Howth Hill

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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HOWTH HILL, overlooking Dubhlinn or Dublin Bay, not far from Eblana, Dublin, and rising 578 feet above the water, was a hallowed spot long before St. Patrick was at Tara. It was the Ben Edir or Edair of the Fenians, and so called from its oaks. The Danes destroyed its Halls in 819. The Book of Howth chronicles events from 432 to 1370. The Danish word Howeth is from Hoved, a head. Ptolemy's Edras became Edar. A Fenian poem runs thus:—

"How sweet from proud Ben Edir's height
To see the ocean roll in sight;
And fleets, swift bounding on the gale,
With warriors clothed in shining mail.
Most beauteous hill, around whose head
Ten thousand sea-birds' pinions spread;
May joy thy lord's true bosom thrill,
Chief of the Fenians' happy hill."

Ireland's Eye, a little isle north of Howth harbour, is also associated with early religious history. It was the Inis Nessan, from St. Mac Nessan, of the Royal family of Leinster, who, in the sixth century, had his oratory at Inis Erean, as then it was called. The word Eye is from the Danish Ey, Island. There it was that the holy man was assailed, as the story goes, by the formidable chief of hell, who sought to terrify him by his gigantic and terrible form. The Saint, excited, threw his book at the fiend, driving him against a rock which, splitting open, received him within itself.

The Abbey of Howth was erected in 1235. Fin Mac Coul's Quoit, a stone of many tons weight, is now seen covering a cromlech, upon which these verses were written by S. Ferguson, Q.C., recording the burial of the fair Fenian, Aideen—

"They hewed the stone; they heaped the cairn:
Said Ossian, 'In a queenly grave
We leave her 'mong her fields of fern,
Between the cliff and wave.'
The cliff behind stands clear and bare,
And bare above, the heathery steep
Scales the blue heaven's expanse to where
The Danaan Druids sleep.

And here hard by her natal bower,
On lone Ben Adair's side we strive
With lifted rock, and signs of power,
To keep her name alive.
That while from circling year to year,
The ogham letter'd stone is seen,
The Gael shall say, 'Our Fenians here
Entombed their loved Aideen.'"

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