A series by Gemma Grant


I am white Fintan mac Bochra son of Bith, son of Noah, who arrived in Ireland with Noah’s granddaughter, Cressair. I am a high noble sage, an ancient shanachie. Before the time of the sons of Mil, I was bearing clear testimony to the noble hosts. I am Fintan. I have lived long. This is my tale of how the Settling of Tara was decided.

During the reign of the O’Neill dynasty of Ulster, the high kings would put on a magnificent feast, honouring the men of Ireland. The grandiose affair would take place every three years on the hill of Tara, home to the High Kings of Ireland.

The best of food and finest ales were prepared and made ready for the banquet, that lasted for seven days and seven nights. Kings, queens, chieftains, their wives, bards, the young and old, people from every class and none, would arrive from all over Ireland.

Seating was arranged according to status. Kings, oiliúna, bards and shanachie, would be placed next to the High King. Chieftains and their warriors would sit together, representing a fighting force. Young men and women would be seated in the chambers around the doors and all would be apportioned their fair share of the food and drink.
The choice cuts of meat and finest fruits went to the high table, but none assembled would go hungry or thirsty. Such was the generosity to be expected from the High King and his court.

However, before this particular banquet got under way, Diarmait Mac Cerbaill, considered to be Ireland’s first Christian High King, pondered how best to offset the costs of staging such an event. The excessive demesne of Tara, offered rich, fertile land that remained uncultivated and therefore unprofitable.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own