This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
The labours of such an undertaking are manifest ; yet none can appreciate them fully who has not known what it is to spend days, weeks, months buried in decaying parchments, endless pipe-rolls, worm-eaten records, dusty deeds and leases, excavating some fact, or searching for some link necessary for the completion of a tale, or the elucidation of a truth,
Mr. Gilbert tells us that twelve hundred statutes and enactments of the Anglo-Irish Parliament still remain unpublished. From these and such-like decayed and decaying manuscripts, ancient records which have become almost hieroglyphics to the present age, he has gathered the life-history of an ancient city ; he has made the stones to speak, and evoked the shadows of the past to fill up the outline of a great historical picture.
Fifty, even twenty years hence, the production of such a work would be impossible ; the ancient records will probably have perished ; the ancient houses, round which the curious may yet gather, will have fallen to the ground ; and the ancient race, who cherished in their hearts the legends of the past with the fidelity of priests, and the fervour of bards, will have almost passed away.
Dublin is fortunate, therefore, in finding an historian endowed with the ability, the energetic literary industry, the untiring spirit of research, and the vast amount of antiquarian knowledge necessary for the production of so valuable a work, before records perish, mansions fall, or races vanish.
In a history illustrated by human lives and deeds, and localized in the weird old streets, once the proudest, now the meanest of our city, many a family will find an ancestral shadow starting suddenly to light, trailing long memories with it of departed fashion, grandeur, and magnificence.
Few amongst us who tread the Dublin of the present in all its beauty, think of the Dublin of the past in all its contrasted insignificance. True, the eternal features are the same ; the landscape setting of the city is coeval with creation. Tyrian, Dane, and Norman have looked as we look, and with hearts as responsive to Nature's loveliness, upon the emerald plains, the winding rivers, the hills draperied in violet and gold, the mountain gorges, thunder-riven, half veiled by the foam of the waterfall, and the eternal ocean encircling all ; scenes where God said a city should arise, and the mountain and the ocean are still, as of old, the magnificent heritage of beauty conferred on our metropolis.
But the early races, whether from southern sea or northern plain, did little to aid the beauty of nature with the products of human intellect. Dublin, under the Danish rule, consisted only of a fortress, a church, and one rude street. Under the rule of the Normans, those great civilizers of the western world, those grand energetic organizers, temple and tower builders, it rose gradually into a beautiful capital, the chief city of Ireland, the second city of the empire. At first the rudamental metropolis gathered round the castle, as nebulas round a central sun, and from this point it radiated westward and southward ; the O'Briens on the south, the O'Connors on the west, the O'Neils on the north, perpetually hovering on the borders, but never able to regain the city, never able to dislodge the brave Norman garrison who had planted their banners on the castle walls. In that castle, during the seven hundred years of its existence, no Irishman of the old race has ever held rule for a single hour.
And what a history it has of tragedies and splendours ; crowned and discrowned monarchs flit across the scene, and tragic destinies, likewise, may be recorded of many a viceroy !
Piers Gravestone, Lord-Lieutenant of King Edward, murdered; Roger Mortimer-"The Gentle Mortimer"-hanged at Tyburn; the Lord Deputy of King Richard II. murdered by the O'Briens; whereupon the King came over to avenge his death, just a year before he himself was so ruth-tessly murdered at Pomfret Castle. Two viceroys died of the plague ; how many more were plagued to death, history leaves unrecorded ; one was beheaded at Drogheda ; three were beheaded on Tower Hill. Amongst the names of illustrious Dublin rulers may be found those of Prince John, the boy Deputy of thirteen ; Prince Lionel, son of Edward III., who claimed Clare in right of his wife, and assumed the title of Clarence from having conquered it from the O'Briens.
The great Oliver Cromwell was the Lord-Lieutenant of the Parliament, and he in turn appointed his son Henry to succeed him. Dire are the memories connected with Cromwell's reign here, both to his own party and to Ireland. Ireton died of the plague after the siege of Limerick ; General Jones died of the plague after the surrender of Dun-garvon ; a thousand of Cromwell's men died of the plague before Waterford. The climate, in its effect upon English constitutions, seems to be the great Nemesis of Ireland's wrongs.
Strange scenes, dark, secret, and cruel, have been enacted in that gloomy pile. No one has told the full story yet. It will be a Ratcliffe romance of dungeons and treacheries, of swift death or slow murder. God and St. Mary were invoked in vain for the luckless Irish prince or chieftain that was caught in that Norman stronghold ; but that was in the old time-long, long ago. Now the castle courts are crowded only with loyal and courtly crowds, gathered to pay homage to the illustrious successor of a hundred viceroys.
The strangest scene, perhaps, in the annals of vice-royalty, was when Lord Thomas Fitzgerald (Silken Thomas), son of the Earl of Kildare, and Lord-Lieutenant in his father's absence, took up arms for Irish independence. He rode through the city with seven score horsemen, in shirts of mail and silken fringes on their head-pieces (hence the name Silken Thomas), to St. Mary's Abbey, and there entering the council chamber, he flung down the sword of state upon the table, and bade defiance to the king and his ministers ; then hastening to raise an army, he laid siege to Dublin Castle, but with no success. Silken Thomas and his five uncles were sent to London, and there executed ; and sixteen Fitzgeralds were hanged and quartered at Dublin. By a singular fatality, no plot laid against Dublin Castle ever succeeded ; though to obtain possession of this foreign fortress was the paramount wish of all Irish rebel leaders. This was the object with Lord Maguire and his papists, with Lord Edward Fitzgerald and his republicans, with Emmet and his enthusiasts, with Smith O'Brien and his nationalists-yet they all failed. Once only, during seven centuries, the green flag waved over Dublin Castle, with the motto-" Now or Never ! Now and for Ever ! " It was when Tyrconnel held it for King James.