County Meath (An Mhí, originally Mide, "the middle kingdom")


In the original Gaelic divisions Mide was in fact a fifth province and, as well as the present Co. Meath, incorporated what is now Westmeath and large parts of Cavan and Longford. It was reduced to its present size by the Normans in the thirteenth century; large parts of the territory had been granted to Hugh de Lacy, who built massive fortifications at Trim and elsewhere to enforce and protect his possession. Despite its proximity to Dublin, only part of the county remained in the Pale as English power waned in the late Middle Ages.

Meath is the site of some of the most extraordinary pre-historic remains to be found anywhere in Europe, the vast Neolithic burial complexes of the Boyne valley, erected by the pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland before the pyramids of Egypt.

Kells, the second town of Meath, is the site of the monastery where the Book of Kells was created during the eighth century.

The Hill of Tara, long the residence of the High Kings of Ireland, is also situated in the county, and gives it its nickname, "the royal county".

Surnames associated with the county include O'Reilly, Farrell, Gogarty, Smith, Halton, Lynch, Newman and Sherry.