Three Rivers of Ireland: History and Culture

Kildare House (Leinster House) 1910 Leinster House – the National Parliament of Ireland

Download 389.52 Kb.
Size389.52 Kb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8

Kildare House (Leinster House) 1910 Leinster House – the National Parliament of Ireland

In the years after independence in 1922, independent Ireland had little sympathy for Georgian Dublin, and saw it as a symbol of British rule and of the British identity that was alien to Irish identity. Prominent citizens moved out of the grand mansions of Georgian Dublin, and by the 1930’s, many of the homes had become business addresses of companies, with only Fitzwilliam Square of all the five squares having any residents at all

By the 1930s, plans were discussed by the Irish government to demolish all of Merrion Square, perhaps the most intact of the five squares, on the basis that the houses were "old fashioned" and "un-national". They were only saved by Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 and a general lack of capital and investment; the plans were put on hold in 1939 and forgotten about by 1945.

file:merrion square, dublin, ireland.jpg

Merrion Square

That did not, however, stop the destruction of some of Georgian Dublin. Dublin's most perfectly planned square, Mountjoy Square, was under serious threat with almost all of the south side demolished by property speculators during the 1960s and 70s; even so, buildings with facsimile facades were subsequently built in place, re-completing the square's uniform external appearance as it stands today.

The world's longest row of Georgian houses, running from the corner of Merrion Square down to Lesson Street Bridge, was sliced in two by the decision of the Irish government in the early 1960’s to demolish part of the row and replace them by a modern office block.

By the 1990’s, attitudes had changed dramatically. Strict new planning guidelines sought to protect the remaining Georgian buildings, though some property owners still found their way around the restrictions. A surprising number of old houses in poor repair, if an owner wished to demolish them but had been refused planning permission, just happened mysteriously to go on fire and be burnt to the ground, facilitating 'development', However, in contrast with the lax development controls applied in Ireland for many decades, by the 1990’s a whole new mindset among politicians, planners and the leaders of Dublin City Council produced a determination to preserve as much as possible of the remaining Georgian buildings, with prosecutions for unauthorized developments becoming more regular.

Perhaps the biggest irony for some is that the residence that marked the move of the aristocrats from the north side to the south side (where the wealthier Dubliners have remained to this day), and that in some ways embodied Georgian Dublin, Leinster House, home of the Duke of Leinster, ended up as the parliament of independent republican Ireland.

Today, Dublin has an urban population of over 1 million, containing almost 25% of the country's population.

Today, a north-south division still exists, with the River Liffey as the divider. The North side is generally seen as working-class, while the South side is seen as middle to upper middle class. The divide is punctuated by examples of Dublin "sub-culture" stereotypes, with upper-middle class constituents seen as tending towards an accent and demeanor synonymous with the Southside, and working-class Dubliners seen as tending towards characteristics associated with North side and inner-city areas. Dublin's economic divide is east-west as well as north-south.

Dublin is administered separately from its respective county and has its own city council. The city is currently among the top 30 cities in the world, and is ranked 29th as a financial center. It is a historical and contemporary cultural center for the country, as well as a modern center of education, the arts, administration, economy and industry.

Dublin City Council is presided over by the Lord Mayor, who is elected for a yearly term. Council meetings occur at Dublin City Hall, while most of its administrative activities are based in the Civic Offices on Wood Quay. The council is a unicameral assembly of 52 members, elected every five years. The Dublin City Manager is responsible for implementing City Council decisions.

The Oireachtas is the national parliament of Ireland and is based in Dublin. It comprises the President of Ireland, the upper house Seanad Éireann (Senate), and the lower house Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives). Both houses of the Oireachtas meet in Leinster House, a former palace on Kildare Street. It has been the home of the Irish parliament since the creation of the Irish Free State.

Dublin experiences a maritime temperate climate with mild winters, cool summers, and a lack of temperature extremes. The average maximum January temperature is 47 °F, while the average maximum July temperature is 67 °F. On average, the sunniest months are May and June.

Dublin records the least amount of rainfall in Ireland, with the average annual precipitation in the city center being 27 in. Rainfall is generally evenly distributed throughout the year, although the wettest month is December with 3 in. of rain, and the driest month is July with 2 in. The main precipitation in winter is rain, however snow showers do occur between November and March. Hail is more common than snow, and is most likely during the winter and spring months. The city experiences long summer days and short winter days. Strong Atlantic winds are most common in autumn. These winds can affect Dublin, but due to its easterly location it is least affected compared to other parts of the country.

Dublin Landmarks and Attractions

file:dublin castle.jpgfile:grafton st, dublin.jpg

Dublin Castle Grafton Street

Jameson Distillery Guinness Brewery

file:temple bar dublin at night.jpgfile:national museum of ireland.jpg

Temple Bar National Museum of Ireland

file:trinity college.jpgfile:kellsfol032vchristenthroned.jpg

Trinity College Book of Kells

Boyne River Valley History and Culture


The River Boyne is a river about 70 miles long. It rises at Trinity Well, Newbury Hall, near Carbury, County Kildare, and flows towards the Northeast through County Meath to reach the Irish Sea between Mornington, County Meath and Baltray, County Louth. Salmon and trout can be caught in the river. It is crossed just west of Drogheda by the Boyne River Bridge that carries the M1 motorway and by the Boyne Viaduct that carries the Dublin-Belfast railway line to the east.

The Boyne River is surrounded by the Boyne Valley, a valley that has historical, archaeological and mythical significance.

file:boyne view balloon.jpg

The River Boyne passing by the town of Trim and Trim Castle

The river passes near the ancient city of Trim, Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara (the ancient capital of the High King of Ireland), Navan, the Hill of Slane, Brú na Bóinne (an archaeological site), Mellifont Abbey, and the medieval city of Drogheda.

In the Boyne Valley, through which the river runs, are found other historical and archaeological monuments, like Loughcrew, Kells, Celtic crosses, castles, and more. The Battle of the Boyne, a major battle in Irish history, took place along the Boyne River near Drogheda in 1690 during the Williamite War in Ireland.

The river has been known since ancient times. The Greek geographer Ptolemy drew a map of Ireland in the 2nd century which included the Boyne. He called the river Βουουινδα (Bououinda). Irish mythology claims that the river was created by the goddess Boann ('queen' or 'goddess') with “Boyne” being an Anglicized form of the name. In other legends, it was in this river where Fionn mac Cumhail, more commonly called Finn McCool, a mythical hunter-warrior, captured Fiontán, the Salmon of Knowledge.

There is a series of canals, called the Boyne Navigation, running roughly parallel to the main river from near Oldbridge to Navan. Owned by the National Trust and currently derelict, the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland are restoring the navigation to navigable status.

In 2006, the remains of a Viking ship were found in the river bed in Drogheda during dredging operations.


Drogheda, meaning "bridge of the ford," is an industrial and port town in County Louth on the east coast of Ireland, 35 miles north of Dublin. Including suburbs and environs, Drogheda has a population of more than 35,000 inhabitants.


Drogheda was founded as two separate towns on each side of the River Boyne - Drogheda-in-Meath (for which a charter was granted in 1194) and Drogheda-in-Oriel, as County Louth was then known. In 1412 these two towns were united.

The town is situated in an area with an abundance of archaeological monuments dating from the Neolithic period onwards, of which the large Passage Tombs of New Grange, Knowth and Dowth are probably the best known.

The earliest monument in the town is the castle, now known as Millmount Fort, which overlooks the town from a bluff on the south bank of the Boyne, and which was probably erected sometime before 1186. The earliest known town charter is that granted to Drogheda-in-Meath in 1194.

Drogheda was an important walled town in the medieval period. It frequently hosted meetings of the Irish Parliament at that time, and the parliament was moved to the town in 1494.

The Earl of Desmond and his two youngest sons (still children) were executed in Drogheda on Valentine's Day 1468, on orders of the Earl of Worcester. The town was besieged twice during the Irish Confederate Wars (a conflict in Ireland essentially pitting the native Irish Catholics against English and Scottish Protestant colonists and their supporters). On the second occasion it was taken by Oliver Cromwell in September 1649, as part of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland. Drogheda was the site of an infamous massacre of those who were defending the English throne.

Other important events in Drogheda’s history include the creation of the Earldom of Drogheda in 1661, and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. In 1921 the shrunken head of Saint Oliver Plunkett, who was executed in London in 1681 for saying Mass, was put on display in a church located on West Street.

In recent years Drogheda's economy has diversified with an increasing number of people employed in the retail, services and technology sectors. The town also has a community of independent artists and musicians who have been looking to the local economy rather than Dublin for employment.

The Hill of Tara

The Hill of Tara, located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex. It contains a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of the High King of Ireland.

For many centuries, historians worked to uncover Tara's mysteries, and suggested that from the time of the first Celtic influence until the Norman invasion, the Hill of Tara was the island's political and spiritual capital. Archaeologists involved in recent research suggest that the complete story of the wider area around Hill of Tara remains undiscovered.

The most familiar role played by the Hill of Tara in Irish history is as the seat of the Kings of Ireland. Certainly the earliest records indicate that high kings were crowned there. This role extended until the 12th century. Some scholars suggest that Tara was not so much a true seat of kingship, but a sacral site associated with kingship rituals. Other historians have argued that the concept itself is mostly mythical. Both the Hill of Tara as a hill and as a capital seems to have political and religious signicance, which diminished since St. Patrick's time.

The Hill of Tara is the site of numerous ancient monuments. At the summit of the hill is an oval Iron Age hilltop enclosure known as the Fort of the Kings or Royal Enclosure. Within the oval are the two linked enclosures, a ring fort (Cormac’s House) and a ring barrow (Royal Seat). Within the Royal Seat enclosure is a standing stone, which is believed to be the Irish “Stone of Destiny” at which the High Kings were crowned. Nearby is a small Neolithic passage tomb thought to be constructed around 3,400 BC. Excavations at other monuments on the Hill of Tara have produced Roman artifacts dating from the 1st-3rd centuries. On the south side of the hill is a ring-fort where the King Laoghaire, the last pagan king of Ireland, is said to have been buried in an upright position. At one time, it was a capital offence to make a fire within sight of Tara.

file:wakeman plan of tara.pngfile:tara stone.jpg

Hill of Tara “Stone of Destiny”

During the rebellion of 1798, United Irishmen formed a camp on the hill but were attacked and defeated by British troops on May 26, 1798. The “Stone of Destiny” was moved to mark the graves of the 400 rebels who died on the hill that day. In 1843, the Irish Member of Parliament Daniel O'Connell hosted a peaceful political demonstration on Hill of Tara in favor of repeal of the Act of Union (the act that merged the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland). The demonstration drew over 750,000 people.

The Hill of Tara was included in the World Monument Fund's 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. It was included, in 2009, in the 15 must-see endangered cultural treasures in the world by the Smithsonian Institution.


Slane is a village in County Meath, in Ireland. The village stands on a steep hillside on the left bank of the River Boyne. The village center dates from the 18th century. The village and surrounding area contains many historic sites dating back over 5,000 years.


Slane bridge over the River Boyne

This village was founded by the family line of the Flanders (now Fleming). They abandoned the Estate when they immigrated to America. The village center is a good example of 18th century town planning. At the center of the village stand four nearly identical Georgian houses. The four houses stand at the intersection of the two main streets in the village. The four houses and four streets form an octagon. This feature is known as The Square. The two main streets in the village feature 18th century gray limestone buildings with slate roofs, oriel windows and stone steps and archways.

To the north of the village rises the Hill of Slane, which stands 518 ft. above the surroundings. Such a commanding site could never have been ignored, and consequently there are a number of historic sites located around the top of the hill. This is an important hill in both Irish mythology and religious history, and it the site of several archeological ruins.

In a highly mythologized account of the life of St. Patrick, it is said that St. Patrick lit a Paschal fire on this hill top in 433 AD in defiance of the High King Laoire who forbid any other fires while a festival fire was burning on the nearby Hill of Tara. The Hill of Slane can be seen from the Hill of Tara which is about 10 miles away. King Laoire was so impressed by Patrick’s devotion that, despite his defiance (or perhaps because of it), he let him continue his missionary work in Ireland. This is supposedly the beginning of Christianity in Ireland.

In text produced in the 11th and 12th centuries, the King Sláine mac Dela is said to have been buried at a place known as Dumha Sláine. There is an artificial mound on the western end of the hilltop.

The Hill of Slane remained a center of religion and learning for many centuries after St. Patrick.

On the west side of the hill there are the remains of a twelfth century Norman castle, built by Richard Fleming in the 1170’s. The Flemings were lords of Slane from the twelfth century until seventeenth century. They later moved to a castle on the left bank of the River Boyne, and abandoned the Hill of Slane site.

The ruins of a friary church and cemetery can be seen on the top of the hill. It is known that Slane Friary was restored in 1512. The ruins include a 62 ft. high early gothic tower. The friary was abandoned in 1723.



The historic ruins of Monasterboice are of an early Christian settlement in County Louth in Ireland, north of Drogheda. It was founded in the late 5th century by Saint Buithe who died around 521, and was an important center of religion and learning until the founding of nearby Mellifont Abbey in 1142. The monastery on the site was burned in 1097.

The site houses the ruins of two churches built in the 14th century or later and an earlier round tower. The round tower is about 115 tall, and is in very good condition, although it is not possible to go inside. The passage of time has laid down layers of earth so now the doorway is almost at ground level.

Monasterboice is most famous for its 10th century high crosses, including the 18 ft. high Muiredach's High Cross, regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland. It is named after an abbot, Muiredach mac Domhnaill, who died in 923 and features biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The North and West crosses are also fine examples of this kind of structure, but these have suffered much more from the effects of weather.

file:mainistir bhuithe cross muiredach.jpg

Muiredach's High Cross High Cross at Monasterboice

file:a high cross and round tower at monasterboice, ireland.jpg

Round Tower Church Ruins

Celtic Crosses


Mellifont Abbey, located in County Louth, was the first Cistercian abbey to be built in Ireland. The emphasis of Cistercian life is on manual labor and self-sufficiency, and many abbeys have traditionally supported themselves through activities such as agriculture and brewing ales.

Founded in 1142 on the orders of Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, Mellifont Abbey sits on the banks of the River Mattock, some 6 miles north-west of Drogheda. By 1170, Mellifont had one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers. The Abbey became the model for other Cistercian abbeys built in Ireland, with its formal style of architecture imported from the abbeys of the same order in France; it was the main abbey in Ireland until it was closed in 1539, when it became a fortified house.

After the Abby was closed, William of Orange used Mellifont Abbey House as his headquarters during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Mellifont Abbey is now a ruin. Little of the original Abbey remains, save a 13th-century lavabo where the monks washed their hands before eating, some Romanesque arches and a 14th-century chapter house.

New Mellifont Abbey is home to the Cistercian Order in County Louth and is located in Collon, a small village and town land in the south west corner of County Louth.

file:mellifont abbey lavabo county louth ireland.jpg

Remains of Mellifont Abbey


The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690 between two rival each claiming the English, Scottish and Irish thrones. The opposing armies in the battle were led by the Roman Catholic King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland and opposing him, his nephew and son-in-law, the Protestant King William III ("William of Orange") who had deposed James in 1688. The battle, won by William, was a turning point in James' unsuccessful attempt to regain the crown and ultimately helped ensure the continuation of Protestant supremacy in Ireland.

The battle took place on July 12, 1690 just outside the town of Drogheda on Ireland's east coast. The armies stood on opposing sides of the River Boyne. William's forces defeated those of James who led an army of mostly raw recruits. The symbolic importance of this battle has made it one of the best-known battles in British and Irish history. It is a key part in Ulster Protestant folklore and is still commemorated today, principally by the Orange Institution.

file:william iii of england.jpg file:james ii of england.jpg

King William III “William of Orange” King James II

The battle is seen as the decisive encounter in a war that was primarily about James's attempt to regain the thrones of England and Scotland, resulting from Parliament's invitation to William and James's daughter, Mary, to take the throne. It is especially remembered as a crucial moment in the struggle between Irish Protestant and Catholic interests.

In an Irish context, however, the war was a sectarian and ethnic conflict. For those supporting James, the war was fought for Irish sovereignty, religious toleration for Catholicism, and land ownership. The Catholic upper classes had lost almost all their lands after Cromwell's conquest, as well as the right to hold public office, practice their religion, and sit in the Irish Parliament. They saw the Catholic King James as a means of redressing these grievances and securing the autonomy of Ireland from England. Most of James's troops at the Boyne were Irish Catholics.

Conversely, for those supporting William, the war was about maintaining Protestant and English rule in Ireland. They feared for their lives and their property if James and his Catholic supporters were to rule Ireland. For these reasons, Protestants fought en masse for William. Many troops fighting with William at the Boyne, including their very effective irregular cavalry, were Protestants from Ulster, who called themselves "Inniskillingers" and were referred to by contemporaries as "Scots-Irish".

James's supporters controlled much of Ireland and the Irish Parliament. James also enjoyed the support of his cousin, Louis XIV of France, who did not want to see a hostile monarch on the throne of England. Louis sent 6,000 French troops to Ireland to support the Irish Catholics. William was able to call on Dutch and allied troops from Europe as well as England and Scotland.

The Williamite (supporters of William) army at the Boyne was about 36,000 strong, composed of troops from many countries. Around 20,000 troops had been in Ireland since 1689. William himself arrived with another 16,000 in June 1690. William's troops were generally far better trained and equipped than James's. The best Williamite infantry were from Denmark and the Netherlands, professional soldiers equipped with the latest flintlock muskets. There was also a large contingent of French Huguenot troops fighting with the Williamites. William did not have a high opinion of his English and Scottish troops, with the exception of the Ulster Protestant irregulars who had held Ulster in the previous year. The English and Scottish troops were felt to be politically unreliable, since James had been their legitimate monarch up to a year before. Moreover, they had only been raised recently and had seen little battle action.

The Jacobites (supporters of King James) were 23,500 strong. James had several regiments of French troops, but most of his manpower was provided by Irish Catholics. The Jacobites' Irish cavalry, who were recruited from among the dispossessed Irish gentry, proved themselves to be high caliber troops during the course of the battle. However, the Irish infantry, predominantly peasants who had been pressed into service, were not trained soldiers. They had been hastily trained, poorly equipped, and only a minority of them had functional muskets. In fact, some of them carried only farm implements such as scythes at the Boyne. On top of that, the Jacobite infantry who actually had firearms were all equipped with the obsolete matchlock musket.

The casualty figures of the battle were quite low for a battle of such a scale—of the 50,000 or so participants, about 2,000 died. Although three-quarters of them were Jacobites, William's army had far more wounded. At the time most of the casualties of battles tended to be inflicted in the pursuit of an already-beaten enemy; this did not happen at the Boyne, as the counter-attacks of the skilled Jacobite cavalry screened the retreat of the rest of their army. The Jacobites were badly demoralized by the order to retreat, which lost them the battle. Many of the Irish infantrymen deserted. The Williamites triumphantly marched into Dublin two days after the battle. The Jacobite army abandoned the city and marched to Limerick, behind the River Shannon, where they were besieged.

After his defeat James did not stay in Dublin, but rode with a small escort to Duncannon and returned to exile in France, even though his army left the field relatively unscathed. James's loss of nerve and speedy exit from the battlefield enraged his Irish supporters, who fought on until the Treaty of Limerick in 1691; he was derisively nicknamed Seamus a' chaca, "James the shit" in English.

Although the battle was overshadowed in its time in England by the defeat of an Anglo-Dutch fleet by the French two days later at the Battle of Beachy Head, it motivated more nations to join the alliance against the French and in effect ended the fear of a French conquest of Europe. The Boyne was not without strategic significance for both England and Ireland, however. But it was a general victory for William, and is still celebrated by the Protestant Orange Order on the Twelfth of July.

The treaty of Limerick that ended the war was written first and was very generous to Catholics, because they were an incredible annoyance to the throne. It allowed most land owners to keep their land so long as they swore allegiance to William of Orange. It also said that James could take a certain number of his soldiers and go back to France. However, Protestants in England were annoyed with this kind treatment towards the Catholics, especially when they were gaining strength and money. Because of this, the penal laws were introduced. These laws included banning Catholics from owning weapons, reducing their land, and prohibiting them from working in the legal profession.

The Battle of the Boyne remains a controversial topic today, especially in Northern Ireland. Since the start of The Troubles, the celebrations of the battle have been seen as playing a critical role in raising unionist/nationalist tensions in Northern Ireland. Protestants remember it as the great victory over Catholics that resulted in the sovereignty of Parliament and the Protestant monarchy. Catholics see it as a way for the Unionists to “celebrate” the repression and lack of civil liberties they endured throughout the history of Northern Ireland.

file:jan van huchtenburg - de slag aan de boyne.jpg

Battle of the Boyne between James II and William III, 11 July 1690, Jan van Huchtenburg


New Grange is a prehistoric monument located in County Meath, about one kilometer north of the River Boyne. An example of a megalithic passage tomb mound, New Grange was built between circa 3100 BC and 2900 BC, during the Neolithic period, in order to house the remains of the dead. It has also been speculated that it had some form of religious significance, particularly in regards to an afterlife, because it is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice, which floods the tomb with light. It is in fact just one monument within the Neolithic complex, alongside the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth. As such it is a part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After its initial use as a tomb, the entrance to New Grange was sealed and it remained closed for several millennia, subsequently gaining several associations in local folklore and mythology. It first began to be studied as a prehistoric monument in the seventeenth century AD, and over subsequent centuries various archaeological excavations took place at the site before it was


New Grange

largely restored to an interpretation of its original Neolithic appearance by conservators in the 1970s. Today, New Grange is a popular tourist site, and is regarded as the great national monument of Ireland. It is also widely recognized as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe.

The New Grange monument primarily comprises a large mound, built of alternating layers of earth and stones, with grass growing on top and a reconstructed facade of flattish white quartz

file:wakeman newgrange tumulus chamber cross section.png

stones studded at intervals with large rounded cobbles covering part of the circumference. The mound is 250 ft. across and 40 ft. high, and covers one acre of ground. Within the mound is a chambered tomb passage, which can be accessed by an entrance on the south-eastern side of the monument. The passage stretches for 60 ft., or about a third of the way through into the center of the structure. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off a larger central chamber, with a high corbelled vault roof; this cruciform design is common in Irish passage tombs. Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat "basin stone", which was where the bones of the dead were originally deposited. The walls of this passage are made up of large stone slabs, twenty-two of which are on the west side and twenty-one on the east, which average out at 5 feet in height; several are decorated with carvings (as well as graffiti from the period after the rediscovery). The ceiling shows no evidence of smoke.

Situated around the perimeter of the mound are located a circle of standing stones, which most archaeologists regard as having been later, during the Bronze Age, centuries after the original monument had been abandoned as a tomb.

New Grange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it which provide decoration. One of the most notable examples of art at New Grange is found on the entrance stone, which has been described as "one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art." Various archaeologists have speculated as to the meaning of the decoration, with some believing them to be purely decorative while others believing them to have some sort of symbolic purpose.

file:newgrange, ireland.jpg

Entrance stone with Neolithic Art

New Grange is one of around 150 Neolithic Irish passage tombs that survive today, so it seems clear that it was constructed by a culture that built many similar structures, although most were smaller and simpler. Archaeological evidence shows that some of the simpler passage-graves, such as the ones situated near to the main Neolithic mound at Knowth, were older than New Grange and so it has been proposed that the tomb builders gradually developed the skills to create larger and more complex tombs over the generations. The Neolithic people who built the monument were native agriculturalists, growing crops and raising animals such as cattle in the area, where their settlements were located; they had not yet developed metal, so all their tools would have been made out of stone, wood, antler or bone.

The complex of New Grange was originally built between c. 3100 and 2900 BC, meaning that it is approximately 5,000 years old. According to Carbon-14 dates, it is more than five hundred years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge by about a thousand years. The building materials used to construct New Grange were locally sourced; with the exception of four slabs which are a brown carboniferous sandstone, the rest of the 547 slabs that had been used in the construction of the monument were greywacke, a form of slate that could be found to the north of New Grange. None of the structural slabs were quarried, for they show signs of having been naturally weathered, but they must have been collected and then transported somehow largely uphill to the New Grange site. Meanwhile, the stones used for the cairn, which together would have weighed around 200,000 tons, were likely taken from the river terraces between New Grange and the Boyne, and there is indeed a large pond in this area which it has been speculated was the site quarried out by New Grange’s builders to use for material for the cairn.

Excavations have revealed deposits of both burnt and unburnt human bone in the passage, indicating human corpses were indeed placed within it, some of which had been cremated. Excavations that took place in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s revealed seven 'marbles', four pendants, two beads, a used flint flake, a bone chisel and fragments of bone pins and points. Many more artifacts had been found in the passage in previous centuries by visiting antiquarians and tourists, although most of these had been removed and gone missing or been placed in private collections. The remains of non-human animals have also been found in the tomb, primarily those of mountain hares, rabbits and dogs, but also bats, sheep or goat, cattle, song thrush, and more rarely, mollusk and frog. Most of these animals would only have entered and died in the chamber many centuries or even millennia after it was constructed: for instance, rabbits were only introduced to Ireland in the 13th century AD.

During much of the Neolithic period, New Grange continued as a focus of some ceremonial activity. New monuments added to the site included a timber circle to the south-east of the main mound and a smaller timber circle to the west. A free-standing circle of large stones was constructed encircling the mound.

The site evidently continued to have some ritual significance into the Iron Age; among various later objects deposited around the mound are two pendants made from gold Roman coins of 320–337 AD (now in the National Museum of Ireland).

During the Late Neolithic, it appears that New Grange was no longer being used by the local population, who did not leave any artifacts in the passage tomb or bury any of their dead there. By 2000 BC New Grange was in decay and squatters were living around its collapsing edge.

During the medieval period, New Grange and the wider Brú na Bóinne Neolithic complex, gained various attributes in local folklore, which was often connected to figures from wider Irish mythology.

In 1142 it had become part of outlying farmland owned by the Cistercian Abbey of Mellifont. These farms were referred to as 'granges'. By 1378 it was simply called 'the new grange'.

Charles Campbell became the landowner as a grantee of estates forfeited in 1688. A year later, he ordered some of his farm hands to dig up a part of New Grange, which then had the appearance of a large mound of earth, so that he could collect stone from within it. The laborers soon discovered the entrance to the tomb within the mound. From that point on, many antiquarians in the 17th and 18th centuries came to New Grange to study the structure. These antiquarians often concocted their own theories about the origins of New Grange, many of which have since been proved incorrect.

In 1882, under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, New Grange, alongside the nearby monuments of Knowth and Dowth, was taken under the control of the state (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as it was then known), and they were placed under the responsibility of the Board of Public Works. In 1890, the Board began a project of conservation of the monument, which had been damaged through general deterioration over the previous three millennia as well as the increasing vandalism caused by visitors, some of whom had inscribed their names on the stones. In subsequent decades, a number of archaeologists performed excavations at the site, discovering more about its function and how it had been constructed, however even at the time it was still widely believed by archaeologists to be Bronze Age in origin rather than the older Neolithic.

Following this excavation, further restoration took place at the site. Access to New Grange is by guided tour only. Tours begin at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre in Donore, Co. Meath, from which visitors are bussed to the site in groups.

file:bru na boinne squire.jpg
Knowth is a Neolithic passage grave and an ancient monument in the River Boyne Valley in Ireland. Knowth is the largest of all passage graves situated within the Brú na Bóinne complex. The site consists of one large mound and 17 smaller satellite tombs. The large mound has been estimated to date from between 2500 and 2000 BC. Knowth contains more than a third of the total number of examples of megalithic art in all of Western Europe. Over 200 decorated stones were found during excavations at Knowth. There is some evidence for late Neolithic and Bronze Age activity on the site at Knowth.

file:knowth entrance to second passage 2010.jpgfile:knowthps.jpg

Knowth Passage Tomb

Dowth, dating from about 2,500 – 2000 BC, is a Neolithic passage tomb which stands in the Boyne Valley. It is less developed as a tourist attraction than its neighbors, partly because the chamber is much lower, and partly because the decoration is poorer. It was partly excavated in 1847 though it had been pillaged (by Vikings and earlier looters) long before that.

Dowth shares a special solar celebration with neighboring New Grange during the winter solstice. During the winter solstice the light of the low sun moves along the left side of the passage, then into the circular chamber, where three stones are lit up by the sun.

. dowth passage-mound

Dowth Passage Tomb

The convex central stone reflects the sunlight into a dark recess, lighting up the decorated stones there. The rays then recede slowly along the right side of the passage and after about two hours

The River Foyle, Derry, and the North


The River Foyle is a river in County Londonderry in the northwest of Ireland. The River Foyle starts at the confluence of the rivers Finn and Mourne at the towns of Lifford in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, and Strabane in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It flow through the City of Derry, into Lough Foyle and, ultimately, to the north Atlantic Ocean. The river separates part of County Donegal from parts of both County Londonderry and County Tyrone. The Foyle is believed to be one of the best salmon rivers in Ireland.

City of Derry and the Foyle River

The River Foyle is also the fastest flowing river in Europe for its size, making the construction of bridges to cross it difficult. In Derry, the main crossing point, there are two traffic bridges. The south bridge, the older of the two, is Europe's only road traffic double decker bridge and is officially known as the Craigavon Bridge (popularly called the Blue Bridge). The northern bridge, known as the Foyle Bridge, is a much larger bridge and was built to accommodate large ocean vessels at a time when it was envisaged that the city would need to accommodate such vessels. However, this proved unnecessary as the main port was moved several miles north of the city and the large vessels it was designed for never had to come so far south. Derry's most famous politician, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning John Hume, was most closely associated with the planning of the second bridge, believing that the large size was required to maintain a potential economic lifeline to the city through the port.

file:craigavon bridge.jpgfile:foyle bridge, underside.jpg

Craigavon Bridge Foyle Bridge

There is a new s-shaped walking bridge to open in the summer of 2011, named the Peace Bridge that connects the city of Derry to the Waterside.

editorial image

Derry Peace Bridge

Outside of Derry, the only bridge to cross the River Foyle is Lifford Bridge, which was built in the 1960’s between Lifford, the County Town of County Donegal on the western bank of the river, and Strabane, a major town in County Tyrone on the eastern bank.

Traffic on the Foyle south of Derry is now more or less restricted to pleasure boats with the occasional tanker coming in the refinery at the northern end of the town.

Due to the presence of two bridges over the river in Derry, some people choose to attempt suicide by jumping into the deep and fast moving Foyle. 'Foyle Search and Rescue' was established as a charity in July 1993 and has adopted the role of protecting human life in the River Foyle from the Craigavon Bridge to the Foyle Bridge. Between 1993 and 2008 it dealt with more than 1,000 people in distress.


file:river foyle 2004 seanmcclean.jpg

City of Derry and the River Foyle

Although Londonderry remains the legal name of this city, it is more usually known as Derry. Derry, which is an Anglicization of the old Irish Daire, and in modern Irish is spelled Doire, translates as "oak-grove/oak-wood". The name was changed from Derry in 1613 during the colonization of the area, known as the Plantation of Ulster, by the London Guilds. The "London" prefix was added, changing the name of the city to Londonderry. Officially, the name Londonderry dates to city's Royal Charter of April 10, 1662. Derry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland.

The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, but Derry now covers both banks (Bogside or Cityside on the west and Waterside on the east). The River Foyle is spanned by two bridges. The city district also extends to rural areas to the southeast. The Derry City Council area had a population of approximately 107,000 as of June 2006. The district is administered by Derry City Council.

Derry is close to the border with County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, with which it has had a close link for many centuries. The person traditionally seen as the 'founder' of the original Derry is Saint Colmcille, a holy man from Tír Chonaill, the old name for almost all of modern County Donegal. Derry and the nearby town of Letterkenny in the Republic of Ireland form the major economic core of North West Ireland.

In 2013, Derry will become the first city to be designated UK City of Culture, having been awarded the title in July 2010.

Politics of the Name

The name of the city is tied very closely to the political history of area. The name "Derry" is preferred by nationalists and it is broadly used throughout Northern Ireland's Catholic community, as well as that of the Republic of Ireland. The prefix ‘London” brings with it memories of a history of colonization and repression for the Catholic community.

Unionists still prefer "Londonderry", since their allegiances are to Great Britain. However in everyday conversation Derry is used by most Protestant residents of the city.

Local usage varies among local organizations, with both names being used. Examples are: City of Derry Airport, City of Derry Rugby Club, Derry City Football Club and the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry, compared to Londonderry Port, Londonderry YMCA Rugby Club and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

The official road signs in the Republic of Ireland use the name Derry, those in Northern Ireland bear Londonderry (sometimes abbreviated to L'Derry), although some of these have been defaced with the prefix London obscured.

file:derry stranorlar n13 roadsign cropped.jpgfile:vandalised road-sign londonderry p3010060.jpg

The city council, with a majority of the seats held by Catholics, changed the name of the local government district covering the city to “Derry” on May 7, 1984, consequently renaming itself Derry City Council. However, they have not yet been able to change the name of the city itself.

City Wall

Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. Derry was the last walled city to be built in Europe, and stands as the most complete and spectacular example.

The Wall was built during the period 1613-1619 as defenses for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Wall, which is approximately 1 mile in circumference and which varies in height and width between 12 and 35 feet, are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate to which three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic Cathedral of St. Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.

file:cannon on derry city walls smc 2007.jpgfile:bishops street gate derry smc 2007.jpg

Top of the city wall in Derry Bishops Gate

Derry is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges, hence the city's nickname, the Maiden City.

The city has long been a focal point for important events in Irish history, including the 1688-1689 siege of Derry and Bloody Sunday on January 30, 1972.

Early History

Derry is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in Ireland. The earliest historical references date to the 6th century when a monastery was founded there by St. Columba or Colmcille, a famous saint from what is now County Donegal. However, for thousands of years before that people had been living in the vicinity.

Before leaving Ireland to spread Christianity elsewhere, Columba founded a monastery in the then Doire Calgach. According to oral and documented history, the site was granted to Columba by a local king. The year 546 is often referred to as the date that the original settlement was founded. However it is accepted that this was an erroneous date assigned by medieval chroniclers, although it is likely that the monastery was founded sometime in the 6th century. Between the 6th century and the 11th century, Derry was primarily a monastic settlement.

The town became strategically more significant during the conquest of Ireland in the mid-1500’s after Henry VIII assumed the Throne as the King of Ireland. Derry came under frequent attack, and in 1608 it was destroyed by the Irish chieftain, Cahir O'Doherty, who was angry about the Ulster Plantation.

Ulster Plantation

Colonization of the northeast portion of Ireland in the early 17th century is referred to as the Ulster Plantation. The idea was to settle as many Protestants supportive of the crown in Ulster as possible.

The vast majority of the settlers were from Scotland, but craftsman from London also colonized the region. It was the craftsman from London, sponsored by trade associations that built the city of Londonderry, with walls to defend it from Irish insurgents who did not welcome the occupation.

Derry was the first planned city in Ireland. It was begun in 1613, with the walls being completed 5 years later, at a cost of £10,757. The central diamond within a walled city with four gates was thought to be a good design for defense. The grid pattern chosen was subsequently much copied in the colonies of British North America. The charter initially defined the city as extending three Irish miles from the center.

The modern city preserves the 17th century layout of four main streets radiating from a central Diamond to four gateways - Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher's Gate. The city's oldest surviving building, also constructed at this time, is the 1633 Plantation Gothic Cathedral of St. Columb. In the porch of the cathedral is a stone that records completion with the inscription: "If stones could speake, then London's prayse should sound, Who built this church and cittie from the grounde."


Cathedral of St. Columb

17th-century Upheavals

During the 1640s, the city suffered as a result of a series of wars in England and Ireland, including the English Civil War. In 1641 Irish insurgents made a failed attack on the city in what is called the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The city and its garrison, which supported the Parliament in London, were besieged by forces loyal to King Charles I. The war in Ulster was finally brought to an end when the Parliamentarians crushed the Irish Catholic Ulster army in 1650.

In 1688, only Londonderry and nearby Enniskillen had a Protestant garrison. Troops loyal to the Catholic King James arrived in Derry on December 7, 1688. The gates of the city were closed against them and the Siege of Derry began. In April 1689, King James came to the city and summoned it to surrender. The King was rebuffed and the siege lasted until the end of July with the arrival of a relief ship. The 105 day-long Siege of Derry is considered part of the Williamite War in Ireland. A reported 8,000 Protestants inside the walls died of disease or starvation.

The city was rebuilt in the 18th century with many of its fine Georgian style houses still surviving. The city's first bridge across the River Foyle was built in 1790. During the 18th and 19th centuries the port became an important embarkation point for Irish emigrants setting out for North America. Some of these founded the colonies of Derry and Londonderry in the state of New Hampshire.

One of the most notable shipping lines was the McCorkell Line operated by Wm. McCorkell & Co. Ltd. from 1778. The McCorkell's most famous ship was the Minnehaha, which was known as the "Green Yacht from Derry".

Also during the 19th century, Derry became a destination for migrants fleeing areas more severely affected by the Irish Potato Famine.

Download 389.52 Kb.

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8

The database is protected by copyright © 2024
send message

    Main page