First Irish Mill

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XI

The well Neamhnach was first identified. Tradition, asserts that the first mill [3] erected in Ireland was turned by the stream which flowed from it, and even at the present day a mill is still worked there. The situation of the Rath-na-Riogh was then easily ascertained. This is the most important of these ancient sites, but it is now, unfortunately, nearly levelled to the ground. This rath is oval, and measures about 853 feet from north to south; it contains the ruins of the Forradh and of Teach Cormac (the House of Cormac). A pillar-stone was removed in 1798 to the centre of the mound of the Forradh. It formerly stood by the side of a small mound lying within the enclosure of Rath-Riogh. This stone Dr. Petrie considers identical [4] with the famous Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, which other authorities suppose to have been removed to Scotland, and subsequently to Westminster. The Rath-na-Riogh is identical with Teamur, and is, in fact, the ancient Tara, or royal residence, around which other scarcely less important buildings were gradually erected. It was also called Cathair Crofinn. The name of Cathair was exclusively applied to circular stone fortifications built without cement; and stones still remain which probably formed a portion of the original building. In ancient Irish poems this fortification is sometimes called the Strong Tower of Teamur, an appellation never applied to a rath, but constantly to a Cathair, or circular stone fort.


[3] Mill.—"Cormac, the grandson of Con, brought a millwright over the great sea." It is clear from the Brehon laws that mills were common in Ireland at an early period. It is probable that Cormac brought the "miller and his men" from Scotland. Whittaker shows that a water-mill was erected by the Romans at every stationary city in Roman Britain. The origin of mills is attributed to Mithridates, King of Cappadocia, about seventy years B.C. The present miller claims to be a descendant of the original miller.

[4] Identical.—First, "because the Lia Fail is spoken of by all ancient Irish writers in such a manner as to leave no doubt that it remained in its original situation at the time they wrote." Second, "because no Irish account of its removal to Scotland is found earlier than Keating, and he quotes Boetius, who obviously wished to sustain the claims of the Stuarts." The pillar-stone is composed of granular limestone, but no stone of this description is found in the vicinity. As may be supposed, there are all kinds of curious traditions about this stone. One of these asserts that it was the pillar on which Jacob reposed when he saw the vision of angels. Josephus states that the descendants of Seth invented astronomy, and that they engraved their discoveries on a pillar of brick and a pillar of stone. These pillars remained, in the historian's time, in the land of Siris.—Ant. Jud. 1. 2, § 3.