A Day's Ramble on the North Side of the City (Fingall and Clontarf)

Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 2, Number 87
March 1, 1834

Reader—Should you have a desire to diverge from the confined and foetid atmosphere of our crowded metropolis, with its unvaried scene of bustle and activity, to enjoy the relaxation of an agreeable morning or evening's ramble in a delightful district, and inhale the pure and vivifying air of the country, impregnated with the balmy fragrance of the sweet wild flowers of the field, come with us to FINGALL, where you can enjoy the sea-breeze of Clontarf, a ramble by Merino, or a saunter on the Goosegreen road, without experiencing the suffocation or the annoyance occasioned by the driving of the jaunting cars, jingles, &c., on the opposite side of the city—the danger of being overrun by a drunken jarvey from Baggot-street, or the fatigue of a long walk, to breathe in country air.

The north side of Dublin may truly be termed classic ground. In former ages it was the scene of many fierce contests, some of which occupy a proud page in Irish history. Fingall, the land of the white stranger, a name which it still retains, was obtained from having been possessed by the Fionn, Gael, or Norwegians, who held in their iron grasp a great portion of the kingdom for two or three centuries. The district so named extended, according to Lanigan, from the broad and fertile plain that stretches north of the Liffey, until it meets the highlands, that hang over the Boyne.

This district is now one of the most beautiful and improved about Dublin. It is one delightful, wide spreading plain, studded with elegant seats, and no straggling, disorderly villages to mar the beauty of the prospect; with Dublin bay, the bold and rugged promontory of Howth, and Ireland's Eye—the residence of the sons of Nessan, in the prospective.

The Goosegreen road, which strikes into the country from the Richmond road, is but a short distance from Drumcondra bridge: fifteen minutes walk will bring you to it from Mountjoy-square, by Drumcondra or Ballybough. Opposite this road, on the town side of the Tolga,[1] which rolls along calmly and unbroken, save by the cascade at Waterfall-avenue, is Fortex-grove, the late picturesque retreat of Frederick Jones, Esq., formerly patentee and manager of Crow-street theatre.

Passing up a gentle ascent to the left, on an eminence stands Clonturk-house; a plain, yellow building, celebrated as the residence of the enterprising Dhuval, who speculated on converting this place into a second Vauxhall. Here he had fire-works, rockets, bombs, swing-swangs, hobbies, and a mineral well. Oh, the reminiscences of 1819! The well, by the aid of sulphur, nails, old iron, &c., &c., was made to possess a chalybeate quality; and never were Abernethy, or St. John Long more sought after. Crowds of Belles and Beaux, the hale, and the unhealthy, came to taste those halcyon waters; and, oh! the bright eyes that glistened around that fount of health and life. Poor Dhuval! whilst your speculations lasted, what an able auxiliary thou wert to Gretna and old Hymen.

Opposite Clonturk-house, on the left, is Belvidere, the seat of Sir Coghill Coghill, a handsome brick building, formerly occupied by Lord Chancellor Lifford; and on the right, Drumcondra-castle; a square castellated building, the residence of Richard Williams, Esq., formerly inhabited by Sir James Galbraith. Further on to the left is Drumcondra-house, a magnificent square building, of Portland stone, erected by the late Earl of Charleville, now in the occupation of William Stewart Hamilton, Esq. Further on, at a serpentine curve in the road, is Hampton lodge, the residence of Mrs. Williams, widow of the late Thomas Williams, Esq., secretary to the bank of Ireland. The neatly cropped hedges, nicely gravelled walks, and precise arrangement of the grass plots, give these well regulated grounds a neat appearance. At some distance forward, down an avenue which strikes off at another turn in the road, is Upton-lodge, formerly occupied by Major Upton. From this forward, and, indeed, in general, the road wears the appearance of an extensive walk in a nobleman's demesne: not a cabin is to be seen, while tall rows of stately trees overhang and meet across the road.

A few perches forward from Upton-lodge, beyond a square ivy covered observatory, a few figures, rudely carved on the trunks of three trees, mark the spot on which a young lad, assistant game-keeper to Lord Charlemont, some time since lost his life in a scuffle with a young gentleman who had been shooting in his lordship's demesne, which lies a short distance to the eastward of this road. A cairn of stones, according to ancient custom was raised on the spot where he fell, but has been removed. The road now ascends in a gentle acclivity, at the top of which, to the left, is Sion hill, the residence of Mrs. Courtney, formerly occupied by Colonel Mason. It is an antique brick building, commanding a magnificent view of Dublin, the Wicklow mountains, and the Park.

Opposite to it is High Park, the residence of Robert Grey, Esq., a respectable merchant in Linenhall street.—The house is a very tasteful building, and the grounds judiciously and tastefully laid out; the late Master Ball, and Major Brownrigg, were successively proprietors of this place. Next to High Park is Hartfield, the residence of Neal John O'Neil, Esq. This house was erected by the late Colonel Hart, from whom it passed, about the year 1773, into the possession of the family of the late Hugh Hamill of Dominick-street, Esq, uncle to the lady of its present proprietor. The high castellated walls and embrasures by which the approach on the front is guarded, although a modern house, carry the mind instinctively to the contemplation of the scenes of strife that shook those plains in other days, amid the war-cries of the native Irish and their Danish invaders.

Next to Hartfield, on the opposite side, is Thorndale, the handsome residence of David Henry Sherrard, Esq., formerly occupied by Mrs. Twigg of Merrion-square. Next we come to Bellefield, a beautiful cottage lately occupied by the Hon. Major Jones, opposite to which is Elm-park, the residence of —— Hutton, Esq., of Summerhill.—The next, and last in this direction, is Beaumont, the beautiful seat of Arthur Guinness, Esq.

But it will be considered almost time to say something relative to the Castle of Clontarf, the engraving of which lies before us.

What Irishman has not heard of Clontarf; and who is it does not feel his pulse beat high, his brow elevate, and his soul expand with conscious pride and exultation at the recollection of the glorious struggle which took place at this spot? when after a well-fought battle, the gallant Brian Boiromhe drove the proud invaders, the enemies of his country, before him into the sea, or strewed the surrounding shore with their lifeless bodies.

The Castle of Clontarf, it is commonly supposed, was erected in the reign of Henry the Second by the Netterville family, and was originally a commandery of the Knights Templars. It still retains, from the introduction of Gothic windows, a semi-ecclesiastical appearance, and so far coincides with the character of that order; and although it has suffered considerably from the effects of modern improvement, yet its general character and the noble and venerable timber that surrounds it, impress it with the stamp of “hoar antiquity;” and the recollections associated with its name and former destination, make it an object of peculiar interest to the Irishman and antiquarian.

Clontarf Castle

The village of Clontarf is situated two miles from Dublin, on the shores of the delightful bay. It consists chiefly of a long street, extending from the sea-shore to the castle, and forming a noble vista in front of that building. At a short distance was situated “a royal charter school,” opened in 1749 for the reception of one hundred boys, but now closed for ever; and the building, which was ornamented with a fine portico and pillars, tower, cupola, clock, &c., is now converted into private dwellings. Near the castle stands the church, erected on the site of a monastery founded A. D. 550; a neat, plain, modern structure: in the cemetery attached are several enclosed tombs but no ancient inscriptions.

It was in the year 838 that the “Northmen” first invaded this country. They entered the Liffey with a fleet of sixty sail, and took possession of Dublin. The dubh-gael, (the “dark strangers”) or Danes, possessed themselves of the southern parts, and the fion-gael, (“white strangers”) or Norwegians, extended themselves northward. Previous to their invasion this district was called Bregh, and possessed by a people denominated the Bregii.

In 896 Flanagan, king of Bregh, was killed by the Danes. From thence up to the eleventh century, Fingall was the scene of continual struggles between the Danes and the native Irish. It was reserved for the renowned monarch, Brian Boroimhe, on the memorable plains of Clontarf, in 1014, to break their power.

This celebrated conflict, in which Brian and his son lost their lives, having been detailed in the 17th number of our Journal, it is unnecessary here to mention any of the particulars further than to state that it was occasioned by Maelmurry Mac Morrogh, son of Murchart, who usurped the crown of Leinster in the year 999, having in 1015, with the Lagenians and Danes, entered Meath and ravaged it. Maelseachlin, in retaliation, set fire to the adjacent parts of Leinster, and ravaged Fingall, as far as the Hill of Howth, where he was met and defeated by Maelmurry, and Sitric the Danish king of Dublin.

Brian marched from Munster to his assistance, and encamped at Kilmainham, where he remained from August to Christmas without bringing them to battle, and retired again to Munster, but returned in the following lent, and passing by Finglass encamped at Clonturk, until Good Friday, 1014, when the battle took place on the plain at Clontarf. The result of this battle did not immediately extinguish the Danish power in Ireland; for we find that in 1052, Maelnambo plundered Fingall, and burned the country from Dublin to a place named Albene. The Danes of Dublin made opposition, and a fierce engagement took place outside the fortress of Dublin,[2] where many fell on both sides. Eachmarcash, son of Reginald, Lord of the Danes, fled across the sea, and Maelnambo assumed the lordship of the Danes.

In 1162 Mortough O'Loughlin plundered Fingall.[3]

The early ecclesiastical establishments in this district, within the more immediate vicinity of Dublin, are St. Doolagh's, on the Malahide road, which is one of the most ancient churches in Ireland.[4] It was erected by St. Doulach or Dulech, an Irishman, son of Amalgad. It was anciently called Clochar.

In 665, the year of the great pestilence in Ireland, St. Malaga (Molua) had a church and religious establishment at a place called Laorn-beachaire, in Fingall, near Dublin. It is conjectured the site was in the now townland of Clonturk, and within the demesne of Drumcondra-house, the residence of William Stewart Hamilton.[5] There is still in existence there the ruin of an old church, which tradition says was an abbey; but ancient ecclesiastical writings do not set forth any abbey in Fingall so near Dublin, with the exception of St. Mary's Abbey, near the Liffey. It is supposed to have been erected in 948 by the Danes, for Benedictine monks.

Balldoyle, Raheny, and Portrane were given to Christ Church, as appears by a document in the black book belonging to it, which runs thus:—

“Sitricus, King of Dublin, son of Ableb, (Aulof) Earl of Dublin, gave to the Holy Trinity, and to Donatus, Bishop of Dublin, a place where the arches or vaults were founded, to build the church of the Holy Trinity on, together with the following lands, viz. Balldulek, Rechen, and Portnahern, with their villains, cattle, and corn.”

In 1014, Donatus was named bishop of this see.[6]


[1] Commonly called the Finglass river.

[2] In a map of Dublin of 1610, “Fiann's castle” is shewn at the verge of the Liffey, opposite Wood-quay.

[3] Mortough was prince of Tyrone and monarch of Ireland, of the Hy-Nial line.

[4] Lanigan, iii. p, 359.

[5] To this place we shall have occasion hereafter to allude more particularly.

[6] To the observation of our intelligent Correspondent, CAROLUS, we are indebted for most of the foregoing particulars.