[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 21, 1832]
Carlingford Castle, County Louth.
We think our wood-cut well calculated to catch the eye of a Dublinian. For lives there man, woman or child, in our good city, that has not heard of Carlingford, though but few have seen it. Carlingford - so renowned for its delicious oysters - oysters known as well to the poor mendicant who is tasked to crush their shells, as to the rich merchant who gobbles down their delicious insides - oysters as far superior to every other testaceous creature that open its bivalve to the tide, as to an Englishman is plum-pudding when compared with flummery - oysters, that give luxurious suppers to man, and open his heart as the knife opens the shell! In vain may the Parisian boast of his Carcale, the Londoner of his Colchester, or even our western shores of their green-finned Burrin, exquisite Pooldoody, or delicious Lisadill - who dare compare them to a rale Carlingford? Ye Aldermen of Dublin, and all who have experienced night after night the indescribable delights of a feast of oysters, and a flow of punch, come and give us all due credit for presenting you with a picture of that dear spot from whence your delights do come, and for giving "a local habitation and a name" to the birth-place of what your souls desire!
But Carlingford is not only worthy of regard as contributing to our creature-comforts, and causing us to rejoice both at snack and supper, but it is also noted for its scenic beauties and recollections. In all Ireland there is not (oh! we beg pardon, there is at Glengariff,) a bay so beautiful as Carlingford. Reader, if you were sitting on a fine soft sunny evening on one of the towers of that ancient castle built by King John, and looking westward and northward, you would enjoy a prospect which, if you pretended to taste, would cause you to cry out, "Magnificent," but if you really possessed it, would make you hold your tongue, and be all eyes. Under you the noble land-locked bay - before you and a few miles across the water, a distance which owing to the translucency of the atmosphere peculiar to the western wind, is only calculated to make objects more softly picturesque - yes - before you is the loveliest village in Ireland - Rostrevor. Its cottages embosomed in trees, its sun-lit villas, its pretty church, its obelisk, the honoured cenotaph of a brave soldier, who fell in his country's cause, leading Irishmen to victory. Then above the village, the wood-covered hills, swelling upwards until the green slopes mingle in the dark gorges of the Mourne mountains, over which Slieve Donald rises as lord of the range in pyramidal majesty. The western sun is gilding its crest; a feathery cloud all on fire with the sun's rays has rested on its topmost peak, and turbanned it with glory. Eastward, the mountain masses of shade flung upon the sleeping sea! Oh! for such a splendid scene, happy season, and felicitous atmosphere,-it would almost be well to be a Carlingford fisherman or even a Carlingford oyster, provided that as an oyster one could see through the sea and be susceptible of the picturesque, without the consciousness of being liable to be dredged for and gobbled up by voracious Dublinians.
But Carlingford is not alone remarkable for its oysters and its scenery, it is also worthy of an Irishman's regard, as the retreat, and its mountain country the fastness of the notorious Redmond O'Hanlon, the far-famed Rapparee, who about 120 years ago, played the part of Rob Roy in Ireland. The Irish gatherer of black-rent was quite a match for the Scotch rogue; as valiant in fight, as expert in flight, as terrible to the oppresser, as generous to the oppressed, as the Caledonian Kiltander. But poor Ireland has not got a Sir Walter Scott to cast a halo of renown about his name- "vate caret." She wants a poet to immortalize a cow stealer; and poor Redmond sleeps without his glory! Alas, that notable record of his exploits is out of print - the History of the Irish Rogues and Rapparees. Worthy Mr. Cross of Cook-street is now no more, a coffin maker occupies the shop where, in days gone by, we used to purchase these admirable effusions of the Irish press- "The Life of Captain James Freney, the Robber," "Laugh and be Fat," "The History of Moll Flanders," but above all, the most spirit-stirring, the one best calculated to teach the young Hibernian idea how to shoot in rale earnest, the "Irish Rogues and Rapparees," a book which has had as great an effect in Ireland as Schiller's play of the Robbers in Germany, namely, leading many a bold youth to take freedoms with others too often tending to the abridgment of his own-but we are rambling: we beg leave to drop our sportive strain, and introduce the "Annals of Carlingford," furnished by a gentleman to whom not only we, but Ireland, lies under many obligations.-ed.
This little town is situated in the barony of Dundalk and county of Louth, near the foot of an extensive range of mountains, and on the S. E. side of a spacious bay. It was a station of considerable importance during the early ages of the English ascendancy in Ireland, and its first formation was consequent to the erection of a castle, which tradition attributes to the policy of King John. The town was never relguarly walled or fortified, but as it was exposed to continual dangers by being situated on the frontiers of the Pale, every principal domestic building was designed on the model of a fortress or castle. The remains of such structures were very numerous there not more than "sixty years since," and even at the present day three very interesting remains of that character invite the attention of the antiquarian. That pre-eminently termed King John's castle is an extensive and imposing ruin, "moored on a rifted rock," the sides of which are laved at the east by the sea, while to the inland is a narrow pass overhung by wild and lofty mountains. To command this pass the building appears to have been erected, and its form was necessarily adapted to the natural circumstances of its site, enclosing various baronial halls and apartments, a court-yard surrounded with traces of galleries and recesses, &c. The walls are in some places eleven feet in thickness, while the prospect from its summit over the bay, the Cooley, the mountains of Mourne, &c. is grand beyond description.
On the southern side of the town are the ruins of the Dominican Monastery. This still extensive and picturesque ruin exhibits in the long aisle and central belfry, traces of the pointed architecture of the fourteenth century. About midway between it and King John's castle are the ruins of a square building, with windows of an ecclesiastical character, curiously ornamented with carvings of animals, human heads, and sundry fancy wreathings. Near this on an adjoining eminence is a church of ancient foundation, with a large burial ground, in which may be seen a curiously carved stone and several monuments to the families of Moore and Millar. There is a glebe of about three acres lying about a mile from this church. The benefice is a vicarage in the archdiocese of Armagh, and patronage of the Primate. A small portion of the eastern part of the parish is all that has been preserved in the Down survey.
Carlingford formerly gave the title of Earl to the family of Taaffe, but the honour becoming, as it is supposed, extinct in the person of Theobald, the fourth earl of that name without issue, in 1738, his late Majesty George III. conferred the title of Viscount Carlingford on the family of Carpenter, together with the Earldom of Tyrconnel. The population of this ancient town is estimated at upwards of 1300. The bay is spacious, and the water deep; but unfortunately the navigation is rendered dangerous by hidden rocks. The scenery that surrounds it is of the most enchanting description, its shores being decorated with the most attractive villages, numerous bathing lodges and agreeable cottages, behind which some mountains rise infinitely varied through all their elevation, here waving with ornamental woods, there glowing with heath or verdure, on the one side battlemented with a grey expanse of rocks, on the other exhibiting the industrious extensions of cultivation.
The mountain already alluded to as overhanging King John's castle, rises in height about 1850 feet, and is for more than two-thirds of its elevation composed of a succession of stairs formed of trap, passing towards the summit from a homogeneous to a porphorytic texture. From the position and height of this eminence the inhabitants of Carlingford, during a great part of the summer season lose sight of the sun several hours before he sets in the horizon.
The following are a few of the more interesting annals connected with this town.
a. d. 432. St. Patrick's second landing in Ireland was according to some authorities effected here.
1184. John de Courcy granted the ferry of Carlingford to the Abbey of Downpatrick.
1210. The castle called King John's was erected.
1301. Matilda de Lacy, widow of David, baron of Naas, granted the advowson of the church of Carlingford to the priory of Kilmainham.
1305. Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, founded a monastery for Dominicians here, under the invocation of St. Ma-lachy.
1326. The king committed the custody of the castle of Carlingford to Geoffry le Blound, to hold during the royal pleasure. And in the same year the bailiffs, &c. of this town had letters patent, conferring certain privileges and allowances for six years as an aid towards walling and otherwise strengthening their town.
1332. William de Burgh was found seized, amongst other possessions, of the castle of Drogheda, the town of Cooley appertaining thereto, the manor of Rath, &c.
1346. The prior of Kilmainham was found seized, and his successors so continued, of the tithes of Carlingford.
1357. The king granted to his son Lionel, Earl of Ulster, license to hold a weekly market, and one yearly fair in his town of Carlingford. From this Lionel the property descended to Edward de Mortimer.
1388. Edmund Loundres was appointed constable of the castle of Carlingford, with certain allowances for its repairs, as it was stated to be then much out of order and unsafe.
1400. The king granted to Stephen Gernon, constable of the castles of Green Castle and Carlingford, licence to take the corn and tithes within the lordship of Cooley for the victualling of said castles.
1404. The manor of Carlingford and town of Irish Grange, which had previously belonged to the abbey and convent of Newry, vested by forfeiture in the king, who thereupon granted it in fee to Richard Sedgrave.
1408. Lord Thomas of Lancaster, the king's son, landed here as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
1425. By a record of this date it appears that certain rights in the fishery of the bay appertained to the castle of Carlingford.
1467. A mint was established here by act of Parliament.
1495. It was enacted that only able and sufficient persons of the realm of England should be henceforward constables of the castle of Carlingford.
1501. In consequence of this town having been repeatedly burned by the Scots and Irish, the king granted to its provost, bailiffs, and commonalty; certain tolls and customs towards enclosing it with a stone wall.
1538. The inhabitants of Clontarf, near Dublin, had licence to fish, without charge or toll, within the bay of Carlingford.
1539. This vicarage was valued to the First Fruits at £3. 13s. 8d.
1548. The king granted to Sir Nicholas Bagnal, Knight, the manors of Omee and Carlingford, with the Lordship of Cooley, &c.
1560. Sir Henry Radcliffe and John Neill were members for the borough of Carlingford in this year.
1596. Henry Oge, the son-in-law of Tyrone, made incursions into the English pale, and endeavoured to surprise the castle of Carlingford.
1642. Sir Henry Fishburn took possession of the town, not however till it had suffered considerable injury by fire from the adherents of Sir Phelim O'Neill.
1646. Perfect freedom of trade conferred on Carlingford.
1649. The castle surrendered to Lord Inchiquin.
1650. The castle was delivered to Sir Charles Coote and Colonel Venables.
1669. The tithes of this parish, which had been vested in the crown, were granted to the incumbent and his successors for ever.
1689. Some of the Duke of Berwick's party set fire to this town, soon after which the sick soldiers of Schomberg's army were removed thither. In king James's parliament of this year, Christopher Peppard and Bryan Dermod, Esq. were the sitting members for Carlingford.
1750. The celebrated Thurot passed this year here, and during that interval acquired his knowledge of the English language.