02 Press Releases 03 Press Releases
M3 Submission Annals 2003 Launch
2003 AGM Charles Reynolds Hedge Schools
Tara/Skyrne Protest Cooper Hill House Bruce Campaign
Letter to An Taoiseach Dalgan Park Dowth
    Annual Excursion
    James Robinson.




‘Meath in the Early Annals’ `was the subject of the Meath Archaeological and Historical’s final talk for the year 2002. It was delivered at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Navan on Sunday, November 17th. By Dr. Colman Etchingham of NUI, Maynooth.

The annals are accessible, the speaker said, because, for the most part, they have been translated into English, yet surprisingly the amount of detailed study of them is relatively limited.

It is assumed that the Irish annals are a record of Ireland and this concept of them as a source for Irish history in general is exemplified by one of the best known books of annals "The Annals of the Four Masters’, compiled by Franciscan scholars in Donegal in the early 17th. Century. This was a misleading title, argued the speaker, since the sources they drew on were localized in their focus. From the 6th. century to the 12th. century the annals provide a patchy and selective picture of events, with a pronounced regional bias.Those who worked on the annals in the past tended to be interested in them for specific reasons. Was there only one St. Patrick or more than one, for instance? Which were the continental chronicles used by the Irish writers in putting together their accounts? Very few people, said the speaker, used the annals as a source for Irish history.

Dr. Etchingham said that the Irish Annals only became a primarily Irish record in the 8th. century. It is then that we see Meath emerging to great prominence, and after the 730’s/740’s the region of modern County Meath and adjacent counties of Louth, Westmeath and Dublin constituted one of the best-documented regions in the annals.

The speaker drew on the work of Alfred Smith and Kathleen Hughes, dealing mainly with the 8th. century. But he has, he said, brought this study forward, examining the Viking raids of Irish Churches as recorded in the annals, and is updating and extending that study at the moment to produce a more substantial study of Viking raids, right up to the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

Clonard is the best-documented church outside the northeast in the annals before the 7430’s and 740’s. Kildare also assumed some prominence in the later 7th. century and early 8th. century. There has been speculation as to whether an eastern chronicle was written at Kildare or Clonard. But in focussing on the emergence of Leinster material in the annals, Dr. Etchingham believes that Alfred Smith did not acknowledge sufficiently the fact that there was ‘an explosion of interest’ in County Meath in the 8th. century, when the county assumes enormous prominence in the annals. He said that scholars have generally tended to look for the centre of chronicling at any given period in the history of the annals, but, he suggested, it may be a mistake to adopt this strategy. It is likely, he contended, that recording and compiling was a much more complex process than simply one centre recording all the records of the part of the country it was interested in, at any given time. Unable to provide any new solutions to the various problems involved in studying and interpreting the annals, Dr. Etchingham’s stated aim in the lecture was to provide data and insight into those problems. However, it can be said with certainty, he contended, that Meath mattered in those records and that they provide a stable core of ecclestical data for at least two hundred and fifty years.

Mr. Ethingham used maps from Kathleen Hughes ‘Early Christian Ireland- Introduction to the Sources’ during his talk.

A lively question and answer session followed.

M.A.H.S. President John Gavin proposed a vote of thanks to the speaker and this proposal was seconded by Enda O’Boyle, Council member. The chairman, Patrick O’Rourke, thanked both spoeaker and audience, especially Very Reverend Canon Clarke who provided the very comfortable room at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland in which the lecture was held.

From: Marie MacSweeney, PRO, M.A.H.S.

On September 15th, last the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society met at the Edmund Rice centre, Kells, where Prof. Francis Byrne delivered a lecture on Charles Reynolds, Archdeacon of Kells and chaplain to Silken Thomas. He began with the observation that he had only an amateur interest in Tudor Ireland and that the subject of his lecture was ‘just a footnote to one of the best known and most romantic episodes in Irish history, the revolt of Silken Thomas in 1534. That was the beginning, he said, of modern Irish history, with the involvement of the English Government, under Henry VIII, directly in Ireland. There was speculation as to whether the revolt was a reaction to Henry’s divorce and his break with Rome or a pre-emptive strike against the policy of Thomas Cromwell who had advised Henry. But the revolt saw the beginning of the involvement of Ireland in European affairs. From then on, said Prof. Byrne, however sporadically, continental powers and particularly the Catholic powers in Europe saw Ireland as a springboard, as a possible ally, as, at the very least, a useful thorn in the side of Protestant Britain.

The person sent in 1534 by Silken Thomas to be his personal envoy to the Emperor Charles V and to Pope Paul 111 was Master Charles Reynolds. Charles, whose family came from south Leitrim, was Rector of Nobber and Archdeacon of Kells. When he travelled abroad on behalf of Thomas Fitzgerald it was a time of tremendous international change and a dangerous time for Europe and for Christendom. It was also clear that things were not made any easier by Henry VIII’s demand for an annulment.

The revolt associated with Silken Thomas began in June 1534, triggered by a rumour that Garret Og, father of Silken Thomas, having been summoned to London, was put to death there. Thomas summoned the council to St. Mary’s Abbey in Dublin and renounced his allegiance to the king. The rumour was untrue and Garret Og died later that year, of natural causes, at which point Silken Thomas became the Earl of Kildare. Maynooth Castle was captured and although the Earl held out for several months in the bogs of Offaly, hoping that Charles V and the Pope, or both, would send help, he eventually surrendered. He and his five uncles were attainted of treason, along with several supporters, including Master Charles Reynolds. When the Irish Parliament had passed all the legislation Henry wanted put in place they were executed. However, Charles Reynolds, said the speaker, was not executed. They couldn’t find him. He was already dead.

Prof. Byrne showed his packed audience some slides taken at the Basilica of St. John Latern in Rome, one of which showed the gravestone of Charles Reynolds. It included the Saltire of the Fitzgeralds and the hind legs of a lion rampant, associated with the Reynolds family. The inscription records that Charles died in July, 1535, in the thirty eight year of his life. It records that he was an Irishman, born of a noble family and endowed in mind and body with many gifts, and competent in civil and canon law. He is described as the Archdeacon of Kells in the diocese of Meath and counsellor to the illustrious Silken Thomas, Earl of Kildare, and ambassador to Paul III and to the court of the Emperor.

Charles Reynolds died of an incurable fever the day before the Pope was due to appoint him Bishop of Elphin and Clonmacnoise.

Silken Thomas had made the decision to appeal to the Emperor and to the Pope to do something about the heretical and schismatic behaviour of King Henry. Because of this Charles Reynolds had set out for Scotland on December 1534, where he received a letter of introduction to be used in Spain. He met the Emperor at Toledo or Madrid. He then went on to Italy, arriving in May, and prepared to address the Pope. He did this, said Prof.Byrne, with a stinging rebuke, saying that it was disgraceful that His Holiness had not condemned the behaviour of Henry VIII. The Pope responded by promising to excommunicate the king. Charles Reynolds was very well briefed for this mission, said the speaker, and very well able to conduct it. He had studied in Oxford and could speak English, Irish and Latin. He held one of the best ecclestastical positions available. Parochial and international politics interconnected, said Prof. Byrne, in the figure of Charles Reynolds.

A lively question and answer session followed the lecture. Afterwards Seamus MacGabhann, Editor of Riocht Na Midhe, thanked Prof. Byrne for his address. He remarked how fascinating it was that someone from the Gaelic heartland of Meath and who was Rector of Nobber and Archdeacon of Kells and chaplain to Irish nobles, could become involved in such enormous issues. Prof. Byrne’s talk enfolded, said Seamus MacGabhann, in the true manner of the ‘seanachai’ or learned man of Irish antiquity.

Julitta Clancy, past president of the Society and assistant secretary, summarised the submission of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society on the likely effects on the environment (with particular reference to the cultural heritage of the county)

to the enquiry which is currently under way at the Boyne Valley Hotel, Drogheda. She also advised that M.A.H.S., in conjunction with the Louth Society, would be holding another seminar on the subject of road building in the counties. The date is Saturday, October 19th. at the Boyne Valley Hotel. The seminar, which will run from to 17.30 p.m., will cost €25.00 per person. This includes morning coffee and lunch. Registration will commence at on the morning of the seminar. Further enquiries to Oliver Ward at 046-52236.

John Galvin added his thanks to those of Seamus MacGabhann and also thanked Brother Devaney for the use of the premises.

The next meeting of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society will take place, in conjunction with the O’Carolan Harp and Cultural Festival, in Nobber, on Friday October 4th. At 8.30pm at Nobber Library.


Marie MacSweeney, P.R.O. M.A.H.S.

On Sunday, August 18th members and friends of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society were the guests of Mrs. Mary Ryan when they visited Cooper Hill House near Julianstown.

Speakers Jackie Tallon and John McCullen provided some interesting detail about the house and its occupants throughout the centuries. Situated in the townland of Calliaghstown, the house was built on the site of a medieval convent by John Cooper (1719/1808), Chief Clerk of the Treasury. John McCullen traced the history of the Cooper family from the time of their move from Surrey in England to Co. Wicklow (1661), right up to February, 1923 when John Anthony Ashley Cooper fled the house before it was burned.

In 1929, having been restored, Cooper Hill House was sold to the Corscaddon family who came from Leitrim. Two hundred acres were acquired by the Land Commission in the 1930’s and in 1956 the Corscaddens sold the remaining land, also to the Land Commission. The present owner, Mrs. Mary Ryan, acquired the house around 1959. On a romantic note John McCullen mentioned the carved initials SA and SC

(Sarah Armstrong and Samuel Cooper) on a beach tree near Cooper Hill. Unfortunately, for those M.A.H.S. members who might have wished to seek out such poignant intimations of past love, John also reminded his audience that the tree no longer existed. Mr. Jackie Tallon talked about the unusual tombstone at a farmhouse in Beamore which is a memorial to the infant Eliza Jane Cooper.

After viewing some of the rooms of the house members again assembled outside where the well-known Drogheda historian, James Garry presented Mrs. Ryan with a folder which included eleven pictures of the house before and directly after the 1923 fire, and also of members of the Cooper family. These photos had been given to him by Gerry Victory of Drogheda whose mother (nee Curran) was a native of Cooper Hill. Mrs. Ryan’s generosity in facilitating the outing and in providing a large and tempting range of tasty refreshments was very much appreciated by members.

The next meeting of the society will be held on Sunday, September 15th when Prof. Francis Byrne will speak on the subject ‘Charles Reynolds, Rector of Kells and chaplain to Silken Thomas. The venue is the Edmund Rice Centre, Kells. Time 3pm.

From Marie MacSweeney, P.R.O. M.A.H.S.

On Sunday May 19th members and friends of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society visited Dalgan Park, Navan, where the Development Officer of the Columban Society, Mr. Gerard Clarke spoke about the history and ethos of the society and conducted the group on a tour of the building. He began his talk by emphasising the welcoming nature of the Columbans whose house and grounds are open to the public fifty weeks a year. Tracing the development of the society in Ireland from its foundation in 1918 to the present day Mr. Clarke explored its successes and failures and the growing pains endured. He detailed the expansion into County Meath, when in 1926, the Columban Society bought the Dowdstown Estate for £16,000. Dalgan Park today still has the five hundred and sixty seven acres acquired then, he said, adding that he planned to do a complete species survey of the land as he believed there may be some unusual and/or scarce plants growing there.

The seminary was built between 1938 and 1941 using, among other materials, limestone from the nearby Ardbraccan quarries. It was designed to cater for two hundred students. There have been considerable changes over the decades, all carefully detailed by the speaker. No new students have presented during the past eight years, he said, and the Columbans are diminishing rapidly. Mr. Clarke does not consider that Dalgan Park, as it is now operating, including its retirement home, can remain viable for more than about forty years.

Although the design of the building suggested to Mr. Clarke an ‘inward focus’ at variance with the earlier Celtic spirituality of the early Irish church, he nevertheless noted several Celtic features in the chapel which is at the heart of the building. He stressed that priests of the Society have had to adapt and to learn to ‘dialogue’ with other cultures and to learn from them. They have also accepted that they have a mission to Ireland that is as important as those undertaken in China, South America and other places at earlier stages of their history. There are now thirty-nine Columbans working in parishes in Ireland.

Mr. Clarke gave a potted history of the area from the 14th century to the present. The building of the motorway, which he said the Columbans have acknowledged is necessary, is a current concern. He raised questions about the effects of the proposed water extraction plant and water treatment systems. He also asked the audience to consider the effects of a possible loss of a resource such as Dalgan Park to the community.

Mr. Clarke dialogued with his audience throughout the afternoon and there was no formal question and answer session.

A vote of thanks to Mr. Clarke was proposed by M.A.H.S PRO

Marie MacSweeney and seconded by Council member, William Smith.

The next meeting will take place on Sunday, June 9th. next with a tour of Lakeview Gardens, Mullagh, conducted by Jonathan and Daphne Shackleton. It will be begin at

From: Marie MacSweeney.

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03 Launch


The 2003 edition of Riocht na Midhe, the Journal of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society was launched by Most Rev. Dr. Michael Smith following a reception at Dalgan Park, Navan on Wednesday 19th. February last. Earlier Mr.Donal MacDonald of the Royal Meath Association announced that a banquet would be held in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan on March 1st. to honour Prof. George Eogan who has been nominated as ‘Meath Personality of the Year’. Complimenting Prof. Eogan on his work, Bishop Smith said that utilitarian considerations should never steal the heritage and the history of a community. He pointed out that "the whole sweep of history" is no longer being taught to young people and that a society such as M.A.H.S. had to try to keep to the forefront at all times the whole dimension of life, history, culture and heritage. "History is a teacher of life", he said, "and it teaches us humility when we see the breath of education, vision and understanding of life of many who went before us." There is much to learn from the 2003 Journal, he added, praising the "infectious enthusiasm" of the editor, Seamus MacGabhann. He recommended the journal to readers as a worthy volume of a society with a noble record.

In reply Mr. MacGabhann outlined the articles, reports and reviews contained in the Journal and offered particular thanks to Julitta Clancy, former President and present Assistant Secretary of M.A.H.S., for "remarkable service under very trying conditions."

Society President John Gavin introduced the speaker for the evening, Fr. Gerard Rice whose subject was ‘Galtrim, a small Meath Parish and the Archdiocese of Armagh – the Financial Connection’. Outlining the location of Galtrim, Fr, Rice explained that its connection with Armagh was brought about by the Norman reforms in Ireland and the subsequent Europianisation of the country. Political and economic Europe came in with a bang in Ireland, he said. In Meath the force behind this change was the extraordinary Hugh de Lacy who put his stamp on the county in a way that few others, apart from Patrick and Cromwell, were able to do. In 1186 The Annals of Lough Kay recorded that "Meath, from the Shannon to the sea, was full of castles and foreigners." The reforms were far reaching, and brought the church into a very close relationship with the conquerors as De Lacy parceled out the land into baronies. He took over some choice baronies for himself, remarked the speaker, and founded Drogheda as a support for his liberty. Fr. Rice described Drogheda as "a fine town" compared to Craigavon which "the smartest of people tried to found twenty-five, thirty, forty years ago."

Fr. Rice spoke in great detail about the relationship between the church and the baronies, with particular reference to the Barony of Galtrim and the Hussey family. He also explained the changes brought about in the financial structures of the churches and the disparate claims of priests and monks, up to the point where Galtrim became "the second wealthiest parish in Meath", and one which was "eagerly looked for by high-flying people in the church." Such a "high flyer", he said, might be a Bishop living with the King. This man would have charge of legal affairs, and would appoint a chaplain on low salary to look after the diocese’s spiritual needs while retaining the greater share of the parish income to fund the ‘civil service’ structure created by this arrangement. Outlining the various appointments to Galtrim up to the point where the cleric, John Swayne was appointed as Rector there, the speaker explained that Swayne also became the representative in Rome of the new Archbishop of Armagh, and received the ‘living’ that Fleming gave up when he become Archbishop - hence the financial connection. Other connections were also explored in this wide-ranging and complex account of Irish church history, which was well received by the Dalgan Park audience of over two hundred people.

The next meeting of the Society will be held at Trim Library on Sunday, March 9th, at 3pm when Dr. Antonia McManus will speak on the subject ‘Hedge Schools from 1695 – 1831.’ All welcome.

From: Marie MacSweeney, M.A.H.S.

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Hedge School

Press Release from Meath Archaeological and Historical Society.

‘HEDGE SCHOOLS 1695 – 1831’ was the title of a talk given by Dr. Antonia Mc Manus to members of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society at Trim Library on Sunday, March 9th. The meeting was chaired by Mr. John Gavin, President of M.A.H.S.

Hedge schools were an illegal network of schools, said the speaker, originating in 1539. They "really took root" however, after the passing of the Penal Laws and constituted a kind of "gorilla war in education". They were fee-paying schools, various amounts being paid for diverse subjects. Examples of the fees charged per quarter were one shilling and eight pence for Literature, eleven shillings for Latin and from four to seven shillings for Mathematics, depending on the teacher.

There was, said the speaker, a great demand for education in the 18th. and 19th. centuries, so much so that popular teachers were sometimes kidnapped by communities and required to stay until they had trained their successors. Teaching was a hazardous profession and also very competitive. Because of the illegal nature of the schools teachers ran them away from the public gaze and the most convenient location was "on the sunny side of a hedge". During inclement weather they moved from house to house.

There were several reasons, according to Dr. Mc Manus, why individuals became teachers. Love of learning was an important factor. Status was also a consideration and there was an hereditary element to the profession. Due to the severity of the lifestyle few women got involved in teaching. Parents went to extraordinary lengths to have their children educated, even to the extent of building hedge schools for the masters. Evening classes were also offered and all ages were taught at hedge schools. There were six hedge schools per parish in Ireland and more in the towns, making for strong professional competition. Teachers spoke Latin at the drop of a hat in order to impress parents. They also satirised their competitors and resorted to various diplomatic strategies to obtain advantage. Advertising was quite extravagant and claims invariably exaggerated. Dr. Mc Manus quoted from an article by Seamus MacGabhann, published in the 1995 edition of Riocht na Midhe, in which an individual listed his abilities. He could, he claimed, offer tuition in Stenography, Cosmography, Acousticks, Hydrostaticks, Conic Sections and Fluctuations, among other subjects!

Hedge school teachers were at the centre of community life and were highly valued, often having titles bestowed on them by appreciative parents. They were masters of ceremonies at all wakes and funerals. The most important function they performed however, according to the speaker, was to raise the morale of the people.

Dr. Mc Manus’ erudite, humorous and occasionally bi-lingual talk was enthusiastically received by the packed audience at Trim Library, and a lively question and answer session followed. The chairman thanked Ciaran Mangan for the provision of the library facilities and reminded members that the A.G.M of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society will take place at St. Patrick’s Classical School, Navan at 8pm on Wednesday, 19th. April.


From: Marie MacSweeney, M.A.H.S.

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Bruce Report

Dr. Sean Duffy of T.C.D., speaking on the subject of ‘The Bruce Campaigns in Ireland’, was a recent guest lecturer at a meeting of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society held in Dunshaughlin Library. Dr. Duffy, who is Head of the Dept. of Medieval Irish History at Trinity, focussed on the campaign connection with Co. Meath. Meath had more to do with Edward Bruce’s invasion than most parts of Ireland, he said. Dr. Duffy explained that the Bruce invasions came after the Battle of Bannockburn, which occurred in June 1314, when Robert Bruce defeated Edward II of England and started a new phase in the Scottish War of Independence. Robert then decided to send his brother to Ireland and by late May 1315 upwards of 600,00 troops had landed on the north coast. As soon as they were mobilised these troops met with some resistance from the Anglo/Norman families of Ulster. The Scots prevailed however, marching south and meeting a group of Irish kings at Carrickfergus, where Edward was acknowledged as King of Ireland. Bruce then marched through the Gap of the North and savagely attacked Dundalk, a deVerdun stronghold.

At the time of the invasion in 1315 the lordship of Meath was split in two, with one half belonging to Geoffrey de Jeneville and his heirs and the other belonging to the deVerdun family, leaving many individuals carrying the de Lacy name fairly aggrieved since it had previously been de Lacy territory. When Edward Bruce arrived in Ireland he expected that his main supporters would be the native Irish who wanted to throw off English rule, but he couldn’t possibly throw off English rule unless he got some Anglo-Irish support. It is for this reason, said the speaker, that Meath was so important to the Bruce invasion. The only Anglo-Irish people likely to take his side were people who had a problem with the government: therefore the only Norman family of any importance who supported him were the de Lacys of Meath. Dundalk was burnt because it belonged to the deVerduns, the enemies of Bruce’s de Lacy friends.

Reaction to this event was slow, but on July 22nd. Government forces finally caught up with those of Bruce in the Slieve Beagh hills, south of Ardee. A skirmish ensued, after which Bruce withdrew to Inniskeen, where he set up camp. In spite of goading by the government army he then retreated back north. He fought his first major battle against the Earl of Ulster at Connor in September 1315, and was victorious. The fact that he defeated the most powerful man in the country made Bruce think he could conquer Ireland, said Dr. Duffy. He marched south again, reaching Nobber on October 30th. Leaving a garrison there he proceeded to Kells where Roger Mortimer, Lord of Trim, opposed him. A significant battle occurred at Kells, and Mortimer was defeated. He then returned to England, leaving his deputy, Walter Cusack behind to make sure that Edward did not get his hands on Trim Castle. After setting fire to Kells Bruce headed west for deVerdun territory, attacking Granard and destroying it. Dr. Duffy pointed out that all the places set alight by Bruce were in deVerdun or Mortimer hands, but that places which were still in the hands of the de Lacys, such as the Manor of Rathwire in Co. Westmeath, were left untouched. Marching into Co. Kildare, and fighting a battle in a place called Skerries, Bruce defeated the government army in January 1316. All the great men of the day, Butlers, Geraldines etc. were in the government army, and yet Bruce managed to defeat them, thus putting the government into a state of panic thinking he might march on Dublin and conquer the whole country. However, the Europe-wide famine of 1315/1318 began to affect Bruce, drastically limiting supplies, and he decided to make a quick retreat. Many of his men died of hunger and exhaustion at Fore, Co. Westmeath and Bruce marched the remainder to Ulster, leaving for Scotland in February 1316. Once home Edward consulted with his brother, Robert and received a commitment that Robert would visit Ireland himself. This happened around Christmas, 1316. They marched south, and by early February arrived in Slane, ravishing the countryside as they went. Richard de Burgh, the richest man in Ireland at the time, was in his manor at Ratoath when the Bruces were marching south. He tried to ambush them but was unsuccessful and fled to Dublin, where he took refuge in St. Mary’s Abbey. Ironically, said the speaker, Robert Bruce was Richard de Burgh’s son-in-law, and de Burgh was not trusted on this issue and was arrested as a traitor when he arrived in Dublin. Bruce headed towards Dublin and captured the Tyrell Castle at Castleknock in the spring of 1317. The obvious course of action then, according to Dr. Duffy, was to march to Dublin town and capture it, but Bruce realised that the siege might last several years and he did not have the time or resources for that. Instead he marched his army to Limerick in an effort to get the O’Briens to support him, but they were feeling the effects of the famine and refused to rise up on the side of Bruce. At that time word came that Roger Mortimer had landed at Youghal, as England’s Lieutenant in Ireland. He brought fresh troop and intended to head north and to join up with the government army. Robert Bruce decided to retreat and by early May his forces were hiding out in a wood near Trim. Soon afterwards he returned to Scotland and did not return to Ireland again for another ten years or so. Edward Bruce remained in Ireland. In the autumn of 1318 he marched south again, at this stage very closely allied with the de Lacys of Meath. He fought an army led by John de Bermingham, who frequently carried out frontier warfare with the de Lacys. This was the famous Battle of Faughart. The other main commanders here were two members of the de Verdun family. There was conflict in this family because the half of Meath, which was theirs, was, in the absence of male heirs, to be further sub-divided and partitioned. The speaker pointed out that the Bruce invasion was not so much a Scottish invasion of Ireland as a mini civil war in Meath, between the de Verduns on the one hand and the de Lacys on the other and those local chroniclers had recorded these facts. Edward Bruce’s last and fatal expedition was an attempt to assist the de Lacys to recover their Meath lands in the wake of Theodore de Verdun’s death and the return of Roger Mortimer to England. These people, said the speaker, were regarded as being loyal to England, but all they wanted to do was to hold on to their Meath lands at the expense of the de Lacys. The Battle of Faughart turned out to be a disaster for Edward Bruce because the enemy was mostly the local gentry of Louth and Meath. Edward was killed by a butcher from Drogheda, who chopped off his head. This was sent to Edward II in England. Edward Bruce’s body was quartered and dispatched to the four main towns in the country and hung on the town walls. The Scottish invasion was finally at an end. The English community in Ireland was delighted and the Irish, said the speaker, were not sorry to see the end of Edward Bruce in Ireland. In the autumn of 1318, for the first time in many years, there was a good harvest. It was as if the storm clouds of war had finally been lifted with the death of Edward Bruce, and people gave thanks for that.

The next meeting of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society will take place on Sunday May 18th, when Prof. Michael Baillie of Queens University, Belfast will address the fascinating subject of Dendrochronology. The venue is the Civic Centre Duleek, at 3pm. All are welcome.

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AGM 03

The A.G.M. of the Meath Archaeological & Historical Society was held at St. Patrick’s Classical School, Navan on Wednesday. 9th. April last at 8pm. The President, John Gavin welcomed those present to the meeting and to the lecture, which followed. Minutes of the previous A.G.M. were read by Hon. Secretary, Oliver Ward and adopted. The Ass. Sec., Julitta Clancy provided details of the various outdoor and indoor events enjoyed by members and visitors alike throughout the year, including the annual outing which took place to various sites in Co. Offaly and the all-day Seminar on the archaeological implications of motorway developments and the Gas Line project, held in September in conjunction with the Louth Archaeological and Historical Society. The seminar heard from a range of speakers who outlined some of the major discoveries arising from the excavations involved. There were nine full councils held during the year and several sub-committee meetings. The Archaeological sub-committee of the Society, under the chairmanship of Enda O’Boyle, helped in the planning and organization of the archaeological seminar in October, and also assisted with the preparation of the Society’s submission on the Environmental Impact Statement on the M3 Motorway project. This submission was presented by Julitta Clancy, on behalf of the Society, to an inquiry held by An Bord Pleanala. A copy of the submission is included in the 2003 issue of Riocht na Midhe and is also available on the society’s website. In January a meeting was held between a deputation from the council of M.A.H.S. and the new County Manager, Mr. Tom Dowling and the County Librarian, Mr. Ciaran Mangan. A range of issues relating to the county’s heritage and the activities of M.A.H.S. were discussed. An end-of-year dinner for council members and guests was held at the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan on March 30th.

Individual membership stands at approximately 377 and the year’s publications include the 2003 edition of Riocht na Midhe and a reissue of "The High Crosses of Kells’ by Helen Roe. Council member, William Carr set up a website during the year, which provides information of fixtures and events. It will be updated regularly.

Ms. Clancy thanked the media for their generous coverage of MAHS events. She also thanked the lecturers and those who provided venues. Several members were bereaved during the year. Votes of sympathy were passed and a minute’s silence observed. In the absence of Treasurer, Ann O’Reilly, Patrick O’Rourke read the Treasure’s Report. This was followed by the election of officers.

Most Rev. Dr. Michael Smith, Most. Rev. Dr. Richard Clarke and Prof. George Eogan were endorsed as Patrons. John Gavin continues as President with Fr. Gerard Rice as Vice-President. Oliver Ward is the Sec/Publications Secretary, Julitta Clancy is Ass. Secretary, Marie MacSweeney is PRO, Ann O’Reilly is Treasurer, the Ass. Treasurer is Patrick O’Rourke, Ultan O’Reilly is the Society’s Auditor and Seamus MacGabhann is the Journal Editor. Mrs. Jane O’Reilly of Fore, who was co-opted to the council during the year was endorsed as a council member.

The following continue as council members:-

William Carr, Carmel Duffy, Mary Holian, Patrick McNamee, Michelle Nugent, Maura O’Donogue, Jane O’Reilly and

William Smith.

When the business of the meeting was completed schoolteacher, Donal O’Boyle spoke about a trip to the Antarctic, which he made two years ago. The lecture was informative and witty, and was illustrated by a variety of wonderful slides. Mr. O’Boyle had accompanied some of his students on this trip, as part of their preparation for the President’s Awards, and he thanked all those who had helped to raise funds "to make this dream possible".

The President, John Gavin concluded the meeting by thanking St. Patrick’s Classical School for providing the venue for the A.G.M.

The next meeting of M.A.H.S. will be held at Dunshaughlin Library on Sunday April 27th. when Dr. Sean Duffy of T.C.D. will speak on ‘THE BRUCE CAMPAIGNS IN IRELAND’. The lecture will begin at 3pm. All are welcome

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On Sunday, June 8th. the sun smiled on the sixty or so members and friends of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society who met at Dowth Hall outside Drogheda for a talk given by Fr. Gerard Rice, Council Member and a former President of M.A.H.S.

John Mc Cullen of M.A.H.S. thanked the Pidgeon family for opening up their grounds and their home to the people present. He said that the place was a haven of architecture and heritage, and that the sensitivity of the owners to the landscape and environment was well summed up by the notice displayed on the letterbox at the gate, a notice that read ‘Please do not use – birds nesting’.

Fr. Rice began by explaining that he would speak about what is behind what those present could see, as well as what was to be seen. He did this under three headings:-

The Netherville Context, Palladian Architecture and The Plasterwork, which he said was the "glory of Dowth Hall". The Nethervilles came to Ireland around 1308/9 and acquired the estate, granted as a demesne by the Baron of Slane. They flourished as Lords of the Manor of Dowth and were among those ennobled by James 1st. Lord Netherville became Viscount Netherville, with a place in the House of Lords. The Nethervilles lost their lands in Cromwell's time but the estate was later restored to the family. In 1727 preparations for the building of Dowth Hall began. Fr. Rice traced the history of the various Netherville owners, until the house passed to the Gradwell family. Later the Camerons owned it, and the Pidgeon family own Dowth Hall today. "The place", said the speaker, "is a physical affirmation of the change of emphasis in the Netherville family as they became part of the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland".

Outside Fr. Rice pointed out the various Palladian features of Dowth Hall. Enthusiastic, appreciative and knowledgeable, he outlined the history of the development of the Palladian style. Dowth Hall was, more than likely, designed by George Darley of Drogheda. It has a lovely front which is beautifully balanced, and is like a town house in the country. It can be managed "without a big number of people keeping the show on the road" said Fr. Rice.

The remodelling of Carton House in Co. Kildare by Richard Cassels meant that the Swiss plasterers, the brothers Paul and Philip Francini were brought to Ireland from Britain. Their work, which became the fashion at this time, left Ireland with with a rich legacy of 18th. century stucco design, their themes echoing the preoccupation of the wealthy with sending their children to Europe on cultural tours. An Irishman, Robert West imitated the Francini style, but later became more independent, and it is his style of light and elegant decoration which is to be seen at Dowth Hall today.

The President, Mr. John Gavin thanked the speaker for a wonderful, informative talk and the hosts for their generosity in sharing the heritage of Dowth Hall with the group present.

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ANNUAL EXCURSION, Saturday 14 June 2003
Cavan and the Borderlands:

Cavan and the Borderlands was the theme of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society summer excursion, held on Saturday 14 June. On a beautiful summers day, 52 members and guests, under the expert guidance of
Eugene Markey, Research Officer at the Cavan County Museum, (Ballyjamesduff), set off on a fascinating tour exploring some of the rich heritage and beautiful countryside of Cavan and its border with Meath. Places visited
included Cavan Museum, Kilmore Cathedral and Cemetery, Lough Oughter, Moybulloge and the town of Bailieborough where the group was treated to a wine reception in the beautifully restored Arts and Cultural Centre,
followed by a delicious and leisurely meal in the Bailie Hotel. The outing was organized by Julitta Clancy (Asst. Secretary) and Anne O`Reilly (Hon. Treasurer).
The first stop was in Ballyjamesduff where the Cavan County Museum is located. This is a museum like no other, well worth a visit and very deserving of the awards it has received. Housed in a magnificent 19th, century building and surrounded by beautiful gardens and walkways, the Museum (opened in 1997) contains prehistoric, early historic and medieval artifacts as well as specialist collections such as the GAA Gallery, the folk life section, the churches collection and the exhibition documenting the various fraternal societies of Cavan. Included among this collection are banners, flags, ribbons, sashes, medals, minute books etc. from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish National Foresters, the Orange Order, the Royal Black Institution and other societies which flourished in Cavan in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries (the Orange Order had over 200 lodges in Cavan at one time and the nationalist AOH, founded almost a 100 years later, had a similar number right up to the mid 20th century) .
The collection also includes banners from other counties, including a richly decorated banner of the Navan Foresters and a Navan AOH banner recently sent in to the Museum. Eugene Markey has taken a special interest in building this collection (unique in Ireland) and is an absolute authority on the history, symbolism, structures, rituals etc. of these societies.
Passing through Cavan`s drumlin and lake country the group then visited St Feidhlimidhs Cathedral in Kilmore, c. 3 miles from Cavan town, where guides Wendy Swan and Winston Heaslip told the story of St Feidhlimidhs and the
6th century monastic foundation on Trinity Island (Lough Oughter). The modern Church of Ireland Cathedral, built in 1860, is dedicated to Bishop William Bedell, the 17th century bishop of Kilmore responsible for translating the Old Testament into Irish (a copy of the translation is on display in the Cathedral) who is buried in the nearby cemetery (beside a sycamore tree which he is reputed to have planted). The Cathedral contains some beautiful stained glass windows but is perhaps best known for the 12th century Romanesque doorway on the North side which, it is believed, originated on Trinity Island and was inserted into the first cathedral in 1727. Beside the cemetery is a very fine example of a Norman motte and bailey built by De Lacy as part of the Norman campaign on Ballyshannon but captured by the Irish under Cathal O`Reilly in 1233. Lough Oughter was next visited from here could be seen Clough Oughter Castle, built by the Normans but taken over by the Irish and used as a prison during the 1641 Rebellion. Eugene outlined some of the history of the castle and the surrounding countryside - it was here that General Eoin Roe O`Neill died (reputedly from poisoning), and Bishop Bedell was briefly imprisoned, and here, on the shores of Lough Oughter, where the Planter families of Cavan (numbering almost 3, 000) were rounded up by elements of the O`Reilly army and given the choice of going to Enniskillen, Meath or Drogheda. The castle, a fine example of an Irish keep, was attacked during the Cromwellian campaign and was one of the last castles to surrender to the Cromwellian forces. Passing again through magnificent countryside rich in history and archaeology, the group arrived at Moybulloge (Plain of the Fir Bolg) a prehistoric, early Christian, Norman and later settlement situated a few miles from Bailieborough on the border between Cavan and Meath, Ulster and
Leinster, and between the Gaelic Kingdom of Breiffne and the Norman Pale. The cemetery contains an old church site (from the Augustinian monastery), a holy well (reputed to cure warts), a Famine grave and burials from as
early as the 13th and 14th centuries. In the adjoining field is a particularly magnificent Motte and Bailey beside the remains of a Neolithic passage grave. Bailieborough with its wide streets is reputedly the second highest town
in Ireland. Its Masonic Hall is well worth a visit and the old Wesleyan chapel has recently been restored and now serves as an arts and cultural Centre. A very refreshing and entirely unexpected wine reception welcomed the group
on arrival and the centers administrator Niamh Smyth outlined some of the more unusual activities, including the intriguing After Dark Circle where local history is explored long into the night. Eugene Markey outlined some of
the history of the town and surrounding area and paid tribute to the work of the arts and cultural Centre. The final words went to Julitta Clancy who, on behalf of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, thanked Eugene for sharing his knowledge and giving so generously of his time throughout the day and in the planning of the outing. She complimented the arts centre and the Cavan County Museum for their industry and their pioneering work, which was a major contribution not only to local and national history but also to reconciliation and healing on the island.

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James Robinson.

On Sunday 19th. October, under the auspices of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, a lecture on James Laurence Carew (1853-1903)- Parnellite MP was delivered at Trim Library by James Robinson. A family and social historian, James Robinson wrote and published his own family history in 1997 entitled "The Robinsons of North Kildare- 300 Years of Family History". Subsequently, he has written for local magazines and has lectured to local history societies in Kildare.

Mr. Robinson began by quoting the broadcaster, John Bowman, who when asked in 2000 to name the greatest achievement in Ireland during the previous 1000 years, is said to have replied;- "the acquisition of the ownership of the land by the people of Ireland." This assertion formed the context for the lecture to the society.

Mr. Robinson said that J.M. Carew was his first cousin three times removed, who was returned for Westminister Parliament for three divisions. The year 2003 was the centenary of his death, and was an appropriate time to reference his life and times. The speaker outlined the prosperous years of Irish farming life between 1854 and 1874. By 1879, however, much of Ireland was in the grip of agricultural depression. As tenants most Irish farmers were vulnerable to eviction if they could not pay their rents. By the 1870’s evictions were common and also reprisals, taking the form of crimes against landlords and their agents, and also against people who accepted farms from which others had been expelled.

Outlining the development of the Irish National Land League, the speaker explained that in 1879 its driving force, Michael Davitt persuaded Charles Stewart Parnell to become its president. Parnell urged farmers not to pay unjust rents or to occupy farms from which others had been evicted. He also suggested a system of ‘Moral Coventry’ for dealing with new occupiers, and it was against this background that James Laurence Carew entered politics, having a previous academic background of studies at Trinity College (Bachelor of Arts, 1873) and law (Middle Temple – called to the English Bar 1879). The speaker read extensive extracts from documents and papers of the time outlining the involvement of Carew’s extended family in the Land League agitation, which activities he speculated, must have been a motivating force for his own political involvement. Carew entered politics by contesting the General Election in 1885. He won a seat for the Nationalists in the North Kildare division. Around this time he bought up the Leinster Leader (the local Nationalist paper) and became its proprietor. He was also one of the founders of the Irish Daily Independent and became its managing director. He was elected the whip of the Irish Party in parliament and became a close confidante of C.S. Parnell. When the Nationalist Party split in 1890 Carew took the Parnellite side, contributed significantly to the Parnellite cause and was its main benefactor. During Carew’s two month illness in 1890 rumours were put about that he had changed sides. However, a letter from his brother, Thomas Maurice Carew, to the editor of The Freeman’s Journal (dated 3rd December 1890) set out James’ unambiguous position as having "unchanged and unchanging fidelity to his leader", and requested the help of the editor to "contradict the injurious and unfounded rumours."

With the aid of many slides and photographs Mr. Robinson continued to outline the history of the Parnellite movement and the opposition of the clergy in Co. Meath. The Bishop of Meath, Dr. Nulty, for instance, in a pastoral, urged the people to "stamp out, by your votes at the coming election, the great moral, social and religious evil which has brought much division and bad blood among a hitherto united people." J.L. Carew lost his seat in 1872, defeated by Mr. P.J. Kennedy the anti-Parnellite Nationalist, and in 1895 was again defeated. In 1896, on the resignation of Dr. Kennedy, Carew was returned for the South Meath division, which he represented until his death. He had been nominated without his knowledge or consent. Adverse comment followed the result, and he was not accepted as a member of the United Irish Party when reunion took place under John Redmond. Thereafter he sat as an Independent Nationalist.

Though never a mainstream contributor to parliamentary debates, said the speaker, J.L. Carew was nevertheless an unwavering support to Parnell. The stress of his involvement in the Land War and the Home Rule campaigns probably contributed to his early death, at the age of fifty, in 1903. In an obviously heartfelt tribute to his ancestor, Mr. Robinson concluded that, in a period when men of his standing and wealth pursued more genteel activities, Carew choose to tread the rough and thorny path of Irish political life.

Mr. Robinson’s talk was followed by question time, which quickly evolved into a most enjoyable and wide ranging discussion of such topics as the phenomenon of politicians serving prison sentences, Spanish vineyards, the location of the 2003 Ploughing Championships, maps and various other members of the Carew family. Mr. Ciaran Mangan, County Librarian and M.A.H.S. council member, who kindly arranged the venue, also chaired the meeting. An enthusiastic audience applauded his vote of thanks to Mr. Robinson.

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The Australian-Irish Heritage Association (Western Australia)

PO Box 1583


Western Australia, 6904

4 March 2004


An Taoiseach,

Bertie Ahern TD,

Dail Eireann,

Dublin 2.


Re: Proposed desecration of Tara


Dear Sir,

The Australian-Irish Heritage Association (Western Australia) is an inclusive voluntary organisation which encourages and promotes an awareness of Australia’s Irish heritage. To this end, the Association creates opportunities for all to learn about, participate in and enjoy this distinctive heritage. Historic sites in Ireland form an integral part of this heritage which we treasure and seek to preserve for the benefit of future generations.

With this in mind, we are writing to protest of the proposed motor highway project in the Tara-Skryne Valley. This project will irreparably destroy or damage the Hill of Tara and numerous other archeological and historical sites in the proposed project area. Why is the Irish government ignoring other proposed routes, which would not disturb such a culturally valuable area?

The Hill of Tara and its immediate environs embody the soul of the Irish people. It is the navel of the Land. The Irish government seems determined to destroy an important part of our Irish culture. In 1995, the Irish government, in a Discovery program documentary, claimed that Tara and its environs was an important, and central part of Irish culture. Has its importance recently changed?

The Hill of Tara, and the surrounding area should be designated a World Heritage Site. Now more than ever, this humble Hill embodies the spirit of the people, a sense of national identity, and the spirit of the Land of Ireland herself.

We urge you, the Irish government, to reconsider the motorway plans for the Tara-Skryne valley, and to designate the Hill of Tara, and its surrounding environs, a World Heritage Site. Once it is gone, we can never regain it.

Yours truly

Brian Corr (President)

on behalf of the board of the Australian-Irish Heritage Association (Western Australia)

Letter to An Taoiseach

  • Hon. Secretary

    Oliver Ward, P.C.,



    Co. Meath

    Tel. (046) 90 52236

      Asst. Secretary

    Julitta Clancy,



    Co. MeathTel.

    (01) 8259438


    17 May 2004

    This letter is from: Mr. John Gavin, President, M.A.H.S.

    and Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Rice, PP, Vice-President, M.A.H.S.

    An Taoiseach

    Bertie Ahern, TD

    Government Buildings, Dublin 2


    Re: Tara archaeological landscape and the proposed M3 Motorway



    Dear Taoiseach,

    We write on behalf of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society to appeal to you and the Government to act now to preserve the cultural landscape of Tara which is currently under serious threat from the proposed M3 (Clonee to Kells) motorway scheme.

    At the recent AGM of our Society held on 31 March the following resolutions concerning the M3 and Tara were passed by the members:

    1. "That the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society write to the Taoiseach respectfully requesting that the section of the proposed M3 motorway which would pass through the Tara-Skryne Valley be reconsidered and completed in such a way as to preserve the integrity of the Hill of Tara and the valley itself. Furthermore, that a copy of such letter be forwarded to the relevant government ministers, the National Roads Authority, Meath County Council, the Meath Co. Manager, Meath TDs and local councillors, the Meath Chronicle and the EU Commissioner for the Environment".
    2. "That the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society calls for Tara and its unique archaeological landscape to be designated a World Heritage Site, and that the Society write to the Taoiseach and the Minister for the Environment asking them to apply formally to UNESCO for such designation".

    The archaeological landscape of Tara – widely acknowledged as "one of the richest and best known archaeological landscapes in Europe" (N3 EIS Vol. 4)– has remained virtually intact for over 6, 000 years. It is, without doubt, one of our nation’s most important cultural, historic and archaeological complexes. It was in recognition of this importance that the Government commissioned a pioneering research project (the Discovery Programme) to study the Hill of Tara and its hinterland in 1992.

    This programme, involving non-intrusive research methods, has not only discovered a large number of new and interesting monuments on the Hill of Tara and in the surrounding countryside, but it has also uncovered a wealth of new data on the nature and importance of the Tara landscape. It demonstrates a constant and coherent vision of ritual function for at least 5, 000 years – a unique ritual landscape that must be preserved for future generations.

    If the M3 motorway goes ahead as planned this unique landscape will be destroyed forever. Is this how our generation will be remembered?


    Meath Archaeological and Historical Society 17 May 2004/2

    The motorway will cut this ancient landscape in two, it will involve a major 26-acre floodlit interchange just 1km from the northern end of the Hill of Tara itself, and it will destroy at least 26 archaeological sites and monuments in this section of the route alone. These sites and monuments – some of which have been described as "complex" and "spectacular" by members of the Discovery Programme - were discovered in the course of a geophysical survey conducted along this 14.5km section of the 62km motorway after the present route was selected. The financial costs and time requirements implicit in investigating this number of sites could be enormous. And these discoveries – we are advised by Conor Newman, Director of the Discovery Programme’s Tara Survey - are only "the tip of the iceberg".

    What we are saying is not new – all of this was known at the time of the oral hearing and was pointed out in the submissions of our Society and those of many other groups and individuals including the acknowledged experts on Tara’s archaeology, the Discovery Programme.

    It is out of our civic duty that we come to you now to re-emphasise the folly of this route alignment through the Tara landscape.

    The NRA tell us they have followed due process, the Ministers for Environment and Transport have argued the same, but clearly this process is flawed when it cannot recognise and take cognisance of:

    Taoiseach, you will be aware of the recent major find in Waterford and the enormous impact that will have on the proposed Waterford Bypass. Any one of the 26 sites identified by the geophysical survey in the Dunshaughlin-Navan section of the M3 Motorway could, we are reliably advised, have greater importance than this find alone, both in terms of its value and antiquity. We therefore ask that:

    1. The Clonee to Dunshaughlin section of the motorway and the Dunshaughlin Bypass be constructed first as was the original plan put forward by Meath Co Council
    2. Intensive study be undertaken to (a) realign this motorway in this section, or (b) to come up with a different strategy that will adequately meet the urgent traffic, road safety and commuting needs of the people of Meath
    3. Any such study and/or realignment should have as its underlying objective the preservation of the archaeological landscape of Tara as identified by the Discovery Programme
    4. Application be made to UNESCO to have the Tara archaeological landscape designated as a World Heritage Site
  • We look forward to hearing from you,

    Yours sincerely

    Signed on behalf of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society:

    President: Mr. John Gavin, Knock, Killua, Clonmellon, Co. Meath

    Vice-President: Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Rice, PP, Kilcloon, Dunboyne, Co. Meath

  • CC: An Tanaiste, Mary Harney, TD; Minister for Transport, Séamus Brennan, TD; Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, TD; Minister for Education, Noel Dempsey, TD; John Bruton, TD, Mary Wallace, TD, Johnny Brady, TD, Damien English, TD; EU Commissioner for the Environment, Margot Wallstrom; Meath Co. Manager, Mr Tom Dowling, Chairman of Meath Co Council, Cllr. Oliver Brooks, all Meath County Councillors and members of Navan, Kells and Trim councils, the National Roads Authority and the Meath Chronicle.





    Meath Archaeological and Historical Society

    M3 (Clonee-North of Kells) Motorway

    Submission on the

    Likely Effects on the Environment with Particular Reference to the Cultural Heritage


  • Presented at the Oral Hearing conducted by An Bord Pleanala

    At the Boyne Valley Hotel, Drogheda. 12 September 2002

    1. Concerns Relating to the Cultural Heritage
    2. I. Context: four motorways in "an archaeologically sensitive landscape"

      II. Alternative routes – archaeological implications

      III. "Cultural Heritage"

      IV. Non-technical summary (section 5.4)

      V. Dunshaughlin to Navan archaeological landscape

      VI. Conditions which should be applied to M3 development

    3. Supplementary Matters:
  • Facilitation of Public Involvement in the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure – observations and recommendations
  • 1. Access to information

    2. Access to expertise and resources

    3. Access to the hearing procedure

  • Meath Archaeological and Historical Society
  • Submissions on the Proposed M3 Motorway

    The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society welcomes this opportunity to present our submissions on the proposed M3 motorway. Our submission is in two parts: the first part sets out our concerns – both general and specific - in relation to the likely effects of the proposed motorway on our cultural heritage, and the second part sets out some general observations, criticisms and suggestions in relation to the facilitation of public participation in the environmental impact assessment procedure where major developments such as the present proposal are involved.

    A. Concerns in Relation to The Cultural Heritage

    I. Context: four major roadways traversing an "archaeologically sensitive landscape"

    1. Unique archaeological landscape:

    The M3 is one of four new motorway/major roadways being planned, or already undergoing construction, in Co. Meath, an area noted, both nationally and internationally, for the richness of its archaeological, historical and wider cultural heritage.

    In terms of recorded field monuments alone, almost 2,000 have already been documented in Co. Meath – including some of the most significant prehistoric and historic monuments in the country - and the number and variety of sites and monuments being discovered and identified is growing yearly. Indeed, recent archaeological excavations along the route of the M1 motorway have confirmed what had long been suspected: that this "visible archaeology" is only a very small part of the archaeology of Meath.

    Professor George Eogan, former Chairman of the Discovery Programme, has described his visit to archaeological excavations along one 12-mile stretch of the M1 then under construction (from the River Nanny to Monasterboice):

    "I could hardly believe what I was seeing, and in such abundance – Neolithic houses, Grooved Ware temples, Beaker settlement, Bronze Age cairn, unusual Iron Age, Early Christian and Medieval structures and many more. Here before one’s eyes was a truly astonishing archaeological array… Literally what one has is an archaeological mosaic, a multi-layered carpet, with each carpet representing a successive stage of human endeavour and achievement…. It is not an exaggeration to say that these excavations constitute a glittering parade of cultures….. we could hardly have anticipated that so much of the prehistory and history lay invisible and unknown, underneath those rich agricultural lands.."

    (Extract from Dr. Eogan’s address to seminar held by the Meath and Louth Archaeological and Historical Societies, Drogheda, 9 June 2001, and published in Riocht na Midhe 2002, Journal of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, pp. 4-5)

    In addition, the Discovery Programme’s detailed research and investigation into Tara and its hinterland has uncovered sites of continuous human settlement and activity over thousands of years, and has also increased our knowledge as to the size and extent of many of the prehistoric sites, showing them to be part of a much wider landscape than had heretofore been understood.

    This rich archaeological and historical inheritance reflects the entire span of known human settlement and endeavour on this island, from the earliest hunter-fisher communities of the Mesolithic period (almost 10, 000 years ago) down to post-Medieval and modern times.


    2. Failure of EIS to give an overall assessment of the impact of the M3:

    Four motorways are planned to run through this rich archaeological landscape yet the EIS considers only the proposed M3 and takes no account of the other roads, particularly the M2 and M1. We feel, therefore, that the EIS is flawed in this respect, in that it does not give a full assessment of the impact on the archaeological and cultural heritage, bearing in mind the fact that these roads are in fact relatively close to each other (particularly the M2 and M3) and indeed the planning for each one of these motorways must have affected the route selection for the others. In this instance at least, it is clear that archaeology was not the dominant consideration in the choice of the preferred route.

    3. Necessity for four motorways in close proximity:

    The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society is not opposed to roads development, or indeed motorways per se, but we are extremely concerned for the archaeological and wider cultural heritage. We question the need for four motorways to run through Meath - in particular we feel that two of the proposed motorways, the M3 and the M2, might well have been combined from the outset, or at least combined in part, thus minimising the effects on our archaeological and historical heritage.


    4. Absence of overall transport strategy:

    The original brief for the entire project – and consequently for the EIS and the environmental impact assessment procedure – was flawed from the beginning in that it relates only to roads development. There was no provision for the consideration of alternative approaches to the traffic and commuting problems, particularly the possibility of reopening the rail link between Dublin and Navan. Reopening the rail line would have less impact on the archaeological heritage and landscape than the construction of two motorways, and would also, of course, reduce commuter traffic on the roads and therefore result in less damaging effects on the overall environment.


    II. M3: alternative routes and archaeological implications:

    While the alternative routes considered are described in the EIS, there is a notable lack of information on the archaeological implications considered in relation to these alternative routes.


    III. "Cultural Heritage"

    1. Limited interpretation of "cultural heritage" in EIS

    The term "cultural heritage" is not defined in the legislation, but it is interpreted in the EIS as concerning only "archaeology" and "buildings of cultural interest". This interpretation is, we believe, far too limited.


    2. "Cultural heritage" having much wider meaning

    The term "cultural heritage" should be given its wider meaning, taking in archaeology, architecture, local history, folklore, art, ritual etc. and including archaeological sites, monuments, features and artifacts, buildings, structures and features of historic, architectural or cultural interest, place-names, old field names and road names, natural features, trees, bushes etc., that may have been part of ritual or traditional customs.

    3. Need for comprehensive detailing of all cultural aspects

    We believe that the EIS should include comprehensive detailing of all cultural aspects directly or indirectly affected by the proposed motorway. This would include the mapping and recording of all cultural sites, natural features, old field and road names, trees, bushes etc. that may have been part of ritual or traditional customs.


    IV. Non-technical summary (section 5.4)

    The Act requires a "summary in non-technical language" – surely the reason for this is to explain the salient issues to the general public?

    The section on "Cultural heritage" (5.4) in the non-technical summary of the EIS, fails, in our opinion to give a clear and concise summary of the likely impacts on the cultural heritage.


    V. Dunshaughlin to Navan section of M3

    1. Unique archaeological landscape

    While the entire route of the proposed M3 is of great archaeological and cultural significance and accordingly requires immense care and sensitivity, the section from Dunshaughlin to Navan is particularly so as it proposes to run between the hills of Tara and Skreen, acknowledged by the relevant archaeological consultant for the EIS as "one of the richest and best-known archaeological landscapes in Europe." (Volume 4C, p. 3).

    The monuments and sites at Tara have long been known to be of great historical and cultural importance, but in recent years major new discoveries have come to light, largely through the non-intrusive survey and research work undertaken by the Discovery Programme. These discoveries attest not only to a much larger collection of prehistoric monuments on the hill of Tara itself, but also to a much wider hinterland for the Tara complex, spreading across the valley and comprising an area of continuous human settlement over thousands of years. It is through this area that the proposed M3 will run!


    2. Route selection

    While we recognise the difficulties of route selection and while we accept that a number of other routes were considered before the preferred route was adopted, we do not understand why the M3 has to pass through this archaeologically rich landscape, and in particular we do not understand the change of route which brings the motorway back across the existing N3 at Blundelstown, thereby coming quite close to the hill of Tara itself. It would appear that the only reason for this change in the route is to ensure a westerly route around Navan, thus avoiding the issue of the debate of whether the proposed M2 is actually required or not.


    3. Work of the Discovery Programme at Tara

    The Discovery Programme has been conducting intensive archaeological and historical research and investigation in the Tara area for over 10 years, and has built up a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the archaeology and history of the area through which the motorway will run.

    We would like to know whether any consultations were held with the members of the Discovery Programme either at the route selection stage or as part of the EIS, and we would respectfully suggest that they be consulted in the environmental impact assessment procedure.

    While not one of the prescribed bodies specified in the legislation, we feel that their experience and expertise would be invaluable, both in assessing the impacts of the M3 on the cultural heritage of this area, and also in advising on the archaeological implications and requirements, should the proposed route be adopted.


    B. Conditions which should be applied to the M3 development:

    If the inspector – or, rather, An Bord Pleanala - sees fit to allow the M3 to proceed along the preferred route, we would hope that strict conditions would be applied in order to better protect the cultural heritage and to mitigate the direct and indirect effects of the construction and operation of a motorway running through such a culturally sensitive landscape.

    In addition to the recommendations contained in the various archaeological reports in the EIS, and any requirements prescribed by Duchas and the National Museum, we would like to see the following conditions included in any approval:

    1. Sufficient funds and time to be allocated for thorough archaeological investigation along all sections of the proposed motorway before any construction work commences – including geophysical surveying and aerial photography, mapping and recording of features, place-names and field names etc. (as listed above), test trenching and full archaeological excavation where that is required. This allocation must be over and above what would normally be estimated for such investigation and recording, because of the archaeological sensitivity of the landscape through which the motorway will run.
    2. Provision for continuous archaeological monitoring at top-soil stripping stage all along the route. Where new discoveries are made, provision for sufficient funds and time for investigation and recording, and full archaeological excavation where that is required.
    3. If a major discovery comes to light, provision to be made for altering the route of the motorway so as to avoid damaging the site.
    4. Provision to be made for liaison and communication between the various archaeological teams employed along the route, and in the different sections of the route. We would also call for the appointment of a research director to coordinate the work along the various sections and to oversee post-excavation research and publication of reports.
    5. Information on all archaeological investigations and discoveries to be made available, not only to the statutory authorities such as Duchas and the National Museum, but also to local archaeological and historical societies and the general public. No restrictions to be placed on such provision of information.
    7. Provision to be made for regular communication, consultation and discussion with local historical and archaeological societies, An Taisce, and the general public, on all archaeological, cultural and historical aspects and discoveries in relation to the proposed road development.
    8. Provision to be made for the permanent public display of archaeological finds at a suitable venue in Meath, giving back to the people a portion of their local and national heritage.
  • (viii) As archaeological excavation is destruction, particularly when associated with road construction, publication of all research and finds is absolutely vital. Therefore, provision should be made for the publication of detailed reports of all archaeological investigations and excavations along the proposed route.
  • We echo the call made last year by Dr. George Eogan for an "integrated approach" to the motorway scheme: that "all components, archaeological, civil engineering, earthmoving etc., should be considered as part of a unified whole, with the different bodies working in harmony for the common good."

    On a positive note, we welcome the archaeological investigations and surveys already undertaken along the chosen route, but we would hope that our concerns as stated above will be taken into account in this assessment procedure.

    We also welcome the appointment by the NRA of a project archaeologist to oversee all aspects and stages of this scheme. We acknowledge the co-operation and assistance she has shown to us and to other local historical societies as well as to the general public. We look forward to continuing discussions, exchange of information and co-operation not only with the project archaeologist, but also with Meath County Council, the NRA, the archaeological companies who will be employed along the route and all other bodies involved in the proposed road development.

    B. Supplementary matters:

    We would like to draw the inspector’s attention to some general matters in relation to the environmental impact assessment procedure and the oral hearing.

    1. Public involvement in the environmental impact assessment procedure and the oral hearing.

    The European Union introduced the environmental impact assessment procedure to provide for the public description, examination, assessment and mitigation of the direct and indirect effects of major development projects, such as roads and motorways, on all aspects of the environment.

    Public involvement is implicit in the environmental impact assessment procedure, and third parties have a statutory right to lodge objections and comment on the EIS.

    The full exercise of this statutory right depends on the following factors:

  • (i) Access to information

    (ii) Access to expertise and resources

      1. Access to the hearing procedure


    (i) Access to information:

  • Major developments, such as the proposed M3 motorway, impact in a wide variety of ways on local people and on the local environment. If public involvement in the environmental impact assessment procedure is to be taken seriously, and if a proper assessment is to be made, all relevant information in relation to the proposed road development, including initial planning and route selection procedures and guidelines, experts’ submissions and reports etc., should be made available for inspection, as well as the EIS.

    In practice, voluntary groups and individuals usually have to find out for themselves what information to ask for, and can in some cases be denied information simply because they did not ask for the documentation or report by the correct title. This flies against the spirit of the EU Directive. Full access to information is essential for the assessment of the likely effects of development and no information should be withheld for technical or bureaucratic reasons.

    In order to facilitate the widest possible public consultation, the time permitted for public inspection of an EIS and related documents should be increased beyond the present statutory time limits, and environmental impact statements – at least in relation to major developments such as motorways - should be available for inspection at a wider number of outlets, and should be published also on the internet. We would ask the inspector to consider including this suggestion for legislative reform in his report.

    The costs of purchasing environmental impact statements should not be prohibitive. Sections could be made available in photocopy form at cheaper rates. Also, while this EIS was initially available in CD format, errors were found in many of the copies sold and further copies were, we understand, withdrawn for this reason.

    1. Access to expertise and resources
    2. Support and assistance for residents’ groups and voluntary societies:

      The environmental impact assessment legislation gives statutory rights to third parties to lodge objections and present submissions on the EIS, but there is no provision for professional and/or financial assistance to facilitate the exercise of these rights. This results in an imbalance and inbuilt inequity, particularly where major developments such as the M3 are proposed, in that individuals and voluntary groups such as historical societies, residents’ groups, environmental groups etc., have to rely entirely on their own resources to inspect all aspects of the documentation – including expert

      reports - and to make informed submissions and presentations on the information they are given and in the narrow time period allowed for such study. For individuals and small voluntary groups the exercise of their statutory rights involves a great expense in time, energy and money, while in contrast the developers - often large corporations or indeed public authorities - have access to full information, salaried staff, in-house information, professional expertise and legal advice. This cannot be conducive to full assessment of the likely effects on the environment. We would ask the inspector to consider including in his report some suggestions for legislative reform in this area that would help in some way to mitigate this imbalance in the future, and would lead to a fairer and more co-operative approach to the resolution of difficulties in relation to major developments.

    3. Access to the hearing procedure:
  • Along with many other people in Meath, the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society objects to the choice of Drogheda as the venue for this public oral hearing. While we have no problem with the particular hotel chosen, we feel that such an important hearing should have been held at a more suitable venue in Meath, so as to facilitate the people who will be most affected by the new motorway, and so as to permit as many interested people as possible to come along and listen to the proceedings and/or to make their submissions.
  • .
  • Presented on behalf of the Society by Julitta Clancy, Assistant Secretary and former President of the Society, at the oral hearing in the Boyne Valley Hotel, Drogheda, 12 September 2002

    Addenda: Following presentation of the submission, the Society was informed that a decision had been made to modify the proposed M2. Instead of a full motorway, what was now proposed was a dual carriageway to Ashbourne and a bypass of Slane. This however does not substantially affect our submission; indeed it only adds further weight to our proposition that if a motorway had to go through the centre of Meath at all, then it would be likely to have less impact on the cultural heritage if it were to be located east of Skreen, avoiding completely the Tara-Skreen valley. Thus the M2 and M3 could be combined, rather than constructing a motorway and a dual carriageway. It would also, obviously, open up the way for - and possibly hasten - the reopening of the rail line from Dublin to Navan.

    Secondly, in relation to issues we raised concerning the work of the Discovery Programme, we have been informed that the Discovery Programme lodged an objection to the route in 2000. They have also given their full backing to the objection lodged by Conor Newman, archaeologist, a noted expert on the archaeology of Tara and its hinterland.


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