Hill of Tara

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter V-9 | Start of chapter

It would be considered a grave offence were we to quit the pleasant county of Meath without noticing the famous "Hill of Tara," celebrated by ancient bards and historians for its Teaghmor, or Great House, where, down to the middle of the sixth century, triennial parliaments of the kingdom were held;—for its sumptuous palace, the residence of a long and illustrious line of monarchs; and for its college of learned men, where the arts and sciences were cultivated and taught. Keating, O'Halloran, and O'Flaherty, whose poetic histories abound with florid descriptions of the grandeur and magnificence of the royal residence of Teaghmor, have dwelt with fond delight upon the solemnities of the periodical parliaments, at which the kings of Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connaught, are said to have assisted, in conjunction with the toparchs, dynasts, bards, or sennachies, priests, and "men of learning, distinguished by their abilities in all arts and professions," in framing laws, and making wise ordinances for the government of the kingdom. But, alas! for the past glory of Ireland, there remain no traces now of these stately palaces—not a vestige exists of the proud halls where "chiefs and ladies bright" were wont to assemble; the voice of the bard is hushed—and "the harp," as Moore touchingly sings:—

"The harp that once through Tara's halls

The soul of music shed,

Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls

As if that soul were fled."

Unfortunately, however, not even a wall has been left on which a bard's harp or antiquarian's conjecture might be hung. The remains of a few circular earthen entrenchments on the summit of a lofty green hill, rising from the centre of an extensive plain, are all that the most curious eye can now discover of the vanished splendour of the Hill of Tara.

It has been conjectured that the Hall of Tara, though not built of stone, might have been constructed of less durable materials, with a considerable degree of elegance, which would account satisfactorily for the non-existence of any ruins; and when we recollect that King John, on his arrival in Dublin, lodged in a palace of wattles, or wickerwork, plastered with clay, there can be no reasonable, grounds for rejecting the hypothesis with respect to the court of Teaghmor. Hollinshed, though he disputes the accuracy of the Irish historians in their description of the magnificence of this palace, admits that, "the place seemeth to bear the show of an ancient and famous monument;" and thus infers that some memorial of its ancient grandeur existed in his time.[27]


[27] Alfred, king of the Northumbrian Saxons, who, according to Bede, retired to Ireland to avoid the persecution of his brother, about the year 685, devoted himself while in exile to study; and composed a poem in the Irish language, describing what he had observed in various parts of Ireland. Speaking of the palace of Teaghmor, he says:—

"I found in the great fortress of Meath.

Valour, hospitality, and truth;

Bravery, purity, and mirth—

The protection of all Ireland."