STT and Local Heritage

The Arts

Members of Swords Tidy Towns are passionate about the protection of our local natural and built heritage, and the promotion of awareness of them. Realising the importance of engaging young people, our chairman Ken, and School Liaison Officer Matt give talks at local secondary schools to encourage students to take pride in their surroundings. In 2019, we held an art competition involving several schools. Students produced high quality paintings, some of which depicted heritage sites such as our local early medieval round tower, and Swords Castle.

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STT school art project 2019

Our 2019 River Walk project involved Snowflakes, the autism support group, and several other community groups. The resultant art work on the walls of the Castle Shopping Centre reflects community appreciation of our long history.

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Our latest urban art project by the River Ward, featuring the work of local youth under the supervision of urban artist Robert Hammond, is intended to encourage  local youth to have pride in their natural and built environment. This neglected  litter prone area behind Swords Main Street has been reclaimed, and has become a popular spot for walkers.

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Urban Art project by Ward river
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Young artist at work (2020)

Our School Liaison Officer, Matt Cullen, is a very talented local artist, who has had successful exhibitions of his work over the years. He has a keen interest in local history, which has inspired many of his paintings. The following examples are his depictions of St Columcille’s Well, the Round and Square Towers by St Columba’s Church, and Swords Castle.

Our chairman, Ken Duffy, has expressed his love of Swords’ heritage through the medium of poetry. His latest popular poems on Facebook describes some of our important sites.

Where Ravens Fly by Ken Duffy

In famous Fingal, where the ravens fly
With dark wings spread, they rule the sky
The town of Swords, is at Fingal's heart
To tell its story, where should one start

St Colmcille, established an abbey here
Round tower remains, you can see it clear
At the Clontarf battle, Brian Boro was slain
Freeing the Irish, from the Viking chain

His son Murchad, also died on that day
That was the price, Eire had to pay
Father and son, were brought to Swords town
At Colmcille's Abbey, bodies were laid down

Both King and Son, were waked at this site
Monks prayed for them, throughout the night
St Colmcille's Well, down the Well Road
Is housed in a domicile, a small humble abode

It is said that the water, is clear and pure
For various ailments, it’s a remedy and cure
End of Main St, the Bishop's Palace stands
Withstanding the attacks, of marauding bands

Standing as a beacon, it reminds us all
Of a long history, when knights used to call
This County Town, has much more to its past
Many historical stories, with a colorful cast

The 1916 uprising, has many stories to be told
Of both men and women, courageous and bold
A proud history, walks down our main street
Most of us unaware, as we mingle and greet

More poems: Cromwell Was Here

Ken was also interviewed by RTE in April 2009, where he spoke about our local heritage:
Interview

Historical sites

The present day YouthReach service is now located on the site of the old National School on North Street, which was built in 1890. When the last of the pupils left the old school, the grounds were left to grow wild. Georgy, a long-time member of STT, grew up in Swords and recalls how the old playground was out of bounds for many years.  STT came to the rescue and developed a community garden on the site, greatly enhancing the appearance of this late Victorian building. They also built a Polytunnel there in 2016, in which they grow most of their plants.

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Old national school playground before
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Old national school playground before Youthreach
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STT member Georgy hard at work
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Darragh Butler at the opening of our polytunnel in 2016
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Catholic school on North Street
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National School from 1890

The Old Well

In 2015 Swords Tidy Towns secured 50% of the necessary funding from Fingal County Council to beautify the area around St Colmcille’s Well. The Well itself had been restored and re-dedicated by Swords Historical Society in 1991/1992, and they have maintained it since then. STT developed a lovely garden next to the well, adding to the attraction of this early Christian site. They also installed another flower bed and two benches, dedicated to some of our Tidy Towns pioneers, who have passed away.

Planting by The Well in 2015
Ken Duffy directing operations (2015)
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Saint Colmcille’s Well (2019)

Rock Garden On Rathbeale Road

The Rock Garden project gives a nod to a period of Swords’ history. This site on the Rathbeale Road was once a rock quarry until it was worked out in the 1940s. For a time it was used as a dump, before being left as an empty field. In 2017 two of our members, Mary Maxwell and Matt Cullen, worked with FCC to design an attractive park, complete with art work and a rock garden to acknowledge its former use.  The new park has become very popular with locals both young and old.

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Read more: Completed Projects

Archaeology

Fingal County Council has its own Community Archaeologist, Christine Baker, part of whose job is to engage and enthuse the general community in our local heritage. This is an important element in the Swords Castle Conservation Plan

Three community archaeological digs were held at Swords Castle in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The first one was held in the year that the Castle was reopened to the public, once major safety concerns had been addressed.

Three other professional archaeologists beside Christine Baker led these three highly successful digs, attracting volunteers aged from 18 to 90. We were given the opportunity to be involved in all stages of the digs according to our physical abilities. Digging was not mandatory and there were tasks, such as washing and recording finds, that could be undertaken by those with physical problems. For most, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to get their hands dirty on an authentic dig under the guidance and encouragement of professional archaeologists, and to make a vital contribution to uncovering the secrets of the castle. For countless other visitors during Heritage Week each year, it provided the opportunity to see archaelogy at work and to ask questions of volunteers and professional archaeologists alike.

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STT member Hilary armed with a mattock
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Washing the finds 2016

 Read more: Swords Castle digging history