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Slane ( ) is a village in County Meathmarker, in Irelandmarker. The village stands on a steep hillside on the left bank of the River Boynemarker at the intersection of the N2 (Dublinmarker to Monaghanmarker road) and the N51 (Droghedamarker to Navanmarker road). In 2006 Slane's population was 1,099, having grown from 823 in 2002. The population of the village and the surrounding rural area was 1,587 in 2006, up from 1,336 in 2002. The village centre dates from the 18th century. The village and surrounding area contains many historic sites dating back over 5,000 years.

The village

The village centre, laid out as a model village by the Conynghams is a good example of 18th century town planning. At the centre of the village stands four near identical Georgian houses. The four houses stand at the intersection of the two main streets in the village. The four houses and four streets form an octagon. This feature is known as The Square. The two main streets in the village feature 18th century gray limestone buildings with slate roofs, oriel windows and stone steps and archways. At present there is a comprehensive Village Development Plan in operation. In 2007 Meath County Councilmarker proposed that both Slane village and the mill be recognised as Architectural Conservation Areas and protected according.

Sport

Slane Gaelic Football Club comprises the local parish Gaelic Athletic Association Gaelic football teams for the urban and rural areas of Slane. Teams play their home games in Toddy Harding Park, located north of the village.

The Hill of Slane

Ruins of the friary church and college on the Hill of Slane.


To the north of the village rises the Hill of Slane, which stands above the surroundings. Such a commanding site could never have been ignored, and consequently there are a number of historic sites located around the top of the hill. In the Metrical Dindshenchas, a collection of bardic verse, the ancient Fir Bolg king Sláine was said to have been buried here, in the place that had been called Druim Fuar that came to be known in his memory Dumha Sláine. There is an artificial mound on the western end of the hilltop. The hill may have been chosen as the site of Christian abbey due to the presence of an existing pagan shrine, the remains of which may be two standing stones in the burial yard. Muirchu moccu Machtheni, in his highly mythologized seventh century Life of Patrick, says that St. Patrick lit a Paschal fire on this hill top in 433 CE in defiance of the High King Laoire who forbid any other fires while a festival fire was burning on the Hill of Taramarker. Historians and archaeologists agree that Muirchu has moved to Slane a fire lit elsewhere; Brú na Bóinnemarker, and Knowthmarker have been suggested. The Hill of Slane can be seen from the Hill of Tara which is about away. According to Muirchu, Logaire was so impressed by Patrick’s devotion that, despite his defiance (or perhaps because of it), he let him continue his missionary work in Ireland. It is somewhat more certain that Patrick appointed a bishop of Slane, Saint Erc.

The cemetery on the Hill of Slane, 2005


The Hill of Slane remained a center of religion and learning for many centuries after St. Patrick. The ruins of a friary church and college can be seen on the top of the hill. It is known that Slane Friary was restored in 1512. The ruins include a high early gothic tower. The friary was abandoned in 1723.

The traditional Christian hymn Be Thou My Vision is set to an early medieval Irish folk song named Slane which is about the Hill of Slane.

On the west side of the hill there are the remains of a twelfth century Norman motte and bailey, built by Richard Fleming in the 1170s. This was the seat of the Flemings of Slane, barons of Slane. The Flemings moved to a castle on the left bank of the River Boyne, the current location of Slane Castlemarker. The Flemings were lords of Slane from the twelfth century until seventeenth century, when the Conyngham family replaced them as lords of Slane during the Williamite Confiscations.

Slane Castle

Slane Castlemarker stands on the river about upstream from the centre of the village. The castle grounds have been the site of large rock concerts since 1981. This concert has never been free.There is an ancient well in the grounds of the castle near the river. In Irish mythology, the well blessed by Dian Cecht so that the Tuatha Dé Danann could bathe in it and be healed.

Slane Mill

In the 1760s Boyne Navigation opened between Slane and Oldbridge, approximately down river. This is a series of along the canals which made the River Boyne navigable to small boats from Slane to the port in Drogeda. A canal which is part of the navigation runs parallel to the river on the south bank near Slane. David Jebb was the engineer in charge of the construction. Once the navigation was opened as far as Slane Jebb himself built a flour mill at Slane. Slane Mill stands on the north bank of the River Boyne beside the N2 bridge. The mill is a five storey cut stone building. When the mill was completed in 1766 it was the largest flour mill in Ireland. The water powered mill continued to be a flour mill until the 1870s when roller mills replaced grindstones. The mill was converted to scutch flax.

Slane Bridge

The hill and dangerous bend approaching Slane bridge.
The N2 crosses the River Boyne south of the village. The road descends a steep hill from the village and makes an almost ninety degree turn onto the 14th century bridge. This bend has been the scene of at least 20 fatalities in living memory. As you climb the hill towards Slane village the wall on the right hand side of the road has a number of small white crosses, each representing a death on this stretch of road. Most of the crashes have involved heavy goods vehicles which are not able to slow down sufficiently to make the sharp bend after picking up speed on the hill. Meath County Councilmarker and the National Roads Authority have installed a number of traffic calming measures over the years in an attempt to make the bend onto the bridge safer, however crashes still occur. It was hoped that the opening of the M1 motorway would divert a lot the heavy traffic from the village but there is evidence that many heavy goods vehicles still use the N2 (and thus Slane bridge) in order to avoid paying the toll on the M1 bridgemarker.

Near Slane

There are many other historical sites in the area around Slane. The Brú na Bóinnemarker complex of Neolithic chamber tombs lies on the River Boyne down river from the village. This includes Newgrangemarker, a passage tomb built c. 3200 BCE.

Across the river from the village stand the ruins of Fennor Castle.

In the grounds of Slane Castle are the ruins of St. Erc's Hermitage. This consists of a late fifteenth or early sixteenth century chapel and an earlier dwelling.

The site of the Battle of the Boyne is down river, east, from Slane.

Slane Electoral Area

Slane is also the name of a Local Electoral Area encompassing a large area of eastern County Meath from Lobinstown to the Irish Seamarker. This area includes other towns which are actually larger than Slane such as Duleekmarker, Stamullenmarker and the portions of the environs of Droghedamarker which are in County Meath. The total population of Slane Electoral Area was 32,126 in 2006.

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References

  1. A. D. Mills, 2003, A Dictionary of British Place-Names, Oxford University Press
  2. "From this beautiful hill, a vast prospect of Ireland is afforded on a clear day. Eastwards can easily be seen the mounds of Newgrange and Knowth, with the town of Drogheda and the Irish Sea beyond, while the view northwards extends as far as Slieve Gullion (well into Northern Ireland), southwards as far as the Sugarloaf Mountain in Wicklow, and westwards to the midlands of Ireland." ( Noted at MythicalIreland.com).
  3. Mythical Ireland: Slane in ancient times
  4. Lewis, "Notes on Some Irish Antiquities" The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 9 (1880:137-145) p. 142 "if such a [pagan] shrine were there, on the top of the lofty hill of Slane, it might have led to the building of the abbey: a circumstance which needs explanation, as abbeys were usually built in valleys, where land is fertile and water near at hand."
  5. In the syncretic fashion suggested for Tara by Alan Gailey and G. B. Adams, "The Bonfire in North Irish Tradition" Folklore 88.1 (1977:3-38) p. 13


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