1832 Description of Carlingford, Drogheda & Mellifont from

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Carlingford - Description and Annals

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The engraving above and following article are from 'The Dublin Penny Journal' 21 July 1832

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We think our wood-cut well calculated to catch the eye of a Dublinian. For lives there man, woman, or child, in our good city, that has not heard of Carlingford, though but few have seen it. Carlingford - so renowned for its delicious oysters - oysters known as well to the poor mendicant who is tasked to crush their shells, as to the rich merchant who gobbles down their delicious insides - oysters as far superior to every other testaceous creature that opens its bivalve to the tide, as to an Englishman is plum-pudding when compared with flummery-oysters, that give luxurious suppers to man, and open his heart as the knife opens the shell! In vain may the Parisian boast of his Carcale, the Londoner of his Colchester, or even our western shores of their green-finned Burrin, exquisite Pooldoody, or delicious Lisadill - who dare compare them to a rale Carlingford? Ye Aldermen of Dublin, and all who have experienced night after night the indescribable delights of a feast of oysters, and a flow of punch, come and give us all due credit for presenting you with a picture of that dear spot from whence your delights do come, and for I giving "a local habitation and a name" to the birth-place of what your souls desire!


But Carlingford is not only worthy of regard as contributing to our creature-comforts, and causing us to rejoice both at snack and supper, but it is also noted for its scenic beauties and recollections. In all Ireland there is not (oh! we beg pardon, there is at Glengariff) a bay so beautiful as Carlingford. Reader if you were sitting on a fine soft sunny evening on one of the towers of that ancient castle built by King John, and looking westward and northward, you would enjoy a prospect which, if you pretended to taste, would cause you to cry out, "Magnificent," but if you really possessed it, would make you hold your tongue, and be all eyes. Under you, the noble land-locked bay - before you and a few miles across the water, a distance which owing to the translucency of the atmosphere peculiar to the western wind, is only calculated to make objects more softly picturesque - yes - before you is the loveliest village in Ireland - Rostrevor. Its cottages embosomed in trees, its sun-lit villas, its pretty church, its obelisk, the honoured cenotaph of a brave soldier, who fell in his country's cause, leading Irishmen to victory. Then above the village, the wood-covered hills, swelling upwards until the green slopes mingle in the dark gorges of the Mourne mountains, over which Slieve Donald rises as lord of the range in pyramidal majesty. The western sun is gilding its crest; a feathery cloud all on fire with the sun's rays has rested on its topmost peak, and turbaned it with glory. Eastward, the mountain masses of shade flung upon the sleeping sea! Oh! for such a splendid scene, happy season, and felicitous atmosphere, - it would almost be well to be a Carlingford fisherman or even a Carlingford oyster, provided that as an oyster one could see through the sea and be susceptible of the picturesque, without the consciousness of being liable to be dredged for and gobbled up by voracious Dublinians.


But Carlingford is not alone remarkable for its oysters and its scenery, it is also worthy of an Irishman's regard, as the retreat, and its mountain country the fastness of the notorious Redmond O'Hanlon, the far-famed Rapparee, who about 120 years ago, played the part of Rob Roy in Ireland. The Irish gatherer of black-rent was quite a match for the Scotch rogue; as valiant in fight, as expert in flight, as terrible to the oppressor, as generous to the oppressed, as the Caledonian Kiltander. But poor Ireland has not got a Sir Waller Scott to cast a halo of renown about his name - "vate caret." She wants a Poet to immortalize a cow-stealer; and poor Redmond sleeps without his glory! Alas, that notable record of his exploits is out of print - the History of the Irish Rogues and Rapparees. Worthy Mr. Cross of Cook-street is now no more, a coffin maker occupies the shop where, in days gone by, we used to purchase these admirable effusions of the Irish press - "The Life of Captain James Freney, the Robber," "Laugh and be Fat," "The History of Moll Flanders," but above all, the most spirit-stirring, the one best calculated to teach the young Hibernian idea how to shoot in rale earnest, the "Irish Rogues and Rapparees," a book which has had as great an effect in Ireland as Schiller's play of the Robbers in Germany, namely, leading many a bold youth to take freedoms with others too often tending to the abridgment of his own - but we are rambling; we beg leave to drop our sportive strain, and introduce the "Annals of Carlingford," furnished by a gentleman to whom not only we, but Ireland, lies under many obligations. - EDITOR.


This little town is situated in the barony of Dundalk and county of Louth, near the foot of an extensive range of mountains, and on the S.E. side of a spacious bay. It was a station of considerable importance during the early ages of the English ascendancy in Ireland, and its first formation was consequent to the erection of a castle, which tradition attributes to the policy of king John. The town was never regularly walled or fortified, but as it was exposed to continual dangers by being situated on the frontiers of the Pale, every principal domestic building was designed on the model of a fortress or castle. The remains of such structures were very numerous there not more than "sixty years since," and even at the present day three very interesting remains of that character invite the attention of the antiquarian. That pre-eminently termed king John's castle is an extensive and imposing ruin, "moored on a rifted rock," the sides of which are laved at the east by the sea, while to the inland is a narrow pass overhung by wild and lofty mountains. To command this pass the building appears to have been erected, and its form was necessarily adapted to the natural circumstances of its site, enclosing various baronial halls and apartments, a court-yard surrounded with traces of galleries and recesses, &c. The walls are in some places eleven feet in thickness, while the prospect from its summit over the bay, the Cooley, the mountains of Mourne, &c. is grand beyond description.


On the southern side of the town are the ruins of the Dominican Monastery. This still extensive and picturesque ruin exhibits in the long aisle and central belfry, traces of the pointed architecture of the fourteenth century. About mid-way between it and king John's castle are the ruins of a square building, with windows of an ecclesiastical character, curiously ornamented with carvings of animals, human heads, - and sundry fancy wreathings. Near this on an adjoining eminence is a church of ancient foundation, with a large burial ground, in which may be seen a curiously carved stone and several monuments to the families of Moore and Millar. There is a glebe of about three acres lying about a mile from this church. The benefice is a vicarage in the archdiocese of Armagh, and patronage of the Primate. A small portion of the eastern part of the parish is all that has been preserved in the Down survey.


Carlingford formerly gave the title of Earl to the family of Taaffe, but the honour becoming, as it is supposed, extinct in the person of Theobald, the fourth earl of that name without issue, in 1738, his late majesty George III conferred the title of Viscount Carlingford on the family of Carpenter, together with the Earldom of Tyrconnel. The population of this ancient town is estimated at upwards of 1300. The bay is spacious, and the water deep; but unfortunately the navigation is rendered dangerous by hidden rocks. The scenery that surrounds it is of the most enchanting description, its shores being decorated with the most attractive villages, numerous bathing lodges and agreeable cottages, behind which some mountains rise infinitely varied through all their elevation, here waving with ornamental woods, there glowing with heath or verdure, on the one side battlemented with a grey expanse of rocks on the other exhibiting the industrious extensions of cultivation.


The mountain already alluded to as overhanging king John's castle, rises in height about 1850 feet, and is for more than two-thirds of its elevation composed of a succession of stairs formed of trap, passing towards the summit from a homogeneous to a porphorytic texture. From the position and height of this eminence the inhabitants of Carlingford, during a great part of the summer season, lose sight of the sun several hours before he sets in the horizon.


The following are a few of the more interesting annals connected with this town.



432. St. Patrick's second landing in Ireland was according to some authorities effected here.

1184. John de Courcy granted the ferry of Carlingford to the Abbey of Downpatrick.

1210. The castle called King John's was erected.

1301. Matilda de Lacy widow of David, baron of Naas, granted the advowson of the church of Carlingford to the priory of Kilmainham.

1305. Richard de Burgh Earl of Ulster founded a monastery for Dominicans here, under the invocation of St. Malachy.

1326. The king committed the custody of the castle of Carlingford to Geoffry le Blound, to hold during the royal pleasure. And in the same year the bailiffs, &c. of this town had letters patent, conferring certain privileges and allowances for six years as an aid towards walling and otherwise strengthening their town.

1332. William de Burgh was found seised, amongst other possessions of the castle of Drogheda, the town of Cooley appertaining thereto, the manor of Rath, &c.

1346. The prior of Kilmainham was found seised, and his successors so continued, of the tithes of Carlingford.

1357. The king granted to his son Lionel, Earl of Ulster, licence to hold a weekly market, and one yearly fair in his town of Carlingford. From this Lionel the property descended to Edward de Mortimer.

1388. Edmund Loundres was appointed constable of the castle of Carlingford, with certain allowances for its repairs, as it was stated to be then much out of order and unsafe.

1400. The king granted to Stephen Gernon, constable of the castles of Green Castle and Carlingford, licence to take the corn and tithes within the lordship of Cooley for the victualling of said castles.

1404. The manor of Carlingford and town of Irish Grange, which had previously belonged to the abbey and convent of Newry, vested by forfeiture in the king, who thereupon granted it in fee to Richard Sedgrave.

1408. Lord Thomas of Lancaster, the king's son, landed here as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

1425. By a record of this date it appears that certain rights in the fishery of the bay appertained to the castle of Carlingford.

1467. A mint was established here by act of Parliament.

1495. It was enacted that only able and sufficient persons of the realm of England should be henceforward constables of the castle of Carlingford.

1501. In consequence of this town having been repeatedly burned by the Scots and Irish the king granted to its provost, bailiffs, and commonalty; certain tolls and customs towards enclosing it with a stone wall.

1538. The inhabitants of Clontarf, near Dublin, had licence to fish, without charge or toll, within the bay of Carlingford.

1539. This vicarage was valued to the First Fruits at £3. 13s. 8d.

1548. The king granted to Sir Nicholas Bagnal, Knight, the manors of Omee and Carlingford, with the Lordship of Cooley, &c.

1560. Sir Henry Radcliffe and John Neill were members for the borough of Carlingford in this year.

1596. Henry Oge, the son-in-law of Tyrone, made incursions into the English pale, and endeavoured to surprise the castle of Carlingford.

1642. Sir Henry Fishburn took possession of the town, not however till it had suffered considerable injury by fire from the adherents of Sir Phelim O'Neill.

1646. Perfect freedom of trade conferred on Carlingford.

1649. The castle surrendered to Lord Inchiquin.

1650. The castle was delivered to Sir Charles Coote and Colonel Venables.

1669. The tithes of this parish, which had been vested in the crown, were granted to the incumbent and his successors forever.

1689. Some of the Duke of Berwick's party set fire to this town, soon after which the sick soldiers of Schomberg's army were removed thither. In king James's parliament of this year, Christopher Peppard and Bryan Dermod, Esq. were the sitting members for Carlingford.

1750. The celebrated Thurot passed this year here and during that interval acquired his knowledge of the English language.  - D.


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Wooden House in Drogheda

The article and engravings are from 'The Dublin Penny Journal' 15 September 1832

This building was erected A. D. 1570, by Nicholas Bathe, a member of a family which appears to have had considerable possessions in the county of Meath, Athcarne, Castle, a few miles beyond Duleek, being erected by William Bathe, in the year 1590; and it appears, by the inscriptions, that the carpentry of both buildings was executed by the same person, viz. Hiv Mor, or Hugh Moore.

It occupied the angle formed by the junction of Laurence-street and Shop-street, the principal front being in the latter, and composed chiefly of oak, said to have been obtained from Melifont Park; it consisted of three stories, the upper projecting beyond that immediately beneath. The upper, or attic story was composed of strong square oak framing, with spandril pieces; each piece forming a quadrant, or segment of a circle, the interstices filled with plaister, the principal, or, as we would now say, the drawing-room story, was of a more finished character, consisting of pannelling or wainscot, each pannel being about a foot square, and fancifully carved in quaterfoils and foliage, executed in good style; the rails and styles were also ornamented with projecting pins or trennails. It is difficult to say how the lower story was arranged, it having undergone many alterations; it was; however, extremely low, and latterly divided into several small shops.


In the angle on the drawing room floor was a handsome semicircular bay window, consisting of four divisions, a pannel in the pedestal of which contained the arms of Bath, viz. a cross between four lions rampant, with the initials N.B.; this pannel was preserved by Peter Van Homreigh; Esq. the late Recorder. There was another projecting window in Shop-street, but it did not appear to be of such antiquity as the rest of the building.


On the bressimer, in Laurence-street, was the following inscription, in the antique raised letters used in the time of Queen Elizabeth, each about six inches long, and each word divided by a star:




There is no doubt but at the time of erection this house was considered a "Chef-de-ouvre," and even in later times it was considered a curiosity, and commanded the admiration of many. Taaffe, among others, remarks, "I have seen wooden houses in Pilnitz, Reichenanu and other towns of Bohemia and Germany, but none of such curious and elegant, as well as durable workmanship." He has, indeed, made a trifling mistake, with respect to its antiquity, as he continues, "The date was carved in the oak, in figures about two feet long!! and I think it was 1O74!!!" –thus adding only eighteen inches to the length of the figures, and 500 years to the age of the house.


The "Wooden House," after having, like Napoleon, "fulfilled its destiny," and being extremely rickety through "old age and infirmity," besides suffering under the obloquy of a very indifferent character, having been for many years suspected of harbouring rats, reprobates, and typhus fever, was at length condemned to annihilation by the corporation, and disappeared for ever in the year 1824; and the present handsome modern brick buildings were erected on its site.     A.


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Magdalene's Steeple Drogheda


The engraving of the Magdalene Tower Drogheda, and the article below, are from 'The Dublin Penny Journal' 17 November 1832


SIR - Encouraged by the very flattering notice you were pleased to take of my former communication, respecting Drogheda, I take the liberty of offering the following remarks to your consideration.


I have long been anxious to see an attempt made at illustrating the history and antiquities of my native Town, Drogheda, but have hitherto been disappointed; and, while other places, (Particularly in the sister kingdom), even the most insignificant and obscure, are daily brought before the pubic, recommended by the united talents of the artists and historiographer, this town, which possesses a degree of historical interest, equalled by few in this kingdom, and which yields to none, in either respectability or antiquity, has been hitherto passed over in total silence or but slightly touched upon by the occasional tourist.


I have for many years found pleasure in visiting the numerous monuments of antiquity so profusely scattered over the face of this country, and, after an attentive examination, I can safely affirm, there are none more worthy of notice by the antiquary or historian, or more intimately blended with the ancient, ecclesiastical, and military history of Ireland, than those in Drogheda and its immediate vicinity: they are rapidly falling into decay; some through the ravages of time, but by far the greater number, it is much to be lamented, from carelessness and neglect; nor have there been wanting instances, where the proudest of our castles and monastic ruins have been despoiled, that the materials might be employed in the construction of works, for which stones might be obtained at less expense from a neighbouring quarry.


The zeal of the first reformers (which in many instances was not tempered with much discretion) has also done much towards their destruction. Some of the ruins in this town bear evident marks of fire, nor do we want reformers at present who are equally willing to remove what they are pleased to consider nuisances, witness the late demolition of the ancient palace of the archbishops of Armagh, at Termonfeckin, (because, forsooth, part of it fell and killed a cow!) a spot hallowed by the residence of some of the wisest and holiest men of their day, and which should be particularly consecrated as that in which the great Usher compiled his celebrated Chronology; an event which should have caused the most trifling circumstance or place connected with him to be held sacred.


From the causes above-mentioned, it is not unusual to perceive in this town, the remains of abbeys and monasteries once dedicated to the service of the Deity, and palaces heretofore the residences of the most powerful men of past ages, now converted into stables, warehouses, &c., and next, to meet with the armorial bearings of the proudest families, and the sculptured ornaments, and stone utensils of what were once the sanctuaries of religion, now appropriated to the most servile and ignoble purposes.


"Amor Patriae," or Love of Country, is a principle inherent in the breast of every man, in a greater or lesser degree; a spark of this has prompted a desire to endeavour to rescue from total oblivion the few remaining monuments of the ancient grandeur and importance of my native town, by attempting a few sketches and descriptions of some of the most remarkable, which if you deem of sufficient merit to occasionally occupy a column of your truly national journal, are at your service. Perhaps the attempt may stir up the dormant faculties of others, and create a spirit of emulation in other quarters, which may bring to light many interesting facts and documents connected with, and illustrative of our national history and antiquities.


It may perhaps be objected that these "Sketches," &c. possess but a local importance, but by a reference to the History of "Our Father-land," it will appear that at or near Drogheda, Milesius and his followers first landed in Ireland after a hard contested struggle, in which his son, Coalpha, was either killed or drowned. Coalpha was buried near the spot where he fell, and his memory is still preserved, by his having given name to the parish of Coelp. We also find, that Drogheda was in the year 911 fortified by, and became the strong hold off Turgesius; the Dane, from which he frequently sallied, and laid waste the surrounding country. At Duleek, in the vicinity, was erected the first stone church in Ireland. Here St. Patrick it is said founded a monastery, since called the Abbey of St. Mary de Urse.


Here we also find the sovereignty of Ireland surrendered to King Richard II by four Irish kings doing homage and fealty in the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, in the year 1395: we find also the residence of all the archbishops of Armagh, from the days of St. Patrick until those of primate Robinson, in the close of the 18th century. Here many of the English viceroys kept their courts and held parliament; and here was passed the famous law called "Poyning's Law," which made the Irish parliament entirely dependent on that of England, and its edicts of no effect until ratified by the English monarch. In 1641, the progress of the northern Irish, under Owen Roe O'Neill, was stopped by the resolute defence of the garrison of Drogheda; and in 1649, Cromwell here consummated an act of the most inhuman barbarity, by the slaughter of the garrison and inhabitants for their adherence to King Charles I.


Last, not least, in 1690, Drogheda resisted the attack of a division of king William's army; and within two miles of its walls was fought the famous "Battle of the Boyne," which decided the fate of the British empire.


After this recapitulation, I think it will be admitted that Drogheda possesses something more than a local importance; and that, as I before remarked, its history is intimately blended with the ancient ecclesiastic and military history of Ireland.


I now furnish a view and description of "Magdalene's Steeple," a building, which has braved the storms of above six centuries, hoping it may prove acceptable.

R. A.




In the north part o£ Drogheda, near Sunday Gate, and immediately adjoining the site of the ancient Town-wall, stand the remains of the Dominican Convent, under the invocation of St. Mary Magdalene, called also, the Abbey of Preaching Friars. It was founded A.D. 1224, by Lucas de Netterville, Archbishop of Armagh - was suppressed at the general dissolution in 1541, and is now the property of a branch of the Leigh family.


The original building, (if we may form an opinion by what remains,) appears to have been of considerable extent and magnificence; the tower, which is the only part remaining, is a lofty square structure, of light and elegant proportions, built upon, and entirely supported by a noble pointed gothic arch, the buttresses of which, from their apparent slightness, appear scarcely sufficient to support the superincumbent weight: this circumstance, with its present isolated state, give the tower a most singular and commanding appearance: it contains two apartments above the arch, the intervening floor being arched and groined from the angles - the groins supported by cherubs' heads, well carved in stone; - the walls are perforated by eight windows, two on each side, with cut stone casings, mullions and transoms, neatly finished and ornamented; a spiral stone staircase is connected with the outside of the building, the entrance to which is at a considerable distance from the ground; the masonry is remarkably firm, and in fine preservation, scarcely a stone being removed by the effects of time, although braving the storms of above six hundred years; there is, indeed, a breach in the upper part of the east side, and the mullions of one window are removed, but this is supposed to have been effected by Cromwell's cannon, in 1649, to compel the surrender of a part of the garrison who had taken refuge in it.


The church appears to have been cruciform, the tower arising from the centre; but the body of the building, and every other appendage, has been long destroyed, and that so effectually that not even the foundations can be traced: it is probable this took place immediately after the dissolution, as we find that in 1570, the ancient monument of Richard Strongbow, earl of Chepstow, being broken to pieces by the fall of the roof of Christ Church, Dublin, Sir Henry Sidney, lord deputy, directed a monument of Thomas, earl of Desmond, then in this church, should be removed and placed instead of it, which was accordingly done: it is not probable this would have occurred if the place had not been previously desecrated; and in the most ancient paintings of Drogheda extant, particularly one in the hall of Beaulieu House, representing the siege in 1641, the tower is represented in its present isolated state, with the exception of some turrets or towers on the Town-wall, which formed the northern boundary of the church-yard, but of these turrets or wall there are not at present any remains.


The area which the church and its dependencies formerly occupied, has been parcelled into a number of small tenements, consisting of cottages with gardens attached; over these the lofty tower rears its venerable head, and from its magnitude, and air of solemn grandeur, forms a striking contrast with the hovels which at present surround it. "MAGDALENE'S STEEPLE," as it is now called, and the tower and spire of St. Peter's, of modern architecture, in the immediate vicinity, both being situated on the highest part of the ground on which Drogheda is built, form a very conspicuous and imposing object in the approach to the town in any direction.


There are some remarkable circumstances connected with this convent related in history, a few of which are transcribed in the order of time in which they occurred.

On the 10th of March, 1395, four Irish kings, viz. O'Neill, O'Hanlon, O'Donnell, and Mac Mahon, with several other petty chieftains of Ulster, made their personal submission to King Richard II, in this church, the manner of which is thus related by Sir James Ware, in his Antiquities of Ireland. "Everyone of them, before the words of submission, laid aside his cap, belt, and skeyne, and kneeling down before the king, put both his hands joined between the king's hands, and repeated the words of fealty and submission in the Latin language. These kings, after this ceremony, were committed to the care of Henry Carlile, an Englishman, who understanding the Irish language, was commanded to instruct them in the English customs, particularly in that of receiving the order of knighthood, who so wrought on them that he prevailed on them to accept it, although they alleged they had received it from their fathers at the age of seven years. These kings being more fully instructed by the earl of Ormonde, by the king's command, were habited according to their dignity, and having performed their vigils, and heard a mass, were solemnly made knights by the king's own hand, in the Cathedral Church of Dublin."


The MS annals of Ireland, in St. Sepulchre's Library, Dublin, relate that in 1412, great dissensions subsisted between the two sides of Drogheda, divided by the River Boyne, which were often attended with bloodshed, mutilation, and loss of life on both sides. Father Philip Bennett, master of divinity, and a friar of St. Mary Magdalene's Convent, invited the people of both parties to hear his sermon in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, on the festival of "Corpus Christi;" that he assumed for his theme these words of cxxxiii. Psalm, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; that in the sermon having thrice asked the congregation with energy, "will ye be united together in the body of Christ?" Alderman William Symcock answered, in the name of all, "we will;" that when the sermon was ended, they were profusely entertained in the refectory of this convent; and, having there and then consulted with Father Bennett upon their disputes, by his advice a joint petition was made to King Henry VI, signed by Nicholas Flemmyng, Archhishop of Armagh, which they sent to London by one Robert Ball, who returned to Drogheda on the 15th of December in the same year, with a charter from the king, uniting the two sides into one Town of Drogheda, and under one mayor, and forming it into a special county; that the following day the archbishop gave his blessing to the people of the county and town thus coalesced; and that the first mayor of the town so incorporated was the said William Symcock. It appears from a charter given in the fifth year of Edward IV (1365) for founding an university in Drogheda, that there was a corporation established here prior to the one just mentioned, and, it is probable, that the inhabitants of each side of the town, claiming the right of electing the mayor and other officers, the confusion and bloodshed referred to above, occurred at contested elections.


Some memorial of this feud and reconciliation is preserved here, by an annual burlesque or mummery, still exhibited on Shrove Tuesday, by the lower order of the inhabitants. "The mayor of Flea-lane," (an obscure lane in the suburbs behind Millmount) crossing the bridge, enters the northern part of the town, mounted on an ass, in mock procession, attended by his sheriff's, bailiffs, and other officers, all fantastically dressed with straw, and each bearing the insignia of his dignity, together with several ragamuffins disguised in petticoats and masks, and armed with blown bladders tied on poles, who clear the way, and enforce the passengers and lookers-on to treat "his worship" with proper respect; the cavalcade is preceded by a "bough," or garland, and music; in this way they parade the principal .streets of the town levying contributions: at the same time another party enters the town by Lawrence's-gate, consisting of "the mayor of the chord" and his followers, who are generally dressed in cast-soldier's clothes, perambulate the town in another direction until evening, or they conceive they have enough collected, when they meet, and after a mock encounter between the "bladder men," to the great amusement of children and idlers, they all adjourn to the "chord field" outside Laurence's-gate, and spend the evening in mirth and jollity.


On the 15th of February, 1467, Thomas, Earl of Desmond, was beheaded on the North Commons (Hardman's garden), Drogheda, by command of John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, lord deputy of Ireland, for exacting coyne and livery; his head was sent to Dublin and spiked on the castle, and his body interred in this church, and a stately monument erected to him, ornamented with his effigies in stone. This statue is now in Christ's Church Dublin, in place of Strong-bow's, being removed as before mentioned in 1570. R. A.


[Our ingenious correspondent is in error in this and in his former statement relative to Stronghow's tomb, as we shall shew in a future number. It is but fair however to acknowledge that he has the authority of Archdall to support him. - Editor]


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Mellifont Abbey

The engravings and article below are taken from 'The Dublin Penny Journal' 03 November 1832 and 24 November 1832

Gateway of Mellifont Abbey

The Abbey of Mellifont, in the County of Louth, situate about five miles from Drogheda, in the Barony of Ferrard, was originally one of the most important and magnificent monastic edifices ever erected in Ireland. It was founded, or endowed, by Donough M'Corvoill, or O'Carroll, prince of Oirgiallach, the present Oriel, A.D. 1142, at the solicitation of St. Malachy, the pious and learned archbishop of Armagh, and was the first Cistercian Abbey erected in Ireland. The monks by whom it was first inhabited, were sent over from the parent Monastery of Clairvaux in Normandy, by St. Bernard, and four of them were Irishmen who had been educated there for the purpose. On the occasion of the consecration of the Church of Mellifont in 1157, a remarkable Synod was held here, which was attended by the primate Gelasius, Christian bishop of Lismore and apostolic legate, seventeen other Bishops, and innumerable clergymen of inferior ranks. There were present also Murchertach, or Murtogh O'Loghlin, King of Ireland, O'Eochadha, prince of Ulidia, Tiernan O'Ruairc, prince of Breiffny, and O'Kerbhaill, or O'Carroll, prince of Ergall, or Oriel. On this occasion the King (Murtagh O'Loghlin) gave as an offering for his soul to God, and the monks of Mellifont, 140 oxen or cows, 60 ounces of gold, and a townland, called Finnavair-na-ningen, near Drogheda. O'Kerbhaill gave also 60 ounces of gold, and as many more were presented by the wife of Tiernan O'Ruaric, who was a daughter of the prince of Meath, that is, a former prince Murchad. She likewise gave a golden chalice for the high altar, and, sacred vestments &c., for each of the nine other altars that were in the church. This was the unfortunate Dearbhfhorguill, or Dervorgal, whose abduction by the profligate Dermod Mac Murrogh, King of Leinster, was the first link in the chain of events which led to the introduction into Ireland of the British arms, under the celebrated Strongbow. Her pious donations to the abbey of Mellifont appear to have been in some measure intended as an expiation of her crime; and hither she retired towards the end of her life, which she closed in religious exercises about the year 1193.


It was supposed by some, but erroneously, as Dr. Lanigan satisfactorily shows, that here was held the Synod of 1152, at which Cardinal Paparo, as the legate of Pope Eugene III, distributed four Palliums for the sees of Dublin, Tuam, Armagh, and Cashel; it, however, was really held at Kells, in Meath.


On the establishment of the English power in the district called the Pale, in which Mellifont is situated, it was taken under the especial protection of the settlers. In 1177 a confirmation of their house and possessions, was granted by King Henry II, as appears by the Charter of his son John, who renewed and confirmed the same; and in 1203 a new charter was granted to the abbey by King John, confirming to it several additional possessions which it had acquired after the arrival of the English. Many other grants and confirmations were made by succeeding Princes.


For a considerable period the abbey of Mellifont, as well as the other Cistercian monasteries in Ireland, continued to be connected with the parent establishment at Clairvaux, to which monastery, considerable sums of money were continually remitted. To correct this abuse, an act was passed in the reign of Edward III enjoining all ecclesiastics not to depart the kingdom on any account whatsoever, nor to raise or transmit any sums of money privately or openly from hence, contrary to the form of the statute. In consequence of this enactment, Reginald, the abbot of Mellifont, was by a jury in 1351, found guilty of raising from the abbots of Boyle, Knockmoy, Bective and Cashel, the sum of 664 florins, one half of which he had remitted to the abbot and convent of Clairvaux and again, in the year 1370, the abbot, John Terrour, was similarly indicted for remitting to the same abbey the sum of forty marcs. This abbot was, in the year 1378, indicted for killing one of his monks, named John White, in the year 1367; but the jury acquitted him. In 1380, it was enacted by parliament that no mere Irishman could be permitted to make his profession in this abbey.


In 1488 the abbot received the king's pardon for being concerned in support of Lambert Simnell.


In 1540, Richard Conter, the last abbot, surrendered his abbacy, and had an annual pension of £40 granted to him for life. He had 16 fishing corraghs or skin-boats at Oldbridge, on the Boyne, which produced him annually £13. 13s. 4d. which, with various other possessions, amounting in the whole to £315 were granted to Sir Edward Moore, (ancestor to the present noble family of that name,) who made it his principal seat, converting the abbey into a magnificent residence, and, at the same time, a place of defence. In the memorable rebellion of 1641, a considerable body of the Irish sat down before it, and the garrison, which consisted of only 15 horse and 22 foot, made a vigorous defence; but, on the failure of their ammunition, the foot surrendered, and the horse, charging vigorously through the enemy, arrived safe at Drogheda.


Such are the chief incidents in the history of this important monastic foundation, of which but trifling remains are now to be found, but these are sufficient evidence of its ancient beauty, and splendour. They consist of the ruins of a beautiful little chapel, dedicated to St. Bernard, which, in its perfect state, was an exquisite specimen of the Gothic, or pointed architecture of the thirteenth century.


This chapel had a noble eastern window, and three smaller ones on each side, nearly all of which are now destroyed, together with the entrance doorway, of which we have given a view in our nineteenth number, page 148 [see opp]. This doorway was ornamented with a profusion of gilding and painting, in variegated colours; and was justly considered as one of the most beautiful specimens of the kind to be found in Ireland. It is said to have been sold to make a chimney piece!


Not inferior in architectural elegance to this chapel, are the ruins of an octagonal building, supposed a baptistery, on the top of which was a large cistern, from which water was conveyed, by means of pipes, to the different offices of the abbey. The style of this building, which is Roman, indicates an earlier age, and it is probably coeval with the foundation of the monastery.


To these is to be added, the lofty abbey gateway, a view of which we have prefixed to this account; it is now appropriated to the humble purpose of a mill-dam.

Chapel of St. Bernard


The situation of these interesting remains, in a secluded little valley is extremely picturesque and pleasing; and there are many curious local traditions connected with them; but which we must reserve to a future number, along with a view of the baptistery.



For a Panoramic engraving of Mellifont in 1832 from The Dublin Penny Journal  02 February 1832 click HERE.


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30 January 2013


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