Carbury through the ages
The History of Carbury goes back to Pagan times and centres on the Hill of Carbury, first known as Sidh Nechtain (the Fairy-hill of Nechtain). Nechtain according to ancient documents was King of Leinster and a celebrated poet and he had a fortress near the summit. His queen, Boand was beset by the waters of the nearby well, the source of the River Boyne, which is located near the base of the hill. When Christianity came to Ireland, Christian missionaries dedicated this well to the Holy Trinity and it retains the name Trinity Well today. The Territory of Carbury was named from Cairbre Uí Chiardha (O’Kiery, O’Carey), Lord of the region who was descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland in the 5th Century. After the defeat of the O’Ciardha’s, their lands came into the possession of the Anglo-Norman De Bermingham family who built an extensive castle atop the Hill, the ruins of which still stand today, dominating the surrounding area. The Annals of Clonmacnoise are said to record Carbury as “Bremyngham’s country”.
Under English rule, the castle is said to have suffered greatly, particularly during the 15th century and was the scene of numerous skirmishes between English Barons within the Pale and warring Irish Chieftains. The famous Red Hugh O’Donnell, when attacking Meath and Leinster around this time is said to have demolished and burned Carbury Castle and the neighbouring castle of Ballymeyler, modern day Meylerstown.
In the reign of Elizabeth I, the castle transferred to the Colley (Cowley) family, ancestors of the Duke of Wellington and remained in their hands for several generations. During the 1798 Rebellion, rebels launched an attack on the fortified house at Leinster Bridge near Clonard, Co Meath and after a gruelling fight the rebels, of whom 160 were killed and many more wounded, were pushed back and retreated to the Hill of Carbury and spent the night there.
The Ballad of Charlie Og McCann which is said to refer to the 1798 Rebellion mentions Carbury and the surrounding area
The brave old hill of Carbury is stately bold and strong
And down the vale of Newberry, the river flows along
Strong and ancient is that hill, well known to every man
And gentle as the purling rill went Charlie Og McCann
Twas in the merry month of May we met upon the green,
The fairest at the fair that day my Charlie Og was seen,
The brightest at the dance was he, where mirth and music rang
And many a maid invited him, my Charlie Og McCann
The brave old hill of Carbury, where many a time we met,
When summer birds sang merrily, I never can forget.
Twas there we wandered side by side, twas there our love began,
Twas there I said I’d be the bride of Charlie Og McCann
The evening breeze blew loud and shrill, the leaves began to fall,
I stood alone upon the hill beside the castle wall.
My love was borne away from me, all in a prison van
They banished him far o’er the sea, brave Charlie Og McCann
The brave old hill of Carbury in grief I wander o’er
My heart is beating wearily for I know he’ll come no more
His loving bride I ne’er shall be, his face I ne’er shall scan
For its in old Ireland’s cause he died, brave Charlie Og McCann.