Journal Volume 1 1992
Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/8)
How much more was wanted is plain from the County Survey, written in 1800 by Robert Eraser and published in the following year. The courageous Fraser didn't mince his words:
Adjacent to this harbour (he means the natural indentation at the northern end of The Grey Stones) is a plain (sic) which might be formed into a convenient village, into which the fishermen scattered on the coast might be with great advantage collected, and under a benevolent land owner freed from the heavy oppressions to which we found them subjected, in being forced to pay for their cabbins (sic) and a patch of land a most exorbitant rent, amounting to the rate of four and five guineas an acre. And by having some improvement made of this harbour, they would not be exposed to the losses to which they are so frequently subjected, by having their boars beat (sic) to pieces by the surf on the beach, which also prevents their pursuing their industry, but is the occasion of numbers annually perishing, in returning from the fishing ground (50).
One of the points to note from Praser's remarks is that the fishermen's dwellings were 'scattered on the coast'. Samuel French tells us that in early times the fishermen lived in dwellings as far apart as Windgate and Delgany, Killincarrig and Blacklion (townland of Kindlestown Lower), and that a preventive water-guard station was located at Blacklion (51). The reason for the water-guard station was to prevent smuggling, for as Noel Kennedy sagely remarks, ‘Fishing is not the only thing you can do with a boat. There was on Bray Head', continues Kennedy, ‘a large well-concealed smugglers' cave called the Brandy Hole: it was destroyed when the railway was built (52).
A quarter of a century after Eraser's Survey appeared George Wright, in describing Greystones as 'a little wild headland’, added that there are seven families residing here, all employed in the fisheries, and also a preventive water-guard' (53). Somewhat earlier Alexander Nimmo, FRS (1783-1832), the Scottish civil engineer, was employed by the Fishery Board to make surveys of the harbours of Ireland, and build harbours and piers at various points on the coast (54). Nimmo reported favourably on the natural advantages of Greystones and estimated the cost of erecting a serviceable pier; but nothing seems to have been done at the time.
When the first edition of Lewis's Topographical Dictionary came out in 1837 it referred to ‘the small fishing hamlet called The Greystones, where is a coast-guard station, which is one of those that form the district of Kingstown' (55). Professor Freeman, the noted historical geographer who died in 1988, also remarked that in pre - famine times Greystones was 'a tiny hamlet with a coastguard station', adding that it was 'not then/as now/within the outer suburban area of Dublin' (56). How the coastguard station differed from the earlier water-guard station at Blacklion I'm unable to say; but it was located at what is now the Garda station, Kenmare Terrace on Trafalgar Road, which is much closer to the sea than is Blacklion, was where the coastguards lived. Trafalgar Lodge was the residence of their commander, according to Noel Kennedy, who also says that after the Treaty of December 1921 the coastguards disappeared (57).