Poets and musicians at Tara
On Sunday 24 August 2008 Save Tara campaigners presented an international gathering of poets and musicians at Tara to honour and celebrate the place and our heritage. It was organised by Susan McKeown and Paul Muldoon.
Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, Pulitzer prize-winner, read their poetry and were joined by Grammy award-winner Susan McKeown who was accompanied by Aidan Brennan. Laoise Kelly and Steve Cooney also playing at the event.
The event took place in the churchyard under a blue sky and a shining sun as 250 people listened to Ireland’s most celebrated poets read for Tara and speak about the importance of place and heritage. The performers were introduced by Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin of the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Each act gave three pieces in honour of the importance of triplicity in early Ireland.
Visitors to the Hill who were unaware of the event were astonished to see Seamus Heaney reading and reciting his poetry in this beautiful and informal venue.
The afternoon opened with Susan McKeown singing a mixture of her own compositions and some Irish songs accompanied by the guitar playing of Aidan Kelly.
This was followed by Paul Muldoon who recited, among others, a poem about his own home place and the river Moy. Paul Muldoon wrote a poem ‘Tara of the Kings’ in 2006; it was put to music and played, for the first time, by his band Rackett in Navan in August 2007. He wrote in the New York Times in 2007: “the routing of a busy road slap bang through the Tara-Skryne Valley represents an act of vandalism with not only national, but international, ramifications”. He also joined Susan McKeown in a musical, harpers protest outside the Irish consulate in New York in September 2007 when harpers in Ireland played outside the Dáil.
Laoise Kelly played Planxty Wilkinson; this was composed by the famous composer Carolan for the Wilkinson family of Meath in the eighteenth century. The family still live in the Skryne area and the hugely important monument of Baronstown was found on their land.
Brendan Duffin, a longtime campaigner and Tara warrior, sang his Call to Warriors, calling on all those associated with Tara in the past to come to her aid in this her time of need.
Then came the main performer, Seamus Heaney reminded the crowd of the importance of speaking out loud aloud and enunciating the importance of things – if something is not said it will not be remembered. He read his poem on ‘Bogland’ – how many archaeological remains of the past have been found in bogs and also one of the Sweeny poems celebrating the landscape.
Seamus Heaney said in 2007: “for the past two millennia those generations regarded Tara as a place invested with sacred as opposed to secular value. Protest against the loss of this value remains an imperative”. In an interview with Diarmaid Fleming for a BBC documentary in 2008 he said the motorway: "literally desecrates an area - I mean the word means to desacralise' and, for centuries, the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground". He referred to the 1916 Proclamation having summoned the Irish people "in the name of the dead generations" and said: "If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times . . . it was Tara".
Then Susan and Aidan gave us another song, she spoke of Cú Chulainn’s combat with Ferdia and his washing in the rivers of Ireland and sang her own song about those rivers, including the Boyne. Steve Cooney sang his song ‘The Money Mad Mile’ and made apologies for the fact that Liam Ó Maonlaoi could not be with us. As he sang of ‘Tara’s sky so blue’ the clouds separated, the blue sky appeared and the sun shone through. Surely another magical Tara moment.
For those present and for the press who decided to come, it was an unexpected treat to have Seamus Heaney present. He stayed for a good while afterwards, posed for photographs, spoke to his many fans and signed autographs for all of us groupies.
It was lovely to see so many friendly faces from the campaign at the event. Banners on the Meath Masterplan and on the petition to re-inter the bodies were clear to see. Campaigners were sitting at the gate to Tara and the petition was there for people to sign and hundreds of them did.
Tara will feature again at the Electric Picnic. A replica of Newgrange will be devoted to Tara. There is to be a cafe, merchandise stall, Tara information and pictures hung up all round the structure, talks and a Tara concert with Liam O Maonlai, Kila, Yap Political, Emma Harper and others from the album.