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By Thomas D'Arcy McGee

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Extra info for A Popular History of Ireland: from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics

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Early hours and vigilant night watches had to be exercised to prevent conflagrations in such village-seminaries, built almost wholly of wood, and roofed with reeds or shingles. A Cathedral, or an Abbey Church, a round tower, or a cell of some of the ascetic masters, would probably be the only stone structure within the limits. To the students, the evening star gave the signal for retirement, and the morning sun for awaking. When, at the sound of the early bell, two or three thousand of them poured into the silent streets and made their way towards the lighted Church, to join in the service of matins, mingling, as they went or returned, the tongues of the Gael, the Cimbri, the Pict, the Saxon, and the Frank, or hailing and answering each other in the universal language of the Roman Church, the angels in Heaven must have loved to contemplate the union of so much perseverance with so much piety.

Departed this life, and in Durrow, by his own desire, his body was interred. Nial II. , was next invested with the white wand of sovereignty. He was a prince less warlike and more pious than his elder brother. The _soubriquet_ attached to his name is accounted for by a Bardic tale, which represents him as another Moses, at whose prayer food fell from heaven in time of famine. Whatever "showers" fell or wonders were wrought in his reign, it is certain that after enjoying the kingly office for seven years, Nial resigned, and retired to Iona, there to pass the remainder of his days in penance and meditation.

This was the civil ceremony; the solemn blessing took place in a church, and is supposed to be the oldest form of coronation service observed anywhere in Christendom. A ceremonial, not without dignity, regulated the gradations of honour, in the General Assemblies of Erin. The time of meeting was the great Pagan Feast of Samhain, the 1st of November. A feast of three days opened and closed the Assembly, and during its sittings, crimes of violence committed on those in attendance were punished with instant death.

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A Popular History of Ireland: from the Earliest Period to the Emancipation of the Catholics by Thomas D'Arcy McGee


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