Telling the Secrets of Kells

5 Secrets of Kells! including an assassination attempt on Harold Wilson

1. The Irish name for the town is Ceannanus Mór, which means chief fort, big fort or head fort. Hence the Taylour family, who were landlords of the town from the 17th century onward, acquired the title “Lord Headfort”, later Marquis of Headfort, and Kells thus has the Headfort Arms Hotel, Headfort Golf Club etc.

2. Kells was once a royal city – the High King Cormac mac Airt, also known as The Lawgiver, who put together the Seanchus Mor, the basis for the Brehon Law system, moved his residence from the Hill of Tara to Kells.

3. Kells has one of the finest collection of early Christian architecture – four 9th century high crosses, the base of a missing fifth cross,  a round tower and a scriptorium known as Columcille’s House, where it is believed that the Book of Kells was completed. This building is featured in the carpet page called “The Temptation of Christ” in the Book of Kells.

Colmcilles House and the Temptation of Christ

4. The 6th Marquis of Headfort, Thomas Geoffrey Charles Michael Taylour, came to public attention when he was escorted by police from the Isles of Scilly, after what was claimed to be an abortive attempt to murder Harold Wilson in 1965. (read more)

Programme, ancient warriors, wolfhounds and rain at the 1924 revival of the Aonach Tailteann.

5. Kells was central to the Aonach Tailteann – the pre-Olympic Games of Ireland which were founded by King Lugh in honour of his foster-mother Tailtiu and culminated in the celebration of Lughnasadh on 1 August. These games may have started as far back as 1829 B.C. and were attended by Greek traders, who may have taken the template back to Greece to form the ancient Games. The game of pole vaulting is said to have originated here, originally a method of crossing rivers.


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