Irish Towns & Villages


Monday, 17 July 2017 09:08

Custom House Dublin:

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It Took 10 Years To Build Dublin's Custom House At A Cost of £200,000 And in 1921 The I.R.A. Burned the Imposing Building

How did the ancient craftsmen of Ireland build such magnificent buildings such as cathedrals, government buildings and monuments dotted all over Ireland. The construction is only part of any major building project and before any shovels or trowels are seen, the architects as designers and the sculptors as craftsmen, put in a huge amount of hours into pre-planning.

We are referring to TIMES PAST for our Irish Heritage Website and we are also talking about many historic buildings/venues built in 18th century Ireland. It was an era long before Henry Ford invented his Model T Motor car and transport was by horse and cart and long before modern day style scaffolding made reaching great heights an everyday routine.

It is an 18th century neoclassical prominent building which now provides offices for the Department Of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Its location is in the north bank of the famous river Liffey and adjacent to the Talbot Memorial Bridge and Butt Bridge.

In 1707, engineer Thomas Burgh built the original Custom House, but this building had outlived its purpose and was condemned in the late 18th century as unsafe for use.

The cost of a new Custom House did not seem to bother John Beresford who was the instigator behind the project. At that time, Ireland under British rule, had John Beresford as head of finance for Ireland.

Beresford did not get off to the start he envisaged when the original architect he appointed, Thomas Cooley, died unexpectedly. Into the breach Beresford brought James Gandon, a relatively new architect, now tasked with a huge design project and little experience of major projects.

The area selected as the site was marshland and the acquisition of the land proved extremely expensive. Protests at the development were mounted but Beresford took on all comers who were negative towards his grandiose plan and he ploughed on regardless.

1781 marks the commencement of the building work and James Gandon chose some of the very best artists and stone cutters in the land. Any Dublin mason who wanted work need look no further than Beresford and Gandon.

After a mighty ten years of intensive toiling, the new Custom House welcomed its first workers through the doors on 7th November 1791.

Over £200,000 was spent on the structure, a mighty sum in that far off era of Times Past. The completed project rose the profile of James Gandon as an architect to new horizons and he never again had to wait for new commissions.

The Custom House intended use was the collection of custom duties but as the Port Of Dublin rapidly expanded and moved downriver, use of the large building was greatly diminished.

The Local Government Board For Ireland would later take up tenancy but when the Irish War Of Independence erupted in 1921, the Irish Republican Army decided to burn down the place to displace British Rule in Ireland.

Many facets of the imposing building were gutted but the I.R.A. destruction also had a negative effect as historic records were lost and several volunteers were captured as they retreated.

Following the Irish Treaty of 1921, the property was now under the ownership of the new Irish government who set about rebuilding the property.

The Custom House is a huge building to maintain and considerable sums have been spent over many years preserving this monumental Dublin building.

Wednesday, 03 May 2017 19:01

Armagh: The Orchard County Of Armagh

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Historic Towns & Villages Category:


Nestled In A Cluster Of Northern Ireland Counties, Armagh Is The

Seat Of The Catholic Church In Ireland

Armagh, the Orchard county of All Ireland, was already one of Ireland’s best known counties and when the late Donegal singer, Bridie Gallagher, recorded “The Boys Of The County Armagh” with her amazing balladeer voice, she took us all on a stroll around the county. 

‘Around by the Gap of Mount Norris and home by Blackwater again’ were words in the song that captivated the musical ear of Irish people all around the globe. It’s a lively ballad about one fair county, a county also made famous by St. Patrick who founded a college there that became world famous.

Old authors such as Beade and St. Fiech referred to Armagh as the capital of All Ireland in the early centuries whilst  ancient Armagh was the territory of the Ulaid (also known as Voluntii, Ultonians, Ulidians, Ulstermen) before the fourth century AD.

Armagh was ruled by the Red Branch, whose capital was Emain Macha (or Navan Fort) near the city of Armagh. The site and subsequently the city, were named after the goddess Macha.


When the Treaty Of Ireland was signed by Michael Collins and colleagues in 1921, Armagh, despite its close proximity to county Louth, was deemed to be a part of the new six counties of Ulster.

The county has a strong gaelic tradition and in 21st century Ireland, Armagh is a relatively small county whose borders straddle Tyrone, Down, Louth, Monaghan and Antrim. It is sandwiched in-between its bordering counties in the North East of Ireland.

Our history books state Queen Macha of the Spears or otherwise known as Macha of the Golden Hair, built Armagh. She also built a huge palace at Navan Fort near the city and the ruins are still visible.

Macha is also credited with establishing The Red Branch Knights Of Ulster and they occupied homes next to the palace as living quarters. In close proximity was ‘The House Of The Sorrowful Soldier’ which was a hospital to cater for the medical needs of inhabitants.

Further history reading states that St. Patrick was responsible for obliterating all the Armagh rats and the cathedral city is known to be the enemy of rats. Old tales abound that any rats that invade Armagh meet their sudden death and that is attributed to the power of St. Patrick’s prayers.

Other chapters of Irish history state that the Irish warrior, Brian Boru, had a special place in his heart for Armagh and despite capturing Armagh in a battle royal, in his will he made it known, he wanted to be buried in Armagh and his wish was granted.

Brian Boru lost his life in the Battle Of Clontarf, Dublin, on 23rd April 1014 and his funeral procession over roadways from Clontarf to Armagh City, was one of the largest funerals ever held in Ireland.


The county population takes in approximately 170,000 citizens with the City Of Armagh the capital town, whilst Portadown and Lurgan are also large county towns.St. Patrick made Armagh his clerical seat and this inheritance is held in high values by the Irish Catholic Church who continue to base their Irish Cardinal in Armagh. It is also a majority Catholic stronghold amongst its population taken from a recent census.

As a county stretching across the border lines of the Republic Of Ireland, during the Northern Ireland troubles South Armagh became known in the media as ‘Bandit Country’.  Southern regions of the county are majority catholic and its citizens are mainly opposed to British Rule.

Gaelic football is the dominant sport in south Armagh and in some pockets of the south, hurling is taken very seriously. Soccer is very prominent around the county and particularly in the Portadown region.

Another Irish sport with origins in county Cork is Roadbowling and this unique sport is a very important social fabric in south Armagh in many towns and villages. A number of Armagh bowlers have claimed the All Ireland Roadbowling championship and support for the sport is very evident when one crosses over the border and into the town of Keady.

In gaelic football Armagh hold one All Ireland senior football title won in 2002 when they defeated the all conquering Kerry by one point in a thrilling final at Croke Park. However the fortunes of Armagh’s footballers has dimmed in recent years but in a highly competitive arena, the fortunes of many more former All Ireland champions has also dimmed.


Armagh is famous for the amount of orchards in the county and driving through the countryside the orchards represent stunning views for visitors. This is the reason that Armagh is regarded as ‘The Orchard County Of Ireland’.


By Derry JF Doody

Wednesday, 03 May 2017 01:09

Liberties Of Dublin

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Historic Towns & Villages Category:


The Historic Liberties Of Dublin Renowned in Song And Verse And A Place With An Immense History


Songs and stories of renown abound about Dublin’s famous Liberties and traditionally this well known city district was anything for many decades but a desirable place of residence for families to live.

In 21st century Dublin the wheel of fortune has circled right back to the days when the Liberties housed Vikings who occupied the area. The origin of the name Liberties can be traced right back prior to the Irish Reformation of the 16th century when the lands adjoining the local monasteries were exempted from civil law.


The church had ecclesiastical governance in the vicinity, unlike most of Dublin and that is the root beginning of how the name “The Liberties” was formulated.


The locality had four monasteries and each monastery had its own Liberty as follows:

A/ St. Patrick’s Liberty at St. Patrick’s Cathedral B/ Christchurch Cathedral C/ St. Thomas sited at St. Catherine’s Church and D/ The Liberty of St. Sepulchre at the current site of Kevin Street Garda Station.


Thomas Street is the site where The Bould Robert Emmet was taken for execution. Thomas Street also has many more historic attributes and a deed recorded in history is credited to King Henry 11.

His thousands of loyal supporters mistakenly believed, that by slaughtering the Archbishop Of Canterbury, Thomas A. Beckett in 1170, the King would thank them.

However King George11 felt deep repulsion at their cruel action and wondered how he could commemorate Thomas A. Beckett. He decided to erect a monastery on the site of St. Catherine’s church, Thomas Street, and donate a great amount of land nearby also.


Monasteries had locations in medieval times sited near rivers and monks were very industrial minded and set up numerous commercial and industrial businesses. The Monastery at Thomas Street depended on the river Poddle but this supply was inadequate for their visions of trade at the location.


It was then decided that a new source of natural water was urgently required and the monks now began to construct a two mile stretch of a narrow canal from Kimmage to their own Thomas Street location.

On completion of the new water supply, mills, saw mills and breweries were established and this activity heightened associated businesses that mushroomed throughout The Liberties.


The prosperity of The Liberties was soon a major talking point in Dublin circles and the arrival of the French Huguenots after the Reformation gave rise to much of the lands transferring to them.

This occupation by the Huguenots strengthened commercial and industrial activities in The Liberties and the French occupiers built grandiose French style houses in the area also.


The Huguenots looked after the local people and weaving became almost a household industry as many families acquired a loom to primarily manufacture silk garments. As the raw material for silk almost dried up and became overly expensive, the silk was now interwoven with wool and this produced garments that were in great demand.


Interestingly along the banks of the new Kimmage canal, new industries sprung up such as cloth mills, distilleries, flour mills, chemical plants, breweries and bacon cure houses. The majority of workers enjoyed very good salaries and lived fluently.


As steam was invented as a new means of energy, this had a severe impact on the majority of the businesses and the Arthur Guinness plant was a rare exception to the decline in trade in The Liberties districts. Founded in 1759, the Irish brewery progressed to become the world’s largest brewery in the 1930’s era.


The Guinness empire acquired over sixty acres in The Liberties district and the company had its own ships, The Lady Miranda and The Lady Patricia, traveling the Irish sea exporting to Britain and other shores.

A well known factor of employment at Guinness for residents of The Liberties working at the brewery, was the pay and conditions. The company took care of its employees by building homes for its workers and also building a swimming pool for relaxation and leisure.


Arthur Guinness, the founder, poised a lot of questions for Republican Fenians who were not pleased that the famous Irish entrepreneur was not always on their political side. Arthur in his prime was a powerful figurehead on Dublin’s Council, he was tops of the table with financial power and few, if any council colleagues, could match his status.


In The Liberties of the 18th century, Arthur Guinness was the saviour of the majority of local families who thrived in the workplace, due to the success of their local brewery. In 21st century Dublin, Guinness are still the dominant force in the commercial life of the Liberties of Dublin City.


A trade of renown in The Liberties was a Cooper. These were the master craftsmen who daily crafted the timber Guinness barrels to store porter for public houses to serve to customers. The splendidly constructed barrels were airtight and made from the sheer accuracy of the Coopers eye and their speed of manufacture was astonishing.


In the modern day Liberties, market stalls are a great attraction with indoor and outdoor traders in abundance. New houses and images in The Liberties have developed over the decades but the famous Liberties Of Dublin is a place of renown with an immense history and if you haven’t been there, maybe it’s time to plan that extra special outing.


Irish comedian and singer, Brendan Grace, is a native of the Liberties and in his gigs all around the globe, Brendan tells his audiences many humorous stories of his childhood growing up in The Liberties Of Dublin.


By Derry JF Doody

Passage West, Co. Cork, The Main Shipping Port Of Cork In 18th Century Ireland

Our Town – Our Place

Passage West, Co. Cork (An Pasáiste Thiar) is a port town situated on the west bank of Cork Harbour. It is some 10km from Cork city centre, close to all city services of shopping and amenities.

The town was designated a conservation area in the 2003 Cork County Development Plan. The G.A.A. club has been at the helm of sport in the region for 130 years and that proud tradition has been maintained and expanded in recent years as the club acquired new land to facilitate even greater expansion for the promotion and preservation of gaelic games in the community.

Soccer is also well catered for in the community and the local club have a magnificent complex at Rockeham Park, on the Cork city side of the town. Through the 20th century Passage had a vibrant harrier club also and rowing on the local waterside was a hugely popular sport also.

Passage West today is one of Cork city's principal residential dormitory towns. The town suffered from relatively high unemployment for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but recent re-development, along with the sweeping harbour views the area offers, has ensured that the town is now one of Cork's most desirable residential locations.

A substantial amount of new housing development took place in the celtic tiger years - especially on the northern edge of the town.

The towns development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep sea anchorage. The advancement of Cork's commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Owing to the shallowness of the Lee channel above the town right through to upriver Blackrock, vessels over 150 tons were unable to proceed upriver to Cork and were obliged to discharge their cargoes at Passage.

These cargoes were either unloaded on to lighters and brought up the river to Cork, or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork at that time was via Church Hill, through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farm-yard at Oldcourt, Rochestown and then on to Douglas and Cork.

In 1836 a new quay was built at Passage West Docks where the vessels could berth and land their passengers and freight. It was no uncommon sight to see between 70 and 80 vessels anchored in the local harbour. The eventual dredging of the Lee channel put an end to a great extent to the importance of Passage as a port.

The 19th century ferry between Passage and Carrigaloe also enhanced the trade of the town. Until the opening of the Cork to Cobh Railway, the traffic on this cross river ferry was very substantial.

Between 200 and 300 covered-in-cars (jingles) brought passengers from Cork to Passage by ferry daily. In the first half of the 19th century, Cobh was the principal sea-side resort in Munster and that richly enhanced the Ferry.

During the first twenty days of August 1836 over twenty thousand people crossed over on the ferry and this gave considerable employment. The boats were apparently large flat-bottomed ones worked by a system of cables and pulleys, and capable of taking very heavy cargoes. This ferry dated back to the reign of James 1 or even earlier.

The ferry fares fixed were:

- a person, a cow, a horse, 6 sheep, swine or goats - one penny.

The eventual opening of a railway line to Cobh (then known as Queenstown) caused the demise of the Passage ferry. However in the early 1990’s a car ferry service was opened between nearby Glenbrook and Carrigaloe and still continues in the 21st century.

Also in the 19th century, Passage West became a popular bathing resort for the citizens of Cork and the houses at Glenbrook and Toureen were in great demand during the Summer. According to a census taken in 1831 the population of Passage was 1,457 of whom 1,136 were Catholics.

Passage West boasted two hydropathic establishments in downriver Glenbrook.

The Victoria Baths was opened in 1808 and was very popular for many years. However it closed owing to lack of support soon after the extension of the railway to Monkstown and judging by its ruins it was a fine building. The other Baths was situated almost directly opposite the Victoria baths.

The opening of the Cork to Passage rail-line in June 1850 was very much in the town's favour as many visitors came to Passage to relax by the seaside. The railway was extended to Monkstown in August 1902 and in 1904 it was extended to Crosshaven.

From 1904 onwards Passage was no longer popular as a tourist resort and Crosshaven took over this mantle. Passage railway station finally closed on 12th September 1932 and despite the passing of many decades since closure, local residents maintain it was a shortsighted decision. In 2017 it now takes morning traffic heading out for Cork city from Passage West over one hour to reach their destination and during the lifetime of the railway in the 20th century, the same journey to Cork city took just twenty minutes.

One of the mainstay Passage industries in the 20th century were the local Dockyards. Hennessy's yard was situated in what is now Fr O'Flynn Park and the precise date of its opening is unknown.

This yard had the great distinction of launching in 1815 the "City of Cork" ship which was the first steamship built in Ireland.

The closing date of this dockyard is a matter for conjecture. The other and larger dockyard was the Royal Victoria Dockyard, which was laid down by Messrs. Henry and William Brown in 1832 and cost £150,000 to build and equip. It received its name from Queen Victoria on her first visit to Cork in 1849.

The Hill family of Monkstown later acquired the former The Royal Victoria Dockyard in the early 20th century as a ship breaking industry and this business thrived for several decades until its closure at the turn of the 20th century.

A property development company acquired the former dockyard in the Celtic Tiger era with intentions to construct modern apartments and a seaside hotel but this plan was abandoned when the early 21st century recession set fire to these ambitious plans.

As a harbour and seafaring town the lure of the sea called many Passage persons to a life of travelling the world’s oceans and emigration was always a constant factor for Passage families. The vast majority of residents now work outside the town as industry and commercial trade is in short supply in Passage. When the Celtic Tiger collapsed the curse of emigration again come to the fore and many prominent gaelic players left their native Passage shores to secure a better standard of living.

The club is ever mindful of its role in the community and work is ongoing to promote the club far and wide in its catchment areas.

The arrival of new families in recent years has been warmly welcomed and signs are already surfacing that the great influx of new talent to all the local clubs will enhance prospects to attain silverware.

A visit to Passage West can be a historic journey to bygone eras and very little has changed on the quayside where the ships from far off ports landed their cargoes in the 19th century.

It is a peaceful town and the town centre is still adorned by buildings that go back several hundred years. The friendly natives of Passage West will always spot a stranger in town and to experience life in an old traditional harbour town in Cork, make Passage West your immediate choice of destination.

We wish you a safe journey on your travels to Passage West, Co. Cork.