DUNDALK, a sea-port, borough, market-town and post-town, and parish, in the barony of UPPER-DUNDALK, county of LOUTH, and province of LEINSTER, lO¼ miles (S.) from Newry, and 40 miles (N. by W.) from Dublin, on the mail road to Belfast, containing 14,300 inhabitants, of which number, 10,078 are in the borough and liberties. The earliest historical notice of this place occurs in 1180, when John de Courcey with 1000 men, marching against a prince of Argial who had destroyed one of his ships, was encountered by the native chiefs with a force of 7000 men, by whom he was defeated with the loss of 400 of his troops. The English power being soon afterwards firmly established, Dundalk with some other territories was granted to Bertram de Verdon, who founded here a priory for Crouched Friars of the Augustine order, which afterwards became an hospital; and in the reign of Hen. III., Lord John de Verdon founded a Franciscan friary in the town.
In 1315, Edward Bruce took possession of the town and caused himself to be proclaimed King of Ireland.
He maintained his assumed dignity here for nearly a whole year; but being attacked by John de Birmingham, his army was totally defeated and himself slain.
Sometime after, O'Hanlon, an Irish chieftain, came with a large force to demand tribute from the inhabitants, by whom he was so vigorously repulsed that 200 of his men were left dead upon the field. In 1338, Theobald de Verdon obtained a grant of a market and fair for 15 days. Rich. II. confirmed by charter all the privileges the inhabitants had previously enjoyed, and made the town a free borough; and Hen. IV. granted the bailiffs and commonalty certain customs, to surround their town with walls, which, from its exposed situation on the north of the English pale, were necessary for its protection. In 1558, the Lord-Deputy Sidney appointed an interview with the powerful chieftain Shane O'Nial, who at last agreed to come to him here on condition of being received as his "gossip." The town was, in 1560, besieged by the O'Nials, but was so valiantly defended that they abandoned the design. A subsequent attempt was made with no better success; and in 1562, the Earl of Sussex, lord-deputy, sent some forces to the assistance of the townsmen, between whom and Shane O'Nial a mutual restitution of plunder took place. So great was the power of the native chieftains in 1506, that in a conference held at Faughart it was proposed by the English government to make this town the frontier of their dominions in Ireland; but all overtures for a pacification were rejected. On the breaking out of the war in 1641, Roger Moore and Brian Mac Mahon posted themselves near this town, of which they held possession, with a force of 2500 men, and bade defiance to the Irish government; but Sir Henry Tiehborne assaulted and, after an obstinate resistance, succeeded in gaining possession of the town. Col. Monk, who had been appointed governor, was, in 1649, compelled by Lord Inchiquin to surrender it to Cromwell, In the war of the revolution, some forces of Jas, II, which had been stationed in the town, abandoned it on the approach of William's army commanded by Duke Schomberg, who encamped his forces on some; low marshy ground, about a mile to the north, where they suffered much from disease. James detached a party to seize the pass at Newry, which, on the first appearance of opposition, retired to Sligo. He soon after advanced at the head of the Irish army and drew up in order of battle, but just at the moment when an engagement was expected, drew off his troops and retired to Ardee.
The town is situated on the south side of the Castletown river, which suddenly expands as it opens into the bay of Dundalkj and consists of two principal streets, each about a mile in length, intersecting each other in the market-square, and of several smaller streets. The number of houses, in 1831, was 1851, of which many are well built. The streets are paved, and the town is watched and lighted with gas, under the provisions of an act of the 9th of Geo. IV., cap. 82, by which it was assessed, in 1836, to the amount of £696. 8. 11. The southern entrance has been greatly improved by the recent erection of some handsome houses. At the northern extremity is a bridge over the Castletown river, connecting it with a small suburb on the opposite side. At the eastern extremity, near the bay, is a spacious cavalry barrack; and along the borders of the river are some lands called the town parks.
A literary society has been established, and there are two subscription news-rooms, and a good assemblyroom; a hunt is supported, and races are occasionally held on a course near the town. There is a very extensive distillery, employing about 100 men, consuming from 35,000 to 40,000 barrels of grain, and producing more than 300,000 gallons of whiskey annually, which is mostly for home consumption and of superior quality; there are four tanyards, two salt-works, a large malting concern, and a very extensive iron foundry and forge. The chief trade is in agricultural produce, which is shipped in great quantities to Liverpool and other British ports; its foreign trade is not inconsiderable.
The exports are grain of all kinds, flour, meal, malt, butter, cattle, sheep, pigs, barrelled provisions, linen, and flax; the imports are coal, bark, soap, oil, tallow, hemp, grocery, rock-salt, and iron from British ports, and timber, tallow, wine, and bark from foreign ports.
Since the introduction of steam navigation great quantities of eggs and poultry have been exported, The amount of duties paid at; the custom-house, for 1835, was £3618. 4. 10., and for 1836, £4514. 5. 10.; the excise duties paid for the. district, in 1835, amounted to £112,189. 18. 7½. Two stream-packets of the first class arc constantly employed between this port and Liverpool; the passage on the average is made in 16 or 17 hours, The. harbour in formed by the innermost recesses of the bay, which is seven miles across at. its mouth from Dummy Point to Cooley Point, and extends nearly the same distance to the town. It is vary safe, and the bay affords good anchorage in from four to eight fathoms of water.
There arc some good bathing-places along the shore, particularly at the village of Blackrock, Two mails from the north and south of Ireland pass daily through the town, The market is on Monday; and fairs are held on the Monday next but one before Ash-Wednesday, May 17th, the first Monday in July, the last. Monday in August, and the second Mondays in October and December; but the May fair is the only one of importance. At Soldiers' Point, about a mile and a half below the town, is a coast-guard station, the head of the district of Dundalk, and the residence of the inspecting commander; the district contains also the stations of Greenore, O'Mcath, Coolcy Point, Dunany Point, and Clogher Head.
Since the confirmation of its privileges by Rich. II., the town has received various charters from succeeding sovereigns; it is now governed by that of Chas, II., under which the corporation consists of a bailiff, 16 burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, two town-serjeants, and other officers. The bailiff, who is also a justice of the peace, is annually elected from the burgesses by a majority of that body, and with their consent may appoint a deputy to serve the office. The burgesses, as vacancies occur are chosen from the freemen, and the freemen are elected by the corporation; the recorder and town-clerk are chosen by the corporation, and the town-serjeants by the bailiff. The borough first returned members to parliament in 1374, and continued to send two to the Irish parliament till the Union, since which period it has returned one member to the Imperial parliament. The right of election, previously limited to the corporation, was by the 2nd of Wm. IV., cap. 88, vested in the resident freemen and £10 householders; the number of registered voters at the last general election was 376; the bailiff is the returning officer. A new boundary has been drawn round the town, comprising an. area of 445 statute acres, the limits of which are minutely described in the Appendix. The borough court of record, formerly held before the bailiff and recorder, has not issued any process since 1779, and may be regarded as extinct. Petty sessions are held before the bailiff daily, and by the county magistrates every Thursday.
The guild-hall, which, together with nearly all the land on which the town is built, belongs to Lord Roden, is a neat edifice of brick, situated in the market-square, and containing an assembly-room, a news-room, offices for the savings' bank, an office for the sub-inspector of police, and other apartments for the transaction of municipal business and for holding public meetings. A chief constabulary police station has been established in the town, which is the residence of the sub-inspector for the county, and the head-quarters of the police force. The assizes for the county are held here, and the quarter sessions for the Dundalk division twice in the year. The court-house is a handsome modern edifice of hewn stone, with a very fine portico, after the model of that of the temple of Theseus at Athens; it is situated in the centre of the town, contains two spacious and well-arranged courts, with every requisite accommodation for the grand jury and public officers, and has a communication in the rear with the county gaol, which was erected in 1820, and is well adapted to the classification of prisoners, who are employed in breaking stones and working at their different trades; it contains a chapel, a school, and an hospital, and is kept under proper regulations; there is a treadmill, which distributes water to every part of the prison.
The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 6202 statute acres, of which 25¾ are part of Castletown river; the soil is fertile and the land in a good state of cultivation. To the west of the town is Dundalk House, the seat of the Earl of Roden, an ancient mansion situated in a well-cultivated and richly planted demesne, comprising 274 Irish acres; his lordship has it in contemplation to erect a house in a more eligible situation immediately adjoining.
Fair Hill, the handsome residence of Mrs. Foster, and Lisnawilly, of Mrs. Tipping, are also in the parish.
The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, episcopally united to the rectory and vicarage of Castletown, forming the union of Dundalk, in the patronage of the Lord-Primate and the Earl of Roden, who is impropriator of the rectory. The tithes amount to £527. 9. 10., payable to the impropriator, who allows the incumbent £16, in lien of the vicarial tithes; the tithes of the union, payable to the incumbent, amount to £216. 6. 5¼. The glebe-house was built in 1773; the glebe comprises 19½ acres. The church is a spacious and, internally, elegant cruciform structure, with a double transept; it has been frequently enlarged and improved at a very considerable expense. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising the parishes of Dundalk, Castletown, and Kene; a handsome chapel of hewn granite is now in progress of erection in the town, and there is also a chapel near Killen, in the parish of Kene. There is a meeting-house for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the third class; also places of worship for Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, and Independents.
Nearly 600 children are educated in the public schools of the parish: of these, the principal are the endowed classical school, to which the sons of freemen are eligible on payment of £2. 2. per ann.; the Dundalk institution, under the patronage of the Incorporated Society, in which 30 boys are received on the foundation free of all expense, 50 boarders at £12, and 20 day scholars at £1. 10. per ann.; and all are instructed in this excellent institution in every branch of useful education, except the classics; and a school on Erasmus Smith's foundation, comprehending departments for infants, for general education, and for needlework.
The building cost upwards of £1700, of which £750 was given by the trustees of E. Smith's charities, who also pay the master and mistress £30 per annum each; the other expenses are defrayed by charity sermons and subscriptions. There are two others, of which one for girls is supported by Mrs. Tipping. There are also 15 private schools, affording instruction to about 500 children. The Louth Infirmary, or County hospital, with which is connected a dispensary, was built by subscription in 1835, on ground given by the Earl of Roden at a nominal rent; it is a handsome structure, in the later English style, erected at an expense of £3000, and comprising three wards for male, and three for female patients, with hot and cold baths, convalescent galleries for patients (of whom it is capable of containing forty), and every accommodation for the officers and attendants; about 4000 patients receive advice and medicine annually. The Fever Hospital, a large building, formerly the charter school, is now a pin-factory, in which 300 children, selected from the two great schools for the poor, are beneficially employed; an hour each day is allotted for their instruction at the respective schools. A Ladies' Benevolent Society, for selling clothing to the poor at reduced prices, is supported by subscription; as are also the Mendicity Association, the Destitute Sick Society, a Savings' Bank, an Association for Discountenancing Vice, and several other charitable institutions. There are some remains of the Franciscan friary on the east side of the town, consisting of the tower, a lofty square pile surmounted by a slender turret commanding an extensive prospect. After the dissolution it was granted by Hen.
VIII. to James Brandon, at a rent of sixpence per annum, and a renewal fine of £9. 10. Of the religious establishment founded by Bertram de Verdon, there are no remains; its revenues were granted by Elizabeth to Henry Draycot, who had previously obtained a lease for 21 years. Near the town is a spring, arched over with ancient massive masonry, called the Lady Well, and much resorted to on the patron day, Sept. 29th.
On the plains of Ballynahatna are the remains of a Druidical temple partly enclosed by a curving rampart, on the outside of which is part of a circle of upright stones; and on a rising ground near this place is a circular fort surrounded by a double fosse and rampart, supposed to have been thrown up by the earliest inhabitants of the country. Dundalk formerly gave the title of Baron to the family of Georges.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.