Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/14)

Fishing was, as I've said, a bad trade here from about 1864 onwards, so in autumn, winter and spring the fishermen forsook their boats and employed themselves in building; 'but', says Samuel French, 'when summer came the call of the sea was too strong and they stole away to the boats. There was good trade to be done providing pleasure boats for the visitors and teaching them to fish for plaice, mackerel and pollock with hand lines and long lines. The fishermen also fished from the shore with seine nets whenever the fish came in shoals' (78).

Most of the houses on both Church Road (which has long been the principal thoroughfare) and Trafalgar Road were built between 1864 and 1889. The Young Women's Christian Association rented Coolnagriena on Trafalgar Road in 1890, when it must have been a new or fairly new building. They bought it out in 1928 and have recently refurbished it. With the expansion of the village several roads and a couple of bridges had to be built too, as can be seen by a map facing page 12 of Samuel French's booklet. St Patrick's Church had to be extended three times - in 1875, 1888 and 1898. St Kilian's Church was enlarged in 1886, as was the Presbyterian Meeting- house in 1899.

The Harbour

That the potential of Greystones as a harbour long remained unexploited is evident from the fact that Anthony Marmion of Dundalk, in what we may call his seminal work, the Maritime Ports of Ireland (first edition 1855), failed to make any mention of Greystones. Not alone did he exclude the place from his main text: he didn't even allude to it in his note about harbours of refuge on the east coast - this in spite of the fact that a number of writers from Captain Robert Fraser onwards, as well as Nimmo the engineer, had acknowledged and drawn attention to the natural advantages of Greystones.

I can find no evidence that anything was done about the harbour till the 1880s. You'll recall that the fishing failed about 1864 and that the fishermen took to house-building. At any rate somebody set the ball rolling - possibly the local MP, William Corbett, who lived in Kilquade (79) - for we learn that on 16 October 1886 a royal commission was appointed to inquire into Irish public works and in particular harbour, inland navigation and railway facilities. Its first report was issued on 9 April 1887 and its final report on 4 January 1888 (80). We find Weston St John Joyce remarking in the second edition of his Rambles Around Dublin (1887) that ‘there is a small pier in course of erection here' (in Greystones).

Then the Irish Builder of 1 December 1888 reported that, pier or no pier, the movement of shingle was causing the harbour to be filled up so rapidly that there was every prospect of its being filled up completely in a short time. In the House of Commons, went on the Irish Builder, William Corbett, MP, asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, William Lawies Jackson (afterwards, briefly, chief secretary for Ireland: ennobled as Baron Allerton), if it was a fact that many unavailing attempts had been made to get a groyne built to the north, to stop the travel of the shingle; if his attention had been drawn to the evidence given before the royal commission in 1887, in which the harbour, as designed, was described as 'a trap to catch the shingle': and what steps the government proposed to take? Jackson replied that ‘the Board of Works were considering a plan to stop the movement of the shingle'.


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