Monday, December 9, 2013

Irish Workers and Apartheid

Irish Workers and Apartheid

By Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
8 December 2013

On July 19th, 1984, Dunnes Stores worker Mary Manning refused to check out a customer’s South African fruit (Outspan).  Her union, IDATU (the Irish Distributive & Administrative Union), had directed their members not to handle goods from South Africa. She was given five minutes to change her mind and when she refused, she was suspended on the spot.[1] The 1980s were also a time of high unemployment making strike action a difficult decision for the workers.

Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Photo: Derek Spiers

“Most of the workers at Dunnes in Henry Street went on strike that day, and eight of them joined Mary Manning and Karen Gearon thereafter. They would stay on strike for the next two and a half years, surviving on strike pay of £21 a week, returning to work only after the Irish government prohibited the sale of South African fruit and vegetables in Irish stores.”[2]

Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
(St Bernard was the Dunnes Stores brand)

This selfless action by Irish workers in 1984 led to extraordinary events as support for their actions grew despite fierce racist reaction by some individuals. Karen Gearon and Mary Manning were invited to meet Desmond Tutu in London and Gearon testified in front of the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid. Then things really hotted up when the girls were invited by Tutu to visit South Africa.

Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

““Myself and eight of the strikers flew to South Africa and weren’t allowed in,” says Brendan Archbold, the IDATU official in charge of the strike. “We were held at the airport and weren’t allowed contact our families for over 24 hours.” They were put on the next plane back home. The furore over their disappearance captured the public imagination. “It definitely changed the tide,” says Gearon.”[3]

Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

At the time, myself and many others would join the strike on Saturdays, the busiest day of the week for Dunne’s Stores. I was in my last year in art college and decided to base one of my final show prints on the strike.

Photo: Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

While taking photos of the offending oranges and grapefruit I was stopped by the management who threatened to take my film on the basis that I was ‘stealing their display designs’.  The finished print can be seen below.

'Fresh Ideas About Fruit', Silkscreen print by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

The strike would last nearly 3 years before the Irish government banned South African goods from being sold in Ireland.

Their story entered the popular imagination as the Dunnes Stores strikers had songs written about them by Christy Moore (‘Dunnes Stores’[4]) and Ewan MacColl (‘Ten Young Women and One Young Man’).

Several months after being freed from prison in February 1990, Nelson Mandela met with some of the strikers when he visited Dublin and told them that their stand helped keep him going during his imprisonment.

Cathryn O’Reilly, from Finglas, one of the Dunnes Stores strikers, presenting Nelson Mandela with a Robert Ballagh print calling for the release of the Birmingham Six in 1990. Photograph: Frank Miller

In 2008 the workers strike action was commemorated with an official plaque in central Dublin.

Plaque to the Dunnes Stores Strikers, outside

The eleven Dunnes Stores workers from Henry Street were: Mary Manning, Cathryn O'Reilly, Karen Gearon, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Munroe, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Michelle Gavin, Liz Deasy, Dorothy Dooley and Tommy Davis. They were later joined by Brendan Barron who worked in the Crumlin branch of Dunnes Stores. [5]

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin  (@cocroidheain) is a prominent Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of paintings based on cityscapes of Dublin, Irish history and geopolitical themes (  His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Simplified Céilí Dances

These simplified céilí dances are designed for céilís with very large groups who have never done céilí dancing before. 

I show the threes, side-step (sevens) and swing hold to start. In a very big group chaos usually sets in when couples have to change partners, peel off or side step into the parallel dancing line. 

The following dances are designed to reduce confusion and keep the number of moves or figures to a bare minimum. The full versions can be introduced later when the dancers have become familiar with the basics.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Maggie in the Woods (Polka) (
(the Fourth Figure of THE CONNEMARA REEL SET)

All hold hands and form circle around the room with partner on gent’s right

1 All dance in and out, repeat (8 bars)
2 Gent takes hand of lady on his left and polka at home in waltz hold (8 bars)

All form circle and repeat 1 – 2

All hold hands and form circle around the room with partner on gent’s right

1 All dance in 4 steps and out, repeat
2  Ladies dance in 4 steps, clap and out again, gents do the same but turn to face partner as they dance out
3 All swing their partners

All form circle and repeat 1 – 3

Reel.   Dancers line up in lines, ladies facing gents 
1 Everyone. Each line takes hands and advances and retires twice.
2 All turn opposite partner with right elbow hook
3 All turn opposite partner with left elbow hook
4 All turn opposite partner with both hands
5 All dos-à-dos with opposite partner
Each line takes hands and repeats 1-5

WALLS OF LIMERICK (Ballaí Luimní) [2 facing 2] (simplified)
Dancers line up as couples, two opposite two repeating down the hall.
Reel, 40 Bars. The dance is repeated with a new couple each time.


1 Everyone advance and retire twice while holding inside hands with your partner
2 Both Ladies sidestep at the same time (sevens) to the left to change places and finish facing the opposite gent.  Everyone dances two short threes. Both Gents now sidestep at the same time to the right to change places. All dance two short threes.
3 Swing. Finish facing in same direction as original position.

Repeat 1-3 with new couple

SIEGE OF ENNIS (Ionsaí na hInse) [4 facing 4]

Dancers line up in lines of four people or two couples, facing another line of four.
Repeat this formation until you fill the room. Jig, 40 Bars
1 Everyone. Each line takes hands and advances and retires twice (8bars)
2 Everyone. Swing with opposite lady or gent
3 Advance and retire like the first movement and on the second advance the line facing the music raises their arms and the opposite line passes under passing right shoulders with the person opposite.

All take hands and repeat 1-3 with the new line.

THE HAYMAKERS' JIG (Baint an Fhéir) [5 facing 5]
Five couples form two lines, ladies and gents facing each other (X = gent O = lady)
1 2  3  4  5

1 Advance and retire: the lines advance and retire twice (8 bars), all dance the Rise and Grind on the R foot then the L foot (4 bars) and the lines advance and retire again (4 bars).
2 The 1st gent and 5th lady dance into the centre, half turn each other with right elbow hook  and dance back to place (4 bars). The same movement is then danced by the 5th gent and 1st lady. The same couples repeat the movement but this time half turn left elbow hook (8 bars)
3 Swing: the 1st gent and 5th lady dance into the centre, swing and dance back to place (8 bars).  The same movement is then danced by the 5th gent and 1st lady (8 bars)

Each line takes hands and repeats 1-3


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Robot Revolution

Just as we are seeing climate chaos change to climate catastrophe, we may also see job chaos change to job catastrophe. We are entering an era of technological change which has the potential to create havoc in an already seriously undermined world of employment. It has become a well-worn cliché to declare that the robots are coming but it is necessary to consider seriously how the creeping technologisation of production and services is going to affect many areas of employment considered today to be relatively safe from the machines.

In the past, the technologisation of work produced frantic and panicked reactions in the Luddite conflicts of the early 19th century. Since then we have been lulled into complacency by visions of wealth and prosperity and more leisure time.

The current crop of robotic developments and inventions have produced a huge ‘aaw’ factor as dancing, walking and talking, ‘Livin’ Robots’ have entertained people all over the world. However, this is merely a transition period of finding general acceptance by an unsuspecting public who are unaware of how close they are getting to a labour crisis of disastrous proportions.
The recent history of machines and robotic devices shows us that the world of technological advancement steams ahead with or without the consent of the workers whose jobs are ultimately displaced forever. How did we get from Luddite frame breaking to ‘Loving the Alien’?

There is what could be described as three levels of the technologisation of work,
(1) Basic Machines (Simple and Engine),
(2) Complex Machines (Electrical, Electronic and Computing), and
(3) Sophisticated Machines (Anthropomorphic Robots).
In each case technologisation has brought benefits as well as disaster. However, we are reaching a point where further technologisation can only exacerbate the global problems of mass unemployment, climate chaos, depletion of the world’s resources and exceed the planet’s capacity for recovery.

(1) Basic Machines (Simple and Engine)

“Surely my lord however we may rejoice in any improvement in the arts which may be beneficial to mankind, we must not allow mankind to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism. The maintenance and well-doing of the industrious poor is an object of greater consequence to the community than the enrichment of a few monopolists by any improvement in the implements of trade, which deprives the workman of his bread, and renders the labourer ‘unworthy of his hire.’” Lord Byron’s speech to the House of Lords February 27, 1812, at the height of Luddite activities in Yorkshire, England. [1]

Warring with Rude Nature

The introduction of machines during the Industrial Revolution became the focus of anger of the English textile artisans in the early 19th Century. The new stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms enabled the factory owners to replace artisans with cheaper low-wage labourers. This resulted in the unemployed textile artisans coming together and attacking the factory machinery and burning down mills. Known as Luddites, these men and their supporters battled with the industrialists and the British Army from 1811 to 1817. The government eventually quashed the movement with show trials resulting in many penal transportations and executions. [2]
John Kay inventor of the Fly Shuttle, by Ford Madox Brown.
(depicting the inventor John Kay fleeing a mob intent on destroying his mechanical loom.)

The significance of the introduction of machinery and the long term effects of the Luddite movement was not lost on Friedrich Engels, who wrote in 1845:
“The service which machinery has rendered the workers is simply this: that it has brought home to their minds the necessity of a social reform by means of which machinery shall no longer work against but for them. […] Every new advance brings with it loss of employment, want, and suffering, and in a country like England where, without that, there is usually a ‘surplus population’, to be discharged from work is the worst that can befall the operative.” [3]
The struggle against the machines soon became a struggle for control of the machines.

(2) Complex Machines (Electrical, Electronic and Computing)

“When was the last time a real receptionist texted you about an important call? Or worked 24/7 (there’s labor laws against that)? A virtual receptionist works for peanuts and doesn’t demand benefits.” [4]

The computers are coming

For the next one hundred years the existence of factories became accepted and trade unions took on the challenge of resistance to the factory owners.  However, the spread of the machines in the workplace was really only beginning.  In 1951, the first commercial business computer was developed in the United Kingdom by the J. Lyons and Co. catering organization. It was known as the ‘Lyons Electronic Office’ – or LEO for short. The LEO computer was further developed and then widely used during the 1960s and early 1970s. [5]

During a visit to USA Lyons’ managers met Herman Goldstine, one of the original developers of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), the first general-purpose electronic computer (although it had no stored program). [6] In 1953 IBM (International Business Machines) introduced the 701 to the public, their first electric computer and first mass produced computer. [7]

Avoiding the type of knee-jerk rejection of new technology by the early Luddites, a softly-softly approach to mass acceptance of computers was created through information films such as “Electronic Computers Improve Management Control” (UCLA 1957) lauding their efficiency and advantages, and cinematically by films such as Desk Set (1957) summarised as:
“Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), the inventor of EMERAC (an allusion to the early computers UNIVAC and ENIAC) and an efficiency expert, is brought in to see how the library functions, to figure out how to ease the transition. […] When they find out the computers are coming, the employees jump to the conclusion the machines are going to replace them, whereas they are merely intended to help ease the research.” [8]
Desk Set (1957)

When the ‘silly computer’ fires everyone in the building by mistake, Sumner has to explain that EMERAC‘was never intended to take over’ to ease the anxiety of workers. The support of IBM for the film is acknowledged in the opening credits: “The filmmakers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of the International Business Machines Corporation.” [9] The optimistic message of Desk Set had changed by the late 1960s with the Jerome Epstein film The Adding Machine (1969) about ‘an accountant whose job is about to be taken over by a computer [and who] starts to re-examine his life and his priorities.’ [10]

By the 1980s, according to Alan Nasser, the effects of the introduction of computers were such that:

“An office in the 1980s employing 40 people working without computers may require, in the early 1990s, only 4 workers using 4 computers. The productivity – output per unit of labor input – of the office can be further enhanced not by adding skilled workers nor by replacing less productive workers with more productive computers, but by replacing less powerful computers and software with more powerful ones. In the initial case, actual workers were replaced by computers. In the latter case potential workers were kept out of the workplace by better computers.”

Over the last few decades we have seen the introduction of technology changing working class jobs such as the use of hand scanners and self-service check-out machines in supermarkets, stamp machines in post offices, electronic toll collection, automated attendants in telephony, virtual receptionists, ticket machines in car parks and train stations and swiping machines and integrated security systems affecting security guards.
More and more middle class jobs are under threatwith the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in banks, the use of the internet for shopping, translation, and teaching.

In the same period of time the technologisation of factories has seen the introduction of factory robots working on fully automated production lines and then packaging and palletizing, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) transporting goods around warehouses, automated fruit harvesting machines and telerobots.
Factory robots (ABB robot IRB 6400)

In fact, we are mesmerized by the potential use of robots. In an article by Aaron Saenz he notes the “awe-inspiring, perhaps even frightening” aspects of modern manufacturing:

“The factories of today have some human workers, but huge portions of assembly lines are 100% mechanized. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects automotive jobs to decline 18% by 2018 despite expected increases in production. Robots eliminate the need for more workers. Before you lament the loss of jobs, take a moment and watch how robots earn their role every day in the workplace. Incredible!”
Our fascination with robots is overcoming our cautious nature as we are once again presented with images of the new ‘silly machines’.

(3) Sophisticated Machines (Anthropomorphic Robots)

“Imagine a world where the robots did all the work. They tend the crops, sew the clothes, cook the food, drive the trucks, and work on all the assembly lines in all the world’s factories. In this world, everything would be a lot cheaper because labor costs would drop to zero. In fact, there’d be a startling abundance of stuff. And people would be freed up to do things other than work. We could use our time to explore, create, perform, craft, mingle, and so on because we wouldn’t have to work to produce the necessities or luxuries of life; the robots would be taking care of that.”  [11]

Fascinating Robots

The titles of the videos about the latest robots (Dancing Robots, World’s Top3 Humanoid Robots, Most Human Like Robot Ever) reveal one strategy of acceptance: narcissism or self-admiration.

The more robots look, act and behave like us, the more we forget that robots are separate and are not extensions of ourselves. While we ‘lose ourselves’ in the robot, we also lose sight of the potential dangers inherent in re-creating technological version of ourselves. Current scientific research is moving towards a functional humanoid capable of many human skills and communicative interaction. Herein lies the crux of the matter: when the optimal robot has been created it will become the model for reproduction. Once on the production line in the factory the robot will be mass produced.

So then will the concept of a ‘world where the robots did all the work, […] tend the crops, sew the clothes, cook the food, drive the trucks, and work on all the assembly lines in all the world’s factories’ come alive? Will people benefit? More and more people will be put out of work, even in jobs never considered threatened by technology before.

Will we have more leisure time? That is predicated on the idea of a social fund created by society to pay for education, health, transport etc. But where will that money come from? The beneficiaries of robot production (which will no doubt be private) will be the owners and shareholders of robot producing companies and factories supplying robots to universities, hospitals, libraries etc. not society as a whole.
Tokyo Tower robot Tawabo guides visitors in four languages – (video)

This may seem fantastical now during this transition phase of development but already relatively undeveloped robots are being used as tour guides and remote doctors. As more privatisation puts more people at the mercy of the profit motive, exposure to replacement by robot is only limited by the current capabilities of contemporary science.
BBC – Hospital Recruits Robot Doctors – (video)

Will things be cheaper? Many cars are made by robots but are not startlingly cheap because of competition (as competitors also have to invest in the same latest technology). Will there be an ‘
abundance of stuff’? The planet already provides an abundance of stuff yet the World Bankestimated 1.29 billion people were living in absolute poverty in 2008. Can the planet keep providing an ‘abundance of stuff’? The process of resource depletion of finite raw materials would only be accelerated by an increased amount of robots working in more fully-automated factories.

One could argue that trades unions and professional associations would never let this happen yet redundancy and non-replacement of retired workers is opening up a gap which can be filled by sophisticated robots. Only stronger ties building on the common interest between the unemployed and employed can possibly resist this coming workplace crisis.

[1] Steven E. Jones, Against Technology: From the Luddites to Neo-Luddism (New York: Routledge, 2006) p.96
[2] See Luddite bicentenary resource site:  and Chumbawamba’s English Rebel Songs 1381–1984 ‘The Triumph of General Ludd’
[3] Friedrich Engels, Condition of the Working Class in England (1845). See:
[4] ‘Virtual receptionists replacing the real thing’ by John Dodge. See:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Swords (Sord Cholmcille): History of a name ...

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

'Sord of Columcille' / 'Swrth Colomkelle' / 'Sord' / 'Surd' / 'Suird' / 'Sords' / 'Swerts' / 'Swerds' / 'Sweerdes' / 'Swordes' / 'Swords'

Gaelic: Sord Cholmcille -
St. Colmcille's Well

For a more detailed history and over 70 images of Swords see:

The town's origins date back to 560 AD when it was founded by Saint Colmcille (521-567). Legend has it that the saint blessed a local well, giving the town its name, Sord, meaning "clear" or "pure". However, An Sord also means "the water source" and could indicate a large communal drinking well that existed in antiquity. St. Colmcille's Well is located on Well Road off Swords Main Street.
(See below for usage of different spellings in texts etc.)

Tower, Belfry and Church (1790s)
For more information see:

"The original word is properly written "Sord," or "Surd," which is interpreted "clear," or "pure," although in modern Irish the word so spelt bears the meaning of "order ... industry ... diligence." The w came into it after the settlement of the English, who wrote the name Swerds, though pronounced Swords, as the verb shew has the sound of show. This interpretation which I give you is from an ancient Life of St. Columbkille, preserved in a very venerable MS. of the Royal Irish Academy, of the fourteenth century. [...] it was the practice of the early founders of Christianity in these islands, when planting a church in any spot, to have special reference to the proximity of a well. [...] suffice it to say, that well-worship existed in the country before the introduction of Christianity, and that when the people were converted, like the transfer of pagan temples, these wells, with all their veneration, were made over to the aid of the new religion."
(See A Lecture on the Antiquities of Swords by The Late Right Rev. William Reeves below)

Tower, Belfry and Church. 'Published by T Hooper June 11th 1791 Engraved by Jas Newton'

Early History

'Suird' (usage in ancient texts)

Baile Bricín

Baile Bricín ("The Vision of Bricín") is a late Old Irish or Middle Irish prose tale, in which St Bricín(e), abbot of Túaim Dreccon (Tomregan), is visited by an angel, who reveals to him the names of the most important future Irish churchmen ( Saint Bricín (c.590–650; also known as Bricin, Briccine, DaBreccoc, Da-Breccocus) was an Irish abbot of Tuaim Dreccon in Breifne (modern Tomregan, County Cavan), a monastery that flourished in the 7th century (

Tascor mara aidche mBuilt
tidnastar dó ind-Inbiur Suird,
bid ór, bid arcad, bud glain,
bid fín mbárc ó Rómánchaib.

A fleet from across the sea at night in Built
which will be delivered up to him in the estuary of Sord.
It will be gold, it will be silver, it will be crystal
It will be a wine-ship from (the) Romans.;%20charset=ISO-8859-1

The Book of Leinster

The following list is from the 12th-century The Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála list of abbesses and other ecclesiastics and their communities owing allegiance to Kildare (pp. 1580-1583, cf. Corpus genealogiarum sanctorum Hiberniae, 112-18, 210-12). Most of the sites are near Kildare in Leinster although some were as far away as Sligo and Tyrone.
29. Dísert Brigte in Cell Suird (near Swords, co. Dublin)

Swords Castle. 'Published by T Hooper August 9th 1791 Engraved by Jas Newton'

Annals of the Four Masters
The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Irish: Annála Ríoghachta Éireann) or the Annals of the Four Masters (Annála na gCeithre Máistrí) are a chronicle of medieval Irish history. The entries span from the Deluge, dated as 2,242 years after creation to AD 1616. The annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan friary in Donegal Town. (

We read in the Annals of the Four Masters, that Dun-Sobhairce was among the first fortresses erected in this island by the Milesians:--
A. M. 3501. "This is the year in which Heremon and Heber assumed the joint government of Ireland, and divided Ireland equally between them. In it also the following fortresses, &c. were erected, viz. Rath-beathaigh, on the banks of the river Nore, in Argatros, (now Rathveagh, within five miles of Kilkenny; (Rath-oin, in the territory of Cualann, (now the County Wicklow;) the causeway of Inbhear-mor, (now Arklow;) the house in Dun-nair. on the Mourne mountains. Dun-Delginnis, in the territory of Cualann, (now Delgany, Co. Wicklow;) DUN SOBHAIRCE, in Murbholg of Dalriada, (Dunseveric,) was erected by Sovarke; and Dun Edair, (on the Hill of Howth,) by Suighde; all these foregoing were erected by Heremon and his Chieftains. Rath-Uamhain, in Leinster; Rath-arda, Suird, (Swords;) Carrac Fethen, Carrac Blarne, (Blarney,) Dun-aird Inne, Rath Riogbhard, in Murresk, were erected by Heber and his chieftains."
See also:

Sord of Columcille / Sord / Swerts (usage in ancient texts)

Annals of the Four Masters

The Battle of Clontarf, Brian Boru and his wake at Swords

1013 [Annal M1013.11]

An army was led by Brian, son of Ceinneidigh, son of Lorcan, King of Ireland, and by Maelseachlainn, son of Domhnall, King of Teamhair, to Ath-cliath. The foreigners of the west of Europe assembled against Brian and Maelseachlainn; and they took with them ten hundred men with coats of mail. A spirited, fierce, violent, vengeful, and furious battle was fought between them, the likeness of which was not to be found in that time,—at Cluaintarbh, on the Friday before Easter precisely. In this battle were slain Brian, son of Ceinneidigh, monarch of Ireland, who was the Augustus of all the West of Europe, in the eighty-eighth year of his age; Murchadh, son of Brian, heir apparent to the sovereignty of Ireland, in the sixty-third year of his age; Conaing, son of Donncuan, the son of Brian's brother; Toirdhealbhach, son of Murchadh, son of Brian; Mothla, son of Domhnall, son of Faelan, lord of the Deisi-Mumhan;
Eocha, son of Dunadhach, i.e. chief of Clann-Scannlain; Niall Ua Cuinn; Cuduiligh, son of Ceinneidigh, the three companions of Brian; Tadhg Ua Ceallaigh, lord of Ui Maine; Maelruanaidh na Paidre Ua hEidhin, lord of Aidhne; Geibheannach, son of Dubhagan, lord of Feara-Maighe; Mac-Beatha, son of Muireadhach Claen, lord of Ciarraighe-Luachra; Domhnall, son of Diarmaid, lord of Corca-Bhaiscinn; Scannlan, son of Cathal, lord of Eoghanacht-Locha Lein; and Domhnall, son of Eimhin, son of Cainneach, great steward of Mair in Alba. The forces were afterwards routed by dint of battling,
bravery, and striking, by Maelseachlainn, from Tulcainn to Ath-cliath, against the foreigners and the Leinstermen; and there fell Maelmordha, son of Murchadh, son of Finn, King of Leinster; the son of Brogarbhan, son of Conchobhar, Tanist of Ui-Failghe; and Tuathal, son of Ugaire, royal heir of Leinster; and a countless slaughter of the Leinstermen along with them. There were also slain Dubhghall, son of Amhlaeibh, and Gillaciarain, son of Gluniairn, two tanists of the foreigners; Sichfrith, son of Loder, Earl of Innsi hOrc; Brodar, chief of the Danes of Denmark, who was the person that slew Brian. The ten hundred in armour were cut to pieces, and at the least three thousand of the
foreigners were there slain. It was of the death of Brian and of this battle the following quatrain was composed:
Thirteen years, one thousand complete, since Christ was born, not long since the date, Of prosperous years—accurate the enumeration—until the foreigners were slaughtered together with Brian. Maelmuire, son of Eochaidh, successor of Patrick, proceeded with the seniors and relics to Sord-Choluim-Chille; and they carried from thence the body of
Brian, King of Ireland, and the body of Murchadh, his son, and the head of Conaing, and the head of Mothla. Maelmuire and his clergy waked the bodies with great honour and veneration; and they were interred at Ard-Macha in a new tomb.

Swords Castle. Mrs Hall Travels around Ireland (1843)

More references from Annals of the Four Masters

965 [M965.2 Ailill, son of Maenach, Bishop of Sord and Lusca;]  [celt]

993, "Sord of Columcille was burned by Maolsechlain." [Reeves]

1016, "Sord of Columcille was burned by Sitric, son of Aniat, and the Danes of Dublin." [Reeves]

1020 [M1020.6 The burning of Cluain-Iraird, Ara, Sord, and Cluain-mic-Nois.] [celt]

1020, "Sord of Columcille was plundered by Connor O Maclachlann, who burned it, and carried away many captives, and vast herds of cows." [Reeves]

1023. Maelmaire Ua Cainen, wise man, and Bishop of Sord-Choluim-Chille, died []

1028. Gilla- christ, son of Dubhchuillinn, a noble priest of Ard-Macha, died at Ros-Commain.
Coiseanmach, son of Duibheachtgha, successor of Tola ; Gillapadraig Ua Flaith- bheartaigha, airchinneach of Sord ; Cormac, priest of Ceanannus ; Maelpadraig Ua Baeghalain, priest of Cluain-mic-Nois ; Flaithnia Ua Tighernain, lector of Cill-Dacheallog w ; and Cearnach, Ostiarius of Cluain-mic-Nois, died. []

1031, "Sord of Columcille was burned and plundered by Connor O'Maclachlann, in revenge for the death of Raghnall, son of Ivar, Lord of Waterford, by the hand of Sitric, son of Anlaf." [Reeves]

1034 Conn macMaelpatrick, Sord-Choluim-Chille []

1035 Raghnall, grandson of Imhar, lord of Port-Lairge, was slain at Ath-cliath by Sitric, son of Amhlaeibh ; and Sord Choluim Chille h was plundered and burned by Con-chobhar Ua Maeleachlainn, in revenge thereof. [] [M1035.4 Ardbraccan was plundered by Sitric afterwards, and Sord Choluim Chille was plundered and burned by Conchobhar Ua Maeleachlainn, in revenge thereof.] [celt]

1042, "died Eochagan, herenach of Slane, Lector of Sord, and a distinguished writer." [Reeves] [M1042.3 Eochagan, airchinneach of Slaine, and lector of Sord, and a distinguished scribe;] [celt]

1045, "An army was led by M'Eochaidh and Maolsechlann, with the foreigners who burned Sord, and wasted Fingall." [Reeves]

1048 Aedh, son of Maelan Ua Nuadhait, airchinneach of Sord, was killed on the night of the Friday of protection before Easter, in the middle of Sord. []

1056, "the fire of God (that is, lightning) struck the Lector of Sord, and tore asunder the sacred tree." [Reeves] Lightning appeared and killed three at Disert-Tola, and a learned man at Swerts" [Swords], "and did breake the great tree. []

1060 Maelchiarain Ua Robhachain, airchinneach of Sord-Choluim-Chille ; and Ailill Ua Maelchiarain, airchinneach of Eaglais-Beg [at Cluain-mic-Nois], died. []

1061 Mael- incited these of Delvyn-Beathra, with their kiaran O'Robucan, Airchinnech of Swerts" king, Hugh O'Royrck, in their pursuite, who [Swords], "mortuus est. []

1069, "Lusc and Sord of Columcille were burned." [Reeves] [M1069.4 Dun-da-leathghlas, Ard-sratha, Lusca, and Sord-Choluim-Chille, were burned.] [celt]

1102, "Sord of Columcille was burned." [Reeves]

1130, "Sord of Columcille, with its churches and relics, was burned." [Reeves] [M1130.1 Sord-Choluim-Chille, with its churches and relics, was burned.] [celt]

1136 [M1136.6 Mac Ciarain, airchinneach of Sord, fell by the men of Fearnmhagh.] [celt]

1138, "Sord burned." [Reeves]  [M1138.3 Cill-dara, Lis-mor, Tigh-Moling, and Sord, were burned.] [celt]

1150, "Sord burned." [Reeves] [M1150.6 Ceanannus, Sord, and Cill-mor-Ua-Niallain,with its oratory, were burned.] [celt]

1166, "Sord of Columcille was burned." [Reeves] [M1166.8 Lughmhadh, Sord-Choluim-Chille, and Ard-bo, were burned.] [sord]

[Reeves] See: A Lecture on the Antiquities of Swords below.
[celt] See:
[] See:

The Medieval Latin Life of Gruffudd Ap Cynan

Gruffudd ap Cynan (c. 1055 – 1137) was a King of Gwynedd. In the course of a long and eventful life, he became a key figure in Welsh resistance to Norman rule, and was remembered as King of all Wales. According to the Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan, Gruffudd was born in Dublin and reared near Swords, County Dublin in Ireland.

 Unusually for a Welsh king or prince, a near-contemporary biography of Gruffudd, The history of Gruffudd ap Cynan, has survived. Much of our knowledge of Gruffudd comes from this source, though allowance has to be made for the fact that it appears to have been written as dynastic propaganda for one of Gruffudd's descendants. The traditional view among scholars was that it was written during the third quarter of the 12th century during the reign of Gruffudd's son, Owain Gwynedd, but it has recently been suggested that it may date to the early reign of Llywelyn the Great, around 1200. The name of the author Is not known.

 Most of the existing manuscripts of the history are in Welsh but these are clearly translations of a Latin original. It is usually considered that the original Latin version has been lost, and that existing Latin versions are re-translations from the Welsh. However Russell (2006) has suggested that the Latin version in Peniarth MS 434E incorporates the original Latin version, later amended to bring it into line with the Welsh text (

 "Cum in Anglia regnaret Edwardus dictus Confessor et apud Hybernos Therdelachus rex, nascitur in Hybernia apud civitatem Dublinensem Griffinus rex Venedotiae, nutriturque in loco Comoti Colomkelle dicto Hybernice Swrth Colomkelle, per tria miliaria distante a duomo suorum parentum."

 (Translation from Latin)
 "When Edward (called the Confessor) was ruling in England and King Toirrdelbach was ruling over the Irish, there was born in Ireland in the city of Dublin, Gruffudd, king of Gwynedd, and he was fostered in a place in the commote of Colum Cille called in Irish Sord Coluim Chille, which lies three miles away from the home of his parents."

 Source: Vita Griffini Filii Conani: The Medieval Latin Life of Gruffudd Ap Cynan, edited and translated by Paul Russell, University of Wales Press, 2005 (reprinted 2012), pp.53-54


The Dublin Penny Journal
, Volume 1, Number 23, December 1, 1832.

The Round Tower of Swords

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 23, December 1, 1832.

The ancient town of Swords, situated in the barony of Coolock, about seven miles from the metropolis, though now reduced to an insignificant village, is remarkable for its picturesque features, its ruins, and its historical recollections. Its situation is pleasing and romantic, being placed on the steep banks of a small and rapid river, and though its general appearance indicates but little of prosperity or happiness, its very ruins and decay, give it, at least to the antiquary and the painter, a no common interest.
Like most of our ancient towns Swords appears to be of ecclesiastical origin. A sumptuous monastery was founded here in the year 512, by the great St. Columb, who appointed St. Finian Lobair, or the leper, as its abbot, and to whom he gave a missal, or copy of the gospels, written by himself. St. Finian died before the close of the sixth century. In course of time this monastery became possessed of considerable wealth, and the town rose into much importance. It contained within its precincts, in addition to St. Columb's church, four other chapels, and nine exterior chapels subservient to the mother church. Hence on the institution of the collegiate church of St. Patrick, it ranked as the first of the thirteen canonries attached to that cathedral by archbishop Comin, and was subsequently known by the appellation of "the golden prebend." There was also a nunnery here, the origin of which is unknown.
To this monastery the bodies of the monarch Brian Boru, and his son Morogh, were conveyed in solemn procession by the monks, after the memorable battle of Clontarf, and after remaining a night, were carried to the abbey of Duleek, and committed to the care of the monks of St. Cianan, by whom they were conveyed to Armagh.

Swords was burnt and plundered frequently, as well by the native princes, as by the Danes, who set the unholy example. By the latter it was reduced to ashes in the years 1012, and 1016, and by the former in the years 1035 and 1135. On this last occasion the aggressor, Conor O'Melaghlin, king of Meath, was slain by the men of Lusk. Its final calamity of this kind occurred in the year 1166.
Here it was that the first Irish army of the Pale assembled on the 9th of November, 1641, preparatory to that frightful civil war which caused such calamities to the country; and here they were defeated and put to the rout by the forces under Sir Charles Coote, on the 10th of January following, when he beat them from their fortifications and killed two hundred of them, without any material loss, except that of Sir Lorenzo Carey, second son of Lord Falkland, who fell in the engagement.

Of the numerous ecclesiastical edifices for which Swords was anciently distinguished, the only remains now existing are those represented in the prefixed engraving--for the castle, though said to have been the residence of the archbishop of Dublin can hardly be included under this denomination. These consist of a fine and lofty round tower, coeval with the foundation of the original monastery, and the abbey belfry, a square building of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. The former is seventy-three feet high, fifty-two feet in circumference, and the walls four feet thick. It contained five stories, or floors. Its present entrance which is level with the ground, is of modern construction, as well as the roof and upper story: what appears to have been the original doorway is twenty feet from the ground, and but four feet high. Respecting the uses of those singular ancient buildings, we deem it improper to express any opinion, till the Royal Irish Academy shall have announced its decision on the prize essays on this subject, now under its consideration.

These two towers with the adjacent church, form a picturesque and uncommon architectural group; but the church which is of modern erection, having been completed in the year 1818, though imposing in its general appearance, is but a spurious and jejune imitation of the pointed or gothic style of architecture, and such as might have been expected from minds so wanting in good taste and feeling as those which permitted the removal of the beautiful ruins of the ancient abbey to erect it on their site. Similar acts of wanton destruction are now unfortunately of daily occurrence, and are anything but honorable to their perpretrators, who, though they may regard such remains as vestiges of ancient superstition, should still remember, as Byron says, that

----"Even the faintest relics of a shrine
Of any worship, wake some thoughts divine."

We are told that the inhabitants of Swords feel proud of this pretending, but tasteless structure, and we believe it possible; but if the principles of a refined and educated architectural taste should ever again be generally disseminated in Ireland, they will indulge in a very different feeling. In this country we have yet to learn that elegance of form and correctness of design in ecclesiastical buildings are, in the hands of a judicious and educated architect, quite attainable, even with the limited means usually appropriated to the purpose.
We shall give a view and account of the castle, or episcopal palace of Swords, in a future number.

For more information see:

'Sord' 'Sords' (early usage)

History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff (7 vols., 1858–1890)

"Saint Columba or Columbcille, (died June 9, 597) is the real apostle of Scotland. He is better known to us than Ninian and Kentigern. The account of Adamnan (624-704), the ninth abbot of Hy, was written a century after Columba's death from authentic records and oral traditions, although it is a panegyric rather than a history. Later biographers have romanized him like St. Patrick. He was descended from one of the reigning families of Ireland and British Dalriada, and was born at, Gartan in the county of Donegal about a.d. 521. He received in baptism the symbolical name Colum, or in Latin Columba (Dove, as the symbol of the Holy Ghost), to which was afterwards added cille (or kill, i.e. "of the church," or "the dove of the cells," on account of his frequent attendance at public worship, or, more probably, for his being the founder of many churches.79 He entered the monastic seminary of Clonard, founded by St. Finnian, and afterwards another monastery near Dublin, and was ordained a priest. He planted the church at Derry in 545, the monastery of Darrow in 553, and other churches. He seems to have fondly clung all his life to his native Ireland, and to the convent of Derry. In one of his elegies, which were probably retouched by the patriotism of some later Irish bard, he sings:

"Were all the tributes of Scotia [i.e. Ireland] mine,
From its midland to its borders,
I would give all for one little cell
In my beautiful Derry.
For its peace and for its purity,
For the white angels that go
In crowds from one end to the other,
I love my beautiful Derry.
For its quietness and purity,
For heaven's angels that come and go
Under every leaf of the oaks,
I love my beautiful Derry.

My Derry, my fair oak grove,
My dear little cell and dwelling,
O God, in the heavens above I
Let him who profanes it be cursed.
Beloved are Durrow and Derry,
Beloved is Raphoe the pure,
Beloved the fertile Drumhome,
Beloved are Sords and Kells! [inmhain Sord as Cenanddus [Betha Colaim chille] (1918)]
But sweeter and fairer to me
The salt sea where the sea-gulls cry
When I come to Derry from far,
It is sweeter and dearer to me —
Sweeter to me."

Tower and Belfry (c.1794)
For more information see:

Betha Choluim Chille
/ The Life of Colum Cille  [P. 114]

Fothaigis eclais isin inad h-itá Sord indiú. Fácbais fer sruith diá muntir and .i. Finan Lobur. & facbais in soscéla ro scrib a lám fodessin. Tóirnis tra ann tipra dia n-ainm Sord .i. glan. & senais croiss.

"Colum Cille founded a church there, and that is 'Swords of Colum Cille' today. Colum Cille left a good man from his own household there as his successor, Finan the Leper, and he left there the missal which he himself had written. Colum Cille blessed Swords and he blessed its well - Glan ['Clean'] is its name - and he left a cross there."
The Life of Colum Cille by Manus O'Donnell [1532] [ed. Brian Lacey] (Four Courts Press, Dublin 1998)
See also

'Sords' (usage of 'Sords' spelling on a gravestone)

This stone was erected by Rob Willon of Sords in
memory of his father William Willon who departed
this life Nov. 6th 1750 aged 57 [...] their posterity
(St Columba's Church of Ireland graveyard, Swords)

A Lecture on the Antiquities of Swords by The Late Right Rev. William Reeves

THE ANTIQUITIES OF SWORDS 1970 A LECTURE ON THE ANTIQUITIES OF SWORDS Delivered at Swords, in the Borough Schoolhouse on Wednesday Evening., Sep. 12, 1860, by THE LATE RIGHT REV. WILLIAM REEVES D.D., L.L.D., M.B., M.R.I.A.; Bishop of Down; formerly Vicar of Lusk

 [Page 3 (first page)]

It has happened that an Englishman (forgetting all the names of places in his own country ending in mouth) has regarded with a kind of religious horror the number of parochial names in Ireland beginning with the syllable Kill, as a sad, but apt indication, even in spirituals, of the Hibernian proneness to truculence. The feeling would hardly be diminished were it to be told, that a professed messenger of peace was lecturing this evening on Swords, aye, and the same Swords in part appropriated by ecclesiastical ordinance to the canonry of a church, like St. Patrick's, where every stall exhibits the three great emblems of war - the sword fixed, the helmet erected, and the banner waving in defiant array.

Leaving such a display, were he to travel northwards, he would find a townland in the county of Louth, bearing the kindred name of Glasspistol, and draw very plausible conclusions as to the social condition of a  county where the voice of blood cried as it were from the very ground. And yet he might be mistaken:  the prefix "Kill" is nothing but an Irish form of the Latin cella, a monastic term appropriated to the idea, "Church;" and that, as originally employed by the most harmless of mortals, the secluded hermit. The amusingly ominous name Glasspistyll is a British compound, signifying "Green-stream," while the Swords of this evening are as weak as water, though having the common attribute of being drawn.

In fact, your name Swords, as borne by this parish of 9,674 acres, in the barony of Nethercross, with 1,294 inhabitants in the town, and a gross population of 2,962, signifies nothing more or less than "Pure," and belonged to the well, which being near the spot on which the primitive church was founded, became in after times what is called "a holy well," and gave its name to the church and parish at large.

The original word is properly written "Sord," or "Surd," which is interpreted "clear," or "pure," although in modern Irish the word so spelt bears the meaning of "order ... industry ... diligence." The w came into it after the settlement of the English, who wrote the name Swerds, though pronounced Swords, as the verb shew has the sound of show. This interpretation which I give you is from an ancient Life of St. Columbkille, preserved in a very venerable MS. of the Royal Irish Academy, of the fourteenth century.

But, to afford you an instance of the danger and uncertainty of conjectural derivation, I may mention, that I once met at a clerical meeting a gentle man of sound scholarship, who gave me to understand that Swords was a corruption of the Latin word Surdus, "deaf," it being an appellation borrowed in the middle ages from a monastery or hospital, which was founded here for the admission of superannuated ecclesiastics who had lost their hearing. Upon which I could not resist the temptation of creating a set off in the case of my own parish of Lusk, which, on the spur of the moment, and with equal credibility, I alleged was derived from the Latin Luscus, "blind of one eye," observing that as Swords was the asylum for the deaf, so Lusk was the hospital for those of defective vision.

But in all seriousness, it was the practice of the early founders of Christianity in these islands, when planting a church in any spot, to have special reference to the proximity of a well. We could easily understand how the existence 

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of a well in an eastern clime would determine the choice of site for a church; but in a cool and over-irrigated country like Ireland; it may be somewhat more difficult to account for the great importance which was attached to the well, and for the great number of holy wells, with their stations, and patrons, and votive offerings, which came to be regarded with religious veneration.

The famous Bishop Boniface writes to Pope Zachary in 745, complaining of Adalbert, a Gaul, that he dissuaded men from visiting the Limina Apostolorum, dedicating in his own honour oratories, and erecting crosses and chapels in plains, and at wells, and ,wherever he chose, and there persuaded them to celebrate public worship, till multitudes of the people, setting other bishops at nought, and forsaking the ancient churches, thronged to such places, saying, "The merits of holy Adalbert shall aid us." I could tell you curious stories of the supposed sanctity of wells, but they would divert me from the immediate object of our lecture; suffice it to say, that well-worship existed in the country before the introduction of Christianity, and that when the people were converted, like the transfer of pagan temples, these wells, with all their veneration, were made over to the aid of the new religion.

Besides, the convenience of every-day life tells us how desirable it is to have a good supply of pure water at hand, and we must bear in mind, that ecclesiastics in old times were men of like passions as in the present day, and required the same elements of sustenance for their life and health.

Conspicious among the evangelical labourers in Ireland was St. Columba, or Columbkille, whose genius and devotion have won for him a high place in the annals of the Church of Christ. This man was born in Gartan, in the county of Donegal, in 521. About the year 553 he founded the church of Durrow, and previously to 563, when he departed from Ireland to Iona, it is recorded that he founded your church of Swords.

The early Irish Life of him, to which I have already alluded, thus relates the origin of your church and of its name "Columbkille founded a church at Rechra (that is, the island of Lambay), in the cast of Bregia, and left Colman, the Deacon, in it. Also he founded a church in the place where Sord is at this day. He left a learned man of his people there, namely, Finan Lobhar, and he left a gospel, which his own hand wrote, there.

There also he dedicated a well named Sord, i.e., 'pure,' and he consecrated a cross. One day that Columbkille and Cainnech were on the brink of the tide, a great tempest raged over the sea, and Cainnech asked, 'What saith the wave?' Columbkille answered, 'Thy people are in danger yonder on the sea, and one of them has died, and the Lord will bring him in unto us to-morrow to this bank on which we stand."

"As Bridget was one time walking through the Currach of Life (i.e., the Curragh of Kildare), she viewed the beautiful shamrock-flowering plain before her, whereupon she said in her mind, that if to her belonged the power of the plain, she would offer it to the Lord of creation. This was communicated to Columbkille in his monastery at Sord, whereupon he said with a loud voice, 'Well has it happened to the holy virgin; for it is the same to her in the sight of God as if the land she offered were in her own right."' Hence St. Columba has always been regarded as the founder and principal patron of the church of Swords. He died in 597, on the 9th 

[Page 5]

of June, and that day has been regarded as his festival in Scotland as well as in Ireland. Accordingly, when, 600 years afterwards, the privilege of holding a fair at Swords was conceded to the Archbishop of Dublin by King John, the day chosen, or rather ratified, as previously observed, was the feast of St. Columba, on the 9th of June.

And so intimately was the memory of the founder associated with the name of the place, that almost the invariable designation of the church and district was Sord-Columcille. But coupled with this saint's name, there is another, which shares the ecclesiastical patronage of the spot; and though but few particulars are recorded of his history, there is sufficient evidence to prove that in his day he was an ecclesiastic of considerable eminence.

This was St. Finan, surnamed Lobhar, or "the Leper." How strange that such should be made a saint; but Christanity had long before abolished the disabilities of the Leper, and with the fall of the Jewish ordinal, arose the prospects of the bodily sufferer.

The Irish seem to have held such in veneration; and we can prove that several of the most honoured names in our native calendar are men whose skin was the scat of a loathsome disease, or whose features had been levelled by the ravages of cancer.

St. Finan belonged to the former class, St. Mobhi (Movee), of Glasnevin, styled the clarenach, or "flat- faced," is referable to the latter; and in the great veneration which the ancient Irish always entertained for extreme asceticism and self-denial, their respect for those who suffered by the hand of God was not less when that compulsory mortification was coupled with a holy life.

St. Finan the Leper was patron saint of three churches in Ireland, namely: Swords; Ardfinnan, in the county of Tipperary; and Innisfallen, in Loch Lene, or Killarney. The latter part of his life was spent at Clonmore near Enniscorthy, in the county of Wexford, where he continued for thirty years, all the while labouring under a sore disease, and given up to pious contemplation, frequently enjoying rapturous visions.

He died here on the 16th of March, about 650, and was buried in this monastery. Of him there is testimony in an exceedingly ancient Irish poem, where it is said in reference to Clonmore:-

"There are two worthies whose bodies lie near the cross on the south, St. Onchuo, who rose superior to the love of this fleeting world, and St. Finan the Leper, the strenuous performer of good works."

His celebrity was early recognised in England; for in the Salisbury Martyrology is the commemoration of "St. Finan the Bishop, a man of singular sanctity, who, among other miracles, restored three dead men to life." In Scotland, too, there is a memorial of his name. Sunart, which lies near the south end of the Caledonian Canal, is known by the ecclesiastical name of Ellen Finan, or "Finan's island," from the parish church which is seated on an island in Loch Sheil. In this place is preserved St. Finan's Bell, of iron, and of that square pattern, of which so many examples are to be seen in our Museum of National Antiquities.

It is well known that most of the west coast of Scotland was peopled from Ireland in the early part of the sixth century. And the colonists naturally took with them their native associations, and long maintained a       

[Page 6]

close relation with the mother country. One result was, that the founders of Christianity in that territory were Irishmen, and their names are borne by the churches which they founded. In 1857 I had a letter from a Scotch Advocate, a zealous investigator of his national antiquities, in which he says,

“Perhaps you will permit me to ask a question, which I have heard a good deal agitated while on a visit in the Moidart part of Inverness- shire, some weeks ago: Which of the St. Finans that appear among the Roman Catholic saints, gives his name to Glenfinan in that part of the country? There is a beautiful islet in Loch Sheil, running from Glenfinan almost to the Western Ocean, called after the same saint, Ellanfinan, on which are the ruins of an ancient church, and a churchyard, where the inhabitants on both sides of the loch, and of both faiths, still bury their dead. There is also a stone called St. Finan’s Chair, on which tradition says the holy man sat down, and admired the beautiful island on getting the first sight of it, as he came over the Ardnamurchan hills from Iona.  l have looked in vain into the books here, &c.”

To this I replied, that as we had several Finans in the Irish Calendar, he must endeavour to find out the day on which he was commemorated, and then I might succeed in determining the saint in question.

After some months I received a second letter stating that, after the most diligent local search, he had just succeeded in learning this much, that a tradition existed in the place, that the saint’s festival was either the day before, or the day after, St. Patrick’s Day. That is, either the 16th or 18th of March.

Thus guided, I turned to our Calendar, and there, sure enough, I found at March 16th, “S. Finan the Leper, of Sord and Clonmore.” Meanwhile I had removed from Ballymena to Lusk, and having early made the acquaintance of the neighbouring saints, I was able to inform my Scotch correspondent, that I lived within four miles of the principal church of this saint, whose memory reached to the confines of Argyle and Inverness.

Further, Finan the Leper was of the race of Clan, son of Olill Olum, who flourished in the year 234; and, as such, was a kinsman of St. Mac Cullin, the founder and patron saint of Lusk, who died on the 6th of September, 497; as also of St. Cianan, the founder and patron saint of Duleek, who died November 24th, 488.

All these were the offspring of Fadhg, son of Cian, which Cian was the progenitor of the race called the Cianachta, or “Descendants of Cian;” one branch of whom settled in the east of Bregia, and occupied a maritime tract, extending from Clogher Head southward to Clontarf, and running inland about five or six miles. It is curious to find the family location of saints, even at this early date, which foreshadowed the system of lay presentation; both taking their rise from the principle, that the original endower of a church was entitled to have the nomination of the minister to serve therein.

Part of this territory of Cianachta was called Ard Cianachta by Adamnan, in his Life of St. Columba, which he wrote about the year 690; and the district described by him as extending from the Ailbene, or Delvin River, to the River Liffey. In after-times, when the Danes settled in Ireland, this district became occupied by them; and as they were styled Sails, or “foreigners,” by the native Irish, their possessions acquired the name of Fine Gall, that is, “the region of the strangers,” and the name

[Page 7]

eventually became attached to it in the Ossianic form of Fingal, still familiar to us; and giving the title of Earl in the Irish peerage to a member of the Danish family of Plunket. The headquarters of the Danes in Fingal were at Malahide, formerly called Inver Domnon; and the name of this place is associated once in Irish record with the neighbourhood of Swords.

In Moortown, which is about an English mile N.-W. of you, on the way to Killossory, at the left-hand side of the road is a curious, sombre-looking ruin, and in the adjacent meadow is a well, with an old tree overhanging, and having all the appearance of a holy well.

This place is marked on the Ordnance Map as the site of the Abbey of Glassmore, and the Well as St. Cronan’s, who founded a church here, before the middle of the seventh century. St. Cronan was martyred on the 10th February, as appears from the old entry in the Calendar.

“Glassmore is a church near Swords, on the south; whither came the Northmen of Inver Domnann, and slew both Cronan and his entire fraternity in one night, so that they let no one escape; and there the entire company was crowned with martyrdom.”

We have got so far now as the establishment of the following facts: the Church of Swords was founded by St. Columba, about 550, in the region of Keenaght, who placed there as its first minister St. Finan the Leper, a member of the occupying tribe, and probably a native of the neighbourhood.

After this, all records became silent, and we lose sight of the place for some centuries. Meanwhile, however, we may be sure the seeds of Christian religion once sown here were steadily bearing fruit- the church becoming more deeply rooted, its influence spreading, its endowments increasing, and its presence steadily operating against the surrounding tendency to lawlessness and barbarity. It became at an early date a little monastic establishment; not such as one would expect to find, whose eye was accustomed to the stately fabrics of after-times, when wealth and civilization lent their aid to the embellishments of Christianity; but a little group of cold, comfortless cells, enclosed by a circular entrenchment of earth and stone; having a plain oratory for divine service, and a common apartment for their meals.

Wood formed, probably, a principal ingredient in the structure of these primitive buildings, and everything was constructed on the simplest and cheapest scale.

Swords does not appear in the Irish Annals until the year 965, when their (sic) is recorded “the death of Ailill, son of Maenach, bishop of Sord and Lusk.” At 1023 is recorded the “decease of Malmuire 0’Cainen, sage bishop of Sord Columcille.” At this period, and previously, it was the custom of the Irish to have bishops resident in their principal monasteries, who were often under the control of the abbots, like the modern bishops in the Moravian Churches; and whose functions were not so much the government of a diocese, as the transmission of holy orders, and the performance of those rites peculiar to the episcopal office.

Such we may believe to have been the case at Swords. There were no territorial dioceses as yet established in Ireland; nor was it till near the early part of the twelfth century that even an attempt was made to partition Ireland into ecclesiastical districts, called dioceses. Meanwhile Lusk and Swords were the two principal churches on this side of Glendalough, and though Lusk had a much earlier and fuller succession of bishops and abbots, still the

[Page 8]

sister church was one of considerable importance also. It rose, 1 believe, to this importance about the middle of the tenth century; and it is to the beginning of that, or the preceding century, that 1 would refer the erection of the round tower, which still remains the chief curiosity, and indeed, only surviving relique of the ancient ecclesiastical establishment of the place.

And it is remarkable to find these two churches of Lusk and Swords vindicating their claim to antiquity, by the existence of these memorials of a remote age; and, though but four miles asunder, possessing the only structures of the kind, with the exception of Clondalkin, in the county.

Another did indeed exist at St. Michael le Pole's Church, in Ship Street, Dublin, near the back Castle gate; but has long since disappeared. We may, therefore, regard Swords and Lusk as the ecclesiastical capitals of the district, and the nucleus of the diocese of Dublin. They are older than any church in the metropolis; and when they were flourishing monastic establishments, the site of Dublin was a muddy estuary, of neither note or importance.

Dublin was strictly a Danish city, and called into existence, as it was afterwards maintained, by the invading Northmen. In such an institution as the monastery of Swords we might expect an ample predial endowment, in the way of lands. And so it was; and these lands were farmed by an officer called a herenach, who was a kind of ecclesiastical tenant, having high position in the monastery, and being generally in holy orders.

At 1028, the Annals inform us, "died Gillapatrick O'Flaherty, herenach of Sord." Again, in 1048, "Hugh, son of Maelan O'Nuadhat, was killed on the Friday before Easter, in the middle of Sord."

In 1060, "Malkieran O'Robbacan, herenach of Sord Columkille, died;" and, in 1136, "MacEravain, herenach of Sord, fell by the hands of the men of Farney."

Now, these four are the only names of the herenachs of this church which have come down to us; but they are sufficient to prove the existence in this church of this ancient office, and, therefore, of all its monastic accompaniments.  
When the diocese in after-times became defined, the bishops got control of all these herenach lands, the herenachs being put under rent to them; and thus it happens as an almost general rule through Ireland, that bishops' lands are to be found in the most ancient parishes, and generally near old churches; for, in fact, the episcopal endowment became a centralization, as it wore, of all the little monastic settlements that were dotted over the country, which in their primitive days, when wants were few, manners simple, and pretensions low, afforded, each, abundant maintenance to its local superior.

But when bishops assumed a station of temporal importance, becoming peers of Parliament, and the occupiers of stately palaces, then grew the demand for increased revenues; and all the minor endowments were swept into a common purse, which filled and swelled, till the monstrous revenues of the episcopal body, in the last and early part of the present century, threatened the existence, as they impaired the health, of the Established Church.

The church lands of Swords and Lusk formed a large item in the rental of the bishop, who at first had Glendalough as his episcopal seat; and when, about the period of the English invasion, the Danish see of Dublin, which extended no further than the city walls, became enlarged with a suburban district, Swords and Lusk were transferred from the see     

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of Glendalough to that of Dublin. And in Pope Alexander Ill's bull to St. Laurence O'Toole, in 1179, confirming his archiepiscopal see, the churches of his diocese are enumerated, Lusca being the first, and Sord the second. Swords then became the head of a rural deanery; and thus preserved to some extent a shadow of its former importance.

But the cultivation of literature was always an attribute of the Irish monasteries, which were educational as well as devotional, and each had its Ferleighin, or "man of lecturing," that is, a Lecturer or Professor. The Annals notice two such at Swords. In 1042, "died Eochagan, herenach of Slane, Lector of Sord, and a distinguished writer." His successor came to a more violent end, for in 1056, "the fire of God (that is, lightning) struck the Lector of Sord, and tore asunder the sacred tree."

After the battle of Clontarf, where Brian Boru fell in the arms of victory, on Good Friday, 1014, his body was conveyed to Swords of Columcille; whither, according to the Four Masters, came Malmurry, the successor of Patrick, that is, Bishop of Armagh, with his clergy; and they carried from thence the body of Brian, King of Ireland, and that of Murragh his son, and the heads of Conary and Mothia.

Another collection (the Annals of Innisfallen) varies in the details, and states that the monks of Sord Columcille, hearing that Brian had fallen in the battle, came on the following day, and carried his body to Sord, and thence to Duleck of St. Kienan; the clergy of which conveyed it to Louth, where they were met by Malmurry and his clergy, who carried the sovereign's body to Armagh, and buried it there.

In the interval between 993 and 1166, Swords was burned and wasted by various hands.

993, "Sord of Columcille was burned by Maolsechlain."
1016, "Sord of Columcille was burned by Sitric, son of Aniat, and the Danes of Dublin."
1020, "Sord of Columcille was plundered by Connor O Maclachlann, who burned it, and carried away many captives, and vast herds of cows."
1031, "Sord of Columcille was burned and plundered by Connor O'Maclachlann, in revenge for the death of Raghnall, son of Ivar, Lord of Waterford, by the hand of Sitric, son of Anlaf."
1045, "An army was led by M'Eochaidh and Maolsechlann, with the foreigners who burned Sord, and wasted Fingall."
1069, "Lusc and Sord of Columcille were burned."
1102, "Sord of Columcille was burned."
1130, "Sord of Columcille, with its churches and relics, was burned."
1138, "Sord burned."
1150, "Sord burned."
1166, "Sord of Columcille was burned."

This is the last mention of the name in our Irish Annals. Six years afterwards, the English subjugated Ireland; and Fingall presently yielded to their sway, so that the native annalists lost sight of it; and henceforth we consult another class of records for the continuation of its history.

But before we pass from the Irish to the English occupation, let us observe that, in 1130, Swords was possessed of several churches. Now it contains but one, at least on an old site. Those churches seem to have been but a short way asunder, and within the limits of the present town.

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The Documents of a later date give us the names of two chapels, which probably represented these earlier structures. One of these was a chapel, dedicated to St. Finian, which, with its adjoining cemetery, was situated on the south side, near the Vicar's manse, on the road to Furrows, or Forest, as it is now called, lying to the south-west.

The other was St. Bridget's Chapel, on the north side of the town, adjoining the Prebendary's glebe, and not far from the gates of the old palace; near to which was an ancient cross, called "Pardon Crosse."

The former of these was standing in 1532; but the latter was in ruins at that date; and Archbishop Alan observes that beside it were two burgages, which were let to the Monastery of Holmpatrick at Skerries. The ground occupied by the latter of these chapels now belongs to the economy lands of the parish; the site of the former is the space occupied by the modem glebe house.

But we must return to the transition period of the Irish Church, namely, the English invasion in 1172, when ecclesiastical matters, especially in the diocese of Dublin, underwent an important change. St Lawrence O'Toole, the last native Irish Bishop for a long period, died in 1180, at Eux, in Normandy, whither he went to deliver the son of Roderick O'Connor, king of Connaught, as a hostage for the tribute his father agreed to pay the king.

An Englishman called John Comyn was appointed to succeed him in 1181, being a favourite with the king of England, and an assiduous promoter of the English interest, he was handsomely rewarded, and obtained several grants and immunities for his see.

At this time, Swords was one of the principal churches in the diocese, and contributed largely to the Archbishop's income. As a benefice, it was of great value; and being what was styled a plebania, or "mother church," it possessed a great number of dependent chapelries, some of which still continue in union with it, though others have been detached.

This Archbishop on one occasion presented his kinsman, Walter Comyn, to the parsonages of the churches of St. Columcille and St. Finan, of Swords; with the appendant chapels of Cloghran, Killechni (Killeek), Killastra (Killossory), Donaghbata (Donabate), Malahida, Kinsale, Ballygriffin, and Coloke.

Of these, Cloghran, Donabate, Balgriffin, and Culock, were separated from it at an early date, but Malahide continued in union much later; and Killossory, Killeck, and Kinsaley, still form part of the union; the Incumbent being Vicar of Swords and Kinsaley, but Curate of Killossory and Killeck.

Rich and fat as this great benefice thus became, it was natural that, like the fine parishes of Winwick and Stanhope in England, it should be eagerly sought by these of high and influential connections. In 1302, William de Hothum, a nephew of the Archbishop, enjoyed it.

In 1366, the famous William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, and Chancellor, held it together with eleven benefices in England. And in 1423 it was even a fit object for transmontane endowment; for Brande, Cardinal of Placentia, was nominated to it by Henry IV; and the writ, directed to the Archbishop, commanded his to assign to the Cardinal a stall in the choir, and voice in the chapter.

In like manner, Lusk was once a great and lucrative benefice, so much so, that King Edward I thought it worth conferring, in 1294, upon James of Spain, nephew of his Queen Eleanor. Lusk was

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another plebania, and embraced, besides the present parish, all Balrothery and Balduncan. How the times are altered, when my friend, Mr Twigg, and myself, are all that are to be shown for a Cardinal and a Queen's nephew!

But I forgot to mention, that in 1190, when the collegiate church of St. Patrick's was founded, Swords was named as its first canonry; and among its endowments, were the tithes of all the Archbishop's mills, except that of Swords, which had previously been granted to the Nunnery of Grace Dieu (de Gratia Dei), in Lusk parish, on the borders of Swords; it being the Archbishop's first foundation, and indicative of religious gallantry in giving precedence to the gentler sex. In 1219 it became a pre- bend, in the remodelled foundation.

But, as I have observed, it grew to be very rich; its large income, arising out of its considerable demesne, and the tithes issuing from a wide and fertile district. It was, therefore, called (after the style of Sarum and Durham) the golden prebend; being, as Archbishop Alan observes, as it were, a sack virtually full of gold. Therefore it was, that in 1431, Arch- bishop Richard Talbot formally divided it; his motive being, as it is said, "that it was sought too zealously by cardinals, and other minions of the Papal See."

It was parted into three unequal portions-namely, one part to the Prebendary, the second to the Vicar, and the third to the Economy of St. Patrick's. Out of the last portion were to be maintained six vicars, and six choristers, and the residue to be expended in furnishing lights, repairs, and the defraying of necessary expenses.

The charters which the Archbishops of Dublin obtained from the new Lords of Ireland, not only confirmed them in the possession of the lands hitherto belonging to the See, but also conferred upon them feudal dignities and increased powers. Thus, in 1192, the Archbishop obtained a patent, authorizing him to hold in his manor of Swords an annual fair, commencing on St. Columba's Day (June 9), and lasting a week. The tolls arising from this proved a source of considerable emolument.

About this time - namely, 1200 - the castle was built. An Inquisition of 1265 finds that a constable was there in John Comyn's time.

In 1216 the manor of Swords, with fresh privileges and enlarged possessions, was granted by King Henry 111 to Henry de Loundres, the second English archbishop, on condition that he should build and maintain a castle on his manor of Castlekevin, with a view to defend the pale in that quarter from the invasions of the great Wicklow families-the O'Byrnes and O'Tooles.

Coming into this country as a conquering race, and introducing new laws and customs, the English settlers required places of refuge, and depots for property, in the midst of an oppressed and exasperated people. Hence, the lord of the manor not only needed security for himself and his immediate retainers within his crenelated walls, but felt it his interest, by the military influence of his fortress, to crush the refractory, and overawe the surrounding country; while, in cases of emergency, it afforded shelter to those in danger.

John Comyn, the first English Archbishop, was a strenuous instrument in the extension of English rule. For which reason the see became possessed of unusual privileges, and the Archbishop grew to be one of the most powerful barons in the kingdom.

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Seized of considerable estates in Swords, Lusk, and several adjacent parishes, he and his successor, Henry, felt the importance of their position in Fingall; so that this mansion of Swords served not only as a tower of strength, but a store-house of English civility and law for the territory, and withal a wholesome check upon the excesses of the neighbouring temporal barons.

On this manor the Archbishop had his own seneschal, who was exempt from all interference of the sherifi of the county, and the courts of law. He had the right to try every plea, except the four pleas of the crown. He had his gallows on an eminence near the town, afterwards known as the Gallows’ Hill, where many a male-factor paid the penalty of his life for his misdeeds; and every writ which issued from the civil courts was transferred from the sheriff to his seneschal, ere it could be served. In fact, he was a little king in his principality.

But being an ecclesiastic, and, as such a man of letters, and a father of his clergy, the military development was rather an accident of office than an essential attribute; consequently, the archiepiscopal abode required to be such as would afford scope for the accommodation of a brotherhood, and the exercise of religion-frowning battlements without, but smiling peace within. Thus the palace of Swords demanded space, that it might embrace within it the appliances of religion and peace.

At the present day we are able to form a tolerable estimate of the original strength and internal proportions of the premises, for the outline externally is perfect, and a considerable share of the old pile remains within- more, indeed, than might have been expected in a country where the demolition of ecclesiastical remains, and wanton contempt for things venerable, have seldom been attended by censure or discouragement. What the original character and contents of Swords’ castellated palace were, we learn from an interesting Extent of the archiepiscopal manors, preserved in Archbishop Alan’s Register, called the Liber Niger.

In 1326, Alexander de Bicknor, the Archbishop, having displeased the king, and further, being greatly in arrear in his accounts as Lord Treasurer, the king seized into his hands the profits of the see, in satisfaction for the deficiency; and, in order to ascertain the available amount, Inquisitions by jurors were held before the Sheriff in the various manors.

That on Swords was sped at Dublin, on the 14th March, 1326, and twenty jurors were empanelled. The result of their finding, as regards the palace of Swords, was as follows:-

“Who being sworn, say on their oath, that there is in this place a hall, and the chamber adjoining said hall, the walls of which are of stone, crenelated after the manner of a castle, and covered with shingles.

“Further, there is a kitchen, together with a larder, the walls of which are of stone, roofted with shingles. And there is in the same place a chapel, the walls of which are of stone, roofed with shingles. Also there was in the same place a chamber for friars, with a cloister, which are now prostrate. Also, there are in the same place a chamber, or apartment, for the constables by the gate, and four chambers for soldiers and wardens, roofed with shingles, under which are a stable and bake-house.

“Also, there was here a house for a dairy, and a workshop, which

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are now prostrate. Also, there is on the premises in the haggard a shed made of planks, and thatched with straw. Also, a granary, built with timber, and roofed with boards. Also, a byre, for the housing of farm horses and bullocks.

"The profits of all the above-recited premises, they return as of no value, because nothing is to be derived from them, either in the letting of the houses, or in any other way. And they need thorough repair, inasmuch as they are badly roofed."

Thus we perceive that so early as 1326, these buildings were beginning to suffer from the effects of time.

In 1380, the manor of Swords was seized again into the king's hands by Sir Nicholas Daggerworth, a Commissioner of Forfeitures, on the plea that the conditions of 1216 had not been fulfilled. In the return, however, of said Sir Nicholas to a writ de certiorari, he confessed that cause had not been shown why the said manor should be so seized.

Accordingly, a writ of restitution to Robert de Wykeford, the Archbishop, was issued by the Treasurers and Barons of the Exchequer. There is no evidence that this place was repaired so as again to become a residence of the Archbishop. Probably it was not, for in 1324 was erected by Alexander de Bicknor the archiepiscopal palace of Tallaght, in the south part of the county, which for centuries continued to be employed as the country scat of the Archbishop.

And it was not till 1821that it formally ceased to be regarded as a palace, and its adjuncts as manorial land, when an Act was passed, divesting the Archbishop of it, and placing the premises in the same condition as ordinary church property. It is to be observed that the site of the palace of Tallaght is now occupied by a nunnery.

Swords Castle had ceased to be regarded as a palace ages before this. Connected with this stronghold was the office of Chief Constable, which was considered as one of importance, and long survived the occupation of the castle. In 1220, William Galrote filled the situation.

In 1240, Sampson de Crumba. Thomas Fitzsimons, of Swords, was constable in 1547. In this year the reversion of the constableship was conveyed to trustees in the minority of Patrick Barnewall, of Grace Dieu; and afterwards, the office and endowments descended to his son, Sir Christopher Barnewall, who, in 1563, conjointly with the Archbishop, by consent of the two cathedral Deans and Chapters, granted, in trust, to Richard Fagan, of Dublin, the office of constable of the castle or manor of Swords, with all appurtenances, lands, and endowments, to hold for ever, with power to appoint deputies; and in lieu of the salary of £5, Irish, to have two acres of meadow in the Broad mead, to the said office appertaining, and all messuages, lands, and fishings whatever, in New Hagard in the parish of Lusk, and Rogerstown in the parish of Swords.

In 1624, Patrick Barnewall, of Grace Dieu, obtained pardon for alienation of certain interests, and, among them, this of the Constableship of Swords, with ten acres in the Broad meadow, to the said office belonging. With this constableship, it is likely that the tenancy of the premises also was vested in the Barnewalls, whose interest therein seems to have given rise to the tradition, that Lord Kingsland, in consideration of his

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holdings under the See of Dublin, was bound to wait on the Archbishop whenever he visited Swords, and to hold the stirrup, as His Grace mounted or dismounted. The old palace is still hold under the See of Dublin.

In later years, the only officers who have exercised jurisdiction within the Corporation were a portreeve, and the seneschal of the manor of St. Sepulchre's. The portreeve was appointed by the Archbishop, and annually sworn in at the Michealmas courtleet in Dublin, before the Seneschal of St. Sepulchre's. He has no salary nor emolument except the annual profit of three acres of land, near the town, for which he receives about £8 a year. The portreeve formerly held a court here once in the week, entertaining all claims within the manor, but otherwise without limit.

His authority, however, having been questioned, he has wholly discontinued to act, and the ordinary Petty Sessions Court is now the only town jurisdiction. The manor of Swords embraced, not only the Archbishop's properly here, but his lands in Lusk, Clonmethan, and the neighbouring parishes; and lately, when the south commons of Lusk were enclosed by Act of Parliament, the sum of £2,000, awarded as compensation, was claimed by the Archbishop, as lord of the manor, and at first allowed, but afterwards disallowed, and adjudicated to the parishioners by the Court of Chancery; and thus we see the gradual declension of church secularities, until, in the present day, almost all the feudal privileges of the church have been abolished.

Proportionate with the decline of the Archbishop's influence in Swords, seems to have been the rise of the popular element. In 1578, Queen Elizabeth incorporated the borough and invested it with municipal rights. Among these was the privilege of returning two members to Parliament, the franchise being enjoyed by burgesses, who for their burgages paid an annual rent of twelve pence.

The first members who represented Swords were Walter Fitzsymonds, of Ballymadroght, and Thomas Taylor of Swords, Esqrs. They were returned in April, 1585. From that time, we find the names of Blakeny, Taylor, Tichbourne, Reading, Molesworth, Plunket, Bolton, Cobbe, Hatch, Beresford, Massey, and Synge, representing the potwallopers, or occupants of houses resident in the borough, being Protestants, who were of the meanest class of citizens, and whose venality was as black as the pots that qualified them.

A writer in 1798 thus humorously describes the experiments resorted to by candidates, on the eve of an election:-

"General Eyre Massey, some time since, cast a longing eye on this borough, which he considered as a common open to any one occupant, and to secure the command of it to himself, he began to take and build tenements within its precincts, in which he placed many veteran soldiers, who having served under him in war, were firmly attached to their ancient leader. Mr. Beresford, the first Commissioner of the Revenue, who has a sharp look out for open places, had formed the same scheme with the General, of securing this borough to himself; and a deluge of revenue officers was poured forth from the custom-house to overflow the place, as all the artificers of the new custom-house had been exported in the potato-boats of Duncannon, to storm that borough.

The wary General took the alarm, and threatened his competitor, that for every revenue officer appearing there he would introduce two old soldiers, which somewhat

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cooled the first commissioner's usual ardour; thus the matter rests at present; but whether the legions of the army, or the locusts of the revenue, will finally remain masters of the field, or whether the rival chiefs, from an impossibility of effecting all they wish, will be content to go off like the two kings of Brentford, smelling at one rose; or whether Mr. Hatch's interest will preponderate in the scale, time alone can clearly ascertain."

In 1783, Charles Cobbe and John Hatch had been returned, but the upshot of the election in 1790 was that Hatch was beaten, and the two rivals both admitted to the enjoyment of parliamentary honours.

Out of the £15,000 which was awarded as compensation for the borough disfranchisement at the Union, have grown this school and its endowments. Would that the Union had in every instance brought forth such wholesome fruits. Fortunately, there were no wealthy masters here to claim this sum; so a public institution was founded, and the poor, for once, got the benefit of a wise and liberal disposition of public money.