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The Story of Ireland

467 pages
Library of Alexandria
It seems to be certain, says the Abbé McGeoghehan, "that Ireland continued uninhabited from the Creation to the Deluge." With this assurance to help us on our onward way I may venture to supplement it by saying that little is known about the first, or even about the second, third, and fourth succession of settlers in Ireland. At what precise period what is known as the Scoto-Celtic branch of the great Aryan stock broke away from its parent tree, by what route its migrants travelled, in what degree of consanguinity it stood to the equally Celtic race or races of Britain, what sort of people inhabited Ireland previous to the first Aryan invasion-all this is in the last degree uncertain, though that it was inhabited by some race or races outside the limits of that greatest of human groups seems from ethnological evidence to be perfectly clear. When first it dawns upon us through that thick darkness which hangs about the birth of all countries-whatever their destiny-it was a densely wooded and scantily peopled island "lying a-loose," as old Campion, the Elizabethan historian, tells us, "upon the West Ocean," though his further assertion that "in shape it resembleth an egg, plain on the sides, and not reaching forth to the sea in nooks and elbows of Land as Brittaine doeth"-cannot be said to be quite geographically accurate-the last part of the description referring evidently to the east coast, the only one with which, like most of his countrymen, he was at that time familiar. Geographically, then, and topographically it was no doubt in much the same state as the greater part of it remained up to the middle or end of the sixteenth century, a wild, tangled, roadless land, that is to say, shaggy with forests, abounding in streams, abounding, too, in lakes-far more, doubtless, than at present, drainage and other causes having greatly reduced their number-with rivers bearing the never-failing tribute of the skies to the sea, yet not so thoroughly as to hinder enormous districts from remaining in a swamped and saturated condition, given up to the bogs, which even at the present time are said to cover nearly one-sixth of its surface.