Swords History Walk #2

STT’s second heritage walk with local historian Mike Power was scheduled for 14:30 on Saturday, September 3. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. Heavy showers continued all day and threatened to de-rail the outing.

Mike, ever resourceful, swiftly organised an alternative talk. In the comfort of the snug at The Arch Bar, the participants sipped tea and enjoyed two hours of local history. 

STT member, Grace, wanted to know more about the importance of the Ward River. Mike produced a model showing the geology of the area. He spoke about importance of the river in regard to the early monastic settlement in Swords through to Norman times. In 1200 John Comyn, the first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin had Swords Castle built. His compassionate predecessor St Lawrence O’Toole was a friend to the poor. Comyn was more business-like, and set about growing the town of Swords to expand the income of his estate. The main street and its burgage plots were aligned on the castle. In order to attract settlers, he offered the same tax and privileges as those offered to those living in Dublin city. The burgesses, in return, had to pay an annual rent of twelve pence, and had to perform certain labour services for the archbishop.  Mike provided us with a map of buildings on Main Street in 1900, where this layout continued. Aerial photography shows that burgage plots were still visible off Swords Main Street in the 1980s.

Mike discussed important local identities such as parish priest John Carey who secured the site for St Colmcille’s church free of charge from James Taylor of Swords House in the 1820s: James Moss, a leader of the 1913 fight for the rights of farm workers: and A.J. Kettle, a founding member of the Irish Land League.

Light-hearted topics like 19th century street entertainment, and colourful local characters were covered too.

The success of the afternoon was due in part to the lively discussion and interesting contributions from locals, who’ve had connections with Swords over many years. 

Thank you Mike for a fun and informative session, and for answering our questions so well.

2 thoughts on “Swords History Walk #2

  1. Hi everyone! Thanks for v kind remarks..
    We chatted about ‘burgages’ and how important they were for Swords..Interestingly, the old Irish word for ‘burgage’ is ‘buicios’ ie ‘land to rent’. This was later corrupted to ‘Borris ‘eg Borris -in Ossery or just ‘Borris’,which we find in many Irish placenames today.
    Going back even further to the early days of Monastic Christianity in Ireland,we now feel that Eastern Orthodox rites influenced our early Christian Saints,they were called’ the DESERT’ Fathers..Now the Irish word for ‘desert’ is’diseart’, ie an Hermitage.This word still appears in placenames such as ‘Dysert’ or ‘Disert’, ie’ hermitages ‘often found in the West of Ireland.


  2. (My final post here and for Grace, who asked particularly about the Ward River…)

    The name of the ‘Ward’ River comes from Le Garde The’ border/boundary’) of this Norman settlement, called The Lordship of Meath (Hugh de Lacy 1180s).The river has also been called The Swords River or, interestingly the Pell(?) River. It is 18kms long, with a catchment area of 60 Sq Kms.It takes many streams on it’s way to Swords and the sea , ie The Shallon Stream (Chapelmidway),the Mabestown Stream (Hollywoodrath) ,and the St Margarets Stream. It also passes holy well sites at Kilshane and St Margarets.An important ancilliary stream flows into it from across the Brackenstown Rd (Brazil Hse) at the old main entrance to the Park and into the Brackenstown Estate. Viscount Molesworth used this particular stream to fashion a beautiful water feature within the Park, now hidden.However, if you stand at Tracey’s ( ruined ) Cottage in this corner of the Park, how can still hear it’s flow distinctly. The river takes a final in-flow at Scotchstown Bridge(the present football pitches) and flows on to join it’s sister river Broadmeadow River at Balheary .I’ve re-discovered a small pier and stone wall down here at Lissenhall , clear evidence that boats carried goods on the river much closer to Swords Village than we see today. Rgds. Mike—–


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