CARLINGFORD, a parish and seaport and market-town and post-town, (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of LOWER-DUNDALK, county of LOUTH, and province of LEINSTER, 111/2 miles (E. by N.) from Dundalk, and 593/4 (N.) from Dublin; containing 12,185 inhabitants, of which number, 1319 are in the town. This town appears to have originated in the erection of a castle, either by De Lacy or De Courcy, by order of King John, in 1210, but is mentioned by some authorities as the place where St. Patrick, in 432, effected his second landing; and the ferry of Carlingford was granted by Sir John de Courcy, in the year 1184, to the abbey of Downpatrick. The town, which gradually rose in the neighbourhood of the castle, appears to have consisted chiefly of castellated buildings, arising from its situation on the frontier of the pale. In 1301, Matilda de Lacy, widow of David, Baron of Naas, granted the advowson of the church to the priory of Kilmainham; and in 1305, Richard de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, founded a monastery for Dominicans here, dedicated to St. Malachy.
Edw. II., in 1358, granted to his son, Lionel, Earl of Ulster, licence to hold a weekly market on Thursday, and a yearly fair here for six days. In 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 granted them in fee to Richard Sedgrave. A mint was established here in 1467, by act of parliament; and in 1495 it was enacted that Englishmen only should be constables of the castle. In 1596, Henry Oge, son-inlaw of the Earl of Tyrone, notwithstanding the submission made and pledges given by that nobleman to Queen Elizabeth, made an attempt to surprise the castle, but was defeated. Sir Henry Tichbourne took possession of the town in 1642, not, however, before it had suffered much injury by fire, from the adherents of Sir Phelim O'Nial. In 1649, Lord Inchiquin, after taking Dundalk, marched to this place, and compelled the castle, with other neighbouring fortresses, to surrender; but in the following year it was delivered up to Sir Charles Coote and Col. Venables. A party of the forces of Jas. II., in 1689, set fire to the town, in their retreat before the army of Duke Schomberg, who, in consequence, issued a proclamation threatening that, if such conduct were repeated, he should give no quarter. During the duke's encampment at Dundalk, and while disease was spreading through his forces, the sick were removed into Carlingford, until they became too numerous to be accommodated.
The town is beautifully situated on the south-west side of the spacious lough or bay to which it gives name, and immediately at the base of an extensive range of mountains which terminates at this point. It consists of 288 houses, and, though small, has an interesting appearance, from the venerable ruins of its castle and abbey; it has a sub-post-office to Newry.
The scenery of the bay is remarkably fine: the Mourne mountains, on the opposite side, are beautifully varied with rocks, woods, heath, and verdure; and in the foreground the shores are enlivened with neat cottages and numerous bathing-lodges. Carlingford mountain, which overhangs the castle, attains, according to the Ordnance survey, an elevation of 1935 feet above the level of the sea: from its height and position it intercepts, during a great part of the summer, the direct rays of the sun, for several hours before sunset. The oysters found in the bay are highly esteemed, and are sent in great quantities to Dublin, Liverpool, and other places. There is some trade in grain, great quantities of herrings are caught during the season, and fishing nets are made. The port has also some trade with Dublin, to which it sends large quantities of potatoes; and coal is imported from Scotland and Whitehaven. The bay, one of the finest natural havens on the coast, is eight miles in length and about four in breadth, extending inland, in a north-western direction, to Warren Point.
The tide flows past the town to the port of Newry, and the harbour is accessible to large vessels at spring tides, but near the mouth the navigation is rendered rather hazardous by shoals and sunken rocks. A lighthouse at Cranfield Point on the northern side of the bay has been removed, and one, showing a bright fixed light, has been erected in its stead on Hawlbowling rock; at half-tide it shows, at night, an additional light halfway up the building; in the day, a black ball is hoisted on the top of a pole, 10 or 12 feet above the lantern, and in thick or foggy weather a bell is kept continually tolling by clock-work. On Greenore Point also a small lighthouse with a revolving light has been erected. The harbour dues are collected in the name of the Marquess of Anglesey, as lord of the manor, and admiral of Carlingford bay; they are leased for £20 per annum. The market is on Saturday; fairs are held on the first Saturday in each month,'and there is also one on Sept. 29th. There are a coast-guard and a chief constabulary police station in the town, also three coast-guard stations at Cooley Point, Greenore Point, and O'Meath.
This is a borough of very great antiquity, probably by prescription. A corporation is recognised so early as 1326, when the king granted to the bailiffs of "Karlyngford" a charter for levying murage for six years, to enclose the town with a stone wall. By patent dated the 13th of March, 1409, Hen. IV., on the petition of the corporation, representing that the town had been often burned and wasted by the Irish and Scotch, acquitted them of all subsidies, tollages, &c., for several years; and for the same reasons, customs were granted to them, for 24 years from 1501, towards fortifying the town with a stone wall. Queen Elizabeth granted by charter, in 1571, extensive privileges and immunities. The governing charter, dated the 9th of August, 17th. of Jas. I. (1619), creates a sovereign, 12 burgesses, and a commonalty of six, giving them authority over the whole of Carlingford and its liberties, with the exception of the castle of Arthur Bagenal, lord of the manor and its appurtenances. This charter declared that the corporation should be styled the "Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town and Borough of Carlingford;" and should consist of a sovereign, twelve burgesses, and an unlimited number of freemen; two serjeants-at-mace and a coroner, a clerk of the market, and clerk of the entries, were also to be appointed. The sovereign is elected by and from among the burgesses, on Sept. 29th, and is a justice of the peace within the borough; he has the power of appointing a deputy, subject to the approbation of the burgesses. The burgesses are elected out of the commonalty for life, by the existing burgesses, and in conjunction with the sovereign possess the power of admitting freemen and appointing the corporation officers. As the admission of freemen was optional with them, none have been admitted since 1754. The sovereign and burgesses returned two members to the Irish Parliament prior to the Union, when the £15,000 paid as compensation for the loss of the franchise was divided equally between the Marquess of Downshire and the guardians of Mr. Ross Balfour Moore.
The limits of the borough are reputed to extend about 2 miles on the north, and 13/4 mile on the south, side of the town, along the sea shore, and from the top of a ridge of mountains rising immediately behind it to the shore of the bay. A borough and manor court, formerly held here, have been discontinued) and the borough gaol, called "the blackhole," under the tholsel, has been disused for many years. Petty sessions are held on alternate Saturdays. The corporation has no property, except what they may be entitled to in commons belonging to the town, which, according to the Down survey, contained 1231 acres; and the only officer now appointed is the sovereign. The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 20,0493/4 statute acres, of which 651/4 are water.
The commonage extends along the side of a mountain, some part of which is enclosed, and on which the poor of the neighbourhood graze their cattle. The land in Cooley is of very superior quality and under a good system of tillage, particularly the farms of R. De Verdon, Esq., and those of Wilville and Ballug; there is no bog, and fuel is consequently scarce. Near the town are some extensive limestone quarries, the produce of which is principally sent northward. Nootka Lodge is the residence of Hugh Moore, Esq., and commands a fine view of the sea and the Mourne mountains. Among the other scats are Grange, the residence of T. Gernon, Esq.; Monksland House, of R. De Vernon, Esq.; Wilville House, of J. Gernon, Esq.; Castleview, of W. Moore, Esq.; Bailey Castle, of John Parks, Esq.; and O'Meath, of John Bell, Esq. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, and in the patronage of the Archbishop, to whom the rectorial tithes are appropriate: the tithes amount to £457, of which £152. 6. 8. is paid to the archbishop, and £304. 13. 4. to the vicar.
The church is a modern building, with the exception of the tower. A new glebe-house was built by aid of a loan of £750 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1813: the glebe, in its immediate vicinity, comprises about 21 acres. In the R. C. divisions this parish forms the two unions or districts of Carlingford and Cooley, comprising four chapels, those of Carlingford and O'Meath in the former, and of Grange and Mullabay in the latter; the chapels of Carlingford and Grange are neat buildings, and that at O'Meath was built on a plot of ground given by the Marquess of Anglesey, who also contributed £30 towards the expense. There is also, in the town, a place of worship for Presbyterians of the Remonstrant Synod, of the third class. The parochial school for boys and girls is aided by an annual donation from the vicar; and there are two schools for the children of Roman Catholics on the estate of the Marquess of Anglesey at O'Meath, which are partly supported by him. These schools afford instruction to about 100 boys and 60 girls; and there are also twelve hedge schools, in which are 340 boys and 160 girls. A considerable sum has been contributed by Alex. Hamilton, Esq., towards the erection of a school-house, which has been built on a piece of ground belonging to the lordprimate, and is under the superintendence of the curate.
It is also in contemplation to establish a school in the vicinity of the R. C. chapel at Carlingford, and another at O'Meath, in connection with the National Board of Education. Here is a dispensary. The remains of the Dominican monastery consist principally of the walls of the conventual church, with a square tower supported on lofty pointed arches, and separating the nave from the chancel; at the west end of the nave are two turrets, connected by a battlement, and on the south is a small detached ruin, probably a chapel. These ruins, which are situated at the extremity of the town farthest from the castle, being overgrown with ivy, have a very interesting and romantic appearance.
On the summit of a neighbouring hill, at Ruskey, are small remains of a church, or chapel, with traces of a burial-ground, but no monuments or even graves: it is thought to have been a rural residence of the abbot. About halfway between the abbey and the castle are the ruins of a square building, with windows of an ecclesiastical character, curiously ornamented with sculptures of animals, human heads, and foliage. The remains of the castle, called King John's castle, shew it to have been an irregular pile of building, nearly in the form of a horseshoe: the walls in some parts are eleven feet thick, and some of the salient points are defended by loophole abutments; it is washed by the sea on the eastern side, and on the land side is a narrow pass overhung by wild and lofty mountains. The castle seems to have been erected to command this pass, and it enclosed various baronial halls and apartments, and a courtyard surrounded with galleries: the chief entrance is on the side next the sea, from a platform on which was apparently a battery for the defence of the harbour. The pass is only wide enough to allow a very small number of men to walk abreast: on one side of it the mountain rises abruptly, and on the other are dangerous precipices with the sea below. At Templetown are the ruins of an ancient church, with a burial-ground attached; near which are the remains of the castle of Ballug, a square pile of building with very thick walls, defended at the opposite angles by square turrets; the lower part has been converted into stables, and the upper into cornlofts.
Carlingford formerly gave the title of Earl to the family of Taaffe, which becoming extinct on the death of Theobald, the 4th Earl, in 1738, Geo. III., in 1761, conferred the title of Viscount Carlingford on the family of Carpenter, together with that of Earl of Tyrconnel.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
The transcription of the section for this parish from the National Gazetteer (1868), provided by Colin Hinson.
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