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Rath Lugh the NRA and You
history and heritage |
Sunday October 21, 2007 05:04 by viajft
Confusion reigns for the NRA
It’s a little darker under the trees than the last time I was here and the colors of Autumn have started there march through the leaves at Rath Lugh. This hill here was never put on an ordnance survey map and the name has shifted and been shifted until it now means only a small monument which may soon disappear. It can be seen from everywhere in the valley, it has been here throughout all of Tara’s history yet details about it are sketchy and it appears only briefly in ancients writings. One of the monuments on its roof has been temporary preserved but which one is unsure. This is after years of planning a road around it, destroying a part of it and then trying to protect it. Due to the advance of the M3 everything in the valley has been documented, mapped and numbered except this hill and now its woods, monuments, graves and spring are snared and encircled by a speculator driven, badly planned and unwanted road.
View Rath Lugh from Lia Fail
Connor Newman in his book Tara, an archaeological survey, wrote that the monument consist of a prominent fort, roughly circular platform. Its about 75m in diameter, east-west, edged by a low bank (0.2m) and surrounded by a wide fosse and extended bank, C- shaped in plan and opening to the south west with a maximum overall diameter of 117m east-west. It has been positioned to take full advantage of the steepness of the slope. This obviates the need to erect earthen defenses across the south-west side of the site. The site contains extensive views, part to the north and part to then north-west but today these views are blocked by undergrowth, dense vegetation and broad leaf tree cover. Later in his book he considered it similar to the Rathmiles site and goes on to say that these sites have a number of features in common but that no attempt has been made to quantify or classify them. Finally he says that it is doubtful whither they could be satisfactory described as ring forts or hill forts as these types are normally defined. He dated it somewhere between 300 bc-300 ad. In summary he describes Rath Lugh ME 032.025 as an inland defended cliff edged enclosure. This is the monument as far as he is concerned but of the land and woods it stands on hen says nothing.
The hill is best known for its connection to the battle of the Gabhra river which runs from a spring in the outer part of its wood into the valley beside it. Lady Augusta Gregory in her book, Gods And Fighting Men, 1904, stated that the battle took place at the “hill of the Gabhra” and when it was over many of the Fianna were left dead on its grassy banks. There days of hunting and war were finally over. Graves were made for them and as Lugaidh’s son was a tall man they made a very wide grave for him, as was fitting for a king, and that Osgar fell in the battle too so the whole Rath of the Gabhra from end to end was made into a grave for him, Osgar, son of Oisin, son of Finn. The graves described in this book could be loosely made to fit both the remains found today on Rath Lugh with the opening of the large grave, the C-shaped enclosure, facing east as was the custom for burial then. This hill of the Gabhra, the Rath of the Gabhra can only be what we call today Rath Lugh.
In the Dindschenchas a poem from Achall tells of the mound of Finn, the mound of the Druids, the mound of Creidne, cheek by cheek, south of Temair of the kings, the royal hold. This was identified as Rath Lugh in The Todd Lectures, series Vol viii, pp 47-48. 1969.
A fort is mentioned in the Colloquy of the Ancients, Silva Gadelia, where it is said that the three sons of Lughaidh Menn, son of Angus, King of Ireland, came to discuss with there father on Fert Na Druaigh, the fort of the Druids, the grave of the wizards, at the Gabhra. Was he dead and buried there by then and was this a magical rite or was it his home, his rath? If the Todd lectures were right then the mound of the druids is also called Rath Lugh.
In 1950 Mz. Elizabeth Hickey writing in The Journal Of The Royal Society Of Antiquaries Of Ireland described Rath Lugh as having traces of a flat circular plateau about 150 feet in diameter with traces of a bank around it and a deep ditch and rampart. Close to it is a large enclosure which appears to be ancient. She wrote that the association of names like Creidne and Lugh, names with old De Dannan associations alongside names like the mound of the druids leads to speculation that the site has origins going back to the mythological cycles of our ligature. Here she seems to be talking about the mound with the C-shaped enclosure beside it?
In the national monuments archives another unsigned handwritten note describes Rath Lugh as been known and named by the locals and then goes on to describe it in a similar way to Mz. Hickeys description. However this note identifies 6 burial like graves on the site alongside the mound and the C- shaped enclosure. These graves cannot be seen clearly today but there are many mounds, hills and collapsed hollows. Here Rath Lugh appears in its totality as the hill and all the monuments. However the note is unsigned and is dated 1969.
In a reply to my query on when it was designated as a national monument Edward Bourke, senior archaeologist in the national monuments archive wrote that Rath Lugh was always considered a national monument but this status was not given formally until the preservation order was placed upon it in recent weeks. So before October the 8th. it was not protected. In his letter he did not answer my full query on what the monument Rath Lugh actually was.
In the Meath List Of Historic Monuments it is described as a ring fort. In the file on Monument 032:025 in the national archives there is a note from Connor Newman where it is described as in his book; an inland defender cliff edge enclosure.
In July Mary Deevy of the NRA when writing up a Lismullen update described the monument as a raised oval area 67E-W, 50 N-S. This cannot be the enclosure. The description seems to be taken from the unsigned handwritten note of 1969. Mz. Deevy updated the file because she knew the NRA data on the Rath was wrong and that the monument was endangered. Mz. Deevy who works to a high professional standard may have became aware of the protests concerning this and corrected things.
If Mary Deevy informed Minister Gormley in July then it had no real effect, the work on the base of Rath Lugh was allowed continue for another three months causing massive upheaval to the perimeter and allowing the Gabhra river be ran into drainage pipes. Work continues. There is no preservation order on anything except perhaps a small mound or on another ruin. The M3 work moves on despite this.
In his protection order, John Gormely had this to say,
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. John Gormley TD, has confirmed today (2 Oct. 06) that he has placed a Temporary Preservation Order on a National Monument at Rath Lugh in Lismullin Townland, Co. Meath, adjacent to lands on which the M3 motorway is under construction. Coillte Teo own the land on which the national monument at Rath Lugh is located.“I have been informed that Rath Lugh is outside the land-take for the M3 although clearly the National Monument is quite close to the perimeter of the road take. In fact a recent survey confirmed that the monument is approximately 20m east of the motorway fence line. Special measures are being put in place to ensure that the monument is not under-mined or endangered in any way during construction or when the road comes into operation. The monument will be over 30m from the motorway carriageway when it is completed, said Minister Gormley “As I have stated previously I am fully committed to preserving the archaeological heritage of this area and I am taking this measure as I want to ensure that the National Monument which is close to the land take for the road is fully protected and not in any danger at all, “added Minister Gormley. The Minister determined that a Temporary Preservation Order should be put in place, initially, to ensure the national monument is protected while he discusses the long-term preservation of the site with Coillte. Ends.
Here are some statements which are almost hidden. The national monument is now at Rath Lugh, then the monument is Rath Lugh, is no longer owned by Coillte as he previously stated but it is on land owned by Coillte. It’s the mound again, it has to be if it is just 20m from the road, and the new distance will be thirty meters from the motorway carriageway. The motorway carriage is the part cars drive on, however between that and the monument there also has to be a hard shoulder for cars to pull in on and a place for drainage channels. Factor them in and the road is back to about 20m from Rath Lugh. There had to be detailed drawings of the site issued before the planning application was granted and work allowed start but were they shown to anyone, did they correspond to reality? Did they state how far the road should be from the monument. This has to be found out.
Also in his statement there is no mention of the trees attacking the monument as was so often stated. That I hope was a bad joke.
It may be history, it may be the workings of the first law of Paddyland: “do things wrong” but the monuments archives make sad reading. Information is so low and detail is so lacking that monuments are often described by a single sentence, a ringfort. The wonderful Henge we came upon near Collierstown is listed as ME 038: 001 but it too is described as a ring fort and the stone in the middle as a scratching stone. This is right, I seen cattle scratching themselves against it but was it placed there for that purpose? The photos in the file are black and white and old and they show the stone. From my investigations it may be that no monument in Ireland is protected until a preservation order is placed on it and if Rath Lugh is an example of this then a monument must first be practically destroyed before the people obliged to protect it will.
That there are at least two monuments on the surface of Rath Lugh is not in doubt, just go there and look, but only one is protected and it is this one which the road must avoid if they must avoid anything. I believe that the mound or burial moat was originally named as the national monument, then the C- shaped enclosure was mistakenly brought into the picture, used as the monument guide line and this explains how the road was first 100m away and then only 20m.
Rath Lugh is ours, it belongs to the Irish people but in an unexplained act of indifference the Irish government handed it over to Coillte, a commercial forestry company who then handed a large slice of it over to the NRA to facilitate the building of the M3. They also cut down the trees on this parcel of land and as a result the protected monument now sits out on the edge on a cliff. Before Coillte got there hands on it, it sat for centuries in the middle of a wood. If work continues as it is continuing then it will be lost forever.
I believe that Connor Newman was wrong. The C- shaped enclosure is not Rath Lugh. It also should be known that the C- shaped enclosure does not open to the south west as he stated, it opens to the east. Nowhere is any part of the barrow five meters tall as he stated, standing in the fosse the tallest part of the barrow comes up to my face; less that 2m. There is no cliff face, it is in the middle of the wood with a small hill or slope to the north. The view from there back in time would be about the same as it is today. Trees. If Tara was in the beginning a Hazel wood as we are told then so too would Rath Lugh. If Connor designated it as the monument as he does in his book and if the NRA then used his book as a reference it explains the problems and the distance issues. His descriptions were wrong.
Last week in a reply to Kathy Sinnot the NRA stated that the Collierstown burial place was a forgotten medieval burial graveyard. In his book Connor Newman describes Collierstown as having a small bronze aged barrow burial site which was partly excavated in 1953. Collierstown was not forgotten. It was well enough known to be archeologically excavated in 1953 and this means that it was considered important and rare back then. Part of that barrow site, now sitting between the bronze age and the early medieval age was still there last week but an even larger part of it was bulldozed away. Nothing about this site can be found in the National archives. The Collierstown burial site appears and disappears like so many monuments in the valley, like they do at Rath Lugh. Urgent investigations are needed before it’s too late. Lots of the M3 works might be wrong too. Wrong work leave monuments gone. They are destroyed.
If there is one prerequisite for settling a land dispute it’s to maintain a proper fence. At Rath Lugh where the dispute has really taken off the fence is gone. All of it. There is a wooden fence marking out the boundary of the road all across the valley but when the M3 arrives at Rath Lugh the fence has disappeared. It was there three weeks ago, now there is not a trace of it. When J. Gormley tells us where the M3 will be he should have a fence to use as a demarcation line, when the cops arrest anybody for trespassing they use the fence as there demarcation line and Rath Lugh needs a fence too; now. It must be put back and maintained and the NRA must now cross that line. This must be done soon. It upholds the law.
If we are serious about stopping the brutal speculator led destruction of our earth then we must stop it here. If the M3 is allowed run just thirty meters from the mound of the druids then we lose this ancient site. Bulldozers or roadshake from traffic will destroy it. This then is our battle, we must bring this out into the open and make it public knowledge by any means possible. We must start an urgent public campaign against the destruction of not just a national monument but the destruction of the most spiritual monument in the whole of the Tara valley complex; the fort of the Druids, the mound of the Wizards.
If Tara was the seat of the kings then Rath Lugh was the seat of magic, home and resting place of wizards and Druids. Monument protection needs help urgently, monuments are vital in the Tara campaign, they are at its centre, they are essential to the preservation of the past and our connection to it. The mound of the druids/wizards is our connection to our old druidic religion and to the magical stream which ran from Tara, through the children of Anu down to us.
What can you do.
Insist that all drawings, plans and specifications concerning Rath Lugh be made public and the work around its immediate area be stopped until this is done.
Insist that our National Monument Legislation and Acts are taken out of the hands of Politicians and put into the care of a genuine heritage organization which is concerned with study, education and conservation only.
Insist that the Meath Master Plan be implemented and the M3 motorway be abandoned. This plan allows for a functioning road, the protection of the Tara valley and complex as a world heritage area, environmental protection, and long term sustainable work for locals. It would conserve the area for the future use and benefit of Irish children, which is there right and birthright and allow Europe and world peoples experience it too.
Insist on an investigation concerning the land deals and land speculation which preceded the planning of the M3, which pulled the road into the Tara valley, which has accelerated and continued as the road makes progress and which carries the stamp, imprint and name of just one political party: Fianna Fail.
The MASTER Plan (standing for Model Archaeological and Sustainable Economic Region), presented on Thursday 20th September 2007 at Dalgan Park, Meath is intended to help Meath become a model for Ireland and the rest of Europe in sustainable practices and development in the energy, housing, tourism, heritage, transport and business development sectors.
Don’t leave Irish politicians which there usual well worn excuse, “we did not know”.
Leave them only with the truth, “ we did not want to know”.
jtfarrelly at yahoo.co.uk .
Rath Lugh damage (c) Paula Geraghty
Gabhra Valley M3 scar
Rath Lugh with Skyrne in background