Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown

A paper read on Wednesday 16 January 1991 at a meeting of Greystones Archaeological and Historical Society in the La Touche Hotel , Greystones

By Séamas Ó Saothraí
Introduction and Summary

Although Greystones is essentially a modern and rising town the immediate locality boasts such antiquarian remains as the Elizabethan Killincarrig House, Kindlestown Castle and Rathdown Castle. Two of these are in ruins and the third entirely obliterated, but drawings of all three are extant. St Crispin's Cell still stands, close to the site of Rathdown Castle and village, half a mile north of the harbour.

Ancient Rathdown, which features in both the Annals of the Four Masters and the Book of the O'Byrnes, had begun to fade from folk memory before Greystones became the 'noted fishing place' it was at the close of the eighteenth century. But the fishermen’s dwellings were widely scattered and no village, properly so called, existed well into the 19th century. Expansion began with the coming of the railway in 1856.

Between 1864 and 1889 the fishermen left their boats and took to house-building. Places of worship and a schoolhouse were built too, so that, with a population of five hundred a century ago, the foundations were laid of what has officially been the Town of Greystones since 1954, with its own Town Commissioners and some ten thousand residents in the greater Greystones area.

Prefatory Note

When I asked to read this paper to the Society my inclination was to remove from it that part relating to the decline and demise of the Irish language in these parts. As some of you are aware, I dealt with that subject separately and in greater detail in my closing address to the second La Touche Legacy Seminar last October. A by-product of that address is another paper which I shall, God willing, be reading on 15 May to the Bray Cualann Historical Society on Price of the Place-names, the centenary of whose birth occurs this year.

I felt that one of the shortcomings of this paper, 'Old Greystones and ancient Rathdown', was the absence from it of any reference to old roads and rights of way. I foolishly believed that I could insert a section on that subject in place of the deleted piece on the Irish language, and still keep the paper's duration to one hour. I found however that the subject was so wide and indeed complicated that I'd have to try to write a separate paper on it. That I may yet do, if God spares me.


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