PUBLISHED JANUARY 05 2005, OPEN PUBLISHING SITE
Christmas 2015: My mother gave me a Christmas Card ‘A Winter’s Sunset on the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. The original drawing was done by Micheal O’Brien, artist, and known to us both for many decades. He recently passed away. This prompted me to look for any articles I may have written about the Hill of Tara where I lived from the age of 5 to 18 years.
Monday, Jan 10 2005, 8:12pm
Yes, the Archaeological findings stand but also what about the social history
by Michelle Clarke – Social Justice and Ethics
I have lived in and visited English villages. You know, those that are the turnoff from the motorway. Those that invoke the feeling of history and present combined.
The English value their culture; their history but we are yet ill at ease with accepting it and throw it aside in favour of development. The development takes little account of the history despite the the ardent work of the local historical societies; the GAA; and others.
There is a house on the road to Tara. It is a large Victorian style house most likely built in the late 1800’s. I have the pleasure of having lived in that house of intrigue from the age of 5 to 18 years old. It was about intrigue and wonder for a child and all that is different.
Tara, then was a place of mystery. We knew that it represented something historic but it was difficult to grasp exactly what. I hasten to add we played on the historic mounds with negligence and without any awareness of their historic value and cycled around them too. I recall the talk of the ruined Tara Hall – and the Thomas Moore connections. I also recall the regrets that people let the property go into decay but the time when that occurred, Ireland was a young Independent Nation with other priorities to the houses of the out of favour Irish Gentry.
Royal Tara Golf Club existed then and many years before but it was different, economic growth ensured its new dimension within the scope of the history of Tara.
The Hill – in the 1960’s; there was little traffic except surprisingly the CIE bus with American tourists who traveled there daily. It is fair to say we needed the Tourism of Tara then because Meath had little to offer as distinct to say Clare and Galway and counties too including the City of Dublin.
As children, my brother Shane, 5 years younger and our two friends, Richard and Francis, discovered all five roads that led to Tara. There was always the little bit more we could travel to make us feel that little more grown up. In our childlike minds, we would go down the back road from Tara on our bikes, to the Golf Club. We would surmise, make up our own views. On a reckless day, we would head for Kilmessan, a most intriguing village and then back by Dunsany. The best stop for sweets was early on at a quaint shop at Tara Hill then selling Celtic Irish memorabilia. For country bumpkins like us this was about more intrigue, speculation and exploratory mindsets.
We would look over the bridges and see those train tracks and wonder why did they obliterate the rail system with such haste. We would think of then Kilmessan as a vibrant village where people could go to work or visit Dublin daily……and then there were the people who worked on the trains and more speculation there when we heard their recollections.
There was the Parish Priests’s House; the Teachers house and the Doctors (in those days seen as a triad of power in the ordinary people’s lives). They covered a designated geographic rural area.
There was Dunsany Castle; a real live castle with Lord and Lady Dunsany living in the castle. There was Lord Fingal and his wife in Killeen Castle. Many people lived in estate houses and here was another bedrock of power from pre-1916 days. I suppose for those who go to Enniskerry, in Co. Wicklow, the example exists of the potential for the Skryne/Tara circle (let it be a circle mixing history and hope) has the potential of evoking the same concept.
There must be a way……..
This social history as would be referred to in England is only 40 years ago.
Tara invoked attention from international and national links circa 1915. People like Maud Gonne and others looked to the possibility that the Ark of the Covenant existed in Tara.
Have people forgotten about the Dispensary Health system in Ireland? This emerged under British Rule but went off on its own specific direction after Independence. The Health service was subject to a strong Church/Medical profession influence that resulted in the two tier primary health care that now exists unlike England with a National Health Service, free to all.
Belper, its land, orchards and woods, was the Dispensary House. My Father and Mother, both doctors arrived there in 1963. Dr. Murnane and his wife Alice and family lived their as the dispensary doctors, for several decades prior. I think the doctor prior to the Murnanes was Dr. Lynch.
This is a social history in its own right. The practice covered out to Ratoath; to Kilmessan; to beyond Dunshaughlin; to Ashbourne to near Navan. The dispensary doctor received a half day per week off, thereafter service was almost 24 hours. In the days of the Murnanes – the house employed a staff and I recall one patient telling me how he had his tooth pulled by Dr. Murnane.
There were lots of stories then; there were lots of observations; the imagination could be cultivated – the sheds where the horses were kept from days earlier provided so many questions for children – the ring that the horse was tied to; the room next to the horse stable with yet another room off it – yes this provided the shelter for people there. It had a fire place but I am slow to recall if there was space for a bed. Originally, Belper (prior to our time) had a lawn tennis court and there was always that desire for us as children to resurrect the court but then that involved ‘work and ashes’ for a lawn tennis court. There was the orchard that had become overgrown and likewise the rockery; the remnants of ‘berry’ bushes that would sometimes yield some gooseberries or redberries. The Apple trees provided unpredictable supplies of cooking apples and only a few eating apples. There was a changing society from people working in these large labour intensive homes/houses with no heat other than fire places in every room. Yes those days of maids; servants, workmen and other people like scullery maids.
Let us not lose too much history. Think of Skryne and Tara as a circle with a social history that sums up a lot in Pre and Post independent Ireland. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
I am sure so much can be added……
Heritage campaigners have delivered 2,000 submissions to the Oireachtas Transport Committee opposing plans to build a motorway through the historic landscape surrounding the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
The submissions were collected by the Save Tara-Skryne Valley group at various locations throughout Ireland over the weekend.
The group is campaigning for a re-routing of the M3 motorway away from the Tara-Skryne Valley, which is rich with archaeology dating back to the Stone Age.
Vincent Salafia, a spokesman for the Save Tara-Skryne Valley group, said the argument against the current route of the motorway was based on economics as well as archaeological protection.
He said lengthy court battles and painstaking excavations mean the M3, in its current form, could not be completed before 2015.
“It would actually be cheaper and delivered quicker if they re-route the motorway now,” he added.
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To return to the Christmas card:
Some of the reasons why people come to Tara!
- Saint Patrick and his association with the Hill
- St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland – now an interpretative centre with a church service once a year on St. Patrick’s Day.
- Archaeological Interest
- The History – Tara’s Monuments
- The Legends of Kingship – 142 Kings
- The Holy Wells
- Sacred Place – Druids Perform ceremonies
- To connect with the ‘energy’
- To visit the Sheela-na-gig – the fertility stone in the churchyard
- The view, weather permitting, 13 counties and limitless landmarks
- The battle of the Hill of Tara 1798 – remembering the event
- Daniel O’Connell’s Monster Meeting 1843
- The five great roads of Ireland had their junction at Tara
- The Fairy Tree and its colourful votive decorations
- The story ‘Gone with the Wind’ last lines reads ‘Tara! Home. I’ll go home….’ (American interest mostly)
(Text by Sinead Maguire, Tara, Co Meath, 2015.