Partholan

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

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Partholan landed at Inver [2] Scene, now the Kenmare river, accompanied by his sons, their wives, and a thousand followers. His antecedents are by no means the most creditable; and we may, perhaps, feel some satisfaction, that a colony thus founded should have been totally swept away by pestilence a few hundred years after its establishment.

The Chronicum Scotorum gives the date of his landing thus: "On a Monday, the 14th of May, he arrived, his companions being eight in number, viz., four men and four women." If the kingdom of Desmond were as rich then as now in natural beauty, a scene of no ordinary splendour must have greeted the eyes and gladdened the hearts of its first inhabitants. They had voyaged past the fair and sunny isles of that "tideless sea," the home of the Phoenician race from the earliest ages. They had escaped the dangers of the rough Spanish coast, and gazed upon the spot where the Pillars of Hercules were the beacons of the early mariners. For many days they had lost sight of land, and, we may believe, had well-nigh despaired of finding a home in that far isle, to which some strange impulse had attracted them, or some old tradition—for the world even then was old enough for legends of the past—had won their thoughts. But there was a cry of land. The billows dashed in wildly, then as now, from the coasts of an undiscovered world, and left the same line of white foam upon Eiré's western coast. The magnificent Inver rolled its tide of beauty between gentle hills and sunny slopes, till it reached what now is appropriately called Kenmare. The distant Reeks showed their clear summits in sharp outline, pointing to the summer sky. The long-backed Mangerton and quaintly-crested Carn Tual were there also; and, perchance, the Roughty and the Finihe sent their little streams to swell the noble river bay. But it was no time for dreams, though the Celt in all ages has proved the sweetest of dreamers, the truest of bards. These men have rough work to do, and, it may be, gave but scant thought to the beauties of the western isle, and scant thanks to their gods for escape from peril. Plains were to be cleared, forests cut down, and the red deer and giant elk driven to deeper recesses in the well-wooded country.

Several lakes are said to have sprung forth at that period; but it is more probable that they already existed, and were then for the first time seen by human eye. The plains which Partholan's people cleared are also mentioned, and then we find the ever-returning obituary:—

"The age of the world 2550, Partholan died on Sean Mhagh-Ealta-Edair in this year."[3]

The name of Tallaght still remains, like the peak of a submerged world, to indicate this colonization, and its fatal termination. Some very ancient tumuli may still be seen there. The name signifies a place where a number of persons who died of the plague were interred together; and here the Annals of the Four Masters tells us that nine thousand of Partholan's people died in one week, after they had been three hundred years in Ireland.[4]

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[2] Inver.—Inver and Aber have been used as test words in discriminating between the Gaedhilic and Cymric Celts. The etymology and meaning is the same—a meeting of waters. Inver, the Erse and Gaedhilic form, is common in Ireland, and in those parts of Scotland whe.re the Gael encroached on the Cymry. See Words and Places, p. 259, for interesting observations on this subject.

[3] Year.—Annals, p. 7.

[4] Ireland.—Ib. p. 9.


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