeeded in destroying the wretched
system of provincial nationality, and had made the country a political
unit, the subsequent history of Ireland would probably be very different
from what it has been. But Muircheartach was killed by his old enemies the
Danes, the year after he made his famous circuit. They also killed his
father, Niall Glundubh, at the battle of Killmoshogue, near Dublin, in the
year 917. Here is what the Four Masters say about him under the year
941[11]: "Muircheartach of the Leather Cloaks, Lord of Aileach, the Hector
of the west of Europe in his time, was slain at Ardee (in Louth) by
Blacaire, the son of Godfrey, Lord of the Foreigners, on the 26th of
March. In lamentation of him it was said--

    "'Vengeance and destruction
      Have descended on the race of Conn for ever;
    As Muircheartach does not live, alas!
      The country of the Gael will always be an orphan.'"


The situation of three of the most historic and remarkable ecclesiastical
establishments in Ireland, namely, Clonmacnois, Glendaloch, and Cashel, is
very peculiar. The first is on a barren sandhill surrounded by the most
strange and unique scenery in Ireland, consisting of almost illimitable
meadows interspersed with bogs. The second is in one of the gloomiest and
weirdest glens in the island; but Cashel is on a towering rock amid some
of the richest land, not only in Ireland but in the world, and overlooking
as goodly a country as human eye perhaps ever gazed on. Ancient Irish
monks and churchmen must have been peculiarly gifted with an appreciation
of the strange, unique, and beautiful in nature, or they would not have
fixed their retreats in such peculiar places. If ancient Irish kings loved
to place their strongholds on hills such as Tara, Aileach, Knock Aillinn,
and Uisneach, ancient Irish ecclesiastics seemed not to have cared whether
their churches were on hills or in hollows, provided they were somewhere
that was strange, weird, or beautiful.

The situation of Cashel is not only beautiful but superb. There is no
other place of its kind in Ireland situated like it. Its situation is as
peculiar as that of Glendaloch or Clonmacnois. It is, perhaps, the most
imposing pile of ecclesiastical ruins in Europe. Mont St Michael in France
can hardly compare with Cashel in commanding beauty of situation. One
overlooks the chilly sea, but the other overlooks as warm, as fair, and as
fertile a country as there is in the world.


Cashel has inspired many poets; but, unfortunately, none of the great
English masters of song has made it a theme; and it is strange that our
own Moore, who has celebrated Glendaloch, the Vale of Avoca, and other
famous places, never composed a lyric on Cashel. No other place in Ireland
could have given him a grander theme to write poems of the kind in which
he delighted, and in the composition of which he was such an acknowledged
master. It is indeed strange that so few of those who may be called our
minor poets have written about Cashel, and so seldom taken it as their
theme. There exists, however, a short poem on Cashel of the class usually
known as sonnets, and it is probable that neither Moore, nor any of the
other great masters of song, could have written anything superior to it.
It is by the late Sir Aubry de Vere. It first appeared in the _Dublin
Penny Journal_ some sixty years ago; but it has so long been partially
forgotten that it can hardly be out of place to reproduce it here:

    "Royal and saintly Cashel! I could gaze
      Upon the wreck of thy departed powers,
      Not in the dewy light of matin hours,
      Nor the meridian pomp of summer's blaze;
    But at the close of dim autumnal days
      When the sun's parting glance thro' slanting showers
      Sheds o'er thy rock-throned pediments and towers
      Such awful gleams as brighten on Decay's
    Prophetic cheek;--at such a time methinks
      There breathes from thy lone courts and voiceless aisles
    A melancholy moral, such as sinks
      On the worn traveller's heart amid the piles
    Of vast Persepolis on her mountain stand,
    Or Thebes half buried in the desert's sand."

It is strange that Cashel has not inspired more poets; but it is stranger
still that the once soulful people of Ireland would have allowed it to be
defaced by any modern building erected on the rock on which stands its
hallowed and ruined piles. Some gentleman named Scully has erected a brand
new round tower almost in the very centre of the hoary monuments that are
so sanctified by antiquity. The new tower is not shown on the annexed
plate, because of the horrible picture it would make. It is strange that
those living near Cashel did not prevent, if they could have done so, the
marring of one of the most striking, beautiful and soul-inspiring ruins
not only in Ireland but in Europe. It may be that Mr Scully thought that
by erecting a new monument of antique type there would not be any
incongruity manifested by it, and that by having his name written on it in
the Irish language and in Irish characters he would atone for the error he
committed. If he thought so, he made a great mistake, for _anything_ new,
whether a round tower, a cross, or a brick-built grocery, would destroy
all the antique charm of such noble ruins as those on the rock of Cashel.
It may be willingly granted that it is a pity there are any ruins at all
in the world, and that buildings cannot last new for ever. It should be
remembered, however, that nothing can last always; and that when buildings
become ruined by time, and, above all, when they have become historic like
those on the rock of Cashel, and when they serve to show either the piety
or the civilisation of those who have passed away, it becomes absolute
barbarism to mar them and mock them by erecting _anything_ new in their
immediate vicinity. A modern church on the Hill of Tara is bad enough, but
a new building on the Rock of Cashel is little else than a profanation.

Cashel was a seat of the kings of Munster from a time so far back in the
dim past, that one almost shudders to think how long ago it is. Long
before a Christian edifice crowned the Rock of Cashel, the barbaric dry
stone fortress of some Munster pagan king certainly covered it; for very
little work would have to be bestowed on it to render it an almost
impregnable fortress in ancient times. Some have derived the word Cashel
from _cios_, rent, and _ail_, a rock, making it to mean "rent rock"; for
it is certain that when the kings of Munster lived in Cashel, it was the
place where they received most of their tributes or rents; but the best
modern Gaelic scholars, including Dr P. W. Joyce, author of that most
useful and learned book, "Irish Names of Places," maintain that the word
_Caiseal_ means simply a circular building of dry stones, for the name
occurs in scores of places throughout Ireland; and such a building was no
doubt on this rock in pre-Christian times.

Cashel became a seat of Christian cult at a very early period, and there
are good reasons to think that St Patrick founded a church there. The Rock
of Cashel has for very many centuries been known as _Carraig Phadraig_, or
Patrick's Rock. The first Christian Irishman whose writings have come down
to us was Dubhthach, or, as the name would probably now be Anglicised,
Duffy, Mac U Lugair. In his poem in praise of the prowess of Leinstermen,
he says, that they "unyoked their horses on the ramparts of clerical
Cashel." As this Duffy was a disciple of St Patrick's, and one of the
first converts made by him in Ireland, we are forced to think that one of
the first Christian churches ever erected in Ireland was the one erected
in Cashel, as it appears to have been in existence when Duffy wrote his
poem, which could hardly have been later than the middle of the sixth
century. But no vestige of the church of St Patrick's time remains. It was
probably a wooden building, and may have disappeared as far back as
thirteen centuries ago. The oldest building on the Rock of Cashel is the
round tower, not Mr Scully's incongruous edifice, but the original one,
built probably in the ninth century. It is ninety feet high, and in a
fairly good state of preservation. The cathedral is thought to have been
built in 1169 by O'Brien, King of Munster, but there does not appear to be
much of the building he erected to be seen now, for the ruined cathedral
which exists cannot, from the style of its architecture, be older than the
fourteenth century. We know from authentic history that one of the
Fitzgeralds burned the cathedral in 1495, because he wanted to burn
Archbishop Creagh, who, he thought, was in it; but it does not seem to be
fully known whether the building was entirely or only partially destroyed
by Fitzgerald. Divine service is said to have been celebrated in it so
late as 1752, but it must have been in a semi-ruined condition even then.


But it is Cormac's Chapel that is the real architectural glory of the Rock
of Cashel. It is by some wrongly attributed to the time of Cormac Mac
Cullenann in the ninth century. It was built by Cormac Mac Carthy, a
king of Minister, in the early part of the twelfth century. The principal
proof that it was built at that time is found in the _Chronicon
Scottorum_, in which it is stated that Cormac's Chapel at Cashel was
consecrated in 1130. It is more than probable that the chapel was
consecrated very soon after it was finished. It does not come within the
scope of a work like this to enter into technical details on matters
connected with architecture; but for chaste beauty, for elaborate carving,
and solidity of structure, it may be said that Cormac's Chapel is one of
the most wonderful ecclesiastical buildings of its age in Christendom. The
practised eye of the trained architectural critic might notice some signs
of decay about it, some effacement in the gorgeous carvings or designs
with which almost every stone of the interior is more or less covered; but
to the ordinary observer, the whole building, within and without, seems
almost as perfect as it was the day its architect pronounced it finished.
If Cormac's Chapel were only larger, it would be the noblest and most
remarkable ecclesiastical building of its age in the British Isles, or
probably in Europe. But, unfortunately, it is very small, the nave being
only about thirty feet in length, and the choir only about eighteen. But
what it lacks in size is made up in elaborate carving, chaste design, and
solidity of structure. It looks as if it would last until the day of doom,
and as if nothing but an earthquake could destroy it. Its very roof seems
as strong and as perfect as its walls. It is of cut stone laid on with
geometrical exactness, as sound and as solid as ever it was. However
imposing the _coup d'oeil_ that "the rock-throned pediments and towers" of
Cashel may present from without, it is an examination of this gem of
antique architectural beauty that gives one the highest opinion of the
artistic skill of those whose appreciation of the unique and beautiful led
them to choose this towering rock as a fit place on which to raise
edifices dedicated to the Deity.

It is strange how it was that the ancient or rather the mediæval Irish,
who knew how to erect such beautiful and enduring stone and mortar
structures as the round towers, and such gems of architectural beauty as
Cormac's Chapel is, and as Mellifont Abbey certainly was, should have
housed their kings and chiefs in dwellings of wood, whose only defence was
an earthen rampart surmounted by a palisade of stakes, or in a Cyclopean
fortress of dry stones. It is absolutely certain that not a single castle
built of stones and mortar existed in Ireland prior to the Anglo-French
invasion. The Irish knew how to build round towers and churches, but seem
never to have thought of building castles until their invaders taught them
to build them. The thing looks very curious, but, on closer examination,
it does not appear so strange, for it is now pretty well known that none
of the Northern nations had castles before the eleventh century. The
French seem to have been the first of the Northern nations that had
castles. It is very doubtful if there was a castle in Great Britain before
the Norman-French conquest. If there were castles in England or Scotland
before the battle of Hastings, they were imitations of those on the
Continent, and were probably designed and built by Continental architects
and mechanics. Neither the Scandinavians nor Northern-Germans appear to
have had castles until late in the middle ages, when they copied them from
more Southern nations. But it was the Norman-French that brought the art
of castle building to its greatest perfection.

The ruins of Hoar Abbey, or St Mary's Abbey, as it is sometimes called,
are situated close to the Rock, but not on it. It is believed to have been
founded by the Benedictine order in the thirteenth century.

Cashel is interesting in almost every way. There is a magnificent view
from its ruin-crowned rock over some of the fairest and most fertile land
in Ireland. Nor is a mountain view wanting, for the Galtees, the second
highest range of mountains in Ireland, are visible, and a noble range they
are, not rounded lumps like so many of the Wicklow Hills, but steep,
sheer, cloud-piercing heights,--Alps in miniature. It is a pity that the
town, or rather the city, of Cashel is not larger and more thriving. It
may have been, like Glendaloch and Kildare, much larger in early Christian
times than it is at present, but there does not seem to be any statement
of the fact in any of the old Gaelic books, so far as is known to the
writer. But whatever may have been the past history of the city of Cashel,
no one in search of the picturesque, the unique, or the historic in
Ireland should fail to see its Rock. It is said that when Scott visited
Ireland he was more impressed by the Rock of Cashel than by anything else
of its kind that he saw in the country.

Of all the remains of Christian edifices in Ireland, Cashel, Glendaloch,
and Clonmacnois are the most interesting. It is not only by the beauty or
peculiarity of their situations that they impress us, for their histories
go so far back into the past, when the combat of Christianity with
Druidism was still going on, that we may regard them as the advance posts
of a purer cult in the ground conquered from paganism. It would be hard to
find in Europe three other places of a similar kind more antique, more
interesting, or more worthy of being respected. What remains of their
hallowed ruins should be guarded with jealous care, and saved from any
further uprooting or profanation.


Loch Erne and Loch Ree are not only the most beautiful, but the most
historic of the great lakes of Ireland. Loch Neagh is larger than either
of them, and Loch Dearg and Loch Corrib are probably nearly as large; but
none of those three is as picturesque as either of the two first-mentioned
lakes. The shores of Loch Dearg are bolder and more mountainous than those
of either Loch Erne or Loch Ree, but Loch Dearg lacks the island-studded
surface of the two latter, which is their great charm. Whether Loch Erne
or Loch Ree is the more beautiful is not easy to decide. Both are as
beautiful sheets of water as can be easily found, but both lack mountain
scenery in the true sense of the phrase. There are some high lands on the
lower part of Loch Erne, but they can hardly be called mountains. In
number and variety of its islands, Loch Erne is only surpassed by that
famous lake on the vast St Lawrence, known as the Thousand Isles.

[Illustration: VIEW ON UPPER LOCH ERNE.]

Loch Erne is certainly the most peculiar and also the longest lake in
Ireland. From where it may be said to begin, near Belturbet in the County
Cavan, to where it ceases to be a lake, and pours its waters into the sea
through the river Erne, it is fully thirty-five miles long in a bird line.
Its peculiarity consists in its extraordinary beginnings, and the number
of its islands. Its beginnings are winding, mazy, and, on the map, almost
untraceable water ways, that twist and turn in almost every direction
through swamps and bogs, with no attraction save for the sportsman in
pursuit of water fowl. As one approaches Enniskillen the glories of Loch
Erne commence. There is nothing in the shape of mountains to be seen, but
they are not missed; for such is the beauty of green round hills on both
sides, and such the wondrous number and variety of the islands, that if
there were mountains as lofty as the Alps in view, one could hardly spare
time to look at them. The islands seem innumerable, and the shores are so
indented with bays, and the lake itself so pierced by jutting headlands,
that on sailing on Loch Erne it is often impossible to know an island from
a peninsula, or a peninsula from an island. There is certainly no lake in
Ireland or in Great Britain whose shores are so indented as are those of
Loch Erne. The great charm of its shores and islands is their roundness
and their greenness. They are not low or swampy, but high and swelling,
forming scenes of quiet, and, it might be said, pastoral beauty, on which
one could gaze for days and weeks without tiring. Variety of the most
striking kind is one of the peculiarities of Loch Erne. It begins in
tortuous, narrow, confused bog streams. It then assumes its fairest
aspect, studded with innumerable islands, and sometimes so narrowed by
far-entering promontories that it is in some places only a few hundred
yards wide; but as it spreads northwards it gets wider and wider, until at
last it is like a great inland sea, seven or eight miles wide. If finer
views may be had of Loch Ree than of Loch Erne, in variety of scenery,
number of islands, and startling contrasts, Loch Erne is without a rival
among Irish lakes. If it and Loch Ree had the mountains of Killarney,
Killarney might well tremble for the fame it enjoys of being the most
beautiful of Irish lakes.

Loch Erne is divided into upper and lower lakes. The clean and thriving
town of Enniskillen is situated on the straight, or narrow river, that
joins the two lakes; but it may be said that there are not two lakes, but
only one, for Enniskillen is situated where the lake narrows into what
might be called a river, but a river full of islands and bays, just as the
upper lake is. Its multitude of islands is the charm of Loch Erne. The
best authorities say that there are a hundred and nine islands in the
lower lake, and ninety in the upper. It is a shame that a small steam-boat
does not ply regularly, at least in summer time, from one end of this
noble sheet of water to the other. If Loch Erne, with its marvellous
variety and beauty of scenery, were in any other European country, there
would be not one but half-a-dozen steam-boats on it. It is strange that
the inhabitants of Enniskillen do not make an effort to establish a line
of light draft-steamers on Loch Erne that would ply on both upper and
lower lakes. A small steamer does sometimes, according to report, ply in
the summer between Enniskillen and Beleek; but it does not appear that any
steamer has ever navigated the waters of the upper lake, which is the more
picturesque of the two. Nothing could more plainly show the backward
condition of Ireland than the fact that there is no regular line of
passenger steam-boats either on the Upper Shannon or on Loch Erne.
Tourists, or those in search of picturesque localities, will never go to
places where there is not proper accommodation for them. No matter how
beautiful the scenery may be, it will not be visited by any large number
of people unless they can have comforts in travelling and lodging.
Switzerland attracts more rich people to visit it in summer-time than any
other country in the world; but, with all its marvellous beauties of
mountain, lake, and river, it would never attract the multitudes that go
there every year if they did not find good travelling and good hotel
accommodation. In Switzerland there are steam-boats on every lake and on
every river where there are beautiful sights to be seen. There are lakes
in it that are visited every year by crowds of tourists, who would find
sights as beautiful on Loch Erne or on Loch Ree, and who would visit those
lakes if they knew that they could find on their waters, or on their
shores, the travelling comforts and the hotel comforts they find in
Switzerland. It has to be frankly admitted that the reason why the
beauties of Ireland are so comparatively little known is largely owing to
the Irish themselves. Let them provide better accommodation for the
travelling public, and Ireland will attract people who heretofore have
never visited it.

Loch Erne is, as has been already stated, thirty-five miles long, and is
navigable, or could with very little expense be made navigable, for light
draft steam-boats all that distance. If there is anything in the shape of
an aquatic excursion that could be really delightful, it would be a sail
on Loch Erne, especially on the narrow waters of the upper lake, where, on
the windiest day, the most nervous or the most delicate would have nothing
to fear from a rough sea, as they would on Loch Ree or on Loch Dearg,
where the water is sometimes very far from smooth, even in summer. On Loch
Erne, especially on the upper lake, change of scene takes place every
minute. It is a continual surprise of green islands, flowery promontories,
swelling hills, and tortuous passages, and is on a fine summer or autumn
day something to enchant even the most indifferent to the beauties of

It is really deplorable that not alone the antiquities but the beauties of
Ireland are not better known to people of other countries. They never can
be known as they should be until better facilities for knowing them are to
be had. Much has been done of late in providing better hotel
accommodation, and much more will be done in the same line before long. Up
to a few years ago it was impossible to find an hotel where any
respectable person would like to stay in some of the most beautiful places
and amid some of the grandest scenery of Donegal, Mayo, and Kerry; but
there are now dozens of hotels in those localities where the most
fastidious will find all the comforts they could reasonably expect. But
the internal navigation of the country is fearfully neglected. The
peculiar glory, or at least one of the principal attractions of Ireland in
a scenic point of view, is its lakes and rivers. No other country perhaps
in the world, of equal size, has such an abundance of lakes and rivers;
but in no country, except it may be Finnland or Central Africa, are so few
steam-boats to be seen on inland waters. It was right to move first in the
direction of good hotel accommodation, but the next move ought to be to
provide passenger steam-boats to ply on the great waters of such noble
lakes as Loch Erne, Loch Corrib, Loch Ree, and Loch Dearg, and on all the
waters of the Upper Shannon. It is to be hoped that the present sad want
of accommodation on Irish lakes and rivers will be of short duration, for
the people of Ireland seem to be awakening to the knowledge not only that
they have a country, but that it is one of the most beautiful countries in
the world.

But Loch Erne has attractions besides its multitudinous islands, its
jutting promontories, winding shores, and encircling hills. It has
attractions for the antiquarian as well as for the lover of nature.

One of the most ancient of Ireland's ancient round towers stands on
Devinish Island, in the upper lake. It is one of the most perfect, if it
is not one of the highest, round towers in the country. There would be no
use in speculating on its age, for we are generally left completely in the
dark as to the time of the erection of round towers. There are many
allusions to them in Irish annals, but the time of the building of them is
mentioned only in a few places. The first mention of Devinish by the Four
Masters is in A.D. 721, telling of the death of one of its abbots.
Devinish, spelled correctly, _Daimhinis_, means "ox island." A Christian
church was erected on it at a very early date, probably during the
lifetime of St Patrick, for we are told in ancient Annals that Molaise,
who appears to have been the first abbot of the monastery that was there,
died in 563. A Latin life of St Aeden says that Molaise "ruled many monks
in an island in _Stagno Erne_, called Daimhinis by the Irish." It was
plundered and burnt many times by the Danes, or some other Northmen, but
almost devastated by them in 836, and at other times; it was burnt in 1157
and in 1360. It seems, not like Glendaloch, Monasterboice, and many other
places that were abandoned at an early date, to have had a church or
monastery on it until the beginning of the seventeenth century. The last
mention of it by the Four Masters is under the year 1602.


Of all the ancient remains in the County Louth connected with Christian
antiquities, the ruins of Mellifont and Monasterboice are by far the most
interesting and important. They are only two miles apart, and only about
four from Drogheda. Starting from there both places can easily be seen in
one day. There is not, even in the beautiful and picturesque county of
Louth, a more beautiful location for a church or monastery than the glen
in which all the remains of Mellifont is to be seen. It is not a mountain
glen; there is no wildness or savageness about it; it is simply a
depression in a rich lowland country, with luxuriant crops of grain and
grass all round it, and a clear rushing river flowing through
it,--supremely beautiful in summer-time and charming even in winter. In
summer and autumn days when the hills around it are radiant with flowers
of almost every hue, Mellifont even in its desolation is worth journeying
a hundred miles to see.

But in spite of the beauty of the glen in which the ruins are situated,
and in spite of the beauty of what remains of the ruins themselves, no
right-minded person, no matter what his creed or nationality may be, can
look on Mellifont without being not only pained but shocked at the
desolation that has been wrought upon it, and the traces of barbarism,
hate, and vandalism that stare him in the face. Why such uprooting was
done in Mellifont one can easily understand, but _how_ it was done is a
puzzle. Here stood probably the largest and most beautiful of all Irish
monasteries, but hardly a square foot of it remains overground, save the
baptistry and chapter house. The walls have been levelled down to their
very foundations. A building of such enormous size must have had high
walls, but hardly a vestige of them remains. If they were blown up by
gunpowder, the material of which they were made would remain, if it had
not been carried away. Few traces of the walls are to be seen,
consequently one must conclude that the greater part of the very stones of
which they were built has been removed to some place of which no one now
alive knows anything. A mill was built close by the river about eighty
years ago, but it contains in its walls few, if any, of the stones of
Mellifont. They had disappeared long before the erection of the mill. The
spoilers of Mellifont were not satisfied by uprooting it, for they seem to
have removed the greater part of the stones of which it was built. If
Mellifont had not been so razed to the ground it would, even in its
nakedness and desolation, be one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical
ruins in Europe, and would attract a hundred visitors for the one it
attracts now.

Mellifont is one of the few Irish ruined abbeys that has a Latin instead
of an Irish name. No one seems to have yet found out what its Irish name
is, or if it ever had one. Our annalists almost invariably call it the
"Drogheda Monastery." The Four Masters call it "Mellifont" only once. In
the "Annals of Loch Cé" it is called the "Great Monastery," for there
seems no doubt that it was the largest house of the kind in Ireland. The
extent of the church itself can now be distinctly traced, thanks to the
excavations that were made by the Board of Works some years ago. It was
180 feet in length, with proportional breadth; the entire area covered
with buildings was fully an English acre, and there were evidently many
outlying buildings connected with, or forming part of the monastery,
hardly a trace of which now remains. The small chapel on a hill outside of
the monastery is thought to have been founded by St Bernard at the time
the monastery was built. There is also about the fourth of what was once
a strong castle remaining. It was evidently built after the Anglo-French
invasion, but by whom seems not to be definitely known.

Mellifont was founded in 1142, and richly endowed by O'Carrol, Prince of
Oriel. He was famed for his generosity and piety. The establishment was
built for the Order of Cistercians. From the middle of the eleventh
century to the middle of the twelfth was the time when most of the large
abbeys and monasteries of Ireland were founded; and many of them, like
that of Cong, were built in places that had long been occupied by smaller
and plainer ecclesiastical structures like those remaining in Clonmacnois
and Monasterboice. The _renaissance_ of Irish ecclesiastical architecture
in the eleventh and twelfth centuries is, probably, attributable to two
things--the cessation of Danish plundering and the conquest of England by
the Norman-French. The Danish military power in Ireland got a blow at
Clontarf from which it never recovered; after that battle there were
comparatively few monasteries raided, and the Irish began to erect large
and costly structures in place of the small and often severely plain
churches of an earlier period. The Norman-French introduced into England
what is called a Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture that was much
superior to that of the Saxons; and it seems certain that the Irish
copied, to a certain extent, the style of building adopted by the
conquerors of the Saxons; but the invasion of Ireland by those same
conquerors in the latter half of the twelfth century seems to have
arrested the development, not only of architecture, but of almost
everything that tended to benefit the country. Most of the great churches
and abbeys of Ireland were erected before Strongbow set foot in it. It is
strange and hard to be understood how it came to pass that, terrible as
were the ravages of the Danes, they put no stop to the development of Art
in Ireland. Monasteries would be raided and churches burned by them many
times within a few years, but this seems not to have put a stop either to
the establishment of monasteries or the building of churches. Lord
Dunraven says, in his book on ancient Irish architecture, that "it is
remarkable that the fearful struggle with the Norsemen, which lasted for
over two hundred years, and ended in their final defeat in 1014 [at
Clontarf] does not seem to have materially paralysed the energies of the
Irish nation as regards their native arts." It is, however, certain that
it was not until the military power of the Norseman was broken that
ecclesiastical architecture became a real glory in Ireland. But the
Anglo-French invasion seems to have put a stop, not only to the
development of architecture, but of art of all kinds. It is a strange fact
that the heathen Dane should have been less of a curse to Irish art than
the Christian Englishman.

The first mention of Mellifont by the Four Masters occurs under the year
1152, when a great synod of three thousand ecclesiastics was held there.
It was in Mellifont that the woman whose crime is supposed to have been
the cause of the English invasion of Ireland died in the year 1193. This
was Dearvorgil, the faithless wife of O'Ruarc, whom Moore has called
"falsest of women." It is, however, now thought by most of those who have
studied Irish history closely that Dermott MacMorrough's relations with
this lady had nothing whatever to do with his banishment. They point out
the fact that it was about ten years after Dearvorgil had been restored to
her people that MacMorrough was banished, and maintain that the true cause
of his banishment was in order to re-impose the tribute on the province of
Leinster, the Danes being no longer able to assist the Leinstermen as they
were wont to do. The other provincial rulers wanted to have the King of
Leinster put out of the way, for, as he was a warlike man, they knew he
would fight to the bitter end for the protection of his province. If this
version of the matter is true, it goes far to free Dermott MacMorrough
from the odium that rests on his memory.

Monasterboice is one of the oldest places connected with Christianity in
Ireland. Its foundation may have been as old as the time of St Patrick,
for Buite, from whom it takes its name, and by whom it probably was
founded, died in the year 524. There seems good reason to believe that
"Buite" is the original form of the now very plentiful name "Boyd," but
how Monaster Buite got twisted into Monasterboice is a mystery. The
situation of this ancient place is not nearly so picturesque as that of
Mellifont. There is no rushing river and no deep glen. Still the situation
is good, and the country around very fine, and, like most parts of Louth,
well cultivated. The peculiar glories of Monasterboice are its crosses and
its round tower. There are three crosses, two in good preservation, but
one was so broken that it had to be patched or fastened into solid stone
work. It is most likely that it was purposely destroyed, for barbarians
have done their best to cut down the great cross that stands in the same
enclosure--the finest of all ancient Irish crosses. It must have taken
days for a strong man with a heavy sledge-hammer to make such a deep
indentation in the hard stone of which the cross is made. It was its
extreme hardness that saved it from destruction and defacement. But hard
as the stone of those crosses may be, it cannot resist the action of the
elements, for the sculptures with which they are covered are now so
effaced by time and weather, that they seem little more than masses of
unintelligible tracings; but when those noble crosses were fresh from
their makers' hands they must have been magnificent specimens of early
Irish art.

The round tower of Monasterboice is one of the finest in Ireland. Its top
has been broken off by lightning, but what remains of it is 110 feet in
height. It must have been at least 130 feet high when perfect, which would
make it one of the highest of the round towers of Ireland. The mason work
is of the very best kind, although the stones are uncut, and were
evidently found in the immediate neighbourhood of the tower. There is a
peculiarity about this tower which is not to be seen in any other
structure of the same kind--it is not quite perpendicular. The author of
the great book on ancient Irish architecture, already referred to, says
that "it leans to one side on the north-west, and has a very peculiar
curve. Where the curve commences a distinct change of masonry is visible.
When the tower was built to this height the foundation began to settle
down, and when this was perceived the builders very skilfully carried up
the building in a nearly vertical line, so as to counteract the tendency
to lean and to preserve the centre of gravity." It seems a pity that the
Board of Works does not repair this splendid structure, and put a new top
of antique model on it; it would be, if perfect, the grandest of Irish
round towers.

Monasterboice became a ruin many centuries before Mellifont; the latter
continued to be a Catholic religious establishment down to the time of
Elizabeth, but Monasterboice seems to have been abandoned in the twelfth
or thirteenth century. The last notice of it, or any one connected with
it, by the Four Masters, is under the year 1122, when they record the
death of Fergna, "a wise priest." What caused this famous establishment to
be abandoned, or at least to cease to be mentioned in Irish annals at such
an early period, seems enveloped in a good deal of mystery. It was
plundered more than once by the Danes, and it may be that any wooden
buildings it contained were burnt by them and never re-erected, for, like
Clonmacnois, what remains of its two churches shows them to have been so
small that they could not accommodate any large number of persons. Being
so near Mellifont may also have led to its abandonment when the latter
place became one of the greatest religious houses in Ireland. If
Monasterboice was not so large as Mellifont, its abbots and professors
seem to have been greater scholars and harder workers than those of the
great monastery. Flann of Monasterboice was one of the most noted literary
men of ancient, or rather of mediæval, Ireland, for he flourished in the
eleventh century. He is considered one of the most truthful and correct of
Irish annalists, and has left behind him important works that have been
preserved to the present day.

The country in the vicinity of Mellifont and Monasterboice is not only
very fair to look on, but highly interesting in an archæological point of
view. The town of Drogheda, the nearest place to the interesting ruins
treated of in this article, is the only place in their vicinity where
hotel accommodation can be found. It is full of historic interest and
curious remains of the past. But to the antiquarian, to one who wants to
see monuments as old as the Pyramids of Egypt, the _Brogha na Bóinne_, or
burghs of the Boyne, should be a great attraction. They are the most
colossal things of the kind known to exist in any part of Europe. One is
known by the name of New Grange, and the other is called Dowth. Both
places are on the Boyne, and only a few miles west of Drogheda. They are
enormous, partially underground caverns, lined and roofed with great
flag-stones. They are entirely pre-historic, and are supposed to have been
used as places in which to deposit the ashes of the dead; but their real
use can hardly be more than guessed at. It is generally thought by
archæologists that they were erected by the Tuatha de Danaans, who
occupied Ireland before the Milesians; but authentic history is silent
about these gigantic structures. More than a dozen of such structures were
discovered some years ago in the Sleeve na Caillighe Hills, near
Oldcastle, in the County Meath. They are just like those in New Grange and
Dowth, but not nearly so large. The flat stones that form the linings of
those curious caverns or tumuli are covered with incised and generally
semi-circular markings. They bear all the appearance of being writing of
some kind, but no clue to its interpretation has yet been discovered.
These markings were certainly not made for fun; neither could they have
been made for ornament, for they are _not_ ornamental. There are
thousands of them, counting what are in the tumuli on the banks of the
Boyne and in the same kind of places in the hills near Oldcastle. It is a
pity that no one competent for it has ever tried to decipher this curious
writing, for writing of some kind it certainly is. When the cuniform
inscriptions on the bricks of Assyria have been interpreted, it is strange
that no one has tried to find out the meaning of the writing on the stones
of these Irish tumuli.


Of all the buildings for defensive purposes that the Anglo-Normans, or,
more correctly, the Anglo-French, ever raised in Ireland, the castle of
Trim is the largest and most imposing. It has stood many a siege, and it
seems that one wing of it has entirely disappeared; but what remains of it
still is a gigantic structure. No other Anglo-French keep in Ireland had
such an extensive _enceinte_. There cannot be much less than three acres
of enclosed ground round it. The outworks have been, to a large extent,
demolished, but enough of them remains to show that when the castle was in
repair, when its outward defences were perfect, and before the invention
of gunpowder, it could have defied the largest army that ever Irish king
or chieftain led. The place chosen for the site of this castle is
perfectly flat. It is not on a hill. Its builder seems to have known that
its six feet thick walls would be impregnable to any army that could be
brought against it, whether it was on a hill or in a hollow. Its situation
is very fine on the banks of the Boyne, and in the centre of a country
considered by many to be the richest land in Ireland.

[Illustration: TRIM CASTLE.]

Never did any people bring the art of castle-building to such perfection
as did the Anglo-French; and, strange as it may appear, it was not in
England they raised their finest castles, but in Wales and in Ireland.
They must have known almost immediately after the battle of Hastings that
no serious resistance would ever be made against them in England, but they
were not so sure about Ireland and Wales; there do not seem, therefore,
to have been any castles erected by them in England during the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries as fine as those they erected in those parts of their
dominions like Ireland and Wales, that were not fully conquered. Conway
and Caernarvon Castles in Wales, and Trim Castle in Ireland, are thought
to be the finest they ever erected. With all the architectural skill the
Greeks and Romans possessed, it is very doubtful if they understood the
art of castle building as well as the Norman-French did. The latter built
buildings that would last almost as long as the earth itself. That part of
the walls of Trim Castle that yet remains is as sound as it was the day it
was built; and if let alone and not overturned by an earthquake it will be
as sound a thousand years hence as it is to-day.

[Illustration: TRIM CASTLE.]

Trim Castle was built towards the close of the twelfth century by Hugo de
Lacy, the greatest castle builder ever the Anglo-French produced. He built
the great castle at Clonmacnois, which has been already described. He
built another fine one in Carlow, and was building the castle of Durrow,
in the King's County, when a young Irishman, who had evidently come
prepared to kill him, struck off his head with a blow of an axe as he was
stooping down to examine the work. If Hugo de Lacy had not been killed, he
would certainly have built many more castles, not only in the English
Pale, but throughout Ireland. But Trim Castle was the finest structure of
its kind that he ever raised. Lewis' Irish Topography says that the Castle
of Trim was built in 1220. This is just such a mistake as one would expect
to find in books like it, Hall's, and others of their kind, which were
written by persons almost wholly unacquainted with the history of the
country about which they wrote, and entirely unacquainted with its
language and native literature. Trim Castle must have been built before
1186, for Hugo de Lacy was killed in that year. The same extraordinary
publication says that Trim was burned by Connor O'Melaghlin in 1108, and
that over two hundred people were burned in the monastery. It would be
interesting to know where Lewis got his information about this matter. He
did not get it from any authentic source, for the annals of the Four
Masters, the annals of Clonmacnois, the annals of Inisfallan, the annals
of Ulster, and the _Chronicon Scottorum_ are all silent about it.

Hugo de Lacy was undoubtedly the greatest of the Anglo-French invaders of
Ireland. Although he was killed, he was not killed for any other cause
except that of his having been an invader; for in spite of his
castle-building propensities, he was in no way prejudiced against the
native Irish. This is proved by his having married a daughter of Roderick
O'Connor, King of Connacht, and nominally, but only nominally, King of
Ireland. For having done so, he was recalled from the nominal government
of Ireland with which he had been entrusted by Henry the Second; but
Henry, probably finding that he could not get anyone else so well fitted
for the office, allowed him to retain it. But Hugo appears to have again
given offence to Henry on account of his leniency to the Irish lords who
were under him, and Prince John, who was afterwards King, was sent to
Ireland by Henry because Hugo did not exact any tribute from the Irish. We
are not told how he got out of this scrape, and he was killed the next
year. He was buried in Bective Abbey, but his body was afterwards removed
to Dublin. Hugo de Lacy seems to have been as friendly to the Irish as it
was possible for one in his position to be, and it is almost certain that
he cherished the hope of bringing the whole island under his rule and
making himself King. It was evidently his ambition, of which Henry appears
to have been fully aware, that caused the trouble between him and his
master. That the Irish petty kings, and the Irish people of the time,
would have accepted the rule of a stranger who had proved himself a strong
man, is very probable, for the country was in the very deepest slough of
political confusion and anarchy. Never, during the worst times of Danish
plundering, had Ireland been in such a state of political chaos as she was
in the twelfth century. The usurpation of the chief kingship by Brian
Boramha was followed by a century and a half of revolution caused by those
who aspired to be chief kings. O'Brians, O'Connors, O'Lochlainns, Mac
Murroughs, all aspirants for the monarchy, made the island, as the Four
Masters so graphically put it, "a shaking sod," and the Irish would have
accepted the rule of anyone who would have saved them from themselves. It
was the state of political chaos into which the country had fallen that
accounts for the slight resistance that Strongbow met in Ireland. The
Northmen were met by the sword, and fought for over two hundred years,
until they were, if not entirely banished, at least reduced to political
powerlessness; but a mere handful of invaders, whose military prowess was
in no way superior to that of the Northmen, became, _de facto_, the rulers
of the country in a few years after they had landed. It is more than
probable that if Hugo de Lacy had lived, he would have risked a war with
Henry, and have tried to make himself King of Ireland; and it is more than
probable that the Irish would have willingly accepted his rule.

If de Lacy's gigantic castle had never been built in Trim, it would still
be an historic place. According to the most authentic annals, St Patrick
founded a church there as early as 432, and Bishop Ere is the first name
that is mentioned in connection with it after that of St Patrick. Trim
continued to be an important place on account of its castle and its Church
of St Mary's, until the time of Cromwell. It was strongly garrisoned by
the Royalists; but after hearing of the taking of Drogheda, and the
shocking massacre committed there, the garrison surrendered. Only one
gable of the old Church of St Mary's remains. Judging by the great height
of the part that remains, the Church must have been a very large one. The
exact date of the building of the church or monastery to which the
still-standing tower or steeple belonged, is not known with certainty, but
it could not have formed part of the original one erected in the time of
St Patrick.

The most celebrated place in the immediate vicinity of Trim is Dangan
Castle, where the Duke of Wellington is said by some to have been born.
When Dangan passed out of the Duke's family, it was inhabited by a person
who let it go partially to ruin. It was burned early in the present
century, and is now an unsightly ruin. It is curious that there should be
such doubt about the birth-place of one who made such a figure in the
world as Wellington. Some say he was born in Dangan Castle; some say he
was born in Dublin; but the people of Trim maintain that he was born in
their town. The last time the writer was in Trim he was shown the house in
which the Duke was said to have been born. He was told by a truthful and
respectable resident of Trim that the Duke's mother had started from
Dangan on her way to Dublin so that she might have the best medical aid
during her expected accouchement, but having been taken ill when she got
as far as Trim, she took lodgings in the town, and that it was there the
Duke of Wellington was born. The exact truth about the matter will
probably never be known.

A curious story is told in Trim about the early boyhood of Wellington. It
is said that he clomb the still standing tower or gable of the old church
so high that he found it impossible to get down, and was in a position of
great danger. All the ropes and ladders in the town were brought out, but
it was found impossible to get him down. A rough tower like that at Trim
might be clomb easily enough, but it might not be so easy to get down. The
afterwards victor of Waterloo was told that he could not be saved, and
that, if he had any will to make, to make it without delay. He is said to
have taken the announcement very coolly, and to have willed his tops,
balls, and other playthings to the boys that were his favourites, and not
to have shed a tear or shown any fear whatever. After having been many
hours in his dangerous and far from comfortable situation, he was at
length, and with great difficulty, rescued.

The country round Trim is most interesting and full of ruined fanes. The
church of Trim was believed to contain an image or picture of the Virgin,
at which we are told many and extraordinary miracles were performed. Trim
was a sort of Irish Lourdes in the middle ages, to which the sick and
suffering used to go in multitudes. There was also the Abbey of Newtown,
the ruins of which still stand on the banks of the Boyne close by Trim. It
was founded in the year 1206 by Simon Rochefort, Bishop of Meath, the
first Englishman that is known to have had so high an ecclesiastical
position in Ireland after the invasion. The ruins of Bective Abbey are
only a few miles up the river from Trim, in a beautiful situation on the
banks of the "clear, bright Boyne," as the old Gaelic poets loved to call
it. Bective was founded for the Cistercian order by O'Melachlinn, King of
Meath, about the middle of the twelfth century. It is a beautiful ruin,
and in a beautiful locality.

There is, perhaps, no part of Ireland more interesting to the antiquarian,
the historian, or the lover of rich landscapes than the valley of the
Boyne. That little stream is the most historic waterway in Ireland. Its
name occurs oftener in Irish history and legend than that of any other
river. On its banks are to be seen the pre-historic tumuli of New Grange
and Dowth, the oldest monuments of pre-historic civilisation that have yet
been discovered on Irish soil. The Boyne may be said to be the river of
Tara, for it flows almost at the foot of that hill so celebrated in Irish
history, legend, and song.


It is doubtful if there is in Ireland--there certainly is not in the
province of Connacht--a more interesting ruin than Cong Abbey. Its
situation is beautiful, between two great lakes, with a background of some
of the wildest and ruggedest mountains in Ireland. It would be hard to
conceive of a place more suited for a life of religious meditation than
this venerable pile, into which he who is called Ireland's last chief king
retired to bewail his sins and lament for the power that his own
pusillanimity and carelessness had allowed to pass away from him and his
family for ever. If Roderick O'Connor was the last of Ireland's monarchs,
he was also one of her worst. History hardly tells of a good act of his
except the endowment of the Abbey of Cong; and the greater the light is
that is thrown on the history of Ireland by the translation of her ancient
annals, the weaker and more imbecile the character of Roderick appears,
and the more just and merited that which Moore says of him in his history
of Ireland:--"The only feeling the name [of Roderick] awakens is that of
pity for the doomed country which at such a crisis of its fortunes, when
honour, safety, independence, and national existence were all at stake,
was cursed for the crowning of its evil destiny with a ruler and leader so
entirely unworthy of his high calling." If the Anglo-French invasion of
Ireland had occurred in the reign of his brave and warlike father,
Turloch, one of the greatest of those who claimed the chief sovereignty of
Ireland, the invaders would almost certainly have been all killed within a
month after they landed, and the subsequent history of Ireland would
probably be very different from what it has been.

Irish annals tell us that the first religious establishment in Cong was
founded by St Fechin in the year 624; but John O'Donovan says in a note in
his translation of the Four Masters that Roderick O'Connor founded and
endowed the Abbey of Cong. That a religious house of some kind was founded
in it by St Fechin there can be no doubt at all, for up to a recent period
it was known as Cunga Fechin, or Cong of Fechin. O'Donovan may have meant
that Roderick O'Connor endowed and founded the abbey, the remains of
which exist at present, for not a vestige of the original building
founded by St Fechin remains. It was, like most of the very early churches
and religious houses of ancient Ireland, built entirely of wood, and has
consequently long ago disappeared. Cong was originally a bishopric. There
were five bishoprics in the province of Connacht--namely, Tuam, Killala,
Clonfert, Ardcharne, and Cong. The Synod that settled the question of the
bishoprics of Connacht met at Rathbrassil, in what is now the Queen's
County, in 1010. The abbey, the remains of which still exist, was founded
in 1128 by the Augustinians, during the reign of Roderick O'Connor's
heroic father, Turloch. Roderick subsequently endowed it, and ended his
days in it. It is an interesting and suggestive fact that most of the
great religious establishments of Ireland were not only founded but built
in the material that now remains of them before the Anglo-French invasion,
showing clearly that that event put a stop to almost everything that could
be called progress. The invaders, although professing the same faith as
the invaded, were much more anxious to build castles than churches. There
was hardly a castle in Ireland before the time of Strongbow. This was not
caused by ignorance of the art of building among the Irish, for some of
the round towers and churches erected long before the time of Strongbow
are as perfect specimens of architecture as were erected in any country at
the same period. The native Irish king, or chief, was contented with a
wooden house surrounded by an embankment, capped with a palisade of wood;
but the Norman raised mighty edifices of stone to protect him from the
wrath of those he had robbed.

Cong Abbey is a large building nearly 150 feet in length. Few of the
ancient churches of Ireland are any longer, and many of them are not
nearly so long. It would be a mistake to say that the ruins at Cong are in
a good state of preservation, for traces of violence and vandalism are
apparent almost everywhere on them. The whole place has a terribly
dilapidated look. It has been said that only for ivy and the Guinnesses
the Abbey of Cong would have tumbled down long ago. It is true that ivy
has prevented great masses of masonry from falling; and it is true that
the late Sir Benjamin Guinness did a good deal of mending on the old
walls. But it was before his time, when religious intolerance was worse
than it is at present, that Cong Abbey was mutilated and defaced. It is
sad to know that there is hardly an old religious edifice in Ireland that
has not suffered from sectarian animosity. The ruins of Mellifont, near
Drogheda, have been torn up from their foundations, so that hardly a trace
of that once magnificent abbey now remains except the crypts and the vast
walls and fosses by which it was surrounded. Ruthless vandals tried their
best with sledges and hammers to overthrow the great cross of
Monasterboice in Louth, but the stone of which it consists was too hard
for them, for they only succeeded in mutilating what they could not

In its present dilapidated condition it is hardly possible to form a
correct idea of what Cong Abbey was in the days of its splendour. It is
almost impossible, also, to form an exact idea of its general plan, for
many comparatively modern additions have evidently been made to it. Its
having been used as a burying place within recent times has, as the same
thing has done at Clonmacnois, sadly interfered with its picturesqueness.
But, as at Mellifont, "enough of its glory remains" to show that it must
have been a building of exquisite beauty. Some of its floral capitals
carved on limestone are as fine specimens of the carver's art as can be
found anywhere in the world. Both Sir William Wilde and Doctor Petrie
agree in this. There was probably no abbey in Ireland that contained more
beautiful specimens of the carver's art than Cong. Vast numbers of its
sculptured stones have been defaced by vandalism or carried away to build
walls or out-houses. It is not easy to know what was the exact extent of
the gardens or mensal grounds of the abbey, for the walls that enclosed
them cannot be fully traced, and are not intact like the walls around the
Abbey of Boyle in the County Roscommon. The Abbey of Cong seems to have
been the great depository for the precious things of the province of
Connacht. The Order of Augustinians, to whom it belonged, was very rich,
and had vast possessions in the province, and it would seem that no abbey
in it was as rich as that of Cong. In it were kept deeds, books, records,
and many other precious things, all of which have disappeared save the
marvellously beautiful cross now to be seen in the Dublin Museum, and
which artists and connoisseurs have pronounced to be "the finest piece of
metal work of its age to be found in Europe." It is known from the Gaelic
inscription on the Cross of Cong that it was made in Roscommon, for the
name of the maker is identified with that town. The fact of such a
priceless relic and such a gem of art having been kept in the Abbey of
Cong shows that it was considered to be the most important and most secure
place in the province. The Cross of Cong was supposed to be formed from
part of the real cross. The Irish inscription on it is perfectly legible,
and can be easily understood by any one who knows the modern language. The
name of the maker is on it, and also that of Turloch O'Connor, who claimed
to be chief King of Ireland, and for whom it was made in the year 1123.

The Abbey of Cong was never plundered by the Danes; if it was, no record
of its having been plundered is to be found in the Annals of the Four
Masters, or in the Annals of Loch Key. This fact of Cong not having
suffered from the Danes would seem to show that it did not contain much
wealth during the ninth and tenth centuries, when the maraudings of the
Norsemen were at their worst. If the Abbey of Cong was worth plundering,
it is hard to conceive how it could have been spared by them. It is
probable that the church founded there by St Fechin was very small, and
that the establishment became important only when the O'Connor family rose
to prominence in the province, for it was richly endowed by Turloch and
by Roderick O'Connor, both of whom claimed to be chief kings of Ireland.

[Illustration: CROSS OF CONG.]

None of our ancient seats of piety and learning will repay a visit better
than Cong. In it and around it there is a great deal to interest the
antiquarian, the tourist, and the lover of Nature. The neck of land that
lies between Loch Corrib and Loch Mask is one of the most curious, varied,
and beautiful spots in Ireland. It has rushing, limpid rivers above, and
boiling, roaring ones below. The whole country in the vicinity of Cong
seems to be honeycombed by subterranean waters. There is probably as much
running water underground and overground in the narrow strip of country
between Loch Corrib and Loch Mask as would turn all the grist mills in
Ireland, but unfortunately there is hardly a wheel moved by it.

There is much in the vicinity of Cong, outside of its glorious old abbey,
to interest both the antiquarian and the tourist. It was close to it that
the greatest battle history records as having been fought on Irish soil
took place--namely, that of Moy Tuireadh, between the Firbolgs and the
Tuatha de Danaans, a full account of which will be found in Sir William
Wilde's charming book "Loch Corrib," which should be read by every one
who desires to visit Cong or its vicinity.

Cong is very nearly on the road to Connemara, which, with the exception of
parts of Donegal, is the wildest, most savage, and most extraordinary part
of Ireland. Those who want to see all the wildness of Connemara, its
chaotic mountains, its innumerable lakes, far-entering bays, and
illimitable bogs, should drive from Cong, or from Oughterard to Clifden,
and go from there to Galway by rail. Whoever travels that route will see
some of the most charming as well as some of the most terrific scenery in
Ireland. He will see more lakes than can be found on an area of equal size
in any part of the known world. If the visit is made when the heath is in
full bloom, he will have such a world of flowers to feast his eyes on as
can hardly be seen anywhere else, not even in Ireland.

Loch Corrib, at the head of which Cong is situated, is one of the great
lakes of Ireland. The traveller going to Cong sails up it from Galway.
There is not very much of antiquarian interest on its shores or on its
islands, save the ruins of _Caisleán na Ceirce_, or the Hen's Castle. They
are on a promontory on the lake. It is not a very old building, being
probably of the fourteenth century, and was built, it is supposed, by one
of the O'Flaherties.

There are the ruins of what antiquarians think are those of one of the
oldest churches ever erected in Ireland, on the bleak island of
Incha-goile. There are also the ruins of another church on the same
island; but judging from the extremely archaic architecture of the one
first mentioned, it must be many centuries older than the other. Both
churches must have been very small.

But although the lower part of Loch Corrib cannot boast of much scenic
beauty, its upper part is magnificent. It thrusts its sinuous arms up into
the wildest recesses of the Joyce Country, and among mountains of
fantastic forms. The Joyce Country, _Duthaigh Sheoghach_ in Gaelic, has
ever been remarkable for the gigantic size of its men. There have been
scores of Joyces who were from six feet four to six feet six in height,
and stout in proportion. There are still some of its men of immense size.
It is said that not so very long ago a giant Joyce was going home from a
fair or market, and that a faction of ten men who were not on perfectly
friendly terms with him, followed him to beat or perhaps kill him. Joyce
had no weapons or means of defence of any kind, so he unyoked the horse
from the cart or dray on which he was riding, tore it to pieces, armed
himself with one of its shafts as a "shillelagh," and awaited his enemies;
but they seem not to have liked being hit with the shaft of a cart and
retreated. Those who like can believe or not believe this story. It is
given as the writer heard it from a very respectable gentleman who knew


This is another of the great lakes of Ireland. It is over twenty miles
long and between two and three miles in average breadth. It is really
curious that a small island like Ireland should have so many immense lakes
in it. There is, probably, no other country in the world of the same
size--there is certainly no island of the same size--on which so much
fresh water is to be found. It would seem as if nature intended Ireland
for a continent, and not for an island, by giving it lakes so entirely
disproportioned to its size.

Loch Derg, anciently called Deirgdheirc, and at present pronounced Dharrig
by the peasantry, would be the most beautiful of all the great lakes of
Ireland if its islands were as numerous as those of Loch Erne, or even of
Loch Ree. It has the defect that almost all lakes have whose shores are
mountainous or hilly. Want of islands is the great drawback to the
picturesqueness of most of the Scotch lakes and those of the north of
England. A few islands do not add much to the beauty of a lake. There
must be plenty of them to produce full effect. The few islands in Loch
Lomond, because they are so few, hardly add to its beauty. The islands in
Loch Derg are very few, and the most picturesque of them are so near the
shore that they seem part of it to the voyager on the lake. There is one
very large island, Illaunmore--the great island, as its name
signifies--but it does not add very much to the scenic attractions. The
charms of Loch Derg are its semi-mountainous shores. It would be incorrect
to call the bold hills on either side of the lake mountains, for very few
of them reach an altitude of more than a thousand feet; but they are most
graceful in their outlines, and are, for the most part, covered with
luxuriant grass up to their very summits. The lake is by no means
straight; its shores are tortuous and full of indentations, so that there
is a good deal of change of scene when sailing on it. But if the tourist
or traveller who wishes to sail on Loch Derg is not what is usually called
a "good sailor," he should consult the barometer before he goes on to this
great lake, for sometimes, when the south-west wind sweeps up its twenty
or twenty-five miles of water, a sea almost worthy of the Channel will
sometimes rise in a very short time. Many a sea-sick passenger used to be
seen in the good times long ago on Loch Derg, when large side-wheel
passenger boats used to run regularly between Athlone and Killaloe. Those
boats were large enough to carry over a hundred passengers without being
in the least crowded, and the cabins were large enough to accommodate
fifty people at dinner. A trip from Athlone to Killaloe on a fast boat
would, on a fine summer day, be one of the most enjoyable things in the
way of an excursion by water that can be imagined. It is over thirty years
since the writer experienced the pleasure of it, and the remembrance of
its enjoyableness haunts him still. The shores of Loch Derg are much
wilder than the shores of Loch Erne or Loch Ree. Very few houses, and
nothing that could be called a town, can be seen through the whole
twenty-five miles of the lake. The hills that bound it both on the Munster
and on the Connacht sides are almost altogether grass land, and very
little cultivation is therefore to be seen. But the bold, winding shores
and the green hills form a landscape of a very striking kind, and there
are many who maintain that the scenery of Loch Derg is finer than that of
Loch Ree. Both lakes are magnificent sheets of water, and environed with a
fair and goodly country; and were they anywhere else but in Ireland,
their waters would be the highway for dozens of steamers, while at present
they are almost deserted, and may be said to be

                    "As lone and silent
    As the great waters of some desert land."

Loch Derg is full of interest for the antiquarian, especially its lower
part. One of the most ancient and important ecclesiastical establishments
of ancient Ireland, Iniscealtra, the island of the churches, is on its
western shore, close to the land, separated from it only by about a
quarter of a mile of water. Iniscealtra was one of the most important
places of its kind in the south of Ireland. It was founded by St Cainin
certainly not later than the end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh
century, for he died in 653. John O'Donovan in his unpublished letters
says that he is represented in ancient Irish literature as "A very holy
man, a despiser of the world, and an inexorable chastiser of the flesh. He
is said to have been author of commentaries on the Psalms. He was buried
in Iniscealtra." There is a fine round tower in Iniscealtra which is
traditionally supposed to have been built by St Senanus. It is eighty feet
in height, and in fairly good preservation, but it wants the top. The
ruins of St Cainin's Church show it to have been a small building. There
are the ruins of two other churches on the island, one called St Mary's
and the other St Michael's. The establishments on Iniscealtra are of very
great antiquity. It is first mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters
under the year 548, recording the death of St Colam in the island. The
oldest church in it was dedicated to St Cainin, who was evidently the
founder of the place, and the first who sought it as a retreat. He is said
to have lived for a long time in a solitary cell, until the fame for
holiness he acquired brought an immense number of disciples, for whom he
erected a noble monastery in the island, which afterwards became famous.
The ruins of St Cainin's Church prove that it must have been a very
beautiful building. It was thought by Petrie and other antiquarians that
it and the very beautiful one of Killaloe were erected during the short
time in the tenth and eleventh centuries when Brian Boramha and Malachy
the Second, by their victories over the Danes, gave the country some rest
from the plunderings of those marauders.

At the extreme lower end of Loch Derg is the small but ancient town of
Killaloe. Its real name is Cill Dalua, it was called after an ecclesiastic
of the name of Dalua, sometimes written Malua, who lived in the sixth
century. He placed his disciple, Flannan, over the church. He was made
Bishop of Killaloe in the seventh century. The church is known generally
as St Flannan's. The Earl of Dunraven, speaking of the beauty of the ruins
of this church and the buildings attached to it, says, "These ancient
buildings are on a wooded hill which slopes in a gentle incline down to
the brink of the Shannon. The cathedral and small stone-roofed church
stand side by side, and the walls of the latter are thickly covered with
ivy. Nothing can be more impressive than the aspect of this venerable and
simple building, surrounded by majestic trees, and hidden in deep shadows
of thick foliage. A solemn mystery seems to envelop its ancient walls, and
the silence is only broken by the sound of the river that rolls its great
volume of water along the base of the hill on which it stands."

But the most historic and probably the most interesting thing about
Killaloe is the site of King Brian's palace of Kincora, a place so famed
in history and song. Perhaps it will be better to let such a famous man on
Irish history and archæology as O'Donovan tell about Kincora. He says in
his unpublished letters while on the Ordnance Survey: "On the summit of
the hill opposite the bridge of Killaloe stood Brian Boramha's palace of
Kincora, but not a trace of it is now visible. It must have extended from
the verge of the hill over the Shannon, to where the present Roman
Catholic chapel stands. I fear that it will be impracticable to show its
site on the Ordnance map, as no field works are visible. Of the history of
the palace of Kincora little or nothing is known, but from the few
references to it we occasionally find, we may safely infer that it was
first erected by Brian, _Imperator Scottorum_, and that it was not more
than two centuries inhabited by his successors. Kincora was demolished in
1088 by Donnell MacLachlin, king of Aileach (Ulster), and we are told that
he took 160 hostages consisting of Danes and Irish." Kincora must have
been rebuilt after it was demolished by MacLachlin, for we are told in the
Annals of the Four Masters that in 1107 Kincora and Cashel were burned by
lightning, and sixty vats of metheglin and beer were destroyed; but it
must have been again rebuilt, for the same annals say that in 1118 Turloch
O'Connor (King of Connacht), at the head of a great army of Connachtmen,
burned Kincora and hurled it, both stones and timber, into the Shannon.
Kincora was, like all dwelling-places in those times, built almost
entirely of wood; and it is hardly to be wondered at that after having
been burned so often by man and by the elements, no vestige of it should
remain. It has been completely wiped out.

A description of Kincora would hardly be complete without giving MacLiag's
Lament for it, translated by Clarence Mongan. MacLiag was chief poet and
secretary to Brian Boramha. The poem is little known even in Ireland; to
the English reader it will be absolutely new. The writer gives two prime
reasons for reproducing it; one, because it is such a very fine poem; and
the other, because it has heretofore never been correctly given.


    "Where, oh Kincora, is Brian the Great?
      And where is the beauty that once was thine?
    Oh where are the princes and nobles that sate
      At the feasts in thy halls and drank the red wine,
                              Where, oh Kincora?

    "Where, oh Kincora, are thy valorous lords,
      Oh whither, thou Hospitable, are they gone?
    Oh where the Dalcassians of cleaving swords,
      And where are the heroes that Brian led on,
                              Where, oh Kincora?

    "And where is Morough, descendant of kings,
      Defeater of hundreds, the daringly brave,
    Who set but light store on jewels and rings,
      Who swam down the torrent and laughed at the wave,
                              Where, oh Kincora?

    "And where is Donagh, King Brian's brave son,
      And where is Conaing, the beautiful chief,
    And Cian and Corc? alas, they are gone!
      They have left me this night all alone in my grief,
                              Alone, oh Kincora!

    "And where are the chiefs with whom Brian went forth,
      The ne'er vanquished sons of Evin the Brave,
    The great King of Eogh'nacht,[12] renowned for his worth,
      And Baskin's great host from the western wave,
                              Where, oh Kincora?

    "And where is Duvlann of the swift-footed steeds,
      And where is Cian who was son of Molloy,
    And where is King Lonergan, the fame of whose deeds
      In the red battle-field, no time can destroy?
                              Where, oh Kincora?

    "And where is the youth of majestic height,
      The faith-keeping prince of the Scotts?[13] even he,
    As wide as his fame was, as great as his might,
      Was tributary, oh Kincora, to thee,
                              To thee, oh Kincora!

    "They are gone, those heroes of royal birth,
      Who plundered no churches and broke no trust
    'Tis weary for me to be living on earth
      When they, oh Kincora, lie low in the dust.
                              Low, oh Kincora!

    "Oh never again will princes appear
      To rival Dalcassians of cleaving swords!
    I can ne'er dream of meeting afar or near,
      In the east or the west, such heroes and lords,
                              Never, Kincora!

    "Oh dear are the images mem'ry calls up
      Of Brian Boru,[14] how he never would miss
    To give me at banquet the first bright cup,--
      Oh, why did he heap on me honour like this,
                              Why, oh Kincora?

    "I am MacLiag, and my home's on the lake;
      And oft to that palace whose beauty has fled
    Came Brian to ask me,--I went for his sake;--
      Oh my grief! that I live when Brian is dead!
                              Dead, oh Kincora!"

So far the demolished palace of Brian, and the writer, like Brian himself,
"returns to Kincora no more."

No lover of the beauties of nature should be on this part of the Shannon
and not visit the great rapids of Doonass. They are only about ten miles
below Killaloe. If seen when the river is full they are the grandest thing
of their kind in the British Isles. The Shannon here looks like a
continental river, containing ordinarily a volume of water greater than
any river in France. The country round Doonass, though flat, is
superlatively beautiful. The limpid, rushing river flows on among meadows
and pastures of the brightest verdure, adorned with stately trees, and
bright in summer-time with innumerable flowers. There is nothing terrible
or awe-inspiring about Doonass. It is quiet and peaceful in the true sense
of the word. Even the great rushing river, as it glides down the gentle
slope of the rapids, makes no noise except a deep, musical murmur that
would lull to sleep rather than startle. The rapids of Doonass form a
scene so incomparably lovely, and so unlike anything to be seen in Great
Britain, or to be seen in any other part of Ireland, that it is a wonder
they are not better known. They can be reached best from Limerick, being
not over three miles from that city. One of the most curious things about
those grand and beautiful rapids, is the almost total ignorance which
exists about them, not only in Great Britain, but in Ireland itself. If
they were situated on a wild, hard-to-be-got-at part of the Shannon, the
general ignorance that exists about them among seekers after the
beautiful, would not excite so much wonder. A scene of such great beauty
and uniqueness, so near a fine and interesting city like Limerick, to be
so little known to those who go so far in search of the beautiful, shows
how much the world at large, and even the Irish themselves, have to learn
about Ireland. If the rapids of Doonass were in England, or even in the
United States, there would be not only one, but perhaps three or four
hotels on their banks,--hotels which would be full of guests every summer.
Let us hope that the beauties of this charming place will be soon better


The situation of this abbey, like most places of its kind in Ireland, is
very beautiful--on the banks of the gentle-flowing Suir, and surrounded by
a fine fertile country. Holycross is thought to have been, with the
exception of Mellifont, the largest of the ancient churches of Ireland.
There is some doubt as to the exact time of its foundation--some
authorities say the year 1182, and others 1208. The probability is that
both dates may, in a certain sense, be correct. It may have been begun to
be built in 1182, and may not have been finished before 1208. Although
founded after the Anglo-French invasion, it was a purely Irish
institution, for all authorities say that it was founded by Donagh
Cairbreach O'Brian, King of Munster, and that it was founded on account of
his having obtained what was believed to be a piece of the cross on which
Christ suffered. It is called in Irish annals _Mainister na croiche
naoimhe_, or Monastery of the Holy Cross. This relic is said, on good
authority, to be at present in the keeping of the nuns of the Presentation
Order at Black Rock, near Cork. O'Brian, the founder of the Church,
endowed it with a great tract of land, so that it was for many centuries
one of the most important places of its kind, not only in the province of
Munster, but in Ireland.

[Illustration: HOLYCROSS ABBEY.]

Holycross is two miles from the neat and thriving town of Thurles, in the
County Tipperary. Unlike so many ruined shrines of former days, and
especially unlike Mellifont in the County Louth, most of the walls of
Holycross still remain. The existing ruins show it to have been a large
church. Its length is 130 feet; the nave is 58 by 49 feet. The entire
ruins are very beautiful and impressive, and their situation on the banks
of the Suir, amid as fine pastoral scenery as can be found in the fine
county of Tipperary, make them well worth a visit. Holycross was founded
for the Cistercian order, and remained in undamaged condition until the
suppression of monasteries in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
It appeals that it lost its distinctively Irish character soon after
English domination became established in Ireland, for in 1267 it was
subjected by the abbot of Clairveaux to the abbey of Furness in England.
It is the opinion of many antiquarians and judges of ecclesiastical
structures that many additions and alterations were made to and in the
abbey, and some of them in comparatively recent times. Some judges of
church architecture have been loud in their praise of the beauties of the
ruins of Holycross, while others have expressed their disappointment.

Here is the testimony of O'Donovan, one of the greatest of Irish
antiquarians, on the subject: "The ruins of this abbey entirely
disappointed my expectations. The architecture of the choir and side
chapel is indeed truly beautiful, but they are not lofty, but the nave and
side aisles are contemptible. I am certain, however, that this newer part
of the abbey is not more than four centuries old."

The sepulchral monument that was erected to the memory of Elizabeth,
daughter of Gerald, Earl of Kildare, who died about the year 1400, is
considered one of the most chaste, remarkable, and beautiful things of its
kind in Ireland. If nothing remained of Holycross but this remarkable
monument, it would be well worth a visit.

There is not so much historical interest connected with Holycross as there
is with smaller establishments of its kind throughout Ireland. It was
founded too late to be plundered by the Danes, and in all the troublesome
times between its foundation and the time when it was abandoned, it does
not seem to have been plundered or burned, neither do the vandals seem to
have damaged or defaced it much. It is a beautiful and impressive ruin
that will for a long time to come attract the notice of lovers of the
abandoned fanes that are to be found in almost every parish of
Ireland--the land that is richer in ruins than perhaps any other country
in the world, Egypt alone excepted.


If Cashel is the most remarkable ecclesiastical ruin in Ireland owing to
its situation, Dunluce Castle is, for the same reason, the most remarkable
military one. Cashel has, however, the advantage of being remarkable from
whatever side it is looked at; but Dunluce is remarkable only when seen
from the sea, or from the strand from which the rock the ruins rest on
rises. From the road that goes along the shore, Dunluce looks absolutely
disappointing, because the road is as high, apparently somewhat higher,
than the castle itself. But seen from a boat on the sea under it, or from
the base of the cliffs on which the road to it runs, it forms the grandest
and most imposing sight of a Viking's ruined stronghold that is to be seen
anywhere in Europe. The rock on which the ruins stand rises sheer from the
sea to the height of over a hundred feet. Before the castle was built on
it, the rock was completely isolated, and must have been an island,
standing about thirty feet from the mainland. Across the profound gulf
that separated the rock from the land, a mighty bridge of solid masonry
has been erected, over which all who enter the castle must pass. This
bridge is only about twenty inches wide, and few, except masons, or those
who are accustomed to ascend heights, would care to cross it, for there is
not, or at least there was not in 1873, a rope, railing, or protection of
any kind for those who wanted to visit the ruins of the castle. No one but
such as have steady nerves and good heads should think of crossing this
bridge, for a fall from it would mean certain death on the jagged rocks
more than a hundred feet below.

[Illustration: DUNLUCE CASTLE.]

The first thing that strikes one after examining the ruins is the unusual
thinness of the walls. They are no thicker than those of a modern
stone-built house. The reason of this is easily understood; for when the
castle was built, which must have been before cannons were so perfected
that they could be used for battering down buildings, it was absolutely
impregnable, as no battering-ram, or mediæval siege-engine, could by any
possibility approach near enough to the walls to be used against them.
There was, therefore, no necessity that the walls should be thick. The
space on the top of the rock is entirely covered with the ruins of the
castle. The walls rise up sheer from the most outward margins of the rock.
On looking out from one of the narrow windows the sea is straight below
one. When the castle was inhabited its inmates must have had an awful
experience during the storms that so often sweep over the wild west and
north coast of Ireland, when the giant waves of the stormiest ocean in the
world beat against the rock on which the ruins stand. If such a place was
secure against the assaults of men, it was not secure against the fury of
the elements; and it would seem that some of the cliff did at one time
give way, for there are some gaps in the walls that appear to have been
caused by rock, upon which they were built, having given way.

The Giant's Causeway and Dunseverick Castle are both in the immediate
vicinity of Dunluce, only a few miles west of it; both are well worth
seeing; but nothing on all that magnificent, iron-bound, cliff-guarded
coast of Antrim can compare in interest with Dunluce. The isolated, almost
sea-surrounded rock on which it stands, the great bridge that connects it
with the mainland, the narrow and dangerous footpath overlooking horrible
depths, and over which the castle can only be entered, make it one of the
grandest and most suggestive ruins in the world. Dunluce is a revelation.
It shows, perched on its storm-beaten, once impregnable rock, the awful
savagery of the time when might was the only law recognised by humanity;
and that only a few centuries ago life and property were no safer in
Christendom than they are to-day in the Soudan.

The name Dunluce is a combination of the two most generally used Irish
words to express a military stronghold _dun_ and _lios_, and may be
translated "strong fort"; and strong it must have been in olden times,
when cannons were either unknown altogether, or principally remarkable for
the noise they made, and the greater danger they were to those who used
them than to those they were used against. The name of this place is
spelled _Dúnlis_ or _Dúnlios_ in ancient annals. The earliest mention of
it by the Four Masters, and in the "Annals of Loch Key," is under the year
1513. It does not appear to be mentioned in any of the other Irish annals,
unless it is mentioned in the "Annals of Ulster"; but as they have been as
yet translated only down to the year 1375, the question cannot be yet

It is remarkable that so little is known about the early history of such a
remarkable place as Dunluce Castle. No trustworthy statement as to when
and by whom it was built has, so far, come to light. It was in the
possession of the Mac Quillins, spelled _Mac Uidhlin_ by the Four Masters,
in 1513. It then, by conquest or in some other way, passed into the hands
of Sorley Boy, one of the Scotch McDonnells, who kept it until 1584, when
it was besieged and taken by Sir John Perrott, Lord Chief Justice of
Ireland. Fifty thousand cows, and all his land in Antrim County, of which
he had an immense quantity, were taken from Sorley Boy. But he repaired to
Dublin, made his submission to Queen Elizabeth, and was reinstated in his
possessions in Antrim, but we are not told if he got back his cows.
Dunluce seems to have become a ruin early in the seventeenth century, and
is becoming more ruined every day, for it is not in the nature of things
that the sea is not gradually undermining and weakening the rock on which
the ruins stand, exposed as it is to the wrath of the stormiest ocean
probably in the world. It is said that long before Dunluce was abandoned,
the kitchen and its staff of cooks were swallowed up on a night of a
fearful gale of wind. This could only have happened by part of the rock
foundations of the castle having been washed away by the sea. The gap in
one part of the walls would seem to indicate that some such catastrophe
did occur.

Dunluce must have been built before the invention of what is now known as
artillery. It is not possible to tell by the style of its architecture in
what century it was built, for there was practically no change in the
architecture of Irish castles for nearly four centuries. The art of
castle-building was just as well understood in the twelfth century as in
the fourteenth. Those who pretend to be able to tell within a century of
the time when a castle was built, by examining its masonry and
architecture, draw greatly on their imaginations. If Dunluce was built
after artillery had become so perfected that castles could be destroyed by
it at half a mile, or even a quarter of a mile distant, those who built
Dunluce were fools, for guns could be brought within fifty yards of it. If
it was built to resist artillery, the walls would have been made three
times as thick as they are. It was evidently built before artillery began
to be used for battering down walls. It must, therefore, have been built
before the year 1400, for even at that early date the principal use that
was made of artillery was for battering down walls. Half a dozen shots
from the very rude and imperfect artillery of the date mentioned would
have made a heap of ruins of the thin walls of Dunluce Castle.


There are very few of the once great abbeys of Ireland of which so little
is generally known to the public as of Boyle Abbey. One reason of this may
be the remoteness of its situation, and its invisibleness from the town of
Boyle. It is not on the track of tourists, and is in a rather
uninteresting part of the country in a scenic point of view. Besides, the
Abbey is not in the town of Boyle, but over quarter of a mile from it, on
a road not so much frequented as some others in the locality. It is a
wonder that more is not known about this noble ruin. It may not be so
interesting in its architecture as Holycross, or so striking in its
situation as Cashel, but it is, nevertheless, one of the finest
ecclesiastical ruins in Ireland.

[Illustration: BOYLE ABBEY.]

If the country round Boyle Abbey cannot be said to be very interesting or
beautiful, the place where the ruins stand is charming. They rise from the
banks of the Boyle river, the first large tributary of the Shannon. The
river rushes under the very walls of the monastery with a rapid current,
and at its highest flood it is generally as clear as crystal, for it
rises in, or at least flows through, Loch Ui Gara, which is only a few
miles from Boyle, and its waters are filtered in that lake before they
reach Boyle. And here it may not be out of place to say that the generally
clear waters of most of the rivers of Ireland add greatly to the beauty of
its scenery. Scotch rivers are also generally clear, and the reason they
are clear is the reason why the Irish rivers are clear, and that is,
because they are filtered in the lakes through which they generally flow.
A limpid river is one of the most beautiful things in nature, but a river
of dirty water would not be beautiful if it flowed through the Garden of
Eden. Almost all rivers that are not filtered by passing through lakes are
sure to be dirty. For this reason the St Lawrence may be said to be the
only one of the great American rivers the waters of which are clear. To
know what an abomination a river of dirty water is, one should see the
Missouri. The river that rushes past the ruins of Boyle Monastery is not
only clear but limpid. Its pure, rushing waters are one of the principal
attractions in the vicinity of the ruins.

The ruins of Boyle Abbey are very fine. The monastery was a large one, one
of the largest in Ireland, and was surrounded on almost every side with
extensive gardens. The walls of many of those gardens still remain, and
seem as sound as they were when first built. The ruins of the Monastery,
and the ruins of its adjoining buildings, are covered with the most
luxuriant growth of ivy to be seen on any ruins in Ireland. The thickness
of its stems, and the size and deep green of its leaves, are remarkable.
This extraordinary growth of ivy must eventually tumble down the walls. It
may preserve them for a time, but will destroy them in the long run. But
without its ivy and its limpid river, the ruined Monastery of Boyle, grand
and interesting as it is, would lose a great deal of its attractions.

The ruins of the great church of Boyle, like the ruins of Cashel, and like
the historic hill of Tara, have been spoiled by the erection of modern
buildings near them. Some parson has erected here a new, intensely vulgar
gimcrack house that almost touches the hoary ruins, it is so close to
them. It entirely spoils their effect, and would disgust any one with any
veneration for the past. In no other country, perhaps, in the world has
the want of respect for the antique been more manifest among the masses
than in Ireland. In no other country have so many monuments of the past
been more wantonly destroyed, more defaced, and less respected. If it had
not been for the care exercised by the Board of Works, during the last
thirty years, most of the ruins of Ireland would now be either entirely
uprooted, or so marred, like the Rock of Cashel, or the Monastery of
Boyle, by the erection of new buildings in their vicinity, that they would
have little attraction for any one in whose soul there remained the
slightest reverence for the past. There are, however, unmistakable signs
that more patriotic and enlightened ideas about their country, and
everything relating to it, are rapidly gaining ground among all classes of
the Irish people, but especially among the more educated. Irish history,
Irish antiquities, and even the Irish language get more of the attention
of the upper and middle classes in Ireland now than they ever got before.
It seems almost a certainty that the ancient monument-defacing epoch has
passed, or is rapidly passing away from a country to which it has been a
disgrace so long. It is not enough that the Board of Works should continue
to do the good work it has been doing for the last quarter of a century in
the preservation of our ruins, it should prevent such outrageous bad taste
as the erection of new buildings in the very centre of time-honoured
monuments like those on the Rock of Cashel and on the Boyle river.

The ancient name of Boyle was _Ath dá laarg_, that is, the "ford of two
forks." It is not easy to understand why such a curious name should have
been given to it, for the river at Boyle, even in time of floods, is
fordable, and has usually not over six or eight inches of water in it. It
has, however, been proved that the rivers of Ireland, and probably of most
other countries, had much more water in them in ancient times than at
present. The other name for Boyle was _Búil_, whence Boyle. The word
_Búil_ is entirely obsolete. It is supposed to mean handsome or beautiful.
The Monastery, of which the ruins exist, was founded in 1161 by Maurice
O'Duffy, a noted ecclesiastic of the period, but it is known that a
smaller and more ancient monastery occupied the site on which the larger
one was built at the date mentioned. Boyle Abbey was an offshoot of the
great Abbey of Mellifont in the County Louth, that had been founded some
twenty years before the Abbey of Boyle. Both abbeys belonged to the
Cistercian order; and it would appear that so many monks flocked to
Mellifont that accommodation could not be made for them all there, so the
Abbey of Boyle was erected for them. The "Annals of Boyle," known also as
the "Annals of Loch Cé, or Key," say that the Church of Boyle was
consecrated in 1220; but that the church was built in 1161 there seems no
reason to doubt. The Four Masters mention it under the year 1174. Their
last mention of it is under the year 1602, and it must have been abandoned
very soon after. It was granted to Sir John King in 1603, when it must
have ceased to be a monastery.

No one should visit Boyle and its grand ruins and not see the two very
beautiful lakes that are near it, Loch Key and Loch Arrow. Loch Key is not
over a mile from the town, and Loch Arrow not more than three. The very
fine domain of Rockingham may be said to be almost surrounded by Loch
Key. It was on an island in this lake that the McDermotts, chieftains of
Moylurg, had a stronghold. The island has a castle on it at present, but,
seen from the shore, both island and castle appear very small. The
fortress the McDermotts had on the island must have been a sort of
_crannióg_, or wooden castle, like so many that have been discovered both
in Ireland and Scotland in the tracks of dried-up lakes. Those _cranniógs_
were sometimes built entirely on piles, and sometimes on islands, with
extensions on piles if the water was not too deep. This last must have
been the kind of fortress the McDermotts had on Loch Key, for it must have
been much larger than the present island, and must have been large enough
to give space to a multitude of people to assemble on it. We read in the
annals of Loch Key of the following awful catastrophe that happened on it
in 1184: "The Rock of Loch Key was burned by lightning--_i.e._, the very
magnificent, kingly residence of the Muintir Maolruanaigh (the McDermotts)
where neither goods nor people of all that were there found protection;
where six or seven score of distinguished persons were destroyed, along
with fifteen men of the race of kings and chieftains, with the wife of
McDermott ... and every one of them who was not burned was drowned in
that tumultuous consternation in the entrance of the place; so that there
escaped not alive therefrom but Connor McDermott with a very small number
of the multitude of his people." The same catastrophe is mentioned by the
Four Masters, but under the year 1187. This account of the burning of the
castle, or, as the annalist calls it, a residence, shows that it was a
wooden structure, for it would hardly have been possible to burn a
building of stone so quickly that the people in it would not have had time
to escape, even if it were on an island.

Loch Arrow is the least known of all the beautiful lakes of Ireland, and
beautiful it is in very nearly the highest style of beauty. There are no
mountains round Loch Arrow, and none to be seen from its waters; but its
numberless attractions in the way of wooded islands, bold promontories,
and swelling shores render it one of the lovely lakes of Ireland; and yet,
few, except those living in its immediate vicinity, know anything about
it, or have ever heard of it. The land near it seems to be, for the most
part, in the hands of small farmers; and neater or more attractive peasant
homesteads cannot be found in any part of Ireland than on the banks of
Loch Arrow. It is not more than four miles from Boyle; and small as it is,
not more than five miles long, and from two to two and a half miles broad,
it is a gem of a lake that seems to be forgotten by the world.


The lakes of Westmeath, like Loch Arrow in Sligo, are almost unknown to
those who go to Ireland in search of the picturesque. These lakes are, for
the greater part, in the centre of the County. Loch Ree is not included in
them. There may be said to be only four of them worthy of the attention of
those who see something to be admired in a lake besides the excellence of
the fish that is in it. Those in search of the beautiful very seldom go to
see the lakes of Westmeath. The only people who generally visit them are
fishermen, very few of whom would turn round their heads to gaze on the
fairest prospect the lakes afforded, for seldom, indeed, do those usually
styled sportsmen trouble themselves very much to see the beauties of
nature, and they are, unfortunately, about the only class of people who
come from afar to visit the lake district of Westmeath.

The lakes best worth seeing in Westmeath are Loch Deravarragh, Loch Ouel,
Loch Ennel, usually called Belvedere Lake, Loch Iron, and Loch Sheelin.
The last mentioned lake lies on the borders of four counties--Longford,
Cavan, Meath, and Westmeath. It cannot be claimed by the most devoted
admirer of the Westmeath lakes that there is very much historic interest
attached to any of them. It would be hardly possible to find a square mile
of Irish soil wholly devoid of historic interest; but while it may truly
be said that there is no country in Europe, not excepting even Greece,
where so many places of historic interest are to be found as in Ireland,
some parts of it are richer than others in memorials of the past. From
whatever cause it happened is not very clear, but it is a fact that
Westmeath is one of the least historic of Irish counties. The hill of
Uisneach is its most historic spot. There are, at the same time, some
other places of historic interest in it. Its most beautiful lake, Loch
Ouel, anciently called Loch Uair, is the one in which Malachy the First
drowned Turgesius the Dane. Turgesius seems to have had what Americans
would call "a high old time" in Ireland for some years--robbing churches
and monasteries, and living on the fat of the land; until the Irish, under
Malachy, at length defeated him in battle, took him prisoner, and drowned
him in one of the most beautiful lakes in Ireland. It seems queer that
Malachy, instead of giving him a grave in such a beautiful sheet of water,
did not fling him into a bog hole, and it is a pity that there should not
be any really trustworthy authority for the legend according to which it
was love for King Malachy's beautiful daughter that was the means of
entrapping Turgesius. Keating gives a very interesting account of the
capture of the Danish Viking in his History of Ireland; how Turgesius
asked Malachy for his daughter: how Malachy said that the marriage, or
rather the _liaison_ should not be made public for fear of giving offence
to the Irish; and how fifteen beardless youths, dressed as girls,
conducted Malachy's daughter to the Dane, overpowered his guard, took
himself prisoner, and then drowned him. A great deal of romance has been
written about this affair, but it remained for the inimitable Sam Lover to
write the funniest thing in the way of a poem about it. He said that the
tyranny of the Danes was so heavy on the Irish that the clergy ordered
them a long time of prayer and fasting to seek Divine aid to rid
themselves of their persecutors. But it would appear that the unfortunate
Irish had been keeping a compulsory fast for a long time previous, for
the Danes had left them nothing to eat. They could not understand being
ordered to fast still more, and said to the clergy:--

    "We can't fast faster than we're fastin' now."

The account of the drowning of Turgesius is given with tantalising
curtness in the "Book of Leinster": "This is the year, A.D. 843, that
Turgesius was taken by Maelseachlainn (Malachy). He was then drowned in
Loch Uair."[15] The "Book of Leinster" does not say that Turgesius was
taken in battle, but those who do not believe Keating's story think he
was. If he had been taken in battle and defeated, it must be admitted that
it is strange that Irish annalists did not say so and give particulars of
the battle. This omission makes it appear probable that there is some
truth in the version of his capture as given by Keating, although it is
altogether discredited by those best read in Irish History.

Loch Ouel can be seen from the train on the Sligo division of the Great
Western Railway. Passing as the glimpse of it is from the train, it is
enough to reveal some of the beauties of this fairest of Westmeath lakes.
But to see it properly one should wander by its pebbly shores, for not a
yard of them is swampy, or ascend one of the hills of brilliant green that
are on all sides of it. Loch Ouel has the great defect of being almost
islandless. There are only one or two small ones in it. If it had
proportionately as many islands in it as Loch Erne, it would be one of the
fairest sheets of water of its size in Ireland.

Belvedere Lake is a good deal larger than Loch Ouel, and its shores are
better wooded, but part of them, in fact a very large part of them, is
boggy. Its banks are adorned with gentlemen's seats, and in spite of the
swampy shore on one side of it, it is a very beautiful lake.

Loch Derravaragh is the most peculiarly-shaped of all the Westmeath lakes.
It is shaped something like a tadpole, only that, unlike a tadpole, it is
its head that is narrow, and its tail, or lower part, that is wide. It has
bolder shores than any other lake in the county, some of the hills near it
being almost mountains. It has hardly any islands, and its shores are
wilder than any other of the Westmeath lakes. It wants the woods that do
so much to adorn the swampy shores of Belvedere Lake; but comparatively
bare as the shores of Loch Derravaragh are, it is a most picturesque
lake, and some think it more beautiful than Loch Ouel. Both Loch
Derravaragh and Loch Iron are formed by the river Inny, but it does not,
as most rivers do, flow through the lakes it forms and feeds, for it flows
out of them within a short distance of where it enters them, and the lakes
extend in an opposite direction from where they receive their water. This
is rather a strange fact in physical geography.

The next most important of the Westmeath lakes is Loch Sheelin, but as
three other counties--Longford, Meath, and Cavan--border it, it cannot be
strictly called a Westmeath lake. However, as it is so close to the very
picturesque sheets of water which are the chief scenic attractions of the
county they adorn, it has been thought best to include it when describing
them. Loch Sheelin has only a few islands, but its shores, although low,
are very well wooded. Seen from the hills in the vicinity of Oldcastle in
Meath, it is as fair a sight as can well be imagined, with its
wood-crowned, indented shores. If there are fairer lakes in Ireland than
Loch Sheelin, there are few that have a more beautiful name. It is euphony
itself. Its name is the original one of Moore's sweet melody, "Come, rest
in this Bosom." It has often been said, "What's in a name?" There is a
great deal. A name so beautiful as Loch Sheelin would give a certain charm
to a bog hole. It must be confessed that Celtic, of all European
languages, seems to contain the most sonorous place names. Such names as
Bassenthwaitewater, Ullswater, Conistonwater, Derwentwater, Thuner See,
and Zuger See, sound very tame compared with Loch Lomond, Loch Erne, Loch
Awe, Loch Ree, Loch Layn, and Loch Sheelin. There is, however, one
continental place-name of wonderful beauty of sound, and that is Lorraine.
Its German name is Lothringen, but the French, by eliding its consonants,
or by what is generally called aspiration in Gaelic grammar, have turned
the harsh German name into one of the most euphonious and beautiful in the

Loch Iron and Loch Lene, pronounced Loch Layne, are small sheets of water,
but are well worth a visit, even from those who are neither fishers of
fish nor of men. The country all round the Westmeath lakes is as beautiful
as it is possible for any country to be in which there are neither
mountains nor waterfalls. It is never flat, and never uninteresting,
covered almost everlastingly with verdure, for although most of the county
is hilly, it is one of the most fertile in Ireland. Its still, clear
lakes, undulating surface, and rich soil, make it, even in the absence of
mountains (and, unfortunately, in the absence of good hotels in its small
towns and villages), one of the most picturesque of the counties of


Kells, the ancient name of which was Ceannanus, and the one by which it is
still known in Irish, is one of the most ancient towns in Ireland.
According to Irish annalists it was founded by an over-king called Fiacha,
1203 years B.C. If its situation and environs are of no great beauty, it
is yet a place of great historic interest. It can boast of the possession
of one of the finest round towers in Ireland, a very ancient cross, and a
still more ancient stone-roofed church. If there are no mountains or
romantic scenery round Kells, it has the advantage of being situated in
the midst of the most generally fertile of Irish counties. It is on the
river Blackwater, a tributary of the historic Boyne. Nothing can exceed
the fertility of the land round Kells; but that does it no good, for the
land is almost all in grass, the rural population sparse, and
consequently, of very little outside support to the town. But Kells is no
worse off than the other towns of Meath. It is, as far as soil is
concerned, the richest county in Ireland, but its towns are either in a
state of absolute decay, or at a standstill. There is hardly any tilled
land in the county; its herds are large, and its population consequently
declining. Where cattle abound, people are generally scarce.

For those who visit Kells merely to see the wondrous luxuriance of its
grassy environs, the best thing they can do is to ascend the hill of
Lloyd, which is close to the town, and go to the top of the tower that
crowns the summit of the hill. It is over a hundred feet high, with a
winding flight of stairs, and a turret on top, capable of containing a
dozen people. The view from the tower is very fine, and will well repay
those who see it. Almost the whole of Meath, Louth, Cavan, and parts of
other counties can be seen. The tower was built more than a hundred years
ago by the first Earl of Bective. It is sometimes called "Bective's
Folly," because it serves for nothing except giving a fine view to those
who ascend it. It is generally known as the tower of Lloyd.

To the antiquarian, the neighbourhood of Kells is of supreme interest.
Four miles south-east of it, on the banks of the Blackwater, lies the site
of what is considered, next to Tara, the most ancient spot of Irish
soil--namely, the place where the games of Tailltean were, for some
thousands of years, celebrated. The place is now called Telltown, an
evident Anglicisation of its Irish name; but it is still called Tailltean
by any old persons in its vicinity who speak Irish. If any credence can be
given to Irish annals and history, the antiquity of this place is
astounding. The sceptic has to admit that the mere fact of the
preservation down to the present day of the name by which it was known
from remote antiquity is in itself an extraordinary fact. The games or
sports of Tailltean were somewhat similar to the Olympic games of Greece,
except that those of Tailltean were celebrated every year. The whole of
Ireland used to assist at them, and they seem to have been celebrated
every year down to 1168, when they were for the last time celebrated by
the unfortunate and foolish Roderick O'Connor, the last of those who were,
even in name, chief kings of Ireland. In spite of internal wars, Danish
invasions and plunderings, a single year does not appear to have elapsed
from the time they were first established down to the twelfth century in
which they were not celebrated. It would also seem that no matter what
wars or troubles were distracting the country, the games of Tailltean
were never omitted. They took place at the beginning of August, as has
been mentioned in the article on Tara, and from them the Irish name of the
month of August--_Lughnasa_--is derived. The name Tailltean is the
genitive case of Taillte, the woman in whose memory they were established
by her son, Lugh, who lived and reigned in Tara, according to the
chronology of the Four Masters, which differs only slightly from that of
other annalists, 1824 years B.C.! It is no matter how we may smile or
shake our heads when this astounding antiquity is mentioned, the
preservation of those two names, _Lughnasa_ and _Tailltean_, down to the
present day, drives away the smile and makes us look serious. Such
collateral proofs of the existence of historic personages of such
antiquity cannot be furnished by any other nation in the world, not even
by Egypt or by Greece.

We must not pooh-pooh the statement of Irish annalists as to the enormous
antiquity they give to persons who figure in early Irish history. Here is
what the late Sir William Wilde says in his book, "Loch Corrib": "With
respect to Irish chronology, we believe it will be found to approach the
truth as near as that of most other countries; and the more we investigate
it and endeavour to synchronise it with that of other lands, the less
reason we shall have to find fault with the accounts of our native

There are not many monuments of the past to be seen at Tailltean save an
earthen fort of about a hundred paces in diameter, and two small lakes
that bear evidence of having been formed artificially. To show how long
traditions live in countries that even partially preserve their ancient
language, it need only be said that up to about a hundred years ago, the
peasantry of the neighbourhood used to meet on the first of _Lughnasa_, or
August, at Tailltean to have games and athletic sports of different kinds.
The meeting was called a _pattern_, but it was not held on any patron
saint's day. It was merely the traditional remembrance of the old games
that had not been celebrated for seven hundred years previously, that
caused the peasantry to meet at Tailltean. It is said that on account of
the drinking and consequent fighting that used to take place, the clergy
forbid the people to assemble. Irish history and annals, while they
constantly mention the games of Tailltean, leave us a good deal in the
dark about the nature of the sports that used to take place. But they do
say that marriages, or, rather, alliances of a somewhat evanescent kind
used to be contracted; and to this day, all through the part of the
country in the neighbourhood of Tailltean, when a matrimonial alliance
turns out badly, or when the parties separate, it is called "a Telltown
marriage." No one who has ever written about Telltown, not even such
profound archæologists as O'Donovan and Petrie, has ever had any doubt
about its being the exact place where the games of Tailltean were held in
ancient times.

There cannot be said to be any very ancient monuments of Christian times
to be seen in Kells save a very fine round tower, the top of which is
gone; a very ancient cross in the market-place, two in the churchyard, and
a stone-roofed church or oratory. The last is the oldest and most
interesting ancient monument in Kells. It is a small building, only
nineteen feet long, fifteen broad, and twenty-five high. It is one of the
most ancient edifices built with cement that exists in Ireland. Its
foundation is attributed to St Columba; and it is considered to be at
least of his time, or the middle of the sixth century. It is apparently as
sound and as solid as it was the day it was built. Everything that could
with any certainty be believed to have been part of the great monastery
that was in Kells has disappeared. Its stones were probably taken to
build the present church that stands near to where the monastery was. The
stones of the ancient building that has been described would also probably
have been used for some purpose if they could have been easily removed,
but it is so solid, and the stones are so firmly bound together by
grouting, that the labour of tearing it down deterred the vandals from
destroying it.

Kells was so often burned and so often plundered by the Northmen that it
is a wonder how anything in it remains. According to the annals it was
burned twenty-one times, and plundered seven times, before the twelfth
century! Every vestige of the great castle, that was built either by Hugo
de Lacy or John de Courcy, has disappeared. This castle must have been
nearly as large as that of Trim, for it was built for the protection of
some of the most valuable country conquered by the invaders. It is said
that the monastery was in a ruined condition at the close of the twelfth
century, and that de Lacy renovated it and richly endowed it.

That wondrous manuscript known as the Book of Kells, although it is not
believed to have been written in that town, has been named from it, and
consequently should be mentioned in connection with it. That the book
found its way to Kells, and that it was there for many centuries, there
cannot be any doubt. Neither can there be any doubt that it belonged to
the Church of Kells, for there are curious charters in it, written in
Irish of a very archaic kind, relating to the clergy of that town. It
seems to have been in Kildare in the twelfth century, for it is evidently
of it that Giraldus Cambrensis speaks when he says, "Of all the wonders of
Kildare, I found nothing more wonderful than the marvellous book that was
written in the time of St Brigit." It was in the church of Kells until
1620, when Archbishop Ussher saved it from being destroyed. It is a Latin
version of the Gospels, with some Gaelic charters, relating to the Church
of Kells, that were bound into it many centuries after it was written. It
was taken by the Danes, it is believed, and the golden cover torn off it;
it was found buried in the ground some time after. This is recorded to
have happened in 1006. It is the most wonderful work of art of its kind
known to exist in any country, and it is no wonder that in a credulous age
it should have been believed to be the work of angels. Westwood, an
Englishman, and author of the greatest work on illuminated manuscripts
ever written, says of it: "It is unquestionably the most elaborately
executed manuscripts of so early a date now in existence." Doctor Waagen,
Conservator of the Royal Museum of Berlin, says of it: "The ornamental
pages, borders, and initial letters exhibit such a rich variety of
beautiful and peculiar designs, so admirable a taste in the arrangement of
colours, and such an uncommon perfection of finish, that one feels
absolutely struck with amazement." Where and when the Book of Kells was
executed, and by whom, will probably never be known; but it must have been
written as early as the sixth century. Tradition attributes it to Columba,
or, as he is usually called, Columb Cille. The late Dr Todd, one of the
most learned archæologists, and one of the best Gaelic scholars that ever
Ireland produced, believed that it was as early as the time of Columba.
The author of _Topographia Hiberniae_ says of it: "The more frequently I
behold it, the more diligently I examine it, the more I am lost in
admiration of it." No one who has not seen the Book of Kells can form an
idea of its beauty. In the pages that have not been soiled the colours are
as pure and as bright as if they were laid on only yesterday. The naked
eye cannot follow all its delicate and minute tracings; to see it aright,
it should be seen through a microscope. It is beyond any doubt the most
wonderful book of its kind in the world. In it and in the Tara Brooch
Ireland possesses two works of ancient art, two gems of artistic beauty
which are unequalled of their kind and of their age. The art treasures of
metallurgy exhumed in Pompeii, and all that have been found in Greece and
Asia Minor by Schliemann, contain nothing equal in exquisite finish to the
Tara Brooch; and in all the treasures of illuminated manuscripts in the
libraries of the world, there is nothing of its kind equal to the Book of
Kells. The Tara Brooch can be seen in the Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin,
and the Book of Kells in Trinity College, in the same city.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the ecclesiastical establishments that have been described owed their
origin to native piety, benevolence, and enterprise.


No one, whether an Irishman or a stranger, can look on the vast mound and
vast earthen ramparts that mark the home of him whom the most trustworthy
of Irish annalists, Tighearnach, calls _fortissimus heros Scottorum_,
without feelings of indignation and shame--indignation at the way one of
the greatest and most interesting monuments of Irish antiquity has been
profaned, and shame that so little reverence for their country's past
should be found among the Irish people. If the Copts and Arabs of Egypt
sell and uproot the antiquities of that country, they can, at least, say
that they are not the descendants of the men who lived under the sway of
the Pharaos; but those who have, in recent times, done most to obliterate
and profane the most historic monuments of Ireland are the lineal
descendants of the men who raised them. Nothing that ancient Irish
monuments have suffered, and they have suffered a great deal, can exceed
the wrong committed by him who built a horrible, modern, vulgar, gewgaw
house on top of the _dun_ of Cuchulainn! To show how utterly obtuse, and
how unsympathetic with his country's past the person was who built the
vulgar structure on one of the most curious and interesting historic
monuments in Ireland, he has actually engraved his name and the date of
the erection of the house on its front wall! seeming to glory in the
vandalism he committed. The legend on the wall says that the house was
built in 1780 by a person named Patrick Byrne for his nephew.


About a mile from the Dundalk railway station, crowning the summit of a
hill that rises amid green fields and rich pastures, stands all that
remains of the _dun_ on which the wooden dwelling of Cuchulainn stood
wellnigh two thousand years ago. Before it was partially levelled to build
the gewgaw house that now stands on it, it must have been the finest
monument of its kind in Ireland. It is quite different from the remains of
Tara, Knock Aillinn, Emania, or Dinrigh. Those places were evidently
intended to accommodate large numbers of people; but Cuchulainn's _dun_
was evidently that of one person or one family. It answered to the Norman
keep that some lords of the soil built for their own private protection in
later times. Cuchulainn's _dun_ was immense, and its remains are even
still immense in spite of the way it has been ruined. It is yet over forty
feet in perpendicular height, and, like most structures of its kind, is
perfectly round. It has an area of over half an acre on its summit. The
_enceinte_ outside the central _dun_ encloses fully two acres, and where
it has not been levelled, is still colossal, being thirty feet high in
some parts. The immense labour it must have taken to raise such a gigantic
mound, and to dig such vast entrenchments on so high a hill, strikes one
with astonishment. If it had not been ruined and partially levelled by
the utterly denationalised and soulless person who built the vulgar
structure on it, it would be the finest thing of its kind in Ireland, and
would attract antiquarians from all parts of these islands and from the

The existence of this fort is another collateral proof of the general
truth of what has been called Irish bardic history. It says that
Cuchulainn lived at Dundealgan, or Dundalk, and there his _dun_ is found.
He can hardly be said to figure in what are generally known as Irish
authentic annals. The "Annals of the Four Masters" do not mention him at
all, although they do mention some of his contemporaries. Tighearnach, who
lived in the eleventh century, is the only one of the Irish annalists who
mentions him. His annals have not yet been translated or published; but
the following passage occurs in them: "Death of Cuchulainn, the most
renowned champion of Ireland, by Lughaidh, the son of Cairbre Niafer
[chief king of Ireland]. He was seven years old when he began to be a
champion, and seventeen when he fought in the Cattle Spoil of Cooley, and
twenty-seven when he died." Tighearnach makes Cuchulainn and Virgil
contemporary. He and Queen Meave are the two great central figures in the
longest and greatest prose epic in the Irish language, the Tain Bo
Cuailgne, or Cattle Spoil of Cooley, which Sir Samuel Ferguson has made
familiar to the English reader in his poem, "The Foray of Meave."

Cuchulainn is the Hercules of Irish romantic history; but in spite of all
the fabulous tales of which he is the hero, there cannot be any doubt that
he was an historic personage, that his dwelling-place was on the _dun_
that has been described, and that he lived shortly before the Christian
era. The name Cuchulainn is a sobriquet; it means "the hound Culann." This
Culann was chief smith to Connor, King of Ulster. He had a fierce dog that
he used to let out every night to watch and guard his premises, which were
in the vicinity of Emania, the palace of the Ulster kings. Cuchulainn, who
was nephew to Connor, was going to some entertainment at his uncle's; but
having been out later than usual, was attacked by Culann's fierce hound.
He had no weapon with which to defend himself save his hurling ball; but
he cast it with such force at the dog that he killed him on the spot.
Culann complained to King Connor about the loss of his great watch dog,
and Cuchulainn, who was then only a boy of eight or nine years old, said
that he would act as watch dog for the smith and be Culann's hound, or
dog. Whether he did so or not is left untold.

It is very curious that in all the romantic tales in which Cuchulainn
figures, and in spite of his incredible strength and prowess, there does
not seem to be a passage in any tract that has been translated about him
up to the present where anything is mentioned about his size or stature.
We are left under the impression that he was no bigger than ordinary men;
and it may have been that he was not. Size and strength do not always go
together. Some of the feats that he is said to have performed are utterly
incredible; such as flinging his spear haftwise, and killing nine men with
the cast; and pulling the arm from its socket out of a giant whom he was
unable to get the better of with weapons. It is very natural that such
impossible feats would, in a credulous age, be attributed to any one who
was possessed of more than ordinary prowess. Things quite as impossible
are found in the classics relative to Hercules. The Irish had just as good
a right to relate impossibilities about Cuchulainn as the Greeks had to do
the same about Hercules. But Cuchulainn figures in Celtic legend and
romance in a manner in which Hercules does not figure in the legends of
Greece, for the Irish hero was more of a ladies' man than was the giant
of the Greeks.

If Cuchulainn did not fill such an important place in what may be called
classic Gaelic literature, the total ignorance about him in the very place
where he was born and where he lived would not be such a national disgrace
as it is. The mere remnant of Gaelic literature in which he is the central
figure is immense. No other race in Europe would have so totally lost
sight of a personage that was the hero of so many tracts and stories, and
who was, besides, an historic character, and not a myth. Even sixty years
ago, during the Ordnance Survey of Louth, the parties employed on it found
that no one in the neighbourhood of Castletown, the modern name of the
place in which Cuchulainn's fort is situated, knew or heard anything about
him. They were told by the peasantry that the fort was made by the Danes!
Some said it was the work of Finn Mac Cool; but of the real owner of it,
they knew nothing.

It is evident that the Irish monks of early mediæval times were much more
broad-minded and liberal than their countrymen of the same class of more
recent years. It is to monks and inmates of monasteries that we owe
nine-tenths of the Gaelic literature that has come down to us. They
produced more books in proportion to their numbers than perhaps any class
of men of their kind that lived in ancient times. They were sincere
Christians, but, like patriots, they loved to record the deeds of their
pagan ancestors. Just as soon as national decay set in they were succeeded
by men of their own calling, who appear to have thought little worth
recording except the works of saints, or at least of those who professed
Christianity. If the monks of the early centuries of Christian Ireland
were as narrow-minded as the Four Masters, we never, probably, would know
anything about Cuchulainn, Queen Meave, Conall Carnach, or any of the
heroes of pagan Ireland, round whom there is woven such a wondrous web of
legend, romance, and song. Every patriotic Irishman should revere the
memories of those liberal-minded monks who handed down to us the doings of
their pagan forefathers. To show how much those men valued the literature,
and loved to recount the exploits of their pagan ancestors, it will only
be necessary to give the words of the dear old soul who copied the _Tain
Bó Cuailgne_, the great epic of pagan times, into the "Book of Leinster":
"A blessing on every one who will faithfully remember the _Tain_ as it is
[written] here, and who will not put another shape on it."

Cuchulainn, above all men who figure in ancient Irish literature, seems to
have been "_grádh ban Eireann_," the darling of the women of Ireland.
While yet in his teens, the nobles of Ulster came together to determine
who should be a fitting wife for him. After a long search they found a
lady named Eimir, accomplished in all the feminine education of the time;
but her father, a wealthy chief or noble who lived near Lusk, in the
present County of Dublin, did not like to give his daughter to a
professional champion. Cuchulainn had seen her, and had succeeded in
gaining her love. She was guarded for a year in her father's _dun_; and
during all that time, Cuchulainn vainly strove to see her. At last he lost
patience and became desperate, scaled the three fences that encircled her
father's fort, had a terrible fight for her; killed three of her brothers;
half killed half-a-dozen others who opposed him, and carried her and her
maid northward in his chariot to his home in Dundalk.

Like all violent love, Cuchulainn's love for Eimir seems soon to have
cooled, for we find that a lady called Fann, the wife of Manannan MacLir,
King of the Isle of Man, or some place east of Ireland, fell in love with
him. She came to see her father, a man of rank and wealth, who lived
somewhere on the east coast of Ireland. She eloped with Cuchulainn, and
Eimir, finding that she and her erring husband were staying at Newry, in
the present County of Down, followed him, attended by fifty maids armed
with knives, in order to kill Fann. This lady, in spite of her errors,
must have been an intellectual woman, for her speech when leaving
Cuchulainn and going home with MacLir is very fine, and would be a credit
to the literature of any language. The tract in which it occurs is in the
Book of the Dun Cow, an Irish manuscript compiled in the eleventh century,
and is entitled "The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn and only Jealousy of Eimir."
It was admirably translated nearly forty years ago by Eugene O'Curry, and
was published in the long since dead periodical, the _Atlantis_. None but
a few Celtic savants have ever read it. To the general public it will be
absolutely new. Fann, finding that she must leave Cuchulainn, says:--

    "It is I who shall go on a journey;
    I give consent with great affliction;
    Though there is a man of equal fame,
    I would prefer to remain [here].

    "I would rather be here
    To be subject to thee without grief,
    Than go, though it may wonder thee,
    To the sunny palace of Aed Abrat.[16]

    "Woe to the one who gives love to a person,
    If he does not take notice of it!
    It is better for one to be turned away,
    Unless he is loved as he is loved."

It seems that by some occult means it was revealed to Manannan MacLir that
his wife, Fann, was in trouble between the jealous women of Ulster and
Cuchulainn. So he came from the east to seek his eloped spouse. When Fann
found out that Manannan had found _her_ out, she utters the following very
quaint, extraordinary, and touching rhapsody:--

    "Behold ye the valiant son of Lir
    From the plains of Eoghan of Inver,--
    Manannan, lord of the world's fair hills,
    There was a time when he was dear to me.

    "Even to-day if he were nobly constant,--
    My mind loves not jealousy;
    Affection is a subtle thing;
    It makes its way without labour.

    "When Manannan the Great me espoused
    I was a spouse worthy of him;
    He could not win from me for his life
    A game in excess at chess.

    "When Manannan the Great me espoused
    I was a spouse of him worthy;
    A bracelet of doubly tested gold
    He gave me as the price of my blushes.

    "I had with me going over the sea
    Fifty maidens of varied beauty;
    I gave them unto fifty men
    Without reproach,--the fifty maidens.

    "As for me I would have cause [to be grieved]
    Because the minds of women are silly;
    The person whom I loved exceedingly
    Has placed me here at a disadvantage.

    "I bid thee adieu, O beautiful Cu;
    Hence we depart from thee with a good heart;
    Though we return not, be thy good will with us;
    Every condition is noble in comparison with that of going away."

It would appear that Cuchulainn was as much distracted about Fann as she
was about him; for when he found that she had gone home with Manannan
MacLir, he became desperate, and the tale says, with extraordinary
grotesqueness and apparent inconsequence, that "It was then Cuchulainn
leaped the three high leaps and the three south leaps of Luachair; and he
remained for a long time without drink, without food, among the mountains;
and where he slept each night was on the road of Midhluachair." But what
good did the jumping do him, or why did he jump?

Connor, King of Ulster, and the nobles and Druids of the province, had a
hard time with Cuchulainn after Fann left him, as he seems to have gone
downright crazy. The tale says that Connor had to send poets and
professional men to seek him out in his mountain retreat, and that when
they found him he was going to kill them. At last the Druids managed to
give him a drink of forgetfulness, so that he remembered no more about

The death of Cuchulainn in the "Book of Leinster" is one of the finest
things in ancient literature. It has not yet been fully translated, but a
partial translation of it by Mr Whitley Stokes appeared in the _Revue
Celtique_ in 1876. An epitome of it here can hardly be out of place: When
Cuchulainn's foes came against him for the last time, signs and portents
showed that he was near his end. One of his horses would not allow himself
to be yoked to the war chariot, and shed tears of blood. But Cuchulainn
goes to the battle, performs prodigies of valour; but at last he receives
his death wound. Though dying, his foes are afraid to approach him. He
asks to be allowed to go to a lake that was close by to get a drink. He is
allowed to go, but he does not want a drink, he merely wants to die like a
hero, standing up; for there is a pillar-stone close by, and he throws
his breast-girdle round it, so that he might die standing up, and not
lying down. His friend Conall determines to avenge his death. Here the
literal translation is so fine that it must be given: "Now there was a
comrades' covenant between Cuchulainn and Conall--namely, that whichever
of them was first killed, should be avenged by the other. 'And if I be
first killed,' said Cuchulainn, 'how soon wilt thou avenge me?' 'The day
on which thou shalt be slain,' says Conall; 'I will avenge thee before
that evening.' 'And if I be slain,' says Conall, 'how soon wilt thou
avenge me?' 'Thy blood will not be cold on earth,' says Cuchulainn, 'when
I shall avenge thee.'" Lugaid, the slayer of Cuchulainn, had lost his
right hand in the fight. He goes south in his chariot to a river to rest
and drink. His charioteer says, "One horseman is coming to us, and great
are the speed and swiftness with which he comes. Thou wouldst deem that
all the ravens of Erin were above him, and that flakes of snow were
specking the plain before him." "Unbeloved is the horseman that comes
there," says Lugaid. "It is Conall mounted on [his steed] the Dewy-Red.
The birds thou sawest above him are sods from that horse's hoofs. The
snowflakes thou sawest specking the plain before him are foam from that
horse's lips and nostrils." Conall and Lugaid fight, of course; but as
Lugaid has but one hand, Conall has one of his hands bound to his side
with ropes, so that he should have no advantage over his foe. They fight
for hours, until at last Lugaid falls by Conall, and Cuchulainn is
avenged. The tale winds up thus: "And Conall and the Ulstermen returned to
Emain Macha (Emania). That week they entered it not in triumph. But the
soul of Cuchulainn appeared there to the fifty queens who had loved him;
and they saw him floating in his spirit-chariot over Emain Macha, and they
heard him chaunt a mystic song of the coming of Christ and the Day of

There are few views in Ireland more beautiful than that from the summit of
the mound on which Cuchulainn's mansion stood. It may not be so extensive
as other views in the locality, but for beauty and variety it can hardly
be exceeded. If admittance is obtained into the house that is built on the
track of Cuchulainn's, the view will be still finer. It is said by some
that that house is haunted. It is to be hoped that it is; and that
Cuchulainn's ghost will drive away sleep from the eyes of every one of
Patrick Byrne's descendants who stop in it.

The ancient name of the country round Dundalk was Muirimhne; but it has
not been called by that name for some centuries. It appears to have been
the patrimony of Cuchulainn; for in the tale, in the "Book of the Dun
Cow," from which extracts have been given, Fann calls him, "Great chief of
the plain of Muirimhne." He, probably, or the clan of which he was the
head, owned all that part of northern Louth where the land is level, and
up to the foot of the Cooley hills. All the County Louth is fairly studded
with ruins of one sort or another. It is one of the most interesting
counties in Ireland in an antiquarian point of view. It contains the
remains of nearly thirty castles in almost all stages of preservation. One
of the finest of them is only a few hundred yards from the _dun_ of
Cuchulainn. It is not in the least ruined, but its architecture shows it
to be one of the oldest castles erected by the Anglo-Normans in Ireland.
Its style is almost exactly that of the castle at Trim, which we know was
built before the end of the twelfth century. Like Dunsochly Castle, near
Finglas, in the County Dublin, the one near Cuchulainn's _dun_ must have
been inhabited at a comparatively recent date, for modern windows have
been opened on its front. The only light that was admitted into those old
castles was what came through the narrow slits in the walls, about three
feet long and six or eight inches wide. These served the double purpose of
letting in light and discharging arrows through them. It does not seem to
be known by whom the very fine Norman Keep at Castletown, County Louth,
was built. There are many larger castles of the same kind in different
parts of Ireland, but there are not many of its age in such a good state
of preservation. There is a church in the immediate proximity of the
castle, and the exact date of its erection seems also unknown. It is in a
state of almost utter ruin. The County Louth can boast of having been the
birth-place of St Brigit. She was born at Fachart, only a few miles from
Castletown, but it was in Kildare she spent almost all her life, and it
was there she died and was buried.

There are few parts of Ireland more beautiful than the country round the
ancient _dun_ of Cuchulainn, and few parts less generally visited by
tourists. Carlingford Loch is only a few miles from Dundalk, and except
Clew Bay, and one or two others, there is nothing finer on all the coasts
of Ireland. But the grandest and most striking scenery in this part of the
country are the Mourne mountains in the County Down. There are higher
mountain ranges in Ireland, but there are not any more bold, or more truly
Alpine. Seen from the central parts of the County Louth, they and the
Cooley mountains seem to form a continuous range of "sky-pointing peaks,"
forming one of the finest, if not the very finest, mountain view in
Ireland. The ancient name of the Mourne mountains was the Beanna Boirche.
They were called the Mourne mountains from being in a territory anciently
called Crioch Mughorna. It gave a title to Lord Cremorne, from whom, it is
generally believed, the Cremorne Gardens in London derive their name. It
has to be admitted that, in this instance, the Anglicised form of the name
is the more euphonious.

The County Louth, and all that part of the County Down bordering on it,
have not had their due share of attention from those who go in search of
the picturesque and beautiful. Although the direct route between the two
largest cities in Ireland, northern Louth and southern Down are not at all
known as well as they should be. There are, even in Kerry or Connemara,
few places in which finer views of mountain, bay, and plain can be had,
and all within less than two hours by rail from Dublin or Belfast. And as
for antiquities, no county of its size in Ireland possesses so many as


By the west coast is meant the whole of that wondrous succession of
far-penetrating fiords and bays, cliff-guarded shores, and sea-washed
mountains from Bantry Bay to Malin Head, a distance of over four hundred
miles. There may be wilder scenery on the coasts of Norway, Labrador, or
Scotland, but for wildness, sublimity, and beauty combined, there is
hardly in Europe, or in the world, another four hundred miles of coast
equal to it. Its variety is one of its principal charms. There is the
grandeur and wildness of Norwegian coast scenery, together with scenes of
radiant beauty which cannot be found on the coasts of Norway or of
Scotland. The more southern latitude of the Irish west coast, and its
consequently milder climate, give it a great advantage over the coasts of
Norway or of Scotland. Its grass is greener and more luxuriant, and its
flowers bloom earlier in spring and later in autumn than those of more
northern climes. The mild climate of the southern part of the Irish west
coast is almost phenomenal. Winter, in its real sense, or as it generally
is on the coasts of Norway, or even of Scotland, may be said to be unknown
on the west coast of Munster. Snow is seldom seen, and frost still less
frequently. Rain and wind are about all the climatic disagreeableness that
those living on the south-west coasts of Ireland have to contend against.
It is, however, a fact that the rainfall is not so heavy immediately on
the coast as it is some ten or twenty miles inland. This is owing to the
fact that the higher mountains are generally some distance from the sea;
and it is well-known that mountains are great attractors of rain.

Bantry Bay is the first great sea loch of the south-western coast. It is
one of the finest natural harbours in Europe, but, unfortunately, ships
are seldom seen in it except when they take shelter from the "wild west
wind," which blows on these storm-beaten shores with a fury hardly known
anywhere else in the world. The whole of the coast of Kerry, up to the
mouth of the Shannon, is a succession of the wildest and grandest scenery,
with here and there land of only slight elevation, with level meads and
pastures of perennial green. Still further north, we come to the mouth of
the Shannon, which forms another very fine harbour. About twenty miles
north of the Shannon the famous cliffs of Moher appear. There are higher
isolated cliffs than those on the west coast, but there is no long range
of cliffs so high. They average between six and seven hundred feet in
perpendicular height above the sea. To be seen in all their grandeur they
should be seen from the sea, but to be seen in all their terribleness,
they should be seen in a storm. Such is the force of the west wind on
these coasts, sweeping over three thousand miles of unbroken, islandless
sea, that the waves sometimes break over the cliffs of Moher in spite of
their nearly seven hundred feet of perpendicular height. In no other part
of the world is the force of the sea, when driven before a gale from the
west, more terrific than on the west coast of Ireland. Old men who lived
close to this iron-bound coast on the night of the great storm of January
6, 1839, known over the most of Ireland as the "Night of the Big Wind,"
say that none but those who were near these coasts on that awful night
could have even a faint idea of what the Atlantic is when a storm from the
south-west drives it against the rocky barriers that seem to have been
placed where they are to prevent it from overwhelming the whole island.
They say that when some gigantic wave of millions of tons of water was
hurled against these cliffs, the noise made was so loud that it could be
heard miles inland above the roar and din of the storm; and that the very
earth would tremble at every assault of the waves on those tremendous
barriers to their fury.

Recent soundings taken off the west and south-west coast of Ireland have
fully proved that a very large part of the island has been washed away by
the fury of the west wind and the sea, and that at some far-back epoch it
extended nearly three hundred miles further towards the south-west. The
sea, for some two or three hundred miles west and south-west of Ireland,
is shallow--hardly deeper than the Channel between Great Britain and
Ireland--but at that distance there is a sudden increase of over two
thousand feet in the depth of the sea. Scientists think that this
submerged mountain was once the south-west coast of Ireland, and that the
shallow sea between the present coast and the deep sea, about three
hundred miles south-west, was once dry land, and, of course, part of
Ireland. There do not seem to be any reasonable grounds to doubt this
theory, for the fury of the sea is every year washing away both land and
rock on these western coasts, and the way it has encroached, even in the
memory of living persons, is very remarkable. Not a year passes during
which hundreds of thousands of tons of rocks are not washed away from
cliff and mountain by the ceaseless assaults of the stormy sea that beats
with such force on the western coast of Ireland. Were it not for the
cliffs and mountains that guard the whole of the west coast, the
probability is that thousands of acres would be submerged every year,
until there would be very little of the country left in the long run. It
may be said that there must be a time coming when those barriers of cliff
and mountain that now guard almost the entire west coast will be swept
away, seeing that they are being constantly broken down and washed into
the sea. Such a time must certainly come, unless some unforeseen event
should alter the course of the Gulf Stream, or change the prevailing west
and south-west winds to opposite points of the compass. The question is,
How long will it be until there is real danger from the encroachment of
the sea on the west coast of Ireland? This is a question which the most
profound geologist living could not answer with even approximation to
correctness. It is impossible to know what amount of erosion takes place
every year, or what amount has taken place in any given number of years;
but that not only the cliffs of Moher, but the still more gigantic ones
of Slieve More in Achill, and Slieve League in Donegal, must finally
succumb to the fury of the Atlantic's waves there can hardly be a doubt.
Thousands of years may elapse before the cliff barriers on the western
coast become so weakened that the island will be in danger from the
assaults of the sea.

From the cliffs of Moher to the Killaries, or Killary Bay, or Harbour, for
it is known by all these names, there are many scenes of very great
beauty; but to take even passing notice of all of them would be entirely
beyond the scope of a work of the size of this. The coasts of Connemara,
if not remarkable for very striking cliff scenery, are wild, sea-indented,
strange, and interesting in a very high degree. But Killary Bay is one of
the glories of the wild west coast. It has more the character of a
Norwegian fiord than any other sea loch in Ireland. It divides the
counties of Galway and Mayo. Some put it before the famed Clew Bay, and
Inglis said, over half a century ago, that if the shores of the Killaries
were as well wooded as Killarney, the latter might tremble for the
supremacy it enjoys of being the fairest lake either of fresh or salt
water in Ireland. The Killaries run some ten or fifteen miles inland,
between some of the highest hills in the province of Connacht, with
Maolrea, the king of Connacht mountains, on its northern side. This fiord,
or narrow sea loch, is one of the most splendid harbours, not only in
Ireland, but in the world, with not only complete shelter from winds from
all points, but with depth of water enough to float the biggest ship that
ever has been or ever will be built. But, unfortunately, there is little
to attract commerce to these desolate shores, where there are no large
towns, and only a sparse population. It has been said by some who have
seen almost all the fiords of Norway, that there are few of them superior
to the Killaries in everything that constitutes beauty, sublimity, and
wildness. That this sea loch is, in a certain degree, dark and gloomy has
to be admitted, because the mountains come so close to it that they seem
in some places to rise almost perpendicularly out of the water. But
Killary harbour is a glorious place on a clear, sunny mid-day, when its
sombre mountains cast but little shade on its ever calm waters; for no
matter how rough the sea may be outside, this mountain fiord is ever calm,
as it is sheltered on all sides by towering heights. As an enchanting bay
it is the only one on all the Irish coasts of which Clew Bay or Dublin
Bay, were they living things and tormented with human passions, could
possibly feel jealous.

We now approach the queen, not alone of Irish bays, but of all bays in
these islands, and, according to its most ardent admirers, of all bays in
Europe. This is the glorious sheet of salt water, presided over by the
most symmetrical and beautiful of Irish mountains, Croagh Patrick, and
guarded from the stormy Atlantic by the rocky shores of Clare Island. This
is Clew Bay, the radiant beauty, the "matchless wonder of a bay," that not
one in a hundred of those in search of the beautiful know anything about.
It is indeed strange that this gem of sea lochs is not better known, now
that a railway brings one to its very shores.

It is almost impossible to draw a comparison between Clew Bay and the many
magnificent arms of the sea that penetrate the west coasts of Ireland and
Scotland, for it is so unlike most of them: Dublin Bay, while less grand
and not so beautiful as Clew Bay, is the one that is most like it. Howth
has somewhat the same position with regard to Dublin Bay that Clare Island
occupies with regard to Clew Bay, and Slieve Coolan--in the name of all
that's decent let that abominable name "Sugarloaf" be dropped for
ever--is the presiding mountain genius of Dublin Bay, just as Croagh
Patrick is the presiding mountain genius of Clew Bay. Both bays are
beautiful rather than sublime; they are bright and cheerful rather than
dark and frowning. With all the wildness and grandeur of the many
far-entering fiords of the coast of Scotland, with all the Alpine glories
of their shores, there is not one of them that for beauty alone can be
compared with Clew Bay. It is shrouded by no terror-striking precipices.
No cataracts pour into it even in flood time. No mountains overhang it. It
seems to have been made to cheer and to delight, and not to terrify or to
startle. It seems to have said to the mountains round it--"Stand back;
come not too near me lest your shadows should fall on me and hide, even
for an instant, one gleam of my radiant loveliness." So the mountains
round it do stand back, and this is the one cause of its winsomeness,
brightness, and cheerfulness. When the tide is full on a sunny day, Clew
Bay seems absolutely to laugh. No shadow of surrounding hills can fall
upon it, for they are too far away. It is as bright and as radiant a bay
as there is in the world, and the glory of the coasts of Connacht.

Clew Bay has a great advantage over the greater part of the bays on the
Irish coast on account of its size. Killary Bay is in no place more than a
mile wide, but Clew Bay is fully seven miles wide at its narrowest part,
and about sixteen miles long--that is from Clare Island to the quay at
Westport. Those who desire to see this splendid bay aright should not
attempt to look at it from the town of Westport, for it cannot be seen to
advantage from there. Neither can it be seen to advantage except during
high tide, when all its multitude of islands are clearly defined. Let them
ascend the high lands east of the town of Westport for about a mile, and
then look back on the scene beneath them. If the day is fine, if there is
plenty of sunlight, they will have to be the least sensitive of mortals if
they can gaze on such a scene unmoved. Scenes sublimer and grander, and
views more extensive, can be found in other countries; but for pure
beauty--a beauty that seems to laugh and rejoice at its own matchless
charms--Clew Bay may challenge anything of its kind on earth.

North of the bay rises that most symmetrical of Irish mountains, Croagh
Patrick, or the Reek, as it is frequently called. It seems to have been
made to order, it is so regular and at the same time so graceful and
grand in its outlines. There are few mountains of its height that look so
high as Croagh Patrick. It is somewhat less than three thousand feet high,
but owing to its symmetry and its steepness it looks higher and more
imposing than many mountains of double its altitude. Exactly at the mouth
of the bay, stretching almost straight across it, and almost completely
shutting it in from the Atlantic, rises the great mass of Clare Island,
making the bay a safe harbour as well as adding in a most extraordinary
degree to its beauty. Clare Island is almost a mountain; its highest point
cannot be less than fifteen hundred feet above the sea level, and it rises
sheer from the water. It is almost as beautiful an object as Croagh
Patrick itself. The hills on the north side of the bay are rather tame,
but the beauty of the famous Reek is such that almost any other mountain
would appear tame in comparison with it. The number of islands in Clew Bay
is said to be three hundred and sixty-five--one for every day in the year.
There seem not to be any exact details as to the number of these islands,
but it cannot be much less than the number stated. They seem so numerous
as to be uncountable. The reason that those wishing to see this wondrous
bay at its best are advised to see it when the tide is full is because all
the islands do not appear at low water. This is certainly a defect, but no
sea loch looks so well at low water as when the tide is full. The citizens
of Dublin know what a difference the tide being in or out makes in the
appearance of their own magnificent bay. But in Clew Bay the difference in
its appearance caused by the tide being full or low is much greater than
in the bay of Dublin, for the reason that has been already stated. However
much the difference the state of the tide may make in Clew Bay, it is
beyond all doubt the most beautiful bay, not only in Ireland, but in all
those countries known as the British Isles.

Those who go to this part of the west coast in search of the sublime and
beautiful should not omit to ascend Croagh Patrick, and gaze from its top
on one of the grandest and most extensive views to be seen in Ireland. The
mountain, seen from Westport or its environs, appears wellnigh
inaccessible, but it is not so steep on its south side, and can be
ascended with no great amount of difficulty. The view from Croagh Patrick
is one of the most sublime that can be imagined. The whole of that wild,
storm-beaten, cliff-guarded coast of Connacht, from Slyne Head in
Connemara to the most northern part of Mayo, lies before one; and Clew
Bay, beautiful as it is from wherever it is seen, seems fairer than ever
when seen from the summit of Croagh Patrick.

Going north from Clew Bay the next most interesting and wild spot is the
island of Achill, and the grandest things there are the cliffs of Minnaun
and Slieve More. As we are going north, Minnaun Cliffs, which are on the
southern side of Achill, must be spoken about first. They are seven
hundred feet in height, and will, therefore, average higher than the
cliffs of Moher in the County Clare, but they do not rise perpendicularly
from the sea as those of Moher do. But their sea sides are so steep as to
be quite inaccessible even to the wild goats which still haunt the cliffs
of Achill. The cliffs of Minnaun are magnificent, but if they rose sheer
from the sea they would form a much more grand and impressive sight.

But the cliffs of Minnaun, gigantic as they are, are only insignificant
things compared with the great sea wall on the northern shores of the
island, formed by Slieve More and Croghan. The whole northern shore of
Achill, from Achill head in the extreme west of the island to the narrow
straight that separates it from the mainland on the east, a distance of
some thirteen miles, may be said to be a terrific barrier of cliffs,
rising to the height of over two thousand feet at the hills Croghan and
Slieve More. It is generally allowed that the north shore of Achill has
the most stupendous mural cliffs that are to be seen anywhere nearer than
Norway, and that even Norway has not very much cliff scenery more
magnificent. There is nothing in the shape of cliffs or sea walls in these
islands that can compare with the cliffs of Achill in grandeur except
Slieve League in Donegal, of which mention will soon be made. A geologist
has said, speaking of the cliffs of Achill, that it appeared to him as if
part of the mountain which forms the western extremity of the island, and
terminates in the noted cape of Achill head, had suffered dis-severance
from a sunken continent by some convulsion of Nature. These gigantic
cliffs can only be seen to advantage from the sea, but in the almost
entire absence of passenger steam-boats on these coasts, it is very
difficult for those who visit them to get a proper means of seeing them as
they ought to be seen. They rise from out of one of the stormiest oceans
in the world, that even in summer-time is often rough and dangerous; and
very few would care to risk their lives in the cockle-shell boats, or
_currachs_, of fishermen to see the stupendous cliffs of Achill from where
they look best. In far distant Norway there are plenty of large and
commodious steamboats to take tourists all round its coasts; but if they
want to see some of the grandest and most beautiful scenery of their own
country to its best advantage, they must trust to a fisherman's cot.

It would take at least a week of the longest summer days to see all the
wonders and grandeur of these tremendous cliffs, or rather cliff
mountains, of Achill. In the interior of the island there is not anything
of great interest to be seen, but it has more cliff scenery of the
stupendous sort to boast of than perhaps any other island of its size in
the world.

It is a "far cry" from Achill to Slieve League in Donegal--considerably
over a hundred miles if the coast is followed; but between the giant sea
walls of that island and Slieve League there is nothing of their kind that
will in any way bear comparison with them. There is, however, much
magnificent scenery on the northern coast of Connacht, and also a great
many things of antiquarian interest. There is the extraordinary Druid
remains of Carrowmore, only three miles from Sligo town, where there are
almost, if not quite, half a hundred cromlechs to be seen on about half a
dozen acres. They are of almost all sizes. Some of them are baby
cromlechs, the top stones of which are not much more than a hundredweight.
This place must have been a sort of Stonehenge at one time. In no other
known spot of either these islands or France are so many cromlechs to be
seen in so small a space, and very few seem to know anything about it. Sir
Samuel Ferguson seems to have been the only person who has written
anything about it. But here the same disrespect for monuments of antiquity
that has been so long prevalent all over the country may be noticed. Many
of the cromlechs have been torn down, and some of them have been actually
made to serve as road walls and have been built over. Fully half of them
have been either utterly torn down or in some way mutilated. Their
generally small size has made them an easy prey for those who wanted
stones to build walls or houses. These curious relics of far-back ages
should not be allowed to be any further ruined.

[Illustration: LOCH GILL.]

The country in the vicinity of Sligo is one of the most interesting and
beautiful in Ireland. Close to it is the famous Loch Gill, the queen of
the fresh water lakes of Connacht. It is so near the coast that it is
not improper to say something about it in treating of the scenery of the
coast. It is connected with the sea by a river only a few miles in length
that passes through the town of Sligo, consequently it is only three or
four miles in a direct line from the sea. There is no other large fresh
water lake in Ireland, except Loch Corrib, so near the sea as Loch Gill.
It is fully ten miles in extreme length, and from three to four in
breadth. Its shores cannot be said to be mountainous, but the hills around
it are so bold, and their lower parts are so well wooded, that Loch Gill,
in spite of its having comparatively few islands, is yet one of the most
beautiful lakes in Ireland, and no one in search of the beautiful should
omit to see it. There is no other town in Ireland that has more objects of
scenic and archæological interest in its vicinity than Sligo. There is the
immense cairn on top of Knocknarea, sixteen hundred feet above the level
of the sea. There are four or five other immense cairns close to the town,
and there is the extraordinary mountain of Ben Bulben, anciently Ben
Gulban, that is shaped like a gigantic rick of turf. It is a couple of
miles long, and some sixteen hundred feet above the level of the sea. Its
summit is perfectly flat. It can be ascended in a carriage from the south
side; but on the north side, facing the sea, it is not only perpendicular,
but overhangs its base in some places. If not the highest or most
beautiful mountain in Ireland, it is certainly the most extraordinary.

We now approach the famous Slieve League, the grandest, the boldest, the
steepest, if not the highest, of all the cliff barriers on the coasts of
these islands, and one of the most remarkable in the known world. It can
be seen from the shore near Sligo, rising almost perpendicularly from the
sea. The cliff-mountains of Achill, colossal as they are, seem to shun the
full fury of the western gales, for they face the north-west; but Slieve
League looks almost due south-west, and thrusts itself out into the ocean
as if to court the most tremendous shock of the Atlantic's billows. It
forms the culminating point of a range of cliffs that are over six miles
in extent, extending from Carrigan Head to Teelin Head, the lowest cliff
of which is over seven hundred feet in height. Slieve League is two
thousand feet high, and almost perpendicular. It is two hundred feet lower
than the highest of the cliff-mountains of Achill, but it is bolder,
nearer being perpendicular, grander, and more rugged than they. Those who
have not been on the sea at the base of Slieve League cannot form a true
idea of its awful grandeur. Its summit is almost as sharp as a knife
blade; and he who could look from the jagged rocks that form its cone down
on to the seething ocean under him without feeling giddy should have a
steady head and strong nerves. Those who go from these islands to Norway
in search of the sublime should first see this king Irish cliff-mountains,
and know how grand and beautiful are the sights that may be seen at home.

The whole of the coast of Donegal is magnificent. There is no other cliff
on it as high or as grand as Slieve League, but there are hundreds of
places along its nearly a hundred miles of iron-bound, storm-beaten coast
that are well worth seeing. It has nothing like Clew Bay, but it has
gigantic cliffs, narrow arms of the sea, some of which are nearly as wild
and as grand as the famous Killary Bay that has already been described.
There may be certain places in the more southern coasts that are finer and
fairer than anything on the coasts of Donegal with the exception of Slieve
League, but for general wildness and cliff scenery there is hardly any
sea-coast county in Ireland can equal it. It has the longest sea loch in
the island on its coast--namely, Loch Swilly. Following its windings from
its mouth to where it begins must be over five and twenty miles. It is a
beautiful lake also, and hardly known at all to tourists, and never can be
known until better means are supplied for seeing it from a steamer on its
waters. The "wild west coast" may be said to end at the mouth of Loch
Swilly. From there eastward it is the northern coast. There is much of the
grand, beautiful, and curious to be seen on the northern coast from
Inishowen to Fair Head, including the celebrated Giant's Causeway, and
"high Dunluce's castle walls." The latter have been already described.

It would be hard to find anywhere in the world another sea coast of the
same length as that from Cape Clear in the south to Inishowen in the
north, where there is so much to be seen of the grand, the terrible, and
the beautiful. If the mountains on the coasts of Norway are higher, if its
fiords penetrate further inland, and if in some places the shining glacier
may be seen from them, there is not such astonishing variety of scenery on
the coasts of Norway as there is in the west coast of Ireland. The climate
of Norway does not permit the growth of many species of wild flowers
which add so much to the beauty of even the wildest and most sterile parts
of Ireland. In Norway there are no mountains radiant with purple heather
and golden furze,--mountains that may be unsightly and sombre for ten
months out of the twelve, but are, in autumn, turned into living bouquets,
thousands of feet in height, and with areas of tens of thousands of acres.
Moisture and mildness of climate are the parents of flowers. If rain and
mist hide for days and weeks the most beautiful scenery in Ireland, there
is ample compensation afterwards in the bloom of wild flowers more
luxuriant and more plentiful than can be found where there is more
sunlight and less moisture.

It is a curious and humiliating fact that, so far as can be learned from
the sources at command, there are ten people who go from these islands to
the coasts of Norway every year for the one that visits the west coast of
Ireland. It may be that many people go to Norway just because it has
become fashionable to go there, but all the fashion in the world would not
send people five or six hundred miles across a stormy sea if there was not
good accommodation for them to go to that distant country, and good means
for seeing its beauties. Let there be the same means for seeing the
beauties of the west coast of Ireland as there are for seeing the coast of
Norway, and thousands will visit the former every year. Those who want to
see the grandeur of the Norwegian coast go in large and well-equipped
steamers, and live in them, eat and sleep in them for weeks together,
while they are brought from fiord to fiord and from town to town. Let
similar means be had for those who desire to see the west coast of
Ireland, and it will not be long unknown.

There is no way to see coast scenery properly except from the sea. One
might be looking at Slieve League or the Cliffs of Moher all his life from
the land, but he could never have a full idea of their grandeur unless he
saw them from the sea at their base. Those who see the cliffs and
cliff-mountains of Norway from the deck of a commodious steamer see them
aright. Most of those who make the trip to Norway are loud in praise of
its magnificent coast scenery; but if they had to go by land from fiord to
fiord, as they would have to do on the west coast of Ireland did they want
to see its beauties, would they be so enchanted? They certainly would not.
When tourists go to see the Norwegian fiords, they need not trouble
themselves about engaging beds, or worry themselves by fearing that the
hotel in such a place will be full, for they have an hotel on board the
steamer, are carried from place to place, and are given ample time to see
the beauties of each place. If there were the best hotels in the world at
every romantic spot on the west coast of Ireland it would never attract
visitors, and never would be known as it should be, and as its wondrous
grandeur and beauty entitle it to be, until large and commodious steamers
were provided in which people could live, if they chose, while being
brought from one place of attraction to another, or from one town to
another. There are few coasts in the world better provided with harbours
than the west coast of Ireland. It could hardly happen that a steamer like
those that take tourists from Leith to the coasts of Norway could be
caught by a gale on any part of the coast from Cape Clear to Malin Head,
ten miles from a harbour in which she could not take shelter. The danger
of shipwreck would be so small as to be infinitesimal. The trip from Cape
Clear to Malin Head, or even to the Giant's Causeway, could be made in two
weeks, and give sufficient time to stop a day or more at such remarkable
places as Clew Bay or the Arran Islands, where things of more than
ordinary interest are to be seen, such as the view of Clew Bay from the
high lands east of it, and the cyclopean ruins in the islands Arran, the
most colossal and extraordinary things of their kind in Europe. There
ought to be enterprise enough in Ireland to put a steamer, like those that
take tourists to Norway every summer, on the Irish west coast for three or
four months every year. Without such means of seeing the beauties of the
west coast, as only a large, commodious steamer could furnish, the
beauties and the grandeur of the cliffs of Moher, Clew Bay, Slieve More,
and Slieve League will never be known as they should be.

There is only one part of the Irish west coast where harbours for large
craft are scarce, and that is the Donegal coast. It is said that there is
no safe harbour between Killybegs and Loch Swilly, a distance of nearly a
hundred miles. This is unfortunate; but stormy as the north-west coast is,
there are always many days in summer when steamers could go from harbour
to harbour in a calm sea.


Some may think, especially natives of Ireland, that writing about Dublin
and its environs is mere waste of time, ink, and paper, seeing that there
is so much known about them already. It should, however, be remembered
that this book is intended for people who are not Irish, as well as for
the Irish themselves. But even the Irish, and above all, the natives of
Dublin, want to be told something that may be new to some of them about a
city which so many of them seem neither to love nor admire as they should.
There is, unfortunately, a certain class of people in Dublin who, although
many of them were born there, think that it is one of the most backward
and unpleasant places in Europe. They do not admire the beauty of its
environs, and will not acknowledge willingly that it has been improved so
much as it has been during the last twenty-five years. It has been
improved and beautified in spite of them. Those citizens of Dublin who
take no pride in it should go abroad and see as many cities as the author
of this book has seen, and they would come back with more just ideas
about Dublin. If there is any other city in Europe as large as Dublin,
with environs more beautiful, where life is more enjoyable, and where life
and property are more secure, it would be interesting to know where that
city is. Dublin is a great deal too good for a good many who live in it.

The history of Dublin may be said to commence with the Danish invasions of
Ireland. It is rarely mentioned in Irish annals before the time when the
Danes took it, and first settled in it in the year 836, according to the
Four Masters. It probably existed as a small city long before the Danes
got possession of it, and there is reason to believe that it was a place
of some maritime trade at a remote period. It is stated on legendary more
than on historic authority, that when Conn of the Hundred Battles and
Eoghan Mór divided the island between them in the third century, the
Liffey was, for a certain part of its length, the boundary between their
dominions; and that the fact of more ships landing on the north side of
the river than on the south side gave offence to Eoghan, who owned the
southern shore of the Liffey, and caused a war between the two potentates.
It is, however, hardly probable that Dublin was a place of much importance
before its occupation by the Scandinavians in the first half of the
ninth century.


The Irish name of Dublin is, perhaps, the longest one by which any city in
Europe is called. It is _Baile Atha Cliath Dubhlinne_, and means the town
of the ford of hurdles of black pool. In ancient Irish documents it is
generally shortened to _Ath Cliath_, and sometimes to _Dubhlinn_. We have
no means of knowing what was the size or population of Dublin in Danish
times; but long after it became the seat of English government in Ireland,
it extended east no further than where the city hall now stands in Dame
Street, no further west than James Street, and no further south than the
lower part of Patrick Street; both Patrick's cathedral and the Comb having
been outside the city walls.

We have no account of the first siege of Dublin by the Danes in 836. The
annals merely say that a fleet of sixty ships of Northmen came to the
Liffey, and that that was the first occupation of the city by them. The
Irish captured and plundered Dublin a great many times, but do not appear
to have ever tried to banish the Danes permanently out of it. It is
probable that the Irish found them useful as carriers of merchandise to
them from foreign countries; for seeing how often the city was captured
and plundered by the Irish, it is incredible that they could not have held
it had they chosen to do so. The Four Masters record its capture and
plunder by the Irish in A.D. 942, 945, 988, and 998. In 994 Malachy II.
sacked Dublin and carried off two Danish trophies, the ring of Tomar and
the sword of Karl; and in 988 he besieged it for twenty days and twenty
nights, captured it, and carried off an immense booty; and issued the
famous edict, "Every Irishman that is in slavery and oppression in the
country of the foreigners (Danes) let him go to his own country in peace
and delight." But the Irish were not always lucky in their attacks on the
Danes of Dublin, for in 917 Niall Glundubh, King of Ireland, was killed by
them, and his army defeated at Killmashogue, beyond Rathfarnham. He
evidently intended to take Dublin from the south, because it was so well
defended on the north by the Liffey. The battle usually known as the
battle of Clontarf was not fought in the locality now called by that name,
but between the Liffey and the Tolka. Where Amien Street is now was
probably the very centre of the battle-field. Here it may not be out of
place to make a remark on the curious fact that the Danes never made any
serious attempt to conquer Ireland after the battle of Clontarf, although
they were at the height of their power some six or eight years after by
the terrible defeat they gave the Saxons at Ashington, in Essex, which
gave Canute the crown of England. He thus became not only King of England,
but was King of Denmark and Norway as well--the most powerful potentate in
Christendom in his time. It is strange that historians have not taken any
notice of this extraordinary fact. There was comparatively little fighting
between the Irish and the Danes after the battle of Clontarf, although the
foreign people held Dublin until the arrival of Strongbow, and made a very
poor stand against him, for he captured the city with very little
difficulty. Dublin has hardly suffered what could be called a siege since
988, when Malachy II. took it from the Danes. When Strongbow held it, the
Irish under the wretched Roderick O'Connor marched a great army under its
walls, and were going to take it; but before they began siege operations,
and while they were amusing themselves by swimming in the Liffey,
Strongbow sallied out on them and totally defeated them. That was the last
serious attempt to besiege Dublin.

Dublin does not appear to have grown much until after the wretched, and
for Ireland terribly unfortunate, Jacobite wars were over. It grew and
prospered rapidly almost all through the eighteenth century when a native
parliament sat there; but from about 1820 until about 1870 there was not
very much either of growth or improvement in it. Since then, in spite of
what the census may show, it has grown considerably, and has been improved
immensely. It is not easy to see what has caused such improvement in
Dublin since 1870. The only way that the improvement in the state of the
streets, the pulling down of old buildings and the erection of new ones,
can be accounted for, is by the fact that the local government of the city
is in the hands of a different class of men from those who ruled it so
long and so badly up to about the time mentioned. When one considers all
that has been done since then in the paving of streets, the laying down of
new side walks, the tearing down of old buildings, the erection of
cottages for the working classes where rotten and pestiferous houses had
stood, the deepening of the river so that the largest ships can now enter
it, the extension and perfecting of the tram-car system, and other
improvements too numerous to mention, it strikes him as something
astonishing; but when it is remembered that all these improvements have
taken place in the face of declining trade, declining population, and
declining wealth in the country at large, what has been accomplished
becomes absolutely sublime. It shows clearly that there is a class of the
Irish people who, with all their faults, possess hearts and souls

          "that sorrows have frowned on in vain,
    Whose spirit outlives them, unfading and warm";

and that they never give up and never despair. Never has any city been so
much improved in so short a time, and in the face of such difficulties.
The improvements are still being carried on. If they are carried on for
another quarter of a century at the same rate at which they were carried
on during the last quarter of a century, Dublin will be one of the
cleanest, pleasantest, healthiest, and most beautiful cities in the world.

In an educational point of view, there are very few cities either in these
islands or on the Continent that offer more facilities for culture than
Dublin. Its new National Library is, for its size, one of the finest and
best organised and best managed in Europe. It is not a British Museum, nor
is it a Bibliothèque Nationale; and the citizens of Dublin who have
children who are fond of reading, and who wish to add to their store of
knowledge, ought to feel very well satisfied that their National Library
is _not_ like either the monstrous and little-good-to-the-masses
institution in London, or the still more monstrous and still less
good-to-the-masses institution in Paris. Those to whom time is of little
value can afford to wait during a considerable part of the day to get a
book from the great libraries of London and Paris; but for any one to whom
time is really valuable, to visit the great libraries mentioned as a
reader of their books, should, in most cases, be the last thing he should
think of.

There are three libraries in Dublin, of which two are free to any one
known as a respectable person--these are the National Library and the
Royal Irish Academy. To become a reader in Trinity College Library costs,
to a person known to be respectable, only a couple of shillings a year.
Seeing the facilities that are in Dublin for cultured people, or for those
who wish to become cultured, it is strange that it does not stand higher
as an educational centre. The three great libraries it contains--that is,
the National Library, Trinity College Library and the Royal Irish
Academy--contain almost every sort of book required for the most complete
education in every art and science known to civilised men. But one of the
grand advantages of these institutions, an advantage almost as great to
the people at large as the treasures they contain, is the fact that they
are not controlled by "red tapeism." The amount of trouble and downright
humiliation one has to go through to become a reader in the British Museum
of London, or in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, is enough to deter
any but a person of nerve from seeking admittance to them as a reader. The
British Museum is not so bad in the matter of "red tapeism" as it might
perhaps be; but the Bibliothèque Nationale puts so many obstacles in the
way of those who desire to become readers, that it is little else than a
disgrace to Paris and to France. For ridiculous red tapeism it beats any
institution of its kind on earth. There are probably not three libraries
in the world more easy of access than the three Dublin ones that have been
mentioned, and in which there is less red tapeism, or more courtesy shown
to readers.

The buildings that have been recently erected in Kildare Street, Dublin,
the Library and the Museum, would be considered chaste and elegant in any
city in the world; and it is questionable if any buildings of their kind
can be found in any city to surpass them in architectural beauty. Even the
Picture Gallery and the Natural History Gallery, close to them in Leinster
Lawn, are very handsome buildings. If the front of Leinster House, facing
Kildare Street, were brightened up and made to look like its rear, the
whole group of buildings, including Leinster House itself, would form an
architectural panorama hardly to be surpassed anywhere; and if Dublin
contained nothing else worthy of being seen, it would make Dublin worth
travelling hundreds of miles to see.

But it is the Museum of Irish Antiquities that is, or that ought to be,
the glory of this splendid group of buildings, and it is the only one of
them with the management of which fault can be justly found. The way it
has been managed ever since the articles it contains were removed from the
Royal Irish Academy in Dawson Street is a disgrace to all Ireland, and a
blot on the Irish people. There is not room to show the public much more
than half the objects of antiquity. They are stowed away in drawers, and
have been so for nearly ten long years. They might as well be in the earth
from which they were recovered as be packed into drawers in a back room
where none but officials can see them. If there was a decent and proper
national spirit among the Irish people, such treatment of Ireland's
wonderful and unique antiquities would not be tolerated for a single week.
Her antiquities are among the chief glories of Ireland. In monuments of
the past she stands ahead of almost all countries save Greece and Egypt.
It is not alone in her ruined fanes, round towers, gigantic _raths_,
sepulchral mounds, and Cyclopean fortresses that she can boast of
antiquarian curiosities more numerous and more unique than those of almost
any other country, but also in her multitudinous articles in gold, bronze,
and iron. A good many of these--the greater part of them, perhaps--are in
positions where they can be seen; but thousands of them are where no one
but an official can see them. If the Irish antiquarian department were
properly arranged, and if _all_ the objects it possesses that have been
dug up from Irish soil were properly exhibited, Ireland could boast of an
exhibition of national antiquities greater, more entirely her own, and
more unique than that possessed by any other country in Europe.

Some may think that this statement is not true. They may point to the
enormous collection of antiquities in the museum in Naples. It is,
however, hardly fair to class the treasures of that museum with the
objects found in Ireland. It was the accidental calamity that befel
Herculaneum and Pompeii that stocked the museum in Naples. If that
calamity had not happened, it is all but certain that not a single object
in the Neapolitan museum would now be extant. It was by no accidental
calamity that the enormous number of Irish antique objects were brought to
light. They were found from time to time all over the country. There are
many private collections in the hands of private individuals in almost all
the large towns in Ireland, and a very large percentage of the bronze
objects in the British Museum were found in Ireland. No other country of
its size has yielded so many objects of a far-back antiquity. It seems a
pity that those who have so many private collections of antique objects in
so many parts of Ireland do not send them all to the Royal Irish Academy;
but if they are to lie there, stowed away in drawers in a back room, they
might better remain in the hands of private collectors. If there was a
real national press in Ireland, there would be such widespread indignation
awakened at the way Irish antiquities have been treated since they were
removed to the Museum in Kildare Street that those who manage it would be
_forced_ to treat one of the finest collections of its kind in the world
in a very different manner. Hardly a word has appeared in the Dublin press
protesting against the way the department of Irish antiquities has been

With all the advantages Dublin possesses over most of the European
capitals in great facilities for education, in cheap house rent as
compared with many other cities, in uncommon beauty of environs, very few
rich, retired people with families to educate, choose it for a residence.
It is not to be wondered at that wealthy English and Scotch people should
prefer to live in their own countries, but wealthy Irish people seem not
to desire to live in Dublin unless it is their native place. Ireland,
unfortunately, does not possess very many rich people, but she has at
least some outside of Dublin; but very few of these, even if they have
young, growing-up families, go to reside in the capital in order to
educate them. Some seem to think that outside of Trinity College, Dublin
has no advantages in an educational point of view worth speaking of. This
is not now the case. It is true that some years ago Trinity College was
the only institution in Dublin where high-class education could be
obtained, but it is not so any longer, since the rise of other educational
institutions. But it is in the excellence of its libraries, and the easy
access that there is to them, that Dublin offers such great advantages to
those who do not desire to enter Trinity College. There is, of course, a
much larger collection of books in the British Museum, and in many of the
Continental libraries, than there is in the libraries of Dublin; but
between red tapeism, and the greater number of readers that frequent those
places as compared with the Dublin libraries, it is safe to say that more
reading could be done and more knowledge gained by a student in one week
in a Dublin library than in two weeks in any of those enormous places
where there are such crowds and consequently such loss of time.

It is, however, hardly to be wondered at that Dublin has heretofore
attracted so few rich people to it. It got a name for being dirty and
ill-governed; and it has to be confessed that the name was, in a large
measure, deserved. Dublin _was_ dirty and _was_ badly governed, but it is
not now. A bad name lasts a long time, and is not easily got rid of; and
the improvements made in Dublin are of such recent origin that it is only
natural that outsiders should think it is still what it was thirty years
ago. Let Dublin continue to be improved for the next twenty years as it
has been during the twenty years that have elapsed, and it will be one of
the most attractive of the European capitals. It is not yet what it should
be; there are many things of many kinds in it which require improvement or
alteration; but so much good has been done already that it is only
reasonable to expect that still more will be done, and that the time
cannot be far distant when the city "of the black pool," badly as its
English translation may appear, will attract not only visitors from all
parts of the world, but rich people who will take up permanent abode
there, attracted by the educational advantages it will afford, by the
beauty and cleanliness of the city itself, and by the superlative beauty
of the country around it.

The situation of Dublin can hardly be called romantic. It is built at the
mouth of a river, and consequently not on high ground; but the site is
good, for the ground rises on both sides of the Liffey, making the
drainage easy. When the system of main drainage that is now being carried
out is finished, it will be one of the best drained cities in the world.
Dublin has not such a picturesque site as Edinburgh has, neither has any
other city in Europe; but outside of Edinburgh there are no objects of
scenic interest unless one goes forty or fifty miles away to see them. But
if the site of Dublin cannot be called picturesque, it can boast of having
some of the most beautiful, if not the largest, public buildings in the
world. For chasteness, harmony, symmetry, and grace, the Bank of Ireland,
if it has any equals at all in modern architecture, has very few. The
Custom House is one of the finest buildings in Europe. The new public
buildings, containing the National Library and the Museum, are gems of
architectural beauty; so are some of the banks, and so is the Great
Southern Railway Terminus, and so are many other public buildings. Dublin
cannot boast of possessing any building as large as St Paul's or the
Tuileries; but size and beauty are two different things.

But it is in its environs that Dublin stands ahead of all the capitals in
Europe, or, perhaps, of any other city of equal size in any country.
Because the beauties around Dublin were not described in the first
chapters of this work does not imply that they are much inferior to what
may be seen in other parts of the country. There is nothing like the Lakes
of Killarney in the environs of Dublin, and Dublin Bay is hardly equal to
Clew Bay; but barring those two gems of scenic loveliness, it is
questionable if there is, for beauty alone, leaving sublimity aside,
anything in Ireland that surpasses the immediate environs of Dublin,
without going further north than Howth, or further south than Bray. Every
inch of the country round Dublin has some peculiar scenic charm of its
own. The Botanic Gardens of Glasnevin are the most interesting and
beautiful in Europe; not so much for the care that has been taken of
them, or the quantity and variety of the plants that are in them, but
principally on account of the charming locality in which they are
situated. It is not meant to be implied that they are not well taken care
of, or that their collection of plants is not both rare and large. What is
meant is that had they the rarest and largest collection of plants to be
seen in any gardens in the world, they would not have the same attraction
were they situated in a less picturesque locality. If ever there was a
place made to spend a hot summer day in, it is these gardens, with their
murmuring river, their shaded, sunless walks, their gigantic trees and
deep glens. The place where the flower gardens of Glasnevin are would
still be beautiful if there wasn't a flower in it.

Its bay is the great scenic attraction round Dublin. It cannot be seen to
real advantage but from the south-west side of the hill of Howth. The bay
has very few islands, but its background of mountains on one side and
woodland on the other is so wonderfully fair, that were there myriads of
islands to be seen, they could hardly add to the wondrous beauty of the
view. What a Scotch mechanic said about the view of Dublin Bay from the
high land on the south-west of Howth the first time he was there will
give the reader a better idea of Dublin Bay than a whole chapter of
descriptions, and loses nothing by being expressed in the strong doric of
the north: "Ech, mon, I seed mony a bonny sicht in Scótland, but this
beats a'." There are many who think the view from Killiney Hill finer than
that from Howth. The view from the former takes in Sorrento Bay, which is
in reality part of the Bay of Dublin that can hardly be seen from Howth,
and also takes in many valleys in Wicklow and plains in the interior that
are not visible from Howth. It is not easy to say which of the views is
the finer; but either is worth travelling not only ten miles, but a
hundred miles, afoot to see.

In describing the beauties of Dublin Bay, it cannot be out of place to
give the finest poetic address to it that was ever written. It will be new
to most English and many Irish readers. The poem is by the late D. F.

    "My native Bay, for many a year
    I've loved thee with a trembling fear,
    Lest thou, though dear and very dear,
            And beauteous as a vision,
    Shouldst have some rival far away,
    Some matchless wonder of a bay,
    Whose sparkling waters ever play
            'Neath azure skies elysian.

    "'Tis love, methought, blind love that pours
    The rippling magic round these shores,
    For whatsoever love adores
            Becomes what love desireth;
    'Tis ignorance of aught beside
    That throws enchantment o'er the tide,
    And makes my heart respond with pride
            To what mine eye admireth.

    "And thus unto our mutual loss,
    Whene'er I paced the sloping moss
    Of green Killiney, or across
            The intervening waters;
    Up Howth's brown side my feet would wend
    To see thy sinuous bosom bend,
    Or view thine outstretched arms extend
            To clasp thine islet daughters.

    "My doubt was thus a moral mist,--
    Even on the hills when morning kissed
    The granite peaks to amethyst,
            I felt its fatal shadow;
    It darkened o'er the brightest rills,
    It lowered upon the sunniest hills,
    And hid the wingèd song that fills
            The moorland and the meadow.

    "But now that I have been to view
    All that Nature's self could do,
    And from Gaeta's arch of blue
            Borne many a fond memento;
    And gazed upon each glorious scene,
    Where beauty is and power has been,
    Along the golden shores between
            Misenum and Sorrento;

    "I can look proudly on thy face,
    Fair daughter of a hardier race,
    And feel thy winning well-known grace,
            Without my old misgiving;
    And as I kneel upon thy strand,
    And clasp thy once unhonoured hand,
    Proclaim earth holds no lovelier land
            Where life is worth the living."

One great charm of the country around Dublin, like one of the great charms
of Killarney, is its diversity. There are mountain, bay, woodland, and
river. There is a variety of scenery in the immediate vicinity of Dublin
such as cannot be found so near any other European capital, and such as
not even Naples itself can boast of. Great indeed is the difference in the
style of scenery between the cliffs of Howth and the green lanes of
Clontarf, although both places are hardly more than four miles apart. To
go a few miles further from the city, Bray is reached. It is only
twenty-five minutes by train from Dublin. There one finds himself almost
within a gunshot of some of the most picturesque and peculiar scenery in
the world. The Dargle and Powerscourt Waterfall are in the same locality.
They are gems of loveliness that surpass anything of their kind in these
islands. Even Killarney has nothing like them. Their very smallness adds
to their charms. The Dargle is exactly what its name, _Dair-gleann_,
signifies, an oak-glen. It is a chasm some two or three hundred feet deep,
every inch of the sides of which is covered in summer-time with some sort
of tree, shrub, or flower. In its depths laughs or murmurs a limpid stream
that can rarely be noticed, such is the thickness and luxuriance of the
trees and shrubs that overhang it. Powerscourt Waterfall is close by the
Dargle. The river that forms it leaps down a rock nearly three hundred
feet in height, into a valley of brightest verdure, covered with a thick
growth of primeval oak-trees. An enchanting spot--which it is gross folly
to attempt to describe--in a land of towering hills and flower-crowned
rocks. Its wildness, winsomeness, and loveliness must be seen in order to
form anything like a just idea of it. And all within about twelve miles of

Then there is Howth on the north side, and only nine miles from Dublin,
one of the most wonderful spots of earth for its size in Europe. It is a
hill-promontory that juts out into nearly the middle of the bay, about
three miles in width and nearly the same in length. It is over five
hundred feet high, and in autumn is a pyramid of crimson and gold; for
wherever there are not trees or cultivation, there are furze and heath. A
place of wondrous beauty of its own, in no way like the Dargle or
Powerscourt. From the summit of Howth there is one of the most enchanting
and extensive views conceivable, reaching north to the Mourne Mountains
and east to Wales. And all this about nine miles from Dublin! Yet with all
these glories at her very feet, Dublin is still the Cinderella among the
capitals of Europe.

There is beauty of a "truly rural" kind within half-an-hour's walk from
the Dublin General Post Office, or from the centre of the city. Thackeray
said in his "Irish Sketch Book," half a century ago, that it was curious
how some of the streets of Dublin so suddenly ended in potato fields; but
the potato fields Thackeray saw there are all covered with houses now. It
is true, however, that on the north side of Dublin one gets into the real
country by walking only a quarter of an hour from the city limits; no sham
country of cabbage gardens, but real fields of grass and grain growing
from soil of the most exuberant fertility. Trees and hedgerows abound; so
do some of the best and most thrifty farmers in Ireland, who generally pay
enormous rents for their land. The country north of Dublin is almost
perfectly flat, while on the south side the mountains commence within a
few miles of the city limits. But flat as the country north of Dublin is,
it is one of the finest and most fertile parts of Ireland, and was known
in ancient times as Fingall, because some _Finn Galls_, or fair-haired
foreigners from Scandinavia settled in it when they ceased to plunder
churches and monasteries. Those who prefer a flat, well-wooded, and very
fertile country to a land of mountains and valleys, like that on the south
side of Dublin, should see the plains of Fingall.

It has been said that the gentle and refined are ever fond of flowers. If
this be so, the gentle and refined ought to be very plentiful in Dublin
and its environs, for in no other part of this planet known to man are
there as many wild flowers to be seen so near a great city as in the
environs of Dublin. This statement is made in sober earnestness, and with
absolute certainty as to its truth. It may be asked, if this is so, how is
it to be accounted for? It is easy of explanation. To begin, Ireland is,
_par excellence_, the land of wild flowers because of its moist, mild
climate and generally rich soil. Sunlight, when it is the burning sunlight
of southern climes, is death to flowers. Dublin enjoys a milder climate
than any city in Great Britain, although not so mild as Cork or some other
Irish southern cities. It is only a few miles from the mountains on the
south of Dublin to Howth on the north. Between Howth and the mountains,
if the whole of the mountains of Wicklow are counted and taking
inequalities of surface into account, for government surveys always mean
level surfaces, there are every autumn at least a hundred thousand acres
of wild flowers within half a day's journey of Dublin. It may be said that
these wild flowers are nearly all of one species--heath. That is true; but
heath, or heather as it is more frequently called, is a wild flower, and
one of the most beautiful that grows. The reason the Irish mountains
produce so much more heath than those of Great Britain is because they are
less rocky and more boggy, and are in a milder climate. The mountains of
Wales, being so stony, have hardly any heath on them. Then there is the
furze or gorse, as it is generally called in England. Heath and gorse
bloom side by side over thousands of acres in Howth and on the Dublin and
Wicklow mountains. Then there is the hawthorn. Where in these islands, or
on the continent of Europe, are there as many hawthorns to be seen on an
equal space of ground as in the Phoenix Park, Dublin? Let those who have
seen them in their snowy glory of white blossoms in the early summer
answer. But there are still other flowers that do certainly bloom in
greater luxuriance, and are more plentiful round Dublin than round any
other city in these islands--one of these is laburnum. Florists have said
that nowhere else does it bloom with such luxuriance as around the Irish
capital. Dublin is indeed seated in a flowery land, for it is well known
that even the rich soil of Ireland produces more wild flowers than the
rich soil of Great Britain. It is true that not only the flora but the
fauna of Ireland are less numerous in species than those of Great Britain.
There are a great many species of flowering plants that are common in the
larger island but unknown in the smaller one except in gardens. It is not
easy to account for this; but if there are fewer indigenous flowering
plants in Ireland than in Great Britain, the former country produces those
that are natural to it in much greater abundance than the latter. The
reason of this is easily understood. It is because the climate of Ireland
is milder and moister than that of Great Britain; and it is probable that
the soil is of a different quality in Ireland. But one thing is certain,
that not in England or in any European country are there such a quantity
of wild flowers to be seen as in Ireland. It is not alone on Irish bogs
and mountains that wild flowers are more abundant than in most other
countries, for the most fertile soil in Ireland, the best fattening land,
generally grows wild flowers in such abundance that pastures become

Dublin and its vicinity are not quite so rich in antiquities as some other
parts of Ireland. Very few traces of the old Danish city have been left.
Its walls can be traced in some few places. But what sort of houses the
people lived in can only be guessed at. They were probably, for the most
part, built of wood; for it cannot be too often impressed on those who
have a taste for antiquarian studies, that in ancient, and even what is
generally known as mediæval times, almost the entire populations of
northern countries lived in houses of wood or of mud, and sometimes in
houses made of both materials. For centuries after the art of building
with stone and mortar was well understood, stone houses were rarely used
by the masses either in towns or country places. They had stone-built
churches and round towers, and sometimes castles, but the people lived in
wooden or in mud houses. Dublin has more round towers in its immediate
vicinity than any other Irish city. There are three of them within a few
miles' distance. That of Clondalkin is on the Great Southern Railway; that
of Lusk is on the Great Northern; and that of Swords is only seven miles
from Dublin by road, and only two miles from Malahide Station on the Great
Northern. All these towers are in a good state of preservation; but the
one at Swords will soon be a ruin if the ivy, with which it has been
foolishly allowed to become completely covered, is not removed from it.
Ivy holds up for a time a building that is in a state of decay, but in the
long run it is sure to ruin it completely; for when the ivy becomes strong
enough, it forces its way between the stones, gradually displaces them,
and the building then tumbles down. If it is the Board of Works that has
charge of the Swords round tower, they are greatly to blame for allowing
the ivy to be gradually but surely bringing it to certain ruin. If it is
under the control of a private person, public opinion should compel him to
have the ivy removed from what was not long ago one of the most perfect
and best preserved of Irish round towers.

There is something connected with the census of Dublin published in Thom's
directory from official documents which may be more interesting to some
than any description of the Irish capital, however graphic. This something
is an evident error that has, by some means, been made in enumeration of
its inhabitants. According to the published census, there were in round
numbers 13,000 more people in Dublin in 1851 than in 1891; and only 14,000
more in county and city included in 1891 than in 1851. There is a gross
error here, for between the two epochs mentioned, the increase in what is
generally known as the metropolitan district has been so great that it is
visible to anyone who has been familiar with Dublin for forty years. It is
known that since 1851 nearly 25,000 houses have been erected in city and
county. That number of houses would represent at least 100,000 people, but
it only represents 14,000 according to the census, or two-thirds of a
person to each house! It may be said that a great many houses have been
pulled down in the city since 1851. True, there have; but ten have been
built since then for the one that has been pulled down. There are at least
a dozen streets, large and small, in Dublin, the population of which is
four times greater than it was in 1851; for there were no tenement houses
in those streets then, whereas they are all tenement houses now, and
consequently there are four or five families instead of one in each house.
The great increase in the population of Dublin during the last forty or
forty-five years is quite apparent in the more crowded state of the
thoroughfares. It seems not only probable, but certain, from all the data
that can be got at outside the census, that there are from fifty to one
hundred thousand more people in what is known as the metropolitan district
of Dublin than is shown by the published census. This will go far to
account for the weekly death-rate of Dublin being generally higher than
that of any other city in these islands; for if the weekly number of
deaths is based on a population less than what it is, it will make the
weekly death-rate per thousand higher than it should be. This is a very
serious matter for Dublin, for nothing has a more detrimental effect on
the welfare of a city than getting the name of being unhealthy.

It is to be hoped that the reader will not set down either to national
bigotry or private advantage what has been said in praise of Dublin and
its environs. The writer may be national in the broad sense of the word,
but he has no sentimental love for Dublin beyond any other Irish city. He
is not influenced by the _genius loci_; he has no personal interest
whatever in Dublin. What he has said in its praise, and in praise of its
environs, would be said of Timbuctoo had he the same knowledge of the
African city that he has of Dublin, and were Timbuctoo and its environs as
worthy of laudation. Dublin is not his native city; but even if it were
he would be perfectly justified in telling the truth about it. If what he
has said about Dublin be untrue, it can easily be shown to be untrue. If
that city has not been improved and beautified in a most remarkable manner
during the last twenty-five years; if some of its public buildings are not
remarkable specimens of architectural excellence; if its environs are not
beautiful beyond those of any other European capital; if any of these
statements be untrue, let them be proved to be so at the very earliest


Belfast is not only the second city in Ireland in population and wealth,
but the second in beauty of environs. Its growth has been, during the last
three-quarters of a century, greater than that of any city in these
islands. It is an immense jump in population from 37,000 in 1821 to
273,000 in 1891. In splendour of public buildings, cleanliness of streets,
and general appearance, Belfast can be favourably compared with any city
of equal size in any country. Its citizens are proud of it, and so they
ought to be, for it was their own enterprise that made it what it is. The
extraordinarily rapid growth of Belfast shows what manufactures can do for
a city, for without them it would still be hardly more important than any
of the provincial towns of Ulster. It has an excellent harbour, and
besides its linen manufactures, it has become one of the most important
ship-building places in the world. But it was its linen manufactures that
gave Belfast the start. It is the largest linen mart in the world; but
unfortunately for it, and every other place in which the manufacture of
linen is carried on, the competition of cotton fabrics is rapidly making
the manufacture of linen less profitable, and threatens to drive it out of
use almost entirely in the long run. If cotton were unknown, Belfast would
be now, in all probability, a place of a million of inhabitants, and
Ireland would be one of the richest, if not the very richest, country of
its size in the world. It is well known that for flax growing and for
linen bleaching Ireland is ahead of all countries. Experts say that in no
other country can flax be grown with a fibre so strong and yet so fine as
in Ireland. It seems to be the country of all others that is best suited
for the growth of flax out of which the finest linen fabrics can be made.
It would almost seem as if Ireland was fated to be for ever suffering some
sort of ill-luck, and that things which are blessings to humanity at large
are often misfortunes to her. There cannot be any doubt but that the
cotton plant has proved one of the greatest of blessings to mankind in
general, but it has been a great misfortune to Ireland. Were it not for
cotton, three-fourths of the land of Ireland would now be growing flax,
and it would most likely contain a dozen linen manufacturing centres as
large as Belfast. Whatever the future of the linen trade may be, it is
hardly possible that Belfast can ever sink into insignificance, for its
people have so much of the true commercial spirit in them that if linen
became as useless as the chain armour of the middle ages, they would turn
their energies to some other branch of manufacture and make it a success.

Belfast hardly figures at all in ancient Irish history or annals. It is a
comparatively new place. It is first mentioned in the Annals of the Four
Masters under the year 1476, where it is said, "A great army was led by
O'Neill against the son of Hugh Boy O'Neill; and he attacked the castle of
Bel-feiriste, which he took and demolished, and then returned to his
house." The name Belfast is a corruption of _Bél-feiriste_, or as it would
probably be written in modern Irish, Beulfearsaide, the mouth or pass of
the spindle. This seems nonsense, but the following, from Joyce's "Irish
Names of Places," will explain it: "The word _fearsad_ is applied to a
sand-bank formed near the mouth of a river by the opposing currents of
tide and stream, which at low water often formed a firm and comparatively
safe passage across. The term is pretty common, especially in the west,
where these _fearsets_ are of considerable importance; as in many places
they serve the inhabitants instead of bridges. A sand-bank of this kind
across the mouth of the Lagan gave name to Belfast, which is called in
Irish authorities Bel-feirisde, the ford of the _farset_; and the same
name in the uncontracted form, Belfarsad, occurs in Mayo." The Irish name
for a spindle is _fearsaid_; it also means a sand-bank, as described
above, probably because the shape of such sand-banks is generally
something like that of a spindle. According to the orthography of the Four
Masters, whose spelling of place names is generally correct, _feiriste_ is
the genitive singular of _fearsaid_; while in the name "Belfarsad,"
mentioned by Joyce, _forsad_ seems to be the genitive plural.

Belfast and its environs cannot be said to be very rich in monuments of
antiquity. There are, however, two round towers not far from it; one at
Antrim, some fifteen miles away, in excellent preservation; and one at
Drumbo, in the County Down, about five miles from the city. The last is in
a ruined condition--not much more than thirty feet of it remains. But
Belfast can boast of the most extraordinary monument of antiquity of its
kind in Ireland being in its immediate vicinity. This is the vast _rath_
known as the Giant's Ring. There is nothing in Ireland so fine as it. The
_rath_ on the summit of Knock Aillinn, in the County Kildare, which has
been already described in the article on that hill, is much larger, and
encloses three times the space; but the earthen ramparts are not nearly so
high as those of the Giant's Ring. The space enclosed by this gigantic
rath is seven statute acres. When standing in the centre of this ancient
fortress, nothing is seen but the sky above and the vast earthworks all
around. The centre is as level and almost as smooth as a billiard table,
and exactly in the centre stands a cromlech. Old men living in the
locality say that the ramparts were for many years planted with potatoes.
This must have reduced their height by many feet; but they are still
nearly, if not quite, twenty feet high. Like most ancient raths, it has
two entrances, one exactly opposite the other. It would give ample room to
a population of some thousands, and was evidently an ancient city. But one
of the most extraordinary things connected with the Giant's Ring is that
annals, history, and legend are silent about it. So far, there seems to be
no more known about those who built the Giant's Ring than about the
builders of the temples of Central America. It is the same with many of
the vast Cyclopean forts along the west coast, of which the Stague fort in
Kerry and the forts in the islands of Arran in Galway are the most
remarkable. There are, however, very few large earthen forts in any part
of Ireland about which annals and history are alike silent. The Giant's
Ring is by far the most remarkable structure of its kind in Ireland, and
the most remarkable of all the ancient remains in the vicinity of Belfast.
It has been much better preserved than most of the remains of its kind in
Ireland, for the landlord on whose property it is has built a stone wall
round it, so it is safe from spoliation.

The environs of Belfast are finer and more interesting than those of any
Irish city, Dublin alone excepted. It is really curious that so little
notice has been taken of them. The view from Devis Mountain, the top of
which is hardly more than four miles from the centre of the city, is one
of the finest and most extensive that can be seen in any part of Ireland.
The greater part of the north of Eastern Ulster can be seen from it. Ailsa
Craig in the Firth of Clyde seems almost at one's feet when standing on
the summit of Devis Mountain. To know the immensity of Loch Neagh, it
should be seen from there. It appears like a vast inland sea, out of all
proportion to the size of the island to which it is a curse rather than an
adornment; for it is one of the most utterly uninteresting of Irish
lakes. The view from Cave Hill is also very fine. This hill is only three
or four miles from Belfast.

[Illustration: BELFAST LOCH.]

Belfast Loch, as it is called, if not as picturesque as Dublin Bay, is,
nevertheless, a very fine bay, and has most beautiful and sumptuous
residences on its shores, particularly on the southern side. It is on this
side of the loch that Hollywood is situated. There are more fine,
well-kept residences in Hollywood than there are in the neighbourhood of
any other Irish city. The people of Belfast are proud of Hollywood, and
they ought to be. There are few places in the immediate vicinity of any
city of the size of Belfast in England or Scotland where so many fine,
well-kept, and sumptuous residences can be seen as in Hollywood. The
greater part of them are owned by Belfast merchants.

Few go to Belfast in search of the picturesque. It has got such a
commercial name that those who have never been there think that it has no
attractions save for the business man. But if Belfast is visited in the
summer time, if the views from its hills are seen, and if its beautiful
suburb of Hollywood is seen, it will be found that there are scenic
attractions of a very high order in the neighbourhood of the northern


Cork, like Dublin, is a place of considerable antiquity. It does not
figure in the annals or history of pagan Ireland, but Christian
establishments were founded there very soon after the time of St Patrick.
Its Irish name, and the one by which it is mentioned in all ancient Irish
annals and history is _Corcach Mór Mumhan_, literally, the great swamp of
Munster. A very inappropriate name seemingly, for, although the place
where the city is built might have been a swamp, it never could have been
a big one, as it is a narrow, and by no means a long, valley. It is,
however, clear that the word _mór_--big--was not intended to relate to the
size of the swamp, but to the greatness of either the town or
ecclesiastical establishments that grew up in it.

The earliest notice of Cork that appears in Irish annals is in the still
unpublished "Annals of Inisfallen," where it is stated, under the year
617, that "In this year died Fionnbarre, first bishop of Cork, at Cloyne.
He was buried in his own church at Cork." Under the year 795, the
following curious entry occurs in the same annals:--"In this year the
Danes first appeared cruising on the coast [of Ireland] spying out the
country. Their first attacks were on the ships of the Irish, which they
plundered." The same annals say that Cork, Lismore, and Kill Molaïse were
plundered by the Danes in the year 832, and that in 839 they burned Cork;
and that in 915 they plundered Cork, Lismore, and Aghabo. They also state
that in 978 Cork was plundered twice, presumably by the Danes. The
_Chronicon Scottorum_ says that Cork was also plundered by the Danes in
822. It was so often plundered by them that it is hardly to be wondered at
that the annalists should not have been able to keep account of every time
it was harried by the Northmen. But the Danes were not the only parties by
whom the south of Ireland suffered, for we read in the Four Masters, that
in the year 847 Flann, over-king of Ireland, for what reason does not
appear, harried Munster from Killaloe to Cork. They say also that a great
fleet of foreigners (Northmen) arrived in Munster in 1012 and burned Cork.
They were, however, defeated by Cahall, son of Donnell. This fleet had
evidently come to Cork for the purpose of making a diversion in the south
of Ireland, so that the great Danish army, whose headquarters were in
Dublin, and who contemplated the entire conquest of the country, should
not have the men of Munster to oppose them. The Danish army that came to
Cork in 1012 (the correct date seems to be 1013), were not able to give
any assistance to their countrymen at the battle of Clontarf by making a
diversion in Munster, for it would appear that they were wholly destroyed.
There is no record in the Irish annals of the Danes making any attack on
Cork after the battle of Clontarf.

The situation of Cork, like that of Dublin and Belfast, is at the mouth of
a river, and on low-lying land. While the country round the city is
exceedingly fine, it has not, like the country in the neighbourhood of
Dublin and Belfast, any places from which extensive views can be had. The
country round Cork is by no means flat, but there is nothing near it that
could be called a mountain, or even a high hill. It is, however, as
beautiful as any country of its kind could be, with green, rounded
eminences, but not as much wood on them as there should be to make them
look to best advantage. The river between Cork and the Cove, or
Queenstown, as it is now called, is one of the finest six or eight miles
of river scenery to be found anywhere. The people of Cork are proud of it,
as they may well be.

Cork, unfortunately, is not growing as Dublin and Belfast are. There is a
curious belief, partly a prophecy, that it will yet be the capital of
Ireland. "Limerick was, Dublin is, but Cork will be the capital," is
frequently heard in the south of Ireland. So far, there is not much sign
that the southern city will overtake Dublin, nor is it quite clear that
Limerick was ever the principal city of Ireland. It was, however, a very
important place during the greater part of the eleventh century. Limerick
seems to have been in the possession of the Danes for nearly a hundred
years, until Brian Boramha took it from them about the year 970. It
continued to grow as long as his descendants retained political power,
which they did for nearly a century after his death. Giraldus Cambrensis
calls Limerick "a magnificent city," but it must have begun to decline
even before he saw it, about the year 1190, for the O'Briens, or
descendants of Brian Boramha, had by that time lost a great deal of their
political power. Cork has, for at least two centuries, been a more
important place than Limerick.

Some of the streets and public buildings in Cork are very fine, and will
compare favourably with those of any city. But it is evident that the
city was built too far up the river. Cork should be where Queenstown is.
If it were, there would be a chance of its becoming at some future day the
capital of Ireland. It is curious that almost all cities that are built on
rivers, and that were founded in ancient times, are generally at the head
of navigation. This habit of building cities as far up rivers as ships
could go was followed in order to give greater security from attacks by
sea. The farther up a river a city was, the more easily it could be
defended from attacks by sea. In olden times, when the largest ships drew
no more than eight or ten feet of water, Cork was as advantageously
situated for trade where it is as if it were where Queenstown is. But such
is not the case now. This defect of being too far up the river is the only
thing in its situation that is not favourable. It has one of the finest
harbours in Europe, and one of the finest in the world, but the harbour is
too far from the city.

If there is a single place on the whole of the west coast of Europe
especially adapted for the site of a great city, it is the spot on which
Queenstown is built. It was nothing but the constant warfare of ancient
times that prevented Cork from being built there. There is that
magnificent harbour that the mightiest ironclad leviathan that floats can
enter at any state of the tide and be in it in five minutes from the time
she leaves the main ocean. Then there is that splendid site for a great
city on a gentle ascent, where street behind street and terrace behind
terrace could deck the hill-side, and all look down on that glorious
land-locked bay where a thousand ships could anchor.

There cannot be any doubt that with the ever-growing trade and passenger
traffic between Europe and America, both Cork and Queenstown must be
benefitted. Even if an American packet station were established at Galway,
it would hardly interfere seriously with Queenstown or Cork, for harbours
like the Cove are too scarce on the coasts of Europe, and the trade
between Europe and America is too great and increasing too fast to leave
Loch Mahon[17] in the slightest danger of being deserted. As long as ships
navigate the Atlantic they must enter it. Nothing but the establishment of
aërial traffic between Europe and America can ever leave the Cove of Cork

The country round Cork is very fine, and there are many splendid and
well-kept gentlemen's seats in its suburbs. It would be hard to find any
city more picturesque in its situation, although built very nearly at the
mouth of a river. It is, more than any large place in Ireland, a city of
hills and hollows. Some of its streets are very steep, rather too much so
for pleasant walking. But this hillyness makes it all the more
picturesque, and makes the drainage all the better. Cork is a beautiful
city, and--surrounded by a beautiful country. If it has not the busy
appearance of Belfast, or the metropolitan appearance of Dublin, it is,
nevertheless, a fine city, and on account of its magnificent harbour, it
has, in all probability, a great and prosperous future before it.

The antiquities of Cork have almost entirely disappeared. It suffered so
much from the Northmen and was so often plundered and burned by them that
it is not to be wondered at that so few of its ancient monuments exist. It
had a fine round tower, of which nothing is left but the foundation. It
was, presumably, the Northmen who destroyed it. Every vestige of the old
church founded by St Finnbar has disappeared long ago. The fact that Cork
was so often plundered by the Danes and other Northmen shows that it must
have been an important place, at least in the matter of churches and
monasteries. The Danes knew that wherever the largest religious
establishments were the most wealth was. This is proved by history and
annals telling us that Armagh, Kildare, Cork, Glendaloch, Downpatrick,
Clonmacnois, and other important religious centres, were most frequently
plundered by them. Just in proportion to the importance of a place in an
ecclesiastical point of view, the more frequently it was plundered by the
Danes. When they began their attacks on Ireland, they seem to have known,
as well as the Irish themselves, where the principal wealth of the country
would be found.

As Cork is the last large place that suffered greatly from the Danes that
shall be mentioned in this work, it cannot be uninteresting or out of
place to give an extract from the Earl of Dunraven's book on ancient Irish
architecture about those terrible Vikings, and the causes that made them a
terror to all the maritime nations of Europe for so many years, more
especially as such an expensive work is not generally read, and not within
reach of the masses: "Dense as is the obscurity in which the cause of the
wanderings and ravages of the Scandinavian Vikings is enveloped, yet the
result of the investigations hitherto made on the subject is, that they
were, in a great measure, consequent on the conquests of Charlemagne in
the north of Germany, and on the barrier which he thereby--as well as by
the introduction of Christianity--set on their onward march. It can hardly
be attributed to accident that, with the gradual strengthening of the
Frankish dominions, the hordes of Northmen descended on the British Isles
in ever-increasing numbers. The policy of Charlemagne in his invasion of
Saxony, and the energy by which he succeeded in driving his enemies beyond
the Elbe and the German Ocean, were manifestly intensified by religious
zeal. The Saxons were still heathens; and the first attack made by the
Frankish King was on the fortress of Eresbourg, where stood the temple of
Irminsul, the great idol of the nation. We read that he laid waste their
temples and broke their idols to pieces.... However it may appear from
ancient authorities that for some centuries before then, the Scandinavians
had occasionally infested the southern shores of Europe; yet in the added
light that is cast by the Irish annals on the subject, we perceive that
from this date their piratical incursions afford evidence not before met
with of preconcerted plan and incessant energy; and these events in the
reign of Charles may lead us to discover what was the strong impulse that
thus tended, in some measure, to condense and concentrate their desultory
warfare. Impelled by some strong, overmastering passion, these hordes of
northern warriors held on from year to year their avenging march; and such
was the fury of their arms that even now, after the lapse of a thousand
years, their deeds are in appalling remembrance throughout Europe, not
only in every city on the sea-shore, or on river, but even in the peasant
traditions of the smallest village."

It is curious, and for the Irish a source of very legitimate pride, that
of all the countries attacked by the Northmen, they got the hardest blows
and the most terrible, as well as the most frequent, defeats in Ireland.
They seem to have made more frequent attacks on it than on any other
country, and to have poured more men into it than into any other country.
This appears not only from Irish annals and history, but from Icelandic
literature, which was the common property of all the Scandinavian nations,
and the only literature in which the doings of the Vikings are recorded by
writers who were nearly contemporary with them. There appears to be more
written about Ireland and its people in the Icelandic Sagas than about any
other country or people the Vikings harried. The terrible defeat the
Northmen suffered at Clontarf in 1014 is fully acknowledged in the
Icelandic Sagas. It must, however, in truth be admitted that that battle,
while it turned out to be a national one, originated in a family quarrel,
and was brought about, as many battles had been brought about before, by a
bad and beautiful woman. If Gormfhlaith and King Brian had not quarrelled,
if Broder had not been desperately enamoured of her, and if she had not
been of the royal blood of the terribly maltreated and so often ravaged
province of Leinster, the battle of Clontarf never would have been fought.
Brian was an elderly man when he became over-king, and was quite willing
to allow the Danes to hold Dublin and other sea-ports as trading points,
for after a time they became traders and carriers. He was willing to let
them alone provided that they let him alone. This is proved by his having
given one of his daughters in marriage to Sitric, the Danish King or
Governor of Dublin. The Danes, knowing they had the entire strength of the
province of Leinster at their back by Brian's quarrel with Gormfhlaith,
who was sister to the King of Leinster, seem, probably for the first time,
to have seriously contemplated the complete conquest of Ireland.

That the Irish suffered some terrible defeats from the Northmen has to be
admitted. In justice to those who compiled the various Irish annals, it
must be said that they always freely acknowledge when the invaders had the
best of it in a battle. It is, however, evident that, taking the almost
continuous fighting between the invaders and the invaded for two hundred
years, or from about the year 814 to the time of the battle of Clontarf in
1014, the net gains of the fighting was decidedly on the side of the
Irish. Many of those well-versed in Irish history think that if Ireland
had been really under the dominion of one sovereign, even as England was
under the later Saxon Kings, the Northmen would certainly have conquered
Ireland and held it as they held, for a time, England, Normandy, and other
countries. Very few of those called Irish chief kings were such except in
name. Their vassals used to lick them as frequently as they licked their
vassals. The Northmen defeated in battle and killed more than one Irish
chief king, but that does not seem to have brought them any nearer the
conquest of the island, for the provincial kings used to fight them on
their own account. The Northmen had too many heads to cut off, and none of
the heads controlled the destinies of the country. The most terrible
defeat that was probably ever inflicted on the Irish by the Northmen was
at the battle of Dublin in 917. The over-king, Niall Glundubh, was killed
in it, and from what the Irish annals say, it would seem that his whole
army was cut to pieces; but the victory was of little use to the invaders,
for the very next year they suffered a defeat from the Irish in Meath, in
which their whole army was destroyed and almost all their leaders slain.
We are told that only enough of the Danes were left alive to bear tidings
of their defeat. How the Irish managed to get the better of the Danes and
at the same time do so much fighting amongst themselves is one of those
historic puzzles the solution of which seems hopeless.

Many thoughtful persons among the Irish regret that Ireland had not been
thoroughly conquered by the Northmen. They say that had it been conquered
by them it would have been united under one supreme ruler, the provincial
divisions would have been obliterated, a strong central government formed,
and intestine wars brought to an end. Such a state of things might have
come to pass; but it seems clear that the Northmen were not capable of
building up a nation. They failed to do it whenever they tried. They had
complete control in England for two generations when they were at the
height of their power, but they failed to keep their grip on England,
although having had the advantage of a large, and what might be called an
indigenous, Scandinavian population north of the Humber. Hardly a trace of
their nearly three hundred years' rule in some Irish cities remain, and in
the entire island all the traces left of their language is to be found in
less than a dozen place names. They became great in Normandy only when
they ceased to be Northmen and mingled their blood with that of the people
whom they had conquered, and became French.

Whatever benefit other countries may have received from the Danes or
Northmen, Ireland received none. To her they were nothing but a curse. If
they had conquered her, they might, in the long run, have benefitted her.
It would be not only difficult, but absolutely impossible, to point out a
single way, except, perhaps, by an admixture of a little new blood, in
which Ireland was benefitted by the visits of the Northmen. In spite of
their very great skill in ship-building and navigation, they introduced
not a single art into Ireland. Confused as the political state of the
country was before they came to it, it was still more confused when they
ceased to be plunderers and became merchants. They had nothing themselves
that could be called literature, and were the greatest enemies that Irish
literature had ever encountered, for the number of books they must have
destroyed is beyond calculation. Not a monastery or church from one end of
Ireland to the other escaped being plundered by them, and most of the
monasteries were plundered _ten times_ during the two hundred years their
plunderings lasted. Iona, though not in Ireland, was an Irish
establishment; it was so often plundered by them, and its entire
population so often killed, that it had to be entirely abandoned in the
ninth century. It became a ruin, and remained such until the Northmen
ceased their raids; its treasures, or what remained of them, were removed
to Kells in Ireland. Nothing can show more plainly the knowledge the
Northmen possessed of the country, and their determination to leave
nothing in it unplundered, than their having plundered the anchorites'
cells on the Skelligs rocks, off the coast of Kerry. It is said that there
is but one spot at which a boat can land on these rocks, and then only on
the very finest and calmest day; but the Northmen found out the
landing-place, plundered the cells, and, of course, killed every one they
found in them.

It is very curious how it came to pass that a people so very brave as the
Northmen undoubtedly were should be so lacking in almost every quality
that goes to form a great, conquering people and builders up of nations.
They never impressed themselves on any nation or province they conquered.
A very large part of the north of England was not only conquered but
settled by them, and three Danish kings reigned in England, yet it
remained Saxon England until the battle of Hastings. In France they not
only lost their language, but lost their identity in less than three
generations, and became absolutely French. They did not even call
themselves Northmen, or Normans; for on the Bayeux Tapestry we find the
legend, _Hic Franci pugnant_, showing plainly that they regarded
themselves as nothing but French. They conquered the greater part of the
island of Sicily, but, as usual, have left hardly a trace of their
occupation in it. It need hardly be repeated that in Ireland, in spite of
their having held and ruled some of its chief cities for three hundred
years, and in spite of their many alliances with Irish chiefs and nobles,
all they have left that in any way shows that they ever set foot on Irish
soil are less than a dozen place names. The Northmen might well be
forgiven for their plunderings and burnings if it were not for the
quantity of books they burned. But for them, ancient Celtic literature
would be so immense that it would be regarded with respect even by those
who would be most hostile to the nation that produced it.

The successful resistance of the Irish against the Northmen is a very
curious historic fact. Of all countries in Europe in the middle ages, it
ought to have been, no matter what might be the valour of its inhabitants,
the most easy of subjugation on account of its political divisions, and
the consequent state of almost continual war that existed among the
provinces. Yet in spite of all, in no part of Europe which the Northmen
attacked, did they encounter such strong and such long-sustained
resistance as in Ireland, in spite of the fact that for many years before
the battle of Clontarf, the province of Leinster, whose soldiers from time
immemorial had been considered the bravest in Ireland, was in alliance
with the invaders. The successful resistance the Irish made against the
Northmen is proved from sources that are neither Scandinavian nor Irish;
for the Norman Chronicle says, "that the Franks, or French, were grateful
to the Irish for the successful resistance they made against the Danes;
and that in the year 848 the Northmen captured Bordeaux and other places
which they burned and laid waste; but that the Scotts (Irish) breaking in
on the Northmen drove them victoriously from their borders." It is
absolutely sickening to read of all the plunderings, murderings, and
burnings committed by the Northmen in Ireland. When we think of all the
similar sort of work the Irish practised on one another, we wonder how it
happened that there were any people left in the island; and we are almost
driven to the conclusion that if it had not been for the extraordinary
fecundity of the race, it would have become depopulated. It was not only
the numbers of Irish that were killed by the Northmen, but also the
numbers that were brought into captivity by them that tended to depopulate
the country.

Under the year 949 the Annals of the Four Masters state that Godfrey, a
Danish king or general, plundered Kells and other places in Meath, and
carried off three thousand persons into captivity, and robbed the country
of an enormous quantity of gold, silver, and wealth of all kinds. That
sort of work had been carried on for nearly two hundred years, and it is a
wonder that the entire country was not utterly ruined.

An interesting as well as gruesome illustration of what Ireland suffered
from Danish raids was revealed some few years ago while workmen were
levelling ground for the erection of a house at Donnybrook, near Dublin.
They unearthed the skeletons of over six hundred people, of almost all
ages; from those of full-grown men to those of babies, all buried in one
grave, and only about eighteen inches under the surface. This vast grave
was close to the banks of the little river Dodder. The Northmen had
evidently gone up the river in their galleys, for at full tide it had
enough of water to float them. By some chance the leader, or one of the
leaders, of the Danes was killed in the foray, for his body was found a
little distance from the grave of the victims. His sword was buried with
him; it was of recognised Danish make, and had a splendid hilt inlaid with
silver. Not a vestige of clothing or ornaments was found on the bodies of
the slain, save a common bronze ring on the finger of one of them.
Everything they had seems to have been taken. A village had evidently
stood in the locality; it was raided by the Danes, the inhabitants all
killed, and everything of value they possessed, even to their clothing,
taken; for if they had been buried in their clothing, which must have been
almost entirely of woollen material, which resists decay for a long time,
some vestige of it would have been discovered. The remains of the victims
of the massacre were carefully examined by the most eminent scientists and
archæologists of Dublin, among them Dr Wm. Fraser, who wrote an article on
the discovery that may be seen in the transactions of the Royal Irish
Academy. Irish history and annals are silent about this terrible massacre,
and it is hardly to be wondered at that they should not have mentioned it,
for such things were of such frequent occurrence in Ireland during the
time of the Northmen that it was impossible to keep track of them all.

It is hard to agree with the Earl of Dunraven in what he says in the
passage that has been quoted a few pages back, as to the cause of the
invasions and plunderings of the Northmen. The victories of Charlemagne
over the Saxons could scarcely have caused the vast outpourings of
Northmen on southern and western Europe. The Saxons were Germans, pure and
simple; but there seems to have been a very great difference between
Northmen and Germans. They may both have belonged originally to the same
race, and their languages may have been, and undoubtedly were, closely
allied, but they seem to have had very little in common. One was an
essentially seafaring people, and keeps up a love for the sea to the
present day. The other was not a seafaring people, and hardly yet takes
kindly to maritime life. The Norse and German races lived side by side in
England for some centuries, but they lived apart, quite as much apart as
the Celts and Scandinavians lived apart in Ireland. It would rather seem
as if it was want, added to a bold and restless nature, that was the
primary cause of Norsemen's raids on the south-western coasts of Europe.
Their own country was barren, and cold, and unable to support a dense
population. It sometimes happens that people multiply faster than they can
be supported. Such a state of things occurred in Ireland in the early part
of the present century. Not that Ireland could not have supported a much
larger population than it ever contained, provided the social condition of
the country was different; but under the conditions that existed, the
people multiplied beyond their means of support. The same thing may have
occurred in Scandinavia. The people may have been forced by hunger to seek
a living by foul means or fair, somewhere else than in their own country.
Cruel as they were, they were probably not more cruel than any other
people of their time would have been under the same circumstances. It
would seem that it was exhaustion of population in Scandinavia that put an
end to Scandinavian raidings. Its people having become Christians may have
had some effect in softening their manners; but it is certain that it was
not hatred of Christianity that prompted them to plunder Christian
nations. It was love of plunder, intensified, in all probability, by want
and semi-starvation at home. It is, however, very curious that the people
who were once the terror of southern Europe should have become what they
are to-day, and what they have been for some centuries, as peaceable and
as law-abiding nations as there are in the world.


Galway is one of the most modern of the Irish provincial capitals. It does
not figure at all in ancient annals. The first mention of it in the annals
of the Four Masters is under the year 1124, when it is stated that the men
of Connacht erected a castle in Galway. The first mention of it in the
annals of Loch Key is under the year 1191, when it is stated that the
river Gaillimh, from which the town takes its name, was dried up. The
cause of this phenomenon is not stated. Galway was at one time a place of
considerable wealth and trade. It was, in the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, the port to which most of the Spanish wine destined for Ireland
used to come; and it is generally believed that a Spanish type of features
can still be noticed on some of its inhabitants. But whatever mercantile
prosperity Galway enjoyed some centuries ago, very little of it
unfortunately remains; for of all Irish towns the decrease of its
population has been the most terrible. In 1845 it contained very close on
35,000 inhabitants, in 1891 it had only 14,000! It is painful to walk
in the outskirts of the town and pass through whole streets in which
nothing remains save the ruins of cottages. Galway ought to be a
prosperous place, for it is situated on a noble bay that forms a spacious
harbour, sheltered from the fury of the Atlantic by the Isles of Arran. It
is pleasant to be able to state that the condition of this once fine city
is improving.

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES IN GALWAY.]

In spite of the signs of decay that are only too visible in Galway, it is
a very quaint and interesting town. It contains many buildings that were
erected centuries ago, in the days of its prosperity, that are evidences
of its former wealth and trade. In what may be called mediæval remains, it
is, perhaps, richer than any other town in Ireland, and will well repay a
visit. It is one of the few large towns in Ireland in which a majority of
the people are bilingual, using both the English and Irish languages.

There is not much either of scenic or antiquarian interest in the
immediate vicinity of Galway; but if those who wish to see the most
ancient and gigantic cyclopean remains in Europe, or perhaps in the world,
go to the Isles of Arran, to which a small steamer sails from Galway, they
will be well repaid for a two hours' trip. The Arran Islands contain more
antique monuments of the pre-historic past and of a more interesting kind
than any other places of equal extent in these Islands. These monuments
consist of vast drystone fortresses that were raised by some pre-historic
race. There is what may be called historic tradition that they were built
by a remnant of the Firbolgs in the century preceding the Christian era;
but those most learned in things pertaining to Irish antiquities, do not
think there is any reliable historic evidence as to where or by whom they
were erected. The principal fortresses are, Dun Aengus, Dun Connor, Dun
Onacht and Dun Eochla. They are all in the Great Island, or Arran Mór,
except Dun Connor, which is in the Middle Island, or Inis Maan. Dun Connor
is the largest. It is considerably over two hundred feet long, and over a
hundred feet wide. Its treble walls are still twenty feet high in some
places, and from sixteen to eighteen feet in thickness. These vast
fortresses look as if they were the work of giants. Like almost every
relic of the past, they seem to have been more marred by men than by time.
They have evidently been injured by people looking for treasure; and a
good deal of their stones have been removed to build cabins and outhouses.
Miss Margaret Stokes, who has devoted almost all her life to the study of
Irish antiquities, and who consequently knows more about them, perhaps,
than any one in Ireland, says of these vast fortresses in Arran: "They are
the remains of the earliest examples of architecture known to exist in
Western Europe." There is something awfully grand and grim in the aspect
of these ruined fortresses. To gaze on their colossal dimensions and
barbaric rudeness seems to carry us back almost to the beginning of time,
when the earth was inhabited by beings unlike ourselves. But however old
the forts in Arran may be, it is evident that they were the strongholds of
a seafaring people; for the whole products of the barren islands on which
they stand would not be worth the labour of erecting such gigantic
fortresses for their protection. These islands support a good many people
now, thanks to the potato; but in ancient times, when it was unknown, it
is hard to understand how the multitude of men it must have taken to build
so many vast fortresses could have found sustenance on these barren isles;
and we are, therefore, almost driven to the conclusion that the fortresses
in the Isles of Arran were built by pirates or seafaring men of some


It is only those who have lived a long time in continental countries that
can fully appreciate the beauty of Irish cloud scenery. As a rule, insular
countries are richer in cloud scenery than continents. Any one who has
lived even in the western part of continental Europe knows that Great
Britain, owing to its being an island, is much richer in cloud scenery
than France; and the further east one goes, the drier the climate will be
found to be, the fewer the clouds, and consequently the less attractive
the sky.

Ireland being situated so far out in the "melancholy ocean" is, beyond all
European countries, a land of clouds, and it has to be admitted that she
very often has too much of them. But if these clouds frequently pour down
more rain than is necessary for the growth of crops, there is a certain
amount of compensation given by skyey glories they create; and marvellous
these glories sometimes are. It is not only at sunset or sunrise that
Irish cloud scenery is fine; for often during even a wet summer, when the
rain ceases for a time, and the sun appears, the sky becomes what it is
hardly incorrect to call a wonderland of beauty, with its "temples of
vapour and hills of storm." But the real glories of Irish cloud scenery
are its sunsets. Ireland is, beyond any other country perhaps in the
world, the land of gorgeous sunsets. Sometimes they are such wonders of
golden glory that even the most stolid peasant gazes on them with emotion.
As a rule, it is only in the latter part of summer and the first half of
autumn that Irish sunsets can be seen in their greatest beauty. Sometimes,
when the summer is very wet, fine sunsets are seldom seen; but in fine
weather they are generally such as can be seen in no other country. For
months during the fine summer and autumn of 1893, every sunset was a
wonder of indescribable beauty, with almost half the heavens a blaze of
golden clouds.


It has been said that almost everything connected with Irish history and
topography is peculiar. The truth of this can hardly be doubted. If the
ancient Irish were a non-Aryan race, the strange phases of their history
and the abundance of Irish place names might not strike us as so curious.
But it is well known that the Irish are Aryans, and that they are
substantially the same people as the ancient Britons were; yet nothing in
the history of England or of Great Britain will satisfactorily account for
the fewness of place names in the latter country as compared with Ireland.
British, but especially English, place names are, in a vast majority of
cases, either of Saxon, Norse, or Celtic origin. Their fewness as compared
with Irish place names is what strikes a native of Ireland with
astonishment. There are probably as many place names in a single Irish
province as there are in the whole of England. The townland nomenclature
of Ireland is almost unknown in England. The names of all the townlands in
Ireland can be seen in the Government Survey of 1871. They number,
exclusive of the names of cities, towns, and villages, about 37,000. But
it is only the place names that mean human habitations, places erected by
men, and where men dwelt, that shall be mentioned here. Let five
denominations of place names suffice to show their immensity--namely,
_ballys_, _kills_, _raths_, _duns_ and _lises_. The first means towns or
steads; the second, churches or cells; and the three last mean fortified
habitations of some kind. Of _ballys_ there are 6700, of _kills_ 3420, of
_lises_ 1420, of _raths_ 1300, and of _duns_ 760, making altogether 13,600
place names meaning habitations of some kind. But this is not the half of
them! The place names in the subdivisions of townlands are not mentioned
at all. There is a parish in Westmeath in which there are three place
names beginning with _rath_, and three with _kill_, none of which is
mentioned in the printed list of townlands. Multitudes of names in which
some one of the five words mentioned is included have been translated or
changed; just as Ballyboher has been made Booterstown, and Dunleary made
Kingstown. Many place names in which _bally_, _kill_, _dun_, _rath_, and
_liss_ occur are not included in the numbers given, for very often the
adjective goes before the noun, as in such names as Shanbally, Shankill,
Shanlis, Shandun, &c. Taking everything into consideration, it would seem
fair to estimate that not more than half the place names formed from the
five words that have been mentioned appear in the printed list of Irish
townlands; then we have the astounding total of over _twenty-seven
thousand_ place names in Ireland formed from five words that mean human

The only explanation of the astonishing number of ancient place names
found in Ireland, as compared with England, seems to be the dense rural
population that must have existed in the former country in ancient times.
That an enormous percentage of ancient place names have totally faded away
owing to the disuse of the Gaelic language, the consolidation of farms,
and the decline of population, there cannot be any doubt at all. The
puzzle about Irish place names is, if their extraordinary numbers were
caused by a more dense population in Ireland than in England--why was
Ireland more densely peopled than England in ancient times? The soil of
Ireland is hardly more fertile than the soil of England, and the climate
of Ireland is not as good, for it is much wetter than that of the larger
island. England is nearer to the Continent, and therefore was more easy of
access to continental traders. The situation as well as the soil and
climate of England were rather more favourable to the growth of a large
population than were those of Ireland. It is now generally conceded that
the ancient Britons and Irish were of the same race, and spoke a language
that was substantially the same. But why should there seem to have been
such a difference in the political and social condition of the Irish and
the ancient Britons who were their contemporaries? Why are there so
comparatively few ancient place names in Great Britain and such an
overwhelming number of them in Ireland? Why should Ireland have a history
that goes so far back into the dim twilight of the past, and England have
no history beyond the time of Cæsar? These are most interesting and
important questions, but how can they be answered? It is to be hoped that
some future savant will succeed in solving them.




[1] "History of England," vol. iii., p. 107.

[2] Is iat Tuata De Danaan tucsat leo in Fál mór; i. in lia fis _bai_ i
Temraig; di atá Mag Fail for Erinn. In ti fo ngéised saide bari Erenn.
"Book of Leinster," page 9.

[3] Eemoing ni hed fota acht Crist do genemain; is sed ro bris cumachta
nan idal. "Book of Leinster," p. 9.


    Is dar timna in Duleman, is dar
      brethir Crist chaingnig
    Do cech rig do Gaedelaib do beir
      ammus for Laignib.
                              "Book of Leinster," p. 43.

[5] In Carsewell's Gaelic, _Giollaeasbuig van duibhne_. The _v_ stands for
_u_; the spelling was intended to represent _Ua n Duibhne_. _Ua_ and _O_
mean the same thing, grandson. The _n_ before Duibhne would not now be

[6] This poem is in the "Book of Leinster," and has not yet been

[7] The eastern part of Ulster.

[8] Duvdaire was Muircheartach's wife. She was daughter of the King or
Chief of Ossory. Rushes in those days served as carpets, as they did in

[9] A poetic name for Muircheartach, for his patrimony was on the shores
of Loch Foyle.

[10] Moy Breagh, or the fine plain, was the country round Tara. To possess
Moy Breagh was the same as to possess Tara, and that was to be chief King.
But Tara was as deserted in the time of the Circuit as it is now.

[11] This date is thought to be two years too early, and that 943 was the
year in which Muircheartach was killed.

[12] The Eoghanachts were the posterity of Eoghan Mór, King of Munster in
the third century. Eoghanacht meant a people of Munster, descendants of
Eoghan; and Connacht, the descendants of Conn,--usually known as Conn of
the Hundred Battles, most of which were fought against Eoghan.

[13] Prince of Scotts; this was evidently the great Steward, or _mór maor_
of Lennox, who aided the Irish at the battle of Clontarf, and was killed

[14] This is an incorrect form of the word. It is _Boramha_ in the most
correct ancient manuscripts, and is a word of three syllables--Borava. It
means "of the tribute."

[15] Is hi seo bliadain ra gabad Tuirgeis la Maelseachlainn. Ra baided ar
sain hé il Loch Uair. "Book of Leinster," p. 307.

[16] Aed Abrat was Fann's father.

[17] The old name of what is now called Queenstown Harbour.

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