This article on Tara copied from the book described below, shows what was known in the 1840s. Books like this would only be owned by the Gentry and the Clergy. They might allow teachers and others access who would have to copy longhand. The language is flowry, with long sentences and words no longer is use. An example is "magniloquent" meaning high flown or bombastic. It gives the reader a feeling of what things were like at the time. A detailed comparison of the text with what is known today might reveal some inaccuracies.
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A
TOPOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
OF
IRELAND,
COMPRISING THE
SEVERAL COUNTIES, CITIES, BOROUGHS, CORPORATE, MARKET, AND POST TOWNS, PARISHES, AND VILLAGES,
WITH
HISTORICAL AND STATISTICAL DESCRIPTIONS;
EMBELLISHED WITH
ENGRAVINGS OF THE ARMS OF THE CITIES, BISHOPRICKS, CORPORATE TOWNS, AND BOROUGHS; AND OF THE SEALS OF THE SEVERAL MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS:
WITH AN
APPENDIX,
DESCRIBING THE ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES OF THE SEVERAL BOROUGHS, AS DEFINED BY THE ACT OF THE 2d & 3d OF WILLIAM IV.
BY SAMUEL LEWIS.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
VOL. 11.
LONDON:
PUBLISHED BY S. LEWIS & Co. 87, ALDERSGATE STREET.
MDCCCXXXXVII.
xxx

TARA, TARAH, or TARAGH, a parish, containing a village and a celebrated hill of the same name, in the barony of Skreen, co. Meath, Leinster. Length, west north westward, 3 miles; breadth, from 3 to 24; area, 3,364 acres, 15 perches. Pop., in 1831, according to the Census, 641; but according to the Ecclesiastical Authorities, 688; in 1841, 586. Houses 100.
A prominent feature, not only of the parish, but of the vast rich plain in the midst of which it lies, is the far famed hill of Tara. All the rest of the surface is flat, and consists of excellent land. The principal residence is Tara hall, a small plain modern house, the seat of Patrick Lynch, Esq.; the principal hamlets are Ross and Moortown; and the principal antiquities, additional to those on Tara hill, are the ruins of Odder nunnery, Odder castle, Riverstown castle, another castle, and the old church of Tara. The village of Tara stands on the east side of Tara-hill, 3/4 of a mile west of the road from Navan to Dunshaughlin, 2 west of Skreen, 5 north north west of Dunshaughlin, and 5 1/4 south south east of Navan. The modern parochial church stands adjacent to the village, on a shoulder or summit of the hill, and is a conspicuous feature in the views of the hill from the east.
Area of the village, 5 acres. Pop., in 1841, 126. Houses 23. This parish is a rectory, in the dio. of Meath. Tithe composition, £200; glebe, £22 10s. The rectories of Tara and Dunsany, and the vicarage of Kileen, constitute the benefice of Tara. Length, 4 miles; breadth, 2 1/4. Pop., in 1831, 1,567. Gross income, £521 10s.; nett, £413 7s. 0. 1/4d. Patron, the Crown. The incumbent holds also the sinecure prebend of Yagoe, in the cathedral of St. Patrick's. The church was built in 1823, by means of a gift of £500 from the late Board of First Fruits, and the sum of £700 raised by parochial assessment. Sittings 110; attendance, from 20 to 30. There is a Roman Catholic chapel at Dunsany. In 1834, the Protestants of the parish amounted to 70, and the Roman Catholics to 640; the Protestants of the union to 128, and the Roman Catholics to 1,489; 2 daily schools in the parish—one of which was salaried with £4 a year from the rector—had on their books 17 boys and 19 girls; and there was also a daily school in Dunsany.
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TARA, TARAH, or TARAGH, a celebrated hill, the subject of great antiquarian and literary interest, in the parish of Tara, barony of Skreen, co. Meath, Leinster. It is a verdant, moundish, flowingly outlined mass, about 3/4 of a mile in length from north to south, rather less than a mile in extreme breadth, possessing a wavy, tumulated, tabular summit, lifting up a large, solitary standing stone or monumental pillar on the crown of one of its tumuli, sharing with the hill of Skreen, 1 3/4 mile to the east, and 507 feet in altitude, the power and interest of relieving the monotony of the vast central expanse of the plain of Meath, and commanding a panoramic, minutely featured, and warmly tinted view of that brilliant expanse, rich, fertile, and as capable of the most finished culture and the most ornate loveliness as a garden. Its original name was Teaghmor, "the great house,” or Teaghmorreagh, “the great house of the king," and was abbreviated or vulgarized into successively Teamor and Tara.


A triennial convocation of provincial kings, Druids, and bards, is usually alleged, but on very apocryphal authority, to have been held on Tara Hill, from an early period till about the end of the 6th century, for the election of a monarch or supreme ruler, and the management of the affairs of the monarchy. A supposed record, called the Psalter of Tara, or sometimes Senachasmore or “great antiquity",  figures in tradition as the written depository of the decrees of the convocation, but is not known to literature as an actual record. The famous coronation stone which formed the palladium of the kingdom of Dalriada, at Dunstaffnage, on the shores of the Deucaledonian sea, and afterwards became the palladium of Scotland at that kingdom's coronation ground in the vicinity of Perth, and eventually was removed to Westminster by Edward I. to be the coronation chair of the kings of England, is alleged to have been carried to Dunstaffnage by way of Iona from the hill of Tara, to have figured in courtly belief at Tara as the pillow of stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, and to have found its way to Tara in the course of the alleged Milesian immigrations from Spain.
The principal palace of the early monarchs of Ireland, and an university or cluster of colleges supported by their munificence, are alleged to have stood on the hill of Tara, and have been the topic alike of the most magniloquent (high flown or bombastic) and florid descriptions by early annalists and later credulous historians, and of the most conflicting theories, intricate investigations, and antagonist discussions, among the majority of Irish antiquaries. Whatever structures, dignified with the names of palaces, halls, and colleges, really at any time existed, were probably of a temporary and fragile character, quite unworthy to be designated architectural, and have long ago so utterly disappeared, as not to have left a single vestige of either wall or foundation; and the only antiquities, additional to the pillar stone, which now exist, are numerous circular earthworks, possibly enough indicating quondam places of national assembly and royal residence, yet strictly resembling in appearance and character the ordinary “raths," which abound in most districts of the kingdom.
At Tara Hill, in 980, the Danes sustained a signal defeat; Roderick, the last native monarch of Ireland, concentrated his forces, preparatory to attacking the English in Dublin; in 1589, O'Neill assembled his followers, after laying waste the surrounding country; in 1798, a skirmish was fought between the insurgents and a detachment of fencibles; and in 1843, was held one of the largest and mightiest of the monster meetings of the agitation for repeal of the Legislative Union. In the skirmish of 1798, the insurgents were totally defeated, with the loss of 400 men killed and wounded, 300 horses, and all their provisions, arms, ammunition, and baggage; and the royal forces had 20 men killed and wounded of the Reay fencibles, and 1 man killed and 5 men wounded of the Upper Kells infantry.
A very long and elaborate paper, written by Mr. Petrie, and published in theTransactions of the Royal Irish Academy,” contains ample information for such readers as can luxuriate in the antiquarian associations of Tara. But Mr. and Mrs. Hall so nicely epitomize this paper, and so agreeably decorate their epitome (summary of a written work) with original description and remark, that most popular readers will greatly prefer their brief essay to even Mr. Petrie's lengthened dissertation.
“From Navan,” say they, “we proceeded about 4 miles on the Dublin road to visit the renowned ‘Hill of Tara,’ taking with us the long and elaborate 'Essay' of Mr. Petrie, and recalling the words of one of the sweetest of the 'Melodies.' "
The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.
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So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory's thrill is o'er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise,
Now feel that pulse no more.
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No more the chiefs and ladies bright
The harp of Tara swells;
The chord alone, that breaks at night,
Its tale of ruin tells.
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Thus freedom now so seldom wakes
The only throb she gives,
Is when some heart indignant breaks,
To show that still she lives.
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We were not sceptical enough to throw aside, as fabulous, the ancient histories of Tara; although they may exist, exclusively, in the compositions of the old bards. Yet certainly, when we ascended to the summit, after having carefully perused the two hundred and thirty two quarto pages of Mr. Petrie, published in the “Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy," and examined the maps and plans by which his essay is illustrated, finding that nothing met the eye but a succession of grass covered mounds, with a single rounded stone, of no very great size, planted, as it were, upon the highest of them, we were, for the moment, tempted to exclaim with the “Critic,";
The Spanish fleet thou canst not see, because It is not yet in sight."
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Farther consideration, however, and farther reflection, even without the aid of imagination, induced a conviction that we stood in the centre of an early Irish city; and a brief stretch of fancy might have summoned around us "chiefs and ladies bright," and awakened the echo of the harp in "the halls' of Tara, in all their pride of “former days.”. From the main road there is a considerable ascent, for about a mile, before we arrive at the commencement of the mounds, which are evidently artificial. It then seems to the superficial observer, a mere assemblage of hillocks, the largest of which is about 30 yards long, and of an equal breadth; upon this stands the marvellous pillar stone,  to which we shall refer presently, nearly in the centre.
This hillock is now, alas for the degradation!—known as "Croppy Hill," from the fact that a large number of insurgents were buried there in 1798. The pillar originally stood upon another and smaller hillock; it was moved to its present place to mark the spot (and to dignify it) in which so many "slaughtered patriots" were interred. It was fixed there, however, only so recent as fifteen years ago. Its weight is prodigious; and it excited our astonishment how it could have been conveyed, without the aid of machinery, to its present destination. Upon this subject we conversed with a peasant, one “Paddy Fitzsimmons", who assisted at the ceremony. He stated that it was effected by no more than twenty men, who performed the work gradually, an inch at a time; they sunk it about six feet into the ground, directly over the bodies of their old friends, relations, or companions; and perhaps in the world there does not exist so singular a monumental stone.
There is, according to Cambrensis, "in Mieth, an hill, called the Hill of Taragh, wherein is a plaine twelve score long, which was named the Kempe his hall, where the countrie had their meetings and folkemotes, as a place that was accounted the high palace of the monarch. The Irish historians hammer manie fables in this forge, of Fin MacCoile and his champions. But doubtlesse the place seemeth to beare the show of an ancient and famous monument.”


Mr. Wright, to whose kindness we have been so frequently indebted, informs us that the original name of the Hill of Tara was Liathdruim, that is, “the grey eminence” and according to Keating, Thea, the wife of Heremon, the first monarch of Ireland, ordered a palace to be built on it for herself, whence it was called Temora (Temur), that is, “the house of Thea.” But according to the Dinn Seanchers, an ancient Irish topography the etymon of Temur is "the house of music,” (from Teadh, a musical chord, and Mur, a house) and it was so called, adds that valuable MS., “from its celebrity for melody above all places in the world."

The word Tara (Teamhair), denotes a pleasant and agreeable place with a covered or shaded walk, upon a hill, for a convenient prospect; and accordingly some tourist describes this hill as a miniature resemblance of Mount Tabor. Its ancient magnificence has been the dream of the Philo Milesian, and has been as sturdily denied by writers of the Ledwich and Pinkerton schools, one of whom has gone so far as to deny that there are any architectural remains on the Hill of Tara. Feirceartne File, the bard, who lived in the first century, mentions that Ollamb Fodhla, the 21st monarch from Heremon, erected at Tara the Mur Ollamhain, or "college of sages," and also instituted the celebrated Feis of Tara, which was an assembly of all the states of Ireland. This assembly, which probably resembled the wittenagemot of the Saxons, is described by Eochaidh (Hector) O'Flinn, a bard of the tenth century, as meeting every third year. He says that it was convoked by the monarch three days before the day of Saman, (answering to our 1st of November,) and continued for three days after. This week was spent in festivity, in making laws, and correcting the annals and antiquities of Ireland. The same author adds, that during the sessions of the Feis, whoever committed murder or theft, or was convicted of quarrelling, &c., forfeited his life; although at other times these crimes were punished by fines. In an ancient Irish manuscript, preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, the following curious description is given of the Hall of Tara, in the reign of Cormac Ulfada, in the third century:
“The palace of Tamor was 900 feet square; the diameter of the surrounding rath, 7 din or casts of a dart; it contained 150 apartments and 150 dormitories; the height was 27 cubits; there were 150 drinking horns, 12 porches, 12 doors, and 1,000 guests daily, besides princes, orators, and men of science, engravers of gold and silver, carvers and modellers, &c."


The truth of this account is attested by the number of gold and silver ornaments, beautifully carved and modelled, dug up in the neighbourhood of Tara and other places. The manuscript goes on to state that the hall had twelve divisions on each wing; sixteen attendants on each side, eight astrologers, historians, and secretaries, in the rear of the hall, and two to each table at the door; 100 guests in all; two oxen, two sheep, and two hogs at each meal, divided equally to all.
In the convention of Tara, the monarch occupied an elevated seat in the centre of the hall, with his face towards the west. Facing him sat the king of Leinster, the king of Ulster on his right, the king of Munster on his left, and the king of Connaught behind him. Long extended seats were disposed in rows; in the first of which were the Druids and bards, or philosophers (Filidhe), and in the other rows were respectively placed the antiquaries and genealogists (Seanachaidhe), the musicians (Oirfidhighe), and after them the chiefs and beatachs, or representatives of the towns and villages.
The first two days were celebrated in friendly intercourse, the third in celebrating the feast of Saman, or the moon. Another interpretation is given of this word in Part IX. of our work. Samen (Samhen), has also been rendered "heaven," similar to the Shamim of the Hebrews, and the Ouranos of the Salnothracians. The assembly was opened by the chief bard delivering an ode accompanied by the music of the Oirfidhighe. The Druidic rites being completed, the fire of Saman was lighted, and the blessing of the tutelar divinities invoked. The three succeeding days were spent in festivity, after which the proper business of the convention commenced. In that part of the palace of Tara already referred to, called Mur Olamhain, or "the House of the Sages," the youth were instructed in poetry and music, and initiated into the mysteries of "the hidden harmony of the universe.”
In further illustration of the customs observed at the convention of Tara, we may quote a passage which may at once be regarded as an interesting description, and a most unquestionable proof. It is from the Teagasy Flatha or "Instruction of a Prince," ascribed, on the most satisfactory grounds, to one of the very "kings of Temora" themselves,Cormae Ulfadha (long beard), already mentioned. He says, a prince on the day of Saman should light his lamps and welcome his guests with clapping of hands, procure comfortable seats: the cup bearers should be respectul and active in distributions of meat and drink; let there be moderation of music, short stories, a welcoming countenance. Let the prince appear splendid as the sun in the house of Midhechurta (that is, the middle house of Tara). To this valuable native authority, which possesses in the original internal marks of extreme antiquity, we shall add a foreign testimony, that of an ancient Scandinavian manuscript, translated in Johnson's Celto Scandinavian Antiquities: it alludes to Tara, and is as follows.
“In this kingdom (Ireland) there is also a place called Themor, formerly the chief city and royal residence. In the more elerated part of this city, the king had a splendid (splendidum) and almost Dordatian castle; within the precincts of the castle he had a palace superb in its structure and splendour (nitore)."

And we may observe further, that none will be surprised at such descriptions as these, when we find, at a still earlier period, Ptolemy noting on his map of Ireland fifteen cities, on two of which he bestows the epithet of "Illustrious" (episomos); and it is worthy of remark that these two cities, in the Greek geographer correspond (with the exception of the error in the assigned localities) to the Emana and Tara of the native writers. If we admit (which is extremely probable), that Ptolemy has here, as elsewhere, mistaken the latitudes for the longitudes, he has indicated the exact sites of Tara and Emania.
Mr. Petrie, as we have intimated, does not thus briefly dismiss the "ancient and famous monument." His authorities are chiefly the Bards and the Bardic traditions. It would far exceed our limits to introduce even an abridgment of the essay of the learned antiquarian, to whom Ireland is so largely indebted. He has laboured to collect an amazing number of facts in support of the theory, borne out, indeed, by incontestable evidence, that Tara is the place celebrated in Irish history, as having been for ages the chief seat of the monarchs of Ireland, whence their laws were promulgated; the resort of its Druids and "musicians," and the great stronghold of Druidism for centuries; having become the residences of its kings on the first establishment of a monarchical government under Slanige, ruler of the Fir bolgs or Belgae, and so continuing until the middle of the sixth century, "a period during which reigned 142 monarchs, viz., 136 Pagan, and 6 Christian." A considerable portion of his work is occupied by details of the contests between St. Patrick and the Druids, a subject into which he enters with singular minuteness; tracing the history of the Hill, down to its abandonment in 565, as the seat of monarchy, "in consequence of the curse of St. Ruadhan," who,
“with a bishop that was with him, took their bells that they had, which they rung hardly, and cursed the king and place, and prayed God that no king or queen ever after would or could dwell in Tarach, and that it should be wast for ever without court or pallace, as it fell out accordingly."


The most interesting parts of Mr. Petrie's book, however, are those which explain an accompanying “plan of the earthen works still existing on the Hill of Tara." The principal in extent is Rath Riogh, the next is Rath Laogaire, the next Rath na Seanadh, the next Rath Eachhor, and the next Rath Grainne. Within the enclosure of Rath Riogh, are the ruins of the house of Cormac, the mound of the Hostages, the Teach Miodhchuarta, or banquetting house Tobar Finn, the well, and the two claenferts; of these the northern was famous for the slaughter of the virgins by the Lagenians on Saman's day; and the southern, for a false sentence pronounced there by a king named Lughardh MacCon,  for which he was afterwards destroyed
The old bardic historians celebrate the wisdom and genius of Cormac, the grandson of ‘Con of the hundred battles,' the wisest, bravest, and most accomplished of all the Irish kings. He ascended the throne of Ireland about the middle of the third century, and attempted to reform the religion of the Druids by substituting for their polytheism the more rational and sublime belief of one infinite and eternal Being, who was the author of the universe. His subjects, in consequence, rebelled against him; and, in one of his battles, he lost an eye, by which, being rendered unfit for government, according to the custom of Ireland, he resigned the crown to his son Cairbre of the Liffey, and retired to his cottage of Cletty, near the Boyne, where he devoted the remainder of his life to philosophic contemplation. During this time he wrote many works for the use of his son and successor Cairbre, among which may be reckoned his Royal Precepts and Instructions, which he is said to have written at Cairbre's request, and to have drawn up in answer to different questions proposed by his son upon various subjects relative to government and general conduct. The Druids finding the son regulated his conduct by the counsels of the father, contrived to poison the good monarch.
The "Royal Precepts or Instructions" have been translated by J. O'Donovan. They are so full of beauty, wisdom, and virtue, that we cannot resist a desire to extract some of the passages.
"0 grandson of Con: 0 cormac " said Cairbre, "what is good for a king "

"That is plain," said Cormac;  "It is good for him to have patience without debate; self government without anger; affability without haughtiness; diligent attention to history; strict observance of covenants and agreements; strictness mitigated by mercy in the execution of the laws; peace with his districts; lawful wages of vassalage; justice in decisions; performance of promises; hosting with justice; protection of his frontiers, honouring the meneds (nobles); respect to the pileas (priests); adoration of the great God.”

“O grandson of Con, O Corinae," said Cairbre, "what is good for the welfare of a country "


"That is plain," said Cormac — "Frequent convocation of sapient and good men to investigate its affairs, to abolish each evil, and retain each wholesome institution; to attend to the recepts of the elders; let every senad (assembly of the elders) convened according to law; let the law be in the hands of the nobles; let the chieftains be upright, and unwilling to oppress the poor; let peace, and friendship reign, mercy and good morals, union and brotherly love; heroes without laughtiness, sternness to enemies, friendship to friends, generous compensations; just sureties; just decisions; just witnesses; mild instruction; respect for soldiers; learning every art and language; pleading with knowledge of the Fenechas (the Brehon law); decision with evidence; giving alms, charity to the poor; sureties for covenants; lawful covenants; to hearken to the instructions of the wise; to be deaf to the mob; to purge the laws of the country of all their evils, &c. All these are necessary for the welfare of a country."
" () grandson of Con, O Cormac " said Cairbre, “what are the qualifications of a prince"


“Let him be vigorous, easy of access, and affable; let him be humble, but majestic; let him be without (personal) blemishhero; let him be hero, a sage; let him be liberal, serene, and good hearted; mild in peace, fierce in war, beloved by his subjects, discerning, faithful, and patient; righteous and abstemious; let him attend the sick; let him pass just judgments; let him support each orphan; let him abominate falsehood; let him love truth; let him be forgetful of evil, mindful of good; let him assemble numerous meetings; let him communicate his secrets to few; let him be cheerful with his intimates; let him appear splendid as the sun at the banquet in the house of Midhehurta (that is, the middle house at Tarah); let him convene assemblies of the nobles: let him be affectionate and intelligent; let him depress evil; let him esteem every person according to his honour- close sureties-let him be sharp but lenient in his judgments and decisions. These are the qualifications by which a king and chieftain should be esteemed.’”


Mr. Petrie's object has been to compare the ancient Bardic accounts with the existing evidence supplied by the remains; and he has found them to agree with exceeding accuracy. The most singular all these ancient monuments, however, is that which still exists comparatively uninjured by time—the pillar stone to which we have already made some reference. This is the “Lia Fail,” the celebrated coronation stone of the ancient Irish kings. It is composed of granular limestone, and is at present “about 6 feet high above the ground, but its real height is said to be 12 feet.” At its base it is perhaps 4 feet in circumference; but it tapers somewhat towards the top, not unlike the round towers. Some remarkable relics of antiquity are also to be found in the grave yard of a church near the summit of the hill; it is modern, but occupies the site of a very ancient structure, and which was also built upon the spot on which it is said formerly existed a Pagan temple. "Adamnan's Cross" is still standing here; and it points out the place where, in the fifth century, stood ‘the house from which Benen, the disciple of St. Patrick, escaped, and in which Lucad the Bald, the Druid of King Laogaire, was burned.
The story of this event is very curious. All these things being done between the magician and Patrick, the king says to them,
“Cast your books into the water, and him whose books shall escape uninjured we will adore.”

Patrick answered, "I will do so;"

and the magician said, " I am unwilling to come to the trial of water with this man because he has water as his god;" for he had heard that baptism was given by St. Patrick with water,
and the king answering said, “Allow it by fire;"

and Patrick said, "I am ready:"

but the magician being unwilling, said, "This man alternately in each successive year adores as God, water and fire."

And the Saint said, “Not so, but thou thyself shalt go, and one of my boys shall go with thee, into a separate and closed house, and my vestment shall be on thee, and thine on him, and thus together you shall be set on fire."


And this council was approved of; and there was a house built for them; the half of which was made of green wood, and the other half of dry; and the magician was sent into that part of the house that was green, and one of the boys of St. Patrick, Bineus by name, with the vest of the magician, into the dry part of the house. The house then being closed on the outside, was set on fire before the whole multitude: and it came to pass in that hour, by the prayers of Patrick, that the flame of the fire consumed the magician, with the green half of the house, while the garment of St. Patrick remained untouched, because the fire did not touch it. But the fortunate Beneus, on the contrary, together with the dry half of the house, according to what is said of the three children. was not touched by the fire, neither was he burned.
Whether we reject these Bardic histories as mere fables, or only accept them as poetic exaggerations —it is impossible to consider the “Hill of Tara" in any other light than that of a place in which multitudes formerly assembled; there is abundant and conclusive evidence of this, apart from apocryphal authorities, not alone in the valuable ornaments in gold which have been, from time to time, dug up in the vicinity, a few of which are deposited in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy, and which are rightly assigned to a date long prior to the sixth century— in the existing names of the several neighbouring localities, still the same, or nearly so, as they bore many centuries ago—in the various roads that now lead to the hill of which distinct traces remain; but the character and appearance of the place remove all doubt as to its having been the work of human hands, and not the production of nature. The “Halls of Tara" were composed of earth and wood; but, as Mr. Moore observes (in his ‘History of Ireland'),
"this fact is by no means conclusive, either against the elegance of their structure or the civilization, to a certain extent, of those who erect them. It was in wood that the graceful forms of Grecian architecture first unfolded their beauties; and there is reason to believe that at the time when Xerxes invaded Greece, most of her temples were still of this perishable material.”
And so we part from Tara; we shall not easily forget the morning we passed upon the hill, nor the magnificent prospect of a fair country we beheld from its summit, although immediately around us we could see only high barriers without marble or a name:
'............ But where we sought for Ilion's walk
The quiet sheep feeds and the tortoise crawls' "
More on Tara at Tara.