MEATH

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Meath | Slane Castle | St. Peter and St. Paul Abbey | Trim Old Bridge | Meath Map

NAME.—The Gaelic form is Midhe (pron. Mee), which probably means middle; Meath was the middle province of Ireland.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Greatest length, from the Delvin River to Lough Sheelin, 47 ½ miles; greatest breadth from the Yellow River to Ballyhoe Lake, 39 ½ miles; area, 906 square miles; population, 87,469.

SURFACE: HILLS.—Meath is nearly all level. There are hills in the northwest, of which one range, lying a little southeast of Oldcastle, is called Slieve na Calliagh, or the Loughcrew Hills, the highest elevation being Carnbane (904). On the summits of these hills is an ancient pagan cemetery, consisting of a most remarkable group of large cromlechs and sepulchral chambers, in all respects resembling the great cemetery at Bruga of the Boyne (see General Sketch of Ireland; Antiquities). South of this near Loughcrew House, is Slieve Gullion (640); two miles west of which is Seafin (661). All these hills, though low, command extensive views, as they rise in the midst of a plain. In the barony of Lower Kells, at the north end of the county, there are hills rising to the height of 835 feet. There is a range of hills beginning in the barony of Upper Slane, which run into Louth, and terminate at Clogher Head (see Louth). The portion of this range lying in Meath is called Slieve Bregh (753), which lies 4 miles north of Slane. The Hill of Ward, near Athboy, though only 390 feet high, is locally very remarkable. In various other parts of the county the plain is broken up by low hills, nearly all being cultivated or grass land.

COAST LINE.—Meath has a coast line of 7 miles, from the mouth of the Delvin River to the mouth of the Boyne; it is nearly straight, and there is a fine sandy strand the whole way, backed by sand hills.

RIVERS.—The Boyne, coming from Kings County and Kildare, first touches Meath at the mouth of the Yellow River, at the southwest corner; then forms the boundary between Meath and Kildare for 8 miles; after which it flows through Meath, passing by Trim, Navan, and Slane, till it meets the Mattock River at Oldbridge (for the rest of its course see Louth).

Tributaries of the Boyne: In the northwest, the Blackwater, flowing from Lough Ramor in Cavan, runs for a short distance through Cavan; then forms for a mile the boundary between Cavan and Meath, after which it enters Meath, and passing by Kells, joins the Boyne at Navan. It is joined at Oristown, on the left bank, by the Moynalty River, which, rising in Cavan, forms the boundary between that county and Meath for 7 miles, after which it enters Meath, taking its name from the village of Moynalty, by which it flows. Two miles above Navan, the Blackwater is joined, also on the left bank, by the Yellow River; and at the point where it first touches Meath it is joined on the right bank by the Cross Water, which forms the boundary between Meath and Cavan for about 3 miles.

The Boyne is joined at Oldbridge by the Mattock River (for which see Louth); and the Mattock itself is joined by the Devlins River, flowing from Slieve Bregh. Two miles above Trim the Tremblestown River joins on the left bank, after flowing by Athboy; and a few miles higher up, the Boyne is joined on the same bank by the Stonyford River, which comes immediately from Westmeath, but rises originally in Meath; a little above this it receives the Dale River, also coming from Westmeath; and lastly, still on the left bank, the Boyne is joined near Castlejordan by the Yellow River, which forms for 3 miles the boundary between Kings County and Meath. On the right bank, another Blackwater, a boggy, sluggish stream, joins the Boyne at Castlerickard in the southwest, near the mouth of the Dale; on the right bank also, the Boyne receives the Boycetown River, 2 miles below Trim. So far the basin of the Boyne.

In the north of the county, the Dee, rising in the neighborhood of Moynalty and Nobber, flows eastward, and enters Louth 2 miles above Ardee.

The Nanny Water runs south of, and parallel to, the Boyne, at a distance of 3 or 4 miles; it rises a little east of Navan, flows the whole way along a beautiful valley, and passing by Duleek, falls into the sea 4 miles south of the mouth of the Boyne; at Athcarne Castle it receives the Hurley River from the south, which rises in Dublin county. Three miles south of this, the Delvin River forms the boundary between Meath and Dublin for 7 or 8 miles, and enters the sea at Gormanstown.

The river called in Dublin the Broad Meadow Water (flowing into Malahide Bay), rises in Meath, near Dunshaughlin, and flowing by Ratoath and Ashbourne, enters Dublin near Greenoge. The Swords River, a tributary of the last, also rises in Meath. The Tolka rises a little south of Dunshaughlin, and flowing to the southeast, enters Dublin at Clonee at the southeast corner of Meath. The Rye Water rises in Meath; and forming the boundary between Meath and Kildare for several miles, enters Kildare at Carton.

In the extreme northwest corner, the river Inny rises in Meath and forming the boundary between Meath and Cavan for about 4 miles, enters Lough Sheelin.

LAKES.—Lough Sheelin touches the northwest projection, and a portion of it belongs to Meath. The other lakes on the margin are: Lough Ervey, 1 ½ miles southwest of Kingscourt, on the boundary with Cavan; Rahan's Lough in the north, chiefly belonging to Monaghan; Ballyhoe Lake near it, belonging partly to Monaghan, but chiefly to Meath; Croboy Lake in the southwest, a small pool 3 miles northeast of Kinnegad, half in Westmeath; Lough Bane in the west, half of which belongs to Meath and the other half to Westmeath; and near it, to the northwest, White Lough and Lough Naneagh, which are also divided equally by the boundary line of Meath and Westmeath.

The lakes in the interior are small and unimportant. Lough Breaky in the northwest, in the barony of Lower Kells, lies near the boundary; and near it to the east are Whitewood Lake and Newcastle Lake.

TOWNS.—Trim (1,586), the assize town, on the Boyne, a town of great antiquity, with many remains of its former importance, among others a fine old castle, and the ruins of several ecclesiastical establishments, chief among them being the Yellow Steeple. Navan (3,873), situated at the junction of the Boyne and the Blackwater, a good trading-town. Kells (2,822), on the Blackwater, with several very ancient ecclesiastical remains—a round tower, a Celtic cross, and a stone-roofed oratory called St. Columb's House. The town grew round a monastery founded there in the 6th century by St. Columkille. Oldcastle (952) lies in the northwest corner of the county; Athboy (748) in the west, stands on the Tremblestown River. Duleek (581), in the east, on the Nanny Water, was in old times a place of great importance. An abbey was founded there in the 5th century by the celebrated St. Cianan or Keenan, its first bishop, which continued to flourish for many ages; and the place now contains the ruins of a monastery.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—The present county formed a part of the ancient kingdom of Meath. The two baronies of Deece retain the name of an ancient tribe called the Desi, who dwelt at the south side of Tara in the reign of Cormac Mac Art, in the third century, and who also gave name to the baronies of Decies in Waterford see (Waterford).

Tara, the ancient residence of the kings of Ireland, is situated 6 miles southeast of Navan. Another very celebrated place in Meath was Tailltenn, now called Teltown, situated on the Blackwater, midway between Navan and Kells; and still another was Tlachtga, which is now called the Hill of Ward, and is situated near Athboy.

The chief ecclesiastical centers of Meath were: Bective, on the Boyne, a few miles below Trim, where there is a beautiful abbey ruin; Dunshaughlin, in the southeast of the county, now a poor village, but once important, where St. Sechnall, nephew of St. Patrick, founded an abbey in the 5th century: Slane, on the Boyne, with the fine ruins of an abbey and the ruin of the hermitage of St. Erc the patron; Skreen, on a hill, with church ruins, where St. Patrick lighted the first paschal fire (in the year 433); and Clonard, on the Boyne, in the barony of Upper Moyfenrath in the southwest, the most celebrated of all, where St. Finnian established his great school in the 6th century; but not a vestige now remains of the old buildings.

Description of County Meath | Slane Castle | St. Peter and St. Paul Abbey | Trim Old Bridge | Meath Map

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