The county also retains many remains of its ancient military structures, of which the most celebrated in the records of remote antiquity is Taragh, already noticed. Whatever may have been its ancient splendour, as set forth in the poetry of the native bards and in the chronicles of annalists, little now is discoverable corresponding with their highly wrought descriptions. Considerable remains of circular earthworks still exist, but of the palaces and places of scientific study said to have been situated here, there are no traces. The oldest fortress upon record erected after the arrival of the English was that of Kells, built by de Lacy, but of which there are now no vestiges: the same nobleman built the castles of Clonard, Killeen, and Delvin; and the erection of Trim castle is attributed by some to him, but it is more generally thought to have been raised about the year 1220 by one of the Pypart family: its extent and strength, as indicated by its ruins even at the present day, prove that it was designed to be a position of primary importance for the defence of the palatinate; and from the date of its erection to the termination of the war of King William III., its destinies are interwoven with many of the historical events of the times: the ruins overhang the Boyne, presenting an aspect of much grandeur.

The other ancient castles of which the ruins are still considerable were those of Scurlogstown, Dunmoe, Athlumney, and Asigh. Liscartin and Athcarne castles have been fitted up as residences; and several other ancient castles have been preserved by being converted into mansion-houses, among the finest of which is Slane, the property of Marquess Conyngham, and celebrated as being the abode of George IV. during the greater part of his stay in Ireland in 1821. Contiguous to it, but on the other side of the Boyne, is Beaupark, the modern and elegant seat of Gustavus Lambert, Esq.: the two demesnes are so connected in their locality that each enjoys the full benefit of the scenic beauties peculiar to the other. The modern mansions of the nobility and gentry are noticed in the description of the parishes in which they are respectively situated. The residences of the gentry of small landed property and of the beneficed clergy are numerous and indicative of a high state of improvement.

Until of late years the houses of the proprietors and of the cultivators of the soil exhibited a more marked disparity than could be seen in any other part of Ireland; the tenements of the working farmers who hold from 20 to 100 acres presented an appearance of great wretchedness, and the cabins of the labourers or cottiers were still more deficient of comfort; but this characteristic, though not entirely removed, has been considerably diminished by the improvement made in the dwellings.

The lower classes suffer much from the want of fuel, which, as already remarked, is very scarce in many parts, and the low rates of wages prevent the possibility of providing a stock of sea coal to meet the exigencies of winter. Yet the peasantry in general are endowed with a disposition so well inclined to look on the bright points of the prospect before them, that under the depressing difficulties through which they have to struggle during life, they enjoy every momentary festivity with delight and animation.

The English language is spoken throughout every part of the county, and the peasantry in some of the districts possess an originality nowhere else found in Ireland, particularly in the plains stretching from the boundary of Kildare near Maynooth, by Ratoath, Duleek, and to the banks of the Boyne, where a colony called the Fingael or Fingal settled in the 9th century, whose descendants to this day remain a distinct race, retaining many of the peculiar habits, manners, and customs of their forefathers.

At Castlekieran is a remarkably fine spring, the origin of which tradition attributes to the miraculous powers of St. Kieran: it is much frequented on the first Sunday in August by persons seeking a remedy for various diseases. At Summerhill is a chalybeate spa, but not of much strength or medicinal efficacy. The waters of the mineral springs of Kilcriew and Nobber are said to be serviceable in obstinate cutaneous complaints. At Knock is another chalybeate spring, formerly in much estimation from its successful use in cases arising from debility; but the opinion of its efficacy has been for some time declining, and it is now but seldom visited. Meath gives the title of Earl to the Brabazon family.

County Meath | Meath Baronies and Towns | Meath Soil | Meath Agriculture | Meath Trees | Meath Geology | Meath Manufacturing | Meath Rivers | Meath Antiquities | Meath Society | Diocese of Meath

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