Journal Volume 1 1992
Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/6)
The Rathdown House which was once a Morres, Morris or Morrice residence was the house in which Mrs Kathleen Synge and her children spent the summer of 1884, when the future playwright and poet was thirteen years old (36). They were here for 'three or four months' (37). John Millington Synge (1871-1909) spent all but one summer of his formative years in Greystones. The Rathdown House where the Synges stayed was demolished only recently. The land is now a serviced site for housing development. One entrance pier bearing the name 'Rathdown' survives: it may be seen from the lay-by close to the 'Welcome to Greystones' sign and nearly opposite Johnson & Staunton's. On the cap of the other pier, which has been thrown to one side, is the word 'House'. The residence occupied by Charles Tarrant from 1771 till 1806, also called Rathdown, is now believed to have been the old farm buildings opposite The Grove houses, or else the old manor house on whose foundations the present sewage treatment plant is thought to have been built. The castle was evidently north of that part of Ennis's Lane which reaches from The Grove to the sea. The two seats called Rathdown are clearly marked on Taylor and Skinner's Map of 1777. Sleater's Topography puts the location of Tarrant's residence at twelve Irish miles from Dublin and one mile from Kilruddery gate (38). The Post Chaise Companion of 1803, whose distances are also given in Irish measure, says: 'two miles and three quarters from Bray, on the left is Rathdown, the seat of Captain Tarrant; and nearly opposite to it, at a distance of about half a mile, is Temple-carrick, the seat of Colonel Rawson' (39). In the fourth, undated edition of the same work, we find yet another Morris, forenamed Lewis, occupying Tarrant's former residence (40).
Eugene O'Curry found and described vestiges of the walls of Rathdown Castle in 1838 (41). These 'finally disappeared during the building of the railway in the years 1854-1856, when the stones were used to build bridges and the old limekiln' (42). The limekiln, which survived into the last quarter-century, has now disappeared, having evidently given way to the sewage treatment plant, now obsolete, we're told (43). We'll close this part of our narrative with two short quotations. The first is from Joyce's Neighbourhood of Dublin, the first edition, 1912:
On a slight eminence and facing the lonely sea-beaten shore stood the ancient castle of Rathdown. ... The village of Rathdown stood a short distance to the north-west and in draining one of the fields there during the last century, the remains of a paved street were discovered. Adjoining the site of the castle is a clear spring well which probably supplied the household with water (44).
William J. Burne wrote ten years later (1922):
Close to the castle stood the town of Rathdown, once a place of considerable importance but, like the castle, now only a memory. The name is still applied to the barony, however, and strangely enough a small hamlet of new cottages has sprung up in recent years near the site of the old town (45).