Inis Mac Neasáin
Early Celtic Ireland - Inis Fallon
The first hunter gatherers colonised Howth eight thousand years ago. We remember them as the Tuatha Dé Danann and they named the peninsula Binn Eadair, Eadairs Peak. They worshipped the moon goddess Danù and Eadair was an important female who chose the peak as her eternal resting place. The farmer/ warriors who displaced them are known as The Celts. Fionn Mac Cumhail and The Fianna cherished Binn Eadair as a favourite hunting, training and embarkation point for international voyages. They obliged the Tuatha Dé Danaan to maintain a vessel ready for any military or diplomatic mission that might be required. The Fianna called the island Inis Fallon. There is a monument called The Ready Boat Pillar, at the land end of the West Pier, remembering this first reference to Howth as the most favourable port in Ireland for international journeys.
In the 7th Century CE three holy men, who were the sons of Nessan a pagan prince of the Royal House of Leinster, established a monastery on the island. The church was named "Cill Mac Nessan", the church of the sons of Nessan. They illuminated a holy manuscript of the four Gospels named the Garland of Howth. This is of similar type to the famous Book of Kells and it too is preserved in Trinity College Dublin. The name of the island changed to Inish Mac Nessan, and remains so to this day in Irish.
The Vikings establishd their first base on the east coast of Ireland at Lambay Island in 794 ce and in 814 ce they took Howth and remain to this day. The name Howth replaced the name Binn Eadair. Howth means “ Head” in old Norse and that is how it appeared on their charts. The also renamed the island Eriùs Øy from the goddess Eriú, from whom ireland comes and the old norse for Island Øy.
In More Recent Times
In 1177 Sir Armoricus Tristram, a Norman Lord invading for Henry II, with the authority of Pope Adrian IV, fought the battle of Evora Bridge and took the name St Laurence to thank God for his victory on the saints day. He declared possession of great lands and Irelands Eye by right of conquest. Roman Catholicism was then imposed on the existing Celtic Church in Ireland. The family lives in Howth Castle to this day.
In 1803 the British built a Martello tower designated N3 for North on the westerly end of Irelands Eye. This miniature fortress was one of 26 towers built in line of sight of each other along the east coast in to repel any attack by the French during the Napoleonic wars.
In 1852, the infamous Kirwan murder took place on the island. Boatmen had brought artist William Kirwan and his wife, Maria, to the island for a day trip. On coming back to collect them, they were surprised when William attempted to board the boat alone. After a search, Maria’s body was found washed up on rocks on the east side of the island. At first it looked like a tragic accident but on further investigation, and largely circumstantial evidence, William Kirwan was convicted of Maria’s murder.
Today the island is a bird sanctuary protected by the EU Habitats Directives and within the UN Dublin Bay Biosphere. In the summer months astonishing and globally significant colonies of oceanic sea birds take residence on the north cliffside of Irelands Eye, most spectaluraly around The Stack, including Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Terns and some Puffins. There is a seal population recently counted at 130 animals resident close to The Thulla Islet at the East End of the island. The year round wildlife is abundant and included many very interesting creatures, including Cormorant, Gulls, Porpoise, Dolphin and occasionally whales. The number and frequency of sightings increases year by year.