Tara, Pagan and Christian

John Healy
Tara, Pagan and Christian

[Lecture delivered to the students of Maynooth College, Nov. 5, 1897].

MY purpose—at least my main purpose—in selecting this subject for my address this evening is to create and foster in the minds of the students of this college a deep and abiding love for the historic sites and ancient monuments of our native land. In the highest sense of the words, you are the heirs, and you ought to be, as it were, the official custodians, of the historic monuments of the Gael. It would be strange, indeed, if the British Parliament should deem it its duty to preserve many of these monuments at the public expense, and that an Irish priest should be either ignorant of their history, or show himself indifferent to their defacement or destruction. No man can do more than a priest to aid in their preservation, and every sentiment of genuine patriotism, of national honour, and even of professional zeal, should move him to aid in the noble work of illustrating the history and guarding the integrity of these ancient monuments, which are at once eloquent witnesses of our vanished glories in the past, and hopeful emblems of a higher national life in the not distant future.

Now, my young friends, of all the historic sites in Ireland, there is no other that can at all approach the Hill of Tara, either in antiquity, in historic interest, or in the variety and suggestive significance of its ancient monuments. If we are to accept, even in substance, the truth of the bardic history of Ireland—and I see no good reason to question its substantial truth—there was a royal residence on the Hill of Tara before Rome was founded, before Athena’s earliest shrine crowned the Acropolis of Athens; about the time, perhaps, that sacred Ilium first saw the hostile standards of the kings of Hellas. But before I sketch the history of the Royal Hill, I must first tell you something of its physical features, which alone have remained, through all the changeful centuries, unchanged and unchangeable.