Meeting of Tara, The
DESCRIPTION: Thousands attend to support O'Connell and Repeal. The counties are represented. Dan appears: 3 cheers for Victoria, 9000 for Repeal. Wellington and Peel would face more men at Tara than at Waterloo. "Come rouse my brave Repealers be obedient to the law"
EARLIEST DATE: before 1900 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 19(102))
KEYWORDS: Ireland political
Aug 15, 1843 - Repeal meeting at Tara (source: Zimmermann)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Zimmermann 50B, "The Meeting of Tara" (1 fragment)
Healy-OISBv2, pp. 79-81, "The Meeting of Tara" (1 text)
Bodleian, Harding B 19(102), "Meeting of Tara" ("On the 15th day of August in the year of 43"), J.F. Nugent & Co. (Dublin), 1850-1899; also 2806 b.9(269), 2806 c.15(118), "The Meeting of Tara"; 2806 c.15(277), "The Tara Monster Meeting"
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.178.A.2(065) , "The Tara Monster Meeting," James Lindsay (Glasgow), c.1843 [? see Notes]
cf. "Glorious Repeal Meeting Held at Tara Hill" and references there
cf. "Daniel O'Connell (I)" (subject: Daniel O'Connell) and references there
NOTES: The description is from broadside Bodleian Harding B 19(102). A line from the broadside hints that it may date from after October 8 when the Clontarff meeting was abandoned: "Such a grand sight was never seen nor will till times no more."
The commentary for broadside NLScotland L.C.Fol.178.A.2(065) states "The meeting at Tara, Co. Meath in the summer of 1843, is now estimated to have been attended by 750,000 people." It is interesting that that version, seemingly a duplicate of Bodleian 2806 c.15(277), is shortened to omit all reference to O'Connell: not only the final five verses but also the lines in the first verse ("On the Royal Hill of Tara, Irish thousands did prevail, In Union's hands to join their hands with Dan, for the Repeal" becomes "On the Royal Hill of Tara, Where thousands did prevail, In union's bonds to join their hands, To sign for the repeal.")
Be skeptical about NLS dating. L.C.Fol.178.A.2(065) has two entries which, when put together, seem the same as Bodleian 2806 c.15(277). "The Irish Girl" half has the printer's information; "The Tara Monster Meeting" half, of course, has no printer information. NLS dates "The Irish Girl" "Probable period of publication: 1860-1890" and "The Tara Monster Meeting" "Probable date published: 1843" - BS
Be skeptical about NLS numbers estimates, too -- 750,000 people was a tenth of the population of Ireland! Kee1, p. 208, mentions this estimate, but notes that it was from The Nation -- which was pro-Irish. Gavin Duffy in 1880 spoke of 500,000 to 750,000 (Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, p. 225). O'Connell's estimate was an even more absurd million and a half. These wildly inflated guesses still command occasional modern support (e.g. Coogan, p. 47, accepts the 750,000 figure). A more realistic estimate is a quarter of a million (Woodham-Smith, p. 11).
Nonetheless it is clear that O'Connell faced more people than Wellington at Waterloo. Wellington (who had been Prime Minister from 1828, and in fact granted Catholic emancipation, if unwillingly; Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, p. 221) at Waterloo had faced only about 72,000 men under Napoleon.
"Repeal" was of course O'Connell's basic political platform; he wanted repeal of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain. For this purpose, he organized some forty mass meetings in 1843 (Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, p. 223).
Sadly, the Monster Meetings accomplished little. As Kee writes on p. 209, "The real question was whether the giant had a giant's strength. The closer O'Connell got to his goal the nearer came the moment when the question of how exactly he hoped to get Repeal if the government continued to stand firm had to be answered. This critical moment was in fact just seven weeks away."
O'Connell published a platform of reforms he sought, then scheduled another Monster Meeting for Clontarf, where Brian Boru had won his great victory -- and close enough to Dublin Castle to seem like a direct threat (Coogan, pp. 47-48).
The day before the meeting was to take place (October 5), the government decided it didn't trust O'Connell's protestations of loyalty. They banned the meeting. O'Connell could surely have held it anyway. But he stood firm to his principle of loyalty, cancelled the meeting -- and saw his movement all but collapse. He had blinked, and from being distrusted by the British, he now saw himself distrusted by the extreme radicals also.
Shortly after this, the government had O'Connell arrested. He was convicted in a farce trial and was sentences to a fairly brief spell of minimum-security detention. But, by the time he was free to move about again, the potato blight had arrived. Repeal was a fine principle, but what Ireland needed was food; the Liberator perforce spent his last years trying to prod a stubbornly non-interventionist government to provide aid.
The "Iron Duke" is of course the Duke of Wellington, victor at Waterloo, and a former Prime Minister; although his official government role was relatively slight by this time, he had an important role as an advisor to Sir Robert Peel's government and was overjoyed at the ending of the Monster Meetings. Sir Robert Peel himself (1788-1850) was Prime Minister for most of this period; some of his legislation, ironically, was pro-Irish, but he was anti-Whig and anti-O'Connell (and later would earn deserved infamy for his lack of response to the potato famine). Basically he believed in small government -- in all the bad senses. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.0
- Coogan: Tim Pat Coogan, The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012
- Kee I: Robert Kee, The Most Distressful Country, being volume I of The Green Flag (covering the period prior to 1848), Penguin, 1972
- Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely: T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and Dermot Keough, with Patrick Kiely, The Course of Irish History, fifth edition, 2011 (page references are to the 2012 paperback edition)
- Woodham-Smith: Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger, 1962 (I use the 1964 Signet edition)
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.