Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/7)

That hamlet, as Burne chose to describe it, is The Grove (erroneously rendered 'An Fáschoill' in Irish on the signboard), which though very close to the present railway line, is a peaceful and a pleasant place. I've been told that these neat houses were built as farm workers' dwellings in the opening years of the present century (1902-3). The building contractor is said to have been the father of Simon and Ben Doyle, farmers. A Walk in Greystones (September 1988) records that planning permission was granted for one hundred and nineteen houses in Rathdown and that an open space of undefined extent was to be left around St Crispin's Cell (46). This arrangement seems to have been set aside and permission granted instead for ninety-one dwelling houses. Further to comment on the proposed scheme would I feel be inappropriate. It's not strictly history but it will be some day.

The Fishermen

'A noted fishing place': that's what Greystones was when William Wenman Seward, attorney (died 1806), brought out his Topographia Hibernica in 1795. It grieves me to have to tell you that Seward has been misquoted by at least three recent writers. Seward didn’t describe the place as 'a noted fishing village', for there wasn’t even the semblance of a village here in Seward's time, nor indeed until well into the nineteenth century. The error can be traced back to a booklet published about twenty five years ago. It's hardly necessary to inform members of a society which has for its object the study and the fostering of local history and antiquities that failure to consult prime sources is the sure way to perpetuate errors. William J. Burne recorded Seward's remarks faithfully in the 1922 Guide to Greystones and District, even if he (or his printer) did misspell the title of Seward's book. The misspelling was copied by several later writers, even as late as 1989.

'The herrings first brought into Dublin', wrote Seward, 'are usually taken by the fishing boats of this place' (47). Seward's is the first topographical reference to Greystones that I've met with and it's not a little remarkable, I think, that within the space of five years two other writers should have mentioned the herring fishery. In 1796, a year after Seward's most useful work appeared, John Ferrar, the Limerick-born historian of his native city (48), was a guest of Peter La Touche while writing his Tour of Bellevue. Ferrar wrote:

On coming out of Delgany church we ... could see the herring boats at sea. This fishery might prove an inexhaustible fund of wealth to the nation; our parliament has done much to encourage it, but more is wanted (49).


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