Essay on Navan
This article is copied from the Meath Chronicle 26th August 2000.
The following "Essay On Navan" was sent to us by Thomas J. Mahon who lives at Brible Island, Queensland, Australia. Believed to have been written by a woman named Ita (no surname and no date), it was found on a very old and torn manuscript by a Ms. Power of Brisbane in some papers belonging to her father, Pat Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson was born 1870 in Dunderry, Navan, and left Ireland after his father's death and subsequent remarriage of his mother in about 1887. He married in St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on 2nd March, 1897.
Mr. Mahon has unsuccessfully attempted to locate details of the ship on which Pat Wilkinson travelled to Australia in the hope that "Ita" might also have been a passenger and therefore would be able to be identified. It is not known if she was, in fact, the author of this piece or had merely copied the original from another source. We have decided to reproduce the essay/poem in full in order to give people today some idea of what life was like in Navan over a century ago. Some of the places referred to can still be seen, but many more have disappeared over the years.
Essay on Navan
Fair Navan on the Boyne where beauty smiles
On tranquil scenes of waters, woods and isles,
With blooming fields around in verdure laid,
Where many now abroad, in childhood played.
Where healthy springs arise and breezes blow
Through flowery vales of beauty, rivers flow
On either side propelling in their course
Great works of trade by main hydraulic force.
In currents water power is supplied
By nature, fit for trade on every side,
But leaving trade alone it may supply
What nature does to many towns deny.
Suburban grandeur permanent and fair,
Which must divest the visitor of care,
In beauteous shades here Blackwater and Boyne
In confluence unite and smoothly join.
Each bank adorned by sylvans pleasant shade,
From that green island where Blackcastle ends,
Surpassing beauty forward now extends
Along the ramparts twixt the waters still,
Surrounding beauty forward employs the quill.
Where lovers walk to take the evening breeze
Between the waters and beneath the trees,
A gentle breeze pedestrians inhale,
When zephyr blows the hydrogenate gale.
Ascending banks in clothed verdure rise,
Which wooded scenes of beauty here despise,
Far as the eye can see, reach along the way,
The magic scents in glory, their display.
A retrogressive walk and then adieu besides,
A retrospective farewell view,
Back through the Arch of Blondines mighty mills,
The deep canal beneath its chamber fills.
The ponderous water wheel moves round,
Of unsurprising power, metal bound,
Behold the murmuring falls across the weir,
another shaded island does appear.
Too hidden by its trees a floating grove,
On which the glistening waters seem to move,
Then cross the little bridge that stands so high,
Enchanting scenes around must please the eye.
Till to describe and give the town its due,
Would puzzle Sappho and Pindarus too,
A second paradise where nature brings
The fairest ladies and the purest springs.
And exit hence and see the burned mill,
A remnant of destruction standing still,
But once it was the pride of all around,
And seven storeys high above the ground.
Until reduced by fire disastrous fall,
The stones gave way machinery and all,
Devouring flames set in, all efforts failed,
In spite of all in town, the flames prevailed.
Till in a fiery mass both works and walls
In one tremendous crash the building falls,
Behind the ruins a little from the race
An island, green ornaments, the place.
Where willows weep and poplars grow so high,
Above the ruin'd walls that once stood by,
But forward hence whoever wants to view
An ancient ruined castle to pursue.
On the right beyond the wooded hill,
Where once Delaney lived or further still,
Towering walls there yet portray
Destructions fiery hand and times decay.
The noble seat where Dowdall one time stood,
An Irish noble man of rank and blood,
Unable to resist oppression's hand,
He freely used himself the burning brand.
He left but raked walls and kept his word,
To futile the confiscator's sword,
The reason was of such a rash affair,
That Cromwell with his host was coming there.
Another castle, it stood there at Dunmoe,
Those ancient walls as yet plainly show,
But Cromwell came that way in days of yore,
By whose destroying hand it stood no more.
Tradition tells historic proof a creed,
Now back into the town I must recede,
To Leighsbrook's shade along the convent wall,
Beneath the tree the little water fall.
Where oft I walked alone on by the stream,
To take the breeze and shun the solar beam,
In humble place yet worthy of the pen,
In peaceful shades a sacred little glen.
Nor is there any wonder to be found,
But yet remember consecrated ground,
The flowing well where once in times gone by,
A holy chapel stood erected high.
High over the town appear to distant view,
The belfry of the church and chapel too,
Once ivy clad with sharp lapidary spears,
The latter o'er the town and temple bears.
Constructed there by native trade at home,
Solemn splendour stands with quadrant dome,
The heavy crucifix that stands below,
Was by a town man sculptured every blow,
Which all who came the way can see and know
How near to life the sculptor's art can go.
But not to leave the architecture line,
Description here of such I must confine,
Two banks of late in Trlmgate and the Square,
High o'er other buildings as they stand there,
But of the whole municipal array,
The Square and Ludlow Street lead the way.
The latter leads productive of such art,
As for the town must bear a noted part,
An artist there whose worth the town may claim,
Another native genius merits fame,
But further see an ornament we meet
Attracts the builder's eye and ends the street.
I mean the Russell Arms or Club Hotel,
Che sera sera marks the future well,
To know its meaning in Italian see,
The double future of the verb to be.
The viaduct, below extensive plan,
The road and the Boyne beneath its mighty span
Seems like a fortress there to guard the way,
Its like a scene where locomotives play.
From architecture now I have to change,
For yonder see beyond the cottage range,
A landscape there appears in silvan pride,
Transcendent beauty reigns on every side.
See! to the left a superb rising ridge
O'er the river to the neighbouring bridge,
Its verdant side so interspersed by wood,
Appears in silent beauty o'er the flood.
But further see a mansion nobly stands,
Most beautiful in structure, and commands
A view above the trees delightful scenes,
Amid young groves and shrubs of evergreen.
Protracted beauty further does impose
Which I don't wish to follow but to close,
Now further hence as prejudice impends,
Description here of local beauty ends.
In all I now described, I fail to note
The famous Tubberorum and the Moat,
For both endured the ravages of time,
The latter now a sandpit seems to undermine
With beautiful and green ascending mound,
With thorn based and spreading shamrock crowned,
For young and old in town a cool resort,
Where age can rest and youth indulge in sport.
And from its summit can be seen for miles,
The fragrant plains of Meath's most fertile soils,
But low beneath a precipice is made, that will
In time make ancient beauty fade.
'Tis wrong to meddle with such ancient things,
The artificial work of native kings,
Through pagan ages far remote they served,
The bones of warlike chiefs they have preserved.
Such earthen monuments or grasses
Will mark the tombs, and yet contain hereof
Native princes or chiefs or ancient bard,
Such earthen mounds should therefore not be marred.
For ages such were used through pagan reigns,
Ere Scotia with her sons arrived from Spain,
Who conquered all the old De Dannan tribes,
On Teltown plains an ancient writ describes.
Long ere St. Patrick came to bless this land
With mitred brow and crozier in his hand,
With influence persuasive and divine,
He made the light of true religion shine
At Colp he landed last successful, then
Where Mermon landed once and Heber Finn,
On Easter's Eve St. Patrick came to Slane,
He pitched his tent and fire to remain.
But soon from Tara's heights King Laoghaire
Saw the fire lit at Slane against his law,
St. Patrick with his priests at Laoghaire's call
In safety passed next day to Tara's Hall.
And there the great apostle took his post
In front of Laoghaire and his pagan host,