The following is the introduction to the limited edition by Eoin, Netta and Geraldine which was lunched at a gathering by the family on the Hill of Tara in May 2019 and is now on sale on the Hill of Tara.
Copies may also be bought through this website, details on application, via the contact page for ?11 including postage.
This limited, 2019, edition of The Legend of Tara, written by Elizabeth Hickey commemorates twenty years since her death in 1999. In the early 1950s our mother/mother-in-law took part in the excavations at Tara with Prof. Sean P. O?Riordain, then Professor of Celtic Archaeology at UCD. She was also part of the excavation team at Lough Gur in County Limerick and was very much involved with The Pageant of Tara which took place at Easter 1953.
Elizabeth Hickey campaigned to secure the distinguished stained glass window in St Patrick?s Church on Tara by the artist Evie Hone, titled The Descent of the Holy Spirit, it was commissioned in 1933. When the church was deconsecrated in 1991 and taken over by the O.P.W., the window was boarded up ? but not at all safe. Mrs Hickey and others campaigned to have it secured and eventually the O.P.W. came and removed it temporarily for safe keeping. Now secure and also in the church at Tara, after resting awhile at Skryne Church, is the Cusack Stone which Elizabeth Hickey unearthed while researching at Trevet near Dunshaughlin.
One of her more publicized campaigns, for it was covered by RTE Television, was over the replacement of the old statue of Saint Patrick on Tara. The following tribute by Fr. Gerard Rice, a fellow member of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, was paid to his good friend on the occasion of erecting a stone plaque in memory of Elizabeth Hickey at the entrance to the Churchyard and Steeple on the Hill of Skryne.
Mrs Elizabeth hickey died at her home in Skryne Castle in January 1999. She was one of the four formidable women who, with Fr Callary, Parish Priest of Ballinabrack , in 1955 founded our society, began the publication of the yearly journal and in good times and bad sustained, and gave tone and style to the society and its enterprises, in its formative years.
They were an Ecumenical quartet, Mrs Conway and Mrs McGurl, being Catholic, and Dr. Beryl Moore and Mrs Hickey members if the Church of Ireland. The Society was in consequence open and inviting to all the citizens of what had been the Kingdom of Meath, Riocht na Midhe, the name by which the journal was called, which had stretched in pre- Norman days from the Shannon to the sea. Mrs. Hickey was by far the most junior of the quartet, and in one office or another, most usually as treasurer, she had substantial and some would say overwhelming, input into its deliberations and policies as she was very definite in her views and robust in expressing them, one would need to have thought deeply about the matter in controversy and be equally robust in expressing one’s ideas if there was any chance of their being adopted. She welcomed discussion and had definite views on most matters, and she was sensitive to the feelings and sentiments of others.
But, of course, it is as an historian that she chiefly contributed to our society and to our community, and not in written words alone. I remember hearing that when the Board of Works was involved in a controversy over replacement of the old statue of St. Patrick at Tara, which when removed, seems to have disintegrated.
The Board sent someone with that certainty that graces the young ternporarily, when they gain a high honours degree. In one the young lady’s throw-away phrases she mentions St Patrick ?if he ever existed?.
An indignant Mrs. Hickey in righteous rage, put a definite dint in the young lady’s certainties, and in time seemed to have scuppered the Board’s plans for a St. Patrick far removed from the visual ideas traditional about him.
Her contributions to local history were many and varied. She wrote with clarity and styIe so that what she published about Meath and its history was instantly available to the ordinary person. Not for her the academic infighting of universities, where weighty tomes are answers to other weighty tomes, and revisions of received concepts are necessary to further academic careers. For her, local history had to do with conveying a truthful vision of the past, through which locals could recognise, sharing as they did the landscape with those treated of, something of the past inhabitants of the area in themselves.
Other publications by Elizabeth Hickey include Skryne and the Early Normans (1994), The Green Cockatrice, written under a pen name, Basil Iske, where giving a very disciplined story of William Nugent of sixteenth-century Meath, she mischievously suggested that he could be thought of as a possible author of some of Shakespeare?s works.
She wrote two books on Clonard ? one a ninth-century life of St. Finian with topographical notes, published in 1996: the other, the story of Clonard from its golden age to the thirteenth century, was published after her death.
She had many articles in Riocht na Midhe, the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Seanchas Ard Mhacha and other local journals.
Eoin, Netta and Geraldine, 2019