Freemans journal 23rd February 1922
Who shall Possess Tara?
THE HILL FOR SALE.
Tara Hill is in the market. Major Moore Brabazon, a member of the Meath family, is about to submit his Meath estate to the hazard of the auctioneer’s mallet. To the modern Greek, Thermopylae is immortalised ground; and so is Tara’s hill. The vital question is whether this precious heritage is to pass from one owner to another, or whether it is to become the permanent property of the Irish nation.
Tara has been strangely neglected; but specially secured as the property of the nation it would be more readily visited and more highly appreciated. Other ancient races, especially the Greeks, have revived their old games and sports. The ancient festivals of Beltaine and Samhain might be revived again in all their past glories on Tara’s Hill.
The Hill has no territorial beauty or distinction, only a low ridge of moderate dimensions; but these 330 acres of Royal Meath are very precious when we consider their historic value. Tara of ancient Druids and early kings, still haunted with the glory and glamor of ancient Ireland, hallowed by the hosts of pagan and Christian associations! The green grass of this holy and historic hill still sparkles with the’ dewy gems of legend, myth and romance during the fourteen centuries of its history.
Some outstanding features and events may be briefly noted. In the traditional period, away back in the twilight of the past, appears Ollamh Fodla, who founded the first Feis of Tara; here was- attempted the first tentative effort to found a primitive Parliament, and draw into concord and social intercourse the scattered element of Irish life. The meeting of Convocation took place every three years to preserve and improve the laws and customs, and also to verify history. It was a period of road-making; all roads led to Tara, and more than any other evidences indicate the influence and importance of Tara. The pagan epoch is demonstrated by the celebrated idol, Crum Cruach, and twelve minor idols.
On Tara Hill, on Easter Day in the year 433, St. Patrick silenced the Druids of King Laoghaire in the presence of the king. It was a notable event in the history of the Christian Church of Ireland, when the heroic missionary set ablaze the Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane. It marked the doom of paganism. St. Patrick’s first move was to utterly destroy and overthrow the shrines and temples of the national idol at Mo Slecht.
In 890 Malachy the Great reigned in Tara, and in the year before his accession defeated the Norsemen in a great battle at Tara, where vast numbers were slain. Many of the revolutionaries of 1798 were buried in the sacred soil of Tara. In 1843 Daniel O’Connell addressed a monster meeting, on Tara Hill in support of the Repeal agitation. The glamor of a famous love story adds romance to the glories of battles and the splendid hospitalities of royal kings. On the northwest, in a grove of trees, stands Rath Grania. Here at Tober Finn (the crystal spring) , the lovers, Diarmuid and Grania, the daughter of Cormac Mac Art planned their elopement. When the Irish Literary Theatre was founded in 1899 the Tara romance of Diarmuid and Grania was dramatised by George Moore and W. B. Yeats. The play was produced on October 21, 1901. The scenes were the Banqueting Hall of Tara and the house of Diarmuid.
There is another charming episode. Where the road leads up the hill there is a well, and here sat Carned, the beautiful grinder of corn, grinding at her quern all day long. King Cormac, as he passed up and down the slope, gazed up on the beautiful grinder, and finally he carried her off. There was no other grinder, and the people were threatened with starvation. Ua Cuind a noble prince, had compassion upon them, and he brought a millwright over the great wave, and in this way the first mill in Erin was erected.
The stone named Lia Fail, known as the Coronation Stone or the Stone of Destiny, was through centuries one of the greatest treasures of Tara. It is said that it was carried away on the pretence to crown a king in Scotland.
The stone is generally believed to lie under the Coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. In the seventeenth, century Isaac Butler visited Tara and noted some details. He comments on the glorious views over twelve counties.
‘On the north side of the hill at the bottoms’ he says, ‘the Earl of Meath has a large modern seat arid a fine avenue.’
The residence is now known as Tara’s Hall.
The ancient Church of Tara dedicated to St. Patrick, is the most precious of all its monuments. It was built on an ancient pagan fort known as Adamnan’s Tent or Pavilion. The church is unroofed, but its grey tower is a conspicuous object over many miles. The ancient cross of St. Adamnan still exists. When Isaac Butler visited Tara there were two tolerable inns at Tara. Now there are none. Let us hope that fairy music of the past will enchant some patriot to a generous and noble deed.