Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/3)

Exactly half a century after George Taylor and Andrew Skinner's volume of maps appeared, that is, in 1827, the Rev. G.N. Wright, MA (c. 1790-1877), had a sad tale to unfold as he strolled down that ancient bóithrín known locally as Ennis's Lane (but called Rathdown Lane by St John Joyce (8)). Ennis's Lane is named after the Ennis family who held land under Peter La Touche in the townlands of Upper and Lower Rathdown (9) and who are buried in Killadreenan cemetery, Newcastle (10) . In the modern part of Ennis's Lane is the cemetery opened in 1882, to which for very many years there was no road - only a right of way. About 1950 the County Council when laying a public road here erected the present entrance gates and walls. In Weston St John Joyce's day, old Ennis's Lane (or Rathdown Lane) was the shorter way to Greystones (11).

Now, let's get back to the Rev. Mr Wright. George Newenham Wright was a minister of the then Established Church. He was 'professor of antiquities to the Royal Hibernian Academy' and he wrote a number of dependable guide-books. A discerning present-day antiquary, Kathleen Turner, who wrote a history of Rathmichael parish, describes Wright as 'the noted traveller ... who left so many useful notes for us...' (12). The Rev. G.N. Wright walked the old bóithrín from Lower Windgate to what's now The Grove, emerging at the entrance to the eighteenth-century house and farmyard, then Ireland's and later Ennis's. We've mentioned Redford Cemetery - the one opened in 1882. Now let's hear what Wright has to say about another cemetery, or quondam cemetery, which was perhaps even more ancient than the parish cemetery of Delgany itself:

To the right of the road leading to Grey-stones, at a distance of about one furlong, is seen the small chapel or cell of St Crispin ... it is now unroofed, and the walls clothed with ivy: the adjacent ground does not appear to have been used as a cemetery, although the body of a seaman, washed on shore near Rathdown Castle, was interred here ... (13) (Joyce says this burial took place 'early in the last century' (14)).

And from Wright's general description of the Rathdown area we learn what befell the sacred acre of which there was then no vestige left:

Wild and deserted as the whole of this district, from the Windgate road to the beach, now appears, with scarcely a comfortable residence, and no arborical vegetation, it was once the site of the village of Rathdown, and surrounded by baronial and ecclesiastical edifices. The castle, St Crispin's cell, and the parish church, were within short distances of each other and of the village. Upon the final deletion of the village, Col. Tarrant, the proprietor, razed the tomb-stones, disinterred the bones in the church-yard, and recommitted all to the earth again in one large pit dug for the purpose, after which he erased the church itself. Thus has all the greatness of Rathdown passed away; nor would even this historic sketch be found to perpetuate its memory, if chance had not directed the Wicklow Guide to the cottage of a peasant, then in his 96th year, near Grey-stones, in whose singularly tenacious memory the traditions of Rathdown still lived, and where they also were fondly cherished (15).


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