On Ancient Roads by Anthony Holten

On Ancient Roads by Anthony Holten

On Ancient Roads: Recollections, History and Folklore of County Meath by Anthony Holten.

On Ancient Roads is a lively tale which takes the reader on a journey through history and the radically changing landscape of County Meath. As in Tony Holten's previous book 'Where Toll Roads Meet', the author describes the landscape as it was, highlighting what has been lost to 'progress'. Illustrated with over 100 photographs and maps, the book traces the evolution of the road network, reflecting on a lost landscape that was once the crucible of ancient Irish culture.

The baronies, parishes and townlands through which the ancient roads from Trim to Duleek pass are richly adorned with historical sites, most notably Bective and the Boyne Valleys, Tara, Skryne, Lismullin and Blacklion. The narrative is drawn together from recollections, folklore and historical research, including an exploration of the Grand Jury records which provide a unique insight into the dubious machinations within that system of early governance.

About the Author

Anthony (Tony) Holten was born in Dowdstown near Tara in 1945. He started an apprenticeship in Navan Engineering Works as a mechanic over six years. He was a Navan Road Club member in the mid-1960s, competing in the Ras Tailteann cycling race four times. He was a member of the town's winning team in The 1968 Waller Cup Race.

Seafaring career and later career

In 1969, he began a career as an engineer on deep sea tankers for Shell Oil Company. Over the next ten years, he travelled extensively during his marine engineering days in the Merchant Navy prior to continuing his career working on offshore oil and gas fields worldwide.

He worked for Marathon Petroleum in the 1980s, primarily on the Kinsale Head gas field. He and his family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in the mid-1980s for his work as a marine engineer on the company's new Kakap oil and gas field on the South China Sea. When he returned to Ireland, he was based in Marathon's head office in Cork, until a stroke forced him to retire in 1999.

Retirement and writing career

After suffering a stroke at the age of fifty-four, he initially lost the use of his right arm and leg and had to re-learn to use them. After a long period of rehabilitation, he began work on his first book, entitled A Stroke of Luck, about his experience and his dealings with the Irish Health System. The book was published by Nonsuch Ireland (an imprint of The History Press) in 2007. Books Ireland called it a "funny, inspiring and telling account" and a "disturbing insight into the Irish health system".

He was also the author of several in-depth history books, primarily focusing on roads (including old toll roads and road networks) and rivers in County Meath including On Ancient Roads about the road network around Tara and Where Toll Roads Meet, the latter of which gained some controversy and extra attention as it was partially about the M3 Controversy.

This led to an incident at the book launch in Navan Library as then Irish Minister Noel Dempsey attended to give a speech about Holten and his book, and clashed with protestors who attempted to present a pig's head to the Minister.

Holten's other books include From High Kings To Seakings about his time with Shell, Of Other Days about his childhood, and The River Boyne about the river of the same name, the latter book becoming very popular in County Meath and among Irish historians nationwide, with journalist Paul Clements remarking in The Irish Times that it "invoked the work of Sir William Wilde" and that Holten was a "pontist extraordinaire".

Stroke advocacy

In addition to being an author, he was an advocate for stroke survivors and chairman of the Cork Stroke Support Group, often giving talks at medical conferences, hospitals, and universities, and was the recipient of the Irish Heart Foundation's "Life after Stroke Awards" Boehringer Ingelheim Stroke Champion Award in 2013.

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