Maigh Adhair & Westropp’s Ancient Places Of Assembly

Thomas Johnson Westropp (16 August 1860 – 9 April 1922) was an Irish antiquarian, folklorist and archaeologist. He displayed an early interest in antiquities, making notes on topography, ancient buildings and folk life whenever his family would make trips into the neighbouring counties.

The ancient places of assembly in the counties Limerick and Clare

 Westropp, Thomas Johnson. “The Ancient Places of Assembly in the Counties Limerick and Clare.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 9, no. 1, 1919, pp. 1–24

Westropp acknowledges the impact of Christianity on the celtic era but notes “The Ancient Laws, after their Christian editing, left as much standing of the old social fabric as was possible, more than was tolerated elsewhere. Here there was no legislation against the old sanctuaries, pillar stones, wells and trees; Christianity took them over with a new meaning. It mattered not that Lug the sun god had established the Assembly of Tailltiu, the priests of the neighbouring church brought their relics to be shown to the multitude in the intervals of the solar games, and though the desire of burial at the holiest churches brought the remains of many a chief to their cemeteries, other chiefs, down even to the fourteenth century, sought burial in some venerated fort or mound.”.

 With respects to Magh Ahair he notes “Even then all was not lost. Chiefs were inaugurated at the Oenach of Magh Adair down to the reign of Edward II, and very probably to that of Elizabeth. Assemblies called Oireachta gathered there yearly to the time of the great Famine in 1844”.

He describes Magh Adhair as follows:

(11) Oenach Maig Adair, the famous inauguration place of the Dal Cais princes from 877, in Toonagh, near Quin. It has a natural amphitheatre, a flat-topped mound, 24 feet high and 77 feet to 100 feet across the top, with a fosse, gangway (to the west), and outer ring 6 feet high. Near it a large rock with two basins, and a cairn or mound, 10 feet high and 21 feet across, 33 feet to the N. W. of the great mound. Across the Hell River is a slab, or pillar, 6J feet high, and 30 feet by 10 inches, and what seems the butt of a second one.

The Bile Maig Adair, or venerated tree, was cut down by the High King Maelsechlainn, in 981, and its successor, by King Aed of Connacht in 1051. Meetings, ” iraughts,” were held at the mound till 1845, 2 and the name survives in Moyars Park, Moyadare 1288 (in the Pipe Roll No, 27), Tuanamoyre 1584, Tawnaghamoree 1657.3

A paperback version of The Ancient Places Of Assembly is available on amazon and the article can be found in your local library.

Photographs taken by Westrop 1898

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