White Walker the Horse and the Gates of Hell

White Walker the Horse and the Gates of Hell

Nothing interesting ever happens in Trim.

The proof of this is the entertainment value placed on archaeologists. I’m sure that if you stuck a bunch of us on a stage with microphones and a couple trowels, together we’d equal the value of one iTunes purchase.

I feel about Trim how I imagine a mother might feel after having just given birth to a child that looks like a root vegetable. Other people might not understand the overwhelming joy that I experience when I return to Trim; most of them just see an ugly baby. For me, however, Trim olds a special place on my heart-globe. It’s where I first learned how to excavate, and it’s where I get to work with some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Trim, or Baile Átha Troim in Irish, is located on the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland, about half an hour northwest of Dublin. Its largest landmark is Trim Castle, which was founded by the Anglo-Norman Lord of Meath Hugh de Lacy in 1173 under England’s King Henry II (Encyclopedia Brittanica). The town itself, though, is thought to have been occupied since 500 AD (Meath County Council). Hugh de Lacy’s son Walter eventually inherited the castle, then passed it down to his granddaughter, Mathilda, who was married to a French lord named Geoffrey de Geneville. Mathilda died in 1304, de Geneville became a monk. Since monks can’t have castles, it went to his daughter Joan, who was married to Roger Mortimer. His family had the castle until 1425, by which time everybody had died. It then went to Richard of York, and then to his son Edward IV when Richard died in 1460 (Potterton 2003). The castle was left to deteriorate by 1599 (Meath County Council).

During the 15th century, Trim was relatively prosperous, bringing in more revenue for the English government than the surrounding towns. By 1541, however, it had decreased fairly substantially (Potterton 2003). In 1541 it was decided that Meath would be divided into two counties, Meath and Westmeath (Potterton 2003).

In 1204 Walter de Lacy was granted permission to hold an annual fair in Trim. Items traded included wheat, corn, cereal, wine, wool, cloth, hide, iron, flour, salt, butter, cheese, garlic, oats, onion, meat, honey, fish, livestock, wood, cauldrons, millstones, charcoal, and metals (Potterton 2003), among a thousand other things that would take me all night to list and cite. If these had all been local items, that would have been one thing. But a lot of these things were brought into Trim from other areas including Kilkenny, Waterford, Dublin, and Drogheda, meaning that Trim was a sort of hotspot for Medieval consumerism, or at the very least, a good trade location.

In addition to the yearly fair, weekly markets were also held in Medieval Trim on Market Street, which still stands today (Potterton 2003). Individual shops were open even more frequently (Potterton 2003). Items traded in markets and shops included fish, meat, corn, flour, shoes, cloth, leather, and wine (Potterton 2003).

Total economic devastation throughout Ireland resulted from the Cromwellian Wars in 1641-1652 (O’Carroll 2011). Because Trim had been militarily significant, it was particularly affected (O’Carroll 2011). In the time since, Trim has not been able to become again the commercial powerhouse it was in the middle ages.

Consequently, as I said before, nothing interesting ever happens in Trim. Unless, of course, you are really into Medieval history. There are none of those things that developmentally normal social youths use for entertainment (shopping malls? clubs? I missed some milestones and genuinely don’t know). Secondly, while Trim does have a promising tourism industry, it is largely a rural farming community, and as such, it has a lot to teach us about the versatility of empty fields.

Empty fields, like the one located behind the local SuperValu, can be archaeology sites such as the Blackfriary. They can be playgrounds. They can be build-it-yourself private landfills. They can be gardens, places to drink underage, light shit on fire, and graze your horses, and they can be most of these things at one time.

There is one exception; an empty field cannot be both an archaeology site and a horse pasture at the same time because horses are jerks.

If you don’t mind working in a giant bovid-toilet, keeping a bunch of herbivores on site is a wonderfully cheap and eco-friendly alternative to regular lawn care, and if you’ve ever waded through a forest of nettles, you know how important it is to control vegetation on an archaeology site. So, after what I presume were a long series of clandestine meetings between local farmers and Blackfriary site directors and staff, the Blackfriary found itself with three oversized Satanic lawnmowers.

The largest horse, whom the students called White Walker, was the leader of the Evil Equus posse. He was a white and brown horse with pale blue eyes, and he was an asshole. He kept the other two members at his beck and call, the smaller of which appeared to be some sort of fat horse-pony hybrid, or possibly even two men in a horse costume. White Walker was the instigator, and Medium Horse and Fat Horse Pony followed.

I am not a particularly large woman, and White Walker knew this. I’m five-foot three on a good day, and I haven’t been to a gym in six years. White Walker is fucking huge because he’s a horse.

Every day the routine was the same- and White Walker studied it. The site director would pull the van up to the gate, we would open the gate, she would drive into site, and we would close the gate.

On the morning in question, for reasons I still do not understand, I could not close the gate. It is heavy and awkward, yes, but I have closed that gate more times than I close my bathroom door to pee.

In my moment of weakness, White Walker acted. He bolted through the opening, and his spineless horse minions followed.

First, if you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t chase the horses. It doesn’t work.

I approached White Walker. He stared, daring me with his soulless blue eyes. I drew closer. He stared harder. Then he ran.

Second, as an archaeologist, there are few moments more terrifying than the one where you have to tell the site director that you just released three devil-worshipping quadrupeds into the public. And unless you’re an orphan who’s never watched television and you’ve never been exposed to any sort of parental figure at all, you know that a few words are worse than a lot of words. I was dismissed with an, “Oh,” as the director calmly ventured out on foot to track down the escapees. Ten minutes into the workday, and I had already resigned myself to death, either from the site director herself, or from the health and safety director whom I was convinced would come all the way from Dublin to murder me because you don’t just let a bunch of horses escape from site.

White Walker and his posse, however, had a much more pleasant experience, as did the locals, who all emerged from their homes in their bathrobes, cups of tea in hand, to see the fugitive horses gallivanting through town and pooping in people’s gardens.

Because the people of Trim never leave their homes unprepared, the site director, while in pursuit of the horses, came across a man who happened to carry a horse lead in his pocket, and White Walker and his posse were led back to site one at a time.

To that man I say, you sir, deserve a medal.


Meath County Council. 2010. Trim Development Plan 2008-2014 Progress Report.

O’Carroll F. 2011. Interim Report: Archaeological Research Excavations at the Blackfriary, Trim, Co. Meath. Irish Archaeology Field School

Potterton M. 2003. The Archaeology and History of Trim, County Meath. Dissertation. National University of Ireland, Maynooth


About digs_teeth

Hello! Please accept my condolences regarding whatever happened to your local library. That's why you're reading this, right? Because your library burned down/was robbed by book bandits/was torn down and made into literacy rehabilitation clinic for sad teenagers? I hope your library is up and running again soon. In the meantime, please enjoy the words that I made by rubbing my face over a keyboard. I am a master's student studying Osteology and Paleopathology in the UK. I've worked on archaeological excavations in the U.S., Ireland, and Croatia, and I have spent time traveling in Northern Ireland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Hungary. I've carefully recorded my fieldwork in the form of journals and other necessary paperwork, but I have done little to document my interactions with the people I meet. To me, recording and cherishing interactions is just as important as recording the archaeology.

5 responses »

  1. bahahahaha I remember that story. Asshole horse also decided to investigate the toilets and got himself stuck in them. I’ve got a great video of him being hauled out of there. Also…you forgot about the Haymaking Festival–totally the event of the year!!! …right?

    Liked by 1 person

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