Up
Down
Kilkeel
Carlingford Bay
Greencastle
Newry 

Greencastle

GREENCASTLE con scarcely be called even a scattered hamlet. It is on the sea-shore about two miles inside the Bar.
Here coasters can lie on the level sandy beach, except during strong southerly winds; but few approach  it, save with an occasional supply of coals, or, in spring, to take away cargoes of potatoes to Dublin, Liverpool,  and Bristol, the land about producing that root in great abundance, and of superior quality. There is an annual fair at Greencastle a miniature Donny- brook for fun and frolic, commencing on the 12th of August,  and continuing for three days ; it is invariably an occasion for great festivity to the peasantry. The old Castle is an important feature in the scenery of this coast, and claims notice among the numerous architectural remains of antiquity, which are scattered over the County Down.

 This fine specimen of the Norman-Irish military keep is situated a little inland of the entrance of Carlingford Lough. The Castle is a massive square pile, in ruins, seated on an  elevated rock about three furlongs from the sea. It appears to have occupied a considerable space in former times, but now there remains only one apartment, about fifty feet by forty, and  about sixty feet high, flanked, at each corner, by a quadrangular moss covered embattled tower, which have stubbornly withstood the assaults of time. At a little distance, but within the former precincts of the  Castle, is a hypogeum, or dungeon, now nearly filled up with rubbish and clay, the descent to which was by a flight of stone stairs, now broken away; and on the seaward side are the remains of a tower, which probably was one of those that flanked its ramparts at each corner.

This dismantled and dilapidated fortress, with its air of somber antiquity, brings before the meditative mind memories of the past, if viewed in a spirit befitting the genus loci. You see  it in your " mind's eye" in its day of pride, with the red-cross flag of the invader streaming in the breeze, and taunting the  " Irish enemy,"  who, nor then nor now, have ever completely  succumbed to the conquerors. You think, too, of its revelries and festivities ; of the blushing bride, the gay bridegroom, the venerable priest, the joyous bridesmaids, all the hymeneal array with the noble cheer and boundless hospitality. And from out such array your memory will conjure up some more especial incidents which history has recorded for instance, the fair Catherine de Burgo on the morning of her marriage (the 5th of August,  1312) to the have Anglo-Norman knight, Maurice Fitz-Thomas; and, eleven days afterwards, the marriage of her youngest sister to the bold Norman, Thomas Fitz-John. And sterner scenes, too, will pass before your imagination : you will think of the time when these De Burghs, the De Lacys, De Courceys, and Geral- dines began their Irish career, in lawless force, as conquerors :

" And oh ! through many a dark campaign, they proved their prowess stern, In Leinster's plains and Ulster's vales, on king and chief and kerne ; Yet noble was the cheer within the halls so rudely won, And gen'rous was the steel-gloved hand that had such slaughter done." You will picture, too, these chiefs and kernes as they practiced the lex talionis. Your fancy's listening ear will hear their fierce farrahs "  and wild war-cries, as they stormed this garrison in the year of grace 1343, and drove the proud and powerful Earl of Ulster from his stronghold, and for a time let the green banner wave in triumph from its walls. You will hear and see all this, and much more too ; but if you do not, and if you cannot, why stop at home, weighing tobacco or measuring calico in Cheapside all your life time, for you are not fit to be a tourist in  such a district. Your sphere is Margate or Herne Bay, and the raptures of Cockneydom alone are your portion. If you come to Ireland you must beg, borrow, or steal a little of Irish enthusiasm for the nonce ; and if such a commodity be valuable anywhere, it is invaluable here here, where the chivalry of the Pale  wrought some of its most romantic deeds, and where  " They who fought are in their bloody shroud,  And those which waved are shredless dust ere now, And the black battlements shall hear no future blow."

You would go into ecstasies if you saw such ruins on the Rhine, and quote " Childe Harold" by the canto, for no other earthly reason than because ten thousand other lackadaisical blockheads  before you had done so. But if you cannot pluck up a little animation here, and look at things not quite as phlegmatical as if you were inspecting a middle-aged mermaid or a superannuated  unicorn at the Cosmorama; why betake yourself forthwith to CornhUl again, and perish in the belief that the lord-mayor's carriage, on the 1st of November, is the most transcendent sight  in the universe. But you are not one of these. Cockney though you are, and cockney though your guide is too, by a sort of secondhand nature and an original inclination, yet have we both  of us a soul above buttons. The admonition of the sybil, Pro- oil, o procul, este profani, doesn't apply to us, and we'll tread this scene of antique feuds with as reverend, though not as learned, a spirit as Sir Walter's Oldbuck himself.

Greencastle, we may readily believe, was regarded by the Irish, who still kicked against the goad, as an eye-sore and rock of offence; and that their object in capturing it was, not to retain, but to destroy it ; for we find that in that year they dilapidated this strong fortress ; but it was soon afterwards rebuilt,  better fortified, and rendered stronger than before.  When this castle was erected we know not, for the period of  its erection and the name of its founder are uncertain.  History has only recorded that it was one of the first built by the English when they had pushed their invasion thus far north, and that it was held for the English, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, by the De Burghs or Burkes, then Earls of Ulster, and afterwards Lords of Connaught, from which family the present Marquis of Clanricarde, Postmaster-General, is descended, viz : Clanricarde, first Marquis of; created 1825. Earl of Clanricarde and Baron Dunkellin, 1543 (Ireland) ; Baron Somerhill, 1826 (United Kingdom), by which last title he holds his seat in the House of Lords; Privy Councillor, 1830. Ulick John De Burgh, K.P., son of the thirteenth earl, by the daughter of the late Sir Thomas Burke, Bart., of Marble Hill, county Galway (now Countess Dowager). Born 1802; married 1825, only daughter of Viscountess Canning and the Eight Hon. George fanning (she was born 1804) ; succeeded his lather in the earldom in 1808 ;lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county Galway; was ambassador at the court of Russia till October 1841 ; patron of nine livings. The fourth earl was created ' Baron Somerhill (United Kingdom) and Marquis of Clanricarde (Ireland), but dying without issue, the earldom and minor honours alone reached their present possessor. The De Burghs deduce their descent in an uninterrupted line from the Conquest ; among the descendants of the elder branch of their ancestry was Edward IV. Residences 2 Carlton House Terrace, London; Portumna Castle, county Galway. Heir his son, Ulick Canning, Lord Dunkellin, born 1827.

In ancient times, Greencastle was a place of considerable strength. It was erected to guard the entrance to the Lough, and protect the southern districts from invasion ; to quell, if not  prevent, insurrection ; and to maintain the English power. It appears by a record of first Henry IV. that both Greencastle and the Castle of Carlingford were governed by one constable, the better to secure a communication between the English settlers in the counties of Louth and Down. Stephen Gernon was con stable at that time, and for discharging the duties of that office had a yearly salary of 20 for Greencastle, and 5 for Carlingford. In the year 1495, it was considered of such importance to the English interest, that the crown, finding, no doubt, that Irishmen, or Anglo-Irish, who had become Ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores, could not always be relied on in every attempt to subjugate or exterminate the natives, decreed that none but Englishmen by birth were eligible to the office of governor. In 1641 its English garrison served to keep rebellion in check, and it was found to be most advantageous in repressing the disaffected in that district. The under part of the fortress is dark and gloomy, and divided into several apartments. The second floor, or that level with the rock outside, is supported upon strongly cemented arches, on which time has made no impression. The walls are  double, and at each floor there was a passage for men, and in the outer wall there are loop-holes at regular distances, of such a sort as to suit archers testifying that they were made before the invention of fire-arms. The ascent is by spiral stone stairs in each tower. About half-gun shot seaward is a green mound, which one would suppose was a Danish rath, only that it has no hollow circle in the top, a distinguishing feature of those antiquarian puzzles. It may have been used as a battery, from which a number of guns could play on the castle. Part of the castle, now detached from the principal building, is in good repair, and with modern additions, is inhabited by Mr. Peter M'Elroy.  Other parts of it have, alas ! been desecrated to the purposes of a piggery and a cow-house ! A romantically beautiful prospect is commanded from the battlements. The Lighthouse, springing gracefully out of the waters two miles off; Nuns' Island, with the remains of the Blockhouse ; Little Green Island raising its emerald bosom out of the aqueous waste ; Greenore Point, with its handsome Lighthouse; Carlingford, with its ancient castles, its ruined abbeys, its lofty mountain, and its noble land-locked Bay, expanding here, immediately inside of Greencastle, to the extent of four miles; Fathom Mountains in the west; Warrenpoint, crowned by the lovely Mount Hall; Killowen, and the variegated and wildly diversified landscape to the north-east, bounded and overhung by the Mourne Mountains : all this is comprehended in one view; and insatiate, indeed, must be the love of the picturesque which such a prospect will not amply gratify. A furlong westward of the Castle is the ruin of an old church. The western gable, with its little belfry, remains almost perfect, while the rest is greatly dilapidated. It is about fifty feet long by fifteen wide, and the side walls nine feet high. It had only one entrance on the northern side, with one large window on either side, another larger one in the eastern gable, and a small one in the western. The small green mound or moat before-mentioned is a little  north-west of the church. In one's younger years one would have trodden it with feelings of reverence, which all do not like to shake from the mind even in these days of unbelief, when we have,  by
 " wretched doublings, banished all the graceful spirit-people, children of the earth and sea, they whom often in the olden time, when earth was fresh and golden, Every mortal could behold in haunted tower, and rath, and tree!"
But however disposed you may he to exclaim with the poetess " Come back, come back together, All ye fancies of the past, Ye days of April weather, Ye shadows that are cast By the haunted hours before !  Come back, come back my childhood, Thou art summoned by a spell, From the green leaves of the wild wood, From beside the charmed well ! " alas! the "good people" no longer dwell here; that race of fanciful and poetic children ofthe moonlight, who once thronged this spot, if nursery tales be true, have sought a new home beyond the western waters ; and this moat is now only a receptacle for their very matter-of-fact successors, the rabbits. If the tide be out you may cross Greencastle and Mill Bay a large tract of strand, about 2,000 acres, extending from Greencastle to Ballyedmond Point, dry at low water, but covered by the sea at high water, and gradually filling up by the vast accumulations of sand carried down from the head of the Lough with every tide. Like the deposit of the Nile, in course of time this will all become fruitful soil. Even now it could be easily reclaimed, and no doubt some speculative jobber, with no soul for the picturesque, will one day here, " On lands usurped from the giant sea,  Erect his halls of dignity."  While this latter hypothesis is by no means doubtful, it may be questioned whether it could not be made as profitable in its existing state as if converted into land. At present it is worth 20 an acre for the purpose of growing wrack and sea-weed. There are upwards of 700 statute acres covered with stones in straight lines, about three feet apart, for the wrack to grow upon. The first crop is three years in coming to maturity, but after that it may be cut every two years. Each farmer on the Kilmorey estates, by taking out a ticket, for which he pays one shilling per annum, may cover as much strand as he pleases opposite his own land, which is a great and profitable advantage. Those farmers who have not laid down stones pay very high for the wrack, which makes excellent manure. The price of the tickets goes to pay a bailiff or watchman for keeping regularity and preventing trespass. The same provident and thoughtful superintendence of the bounties nature places at their door, would convert the tenancy of many an Irish landlord into a contented and prospering peasantry, who are now so many despairing and sanguinary chaouns. The next residence, on the shore of Mill Bay is Mrs. M'Elroy's, a neat house, with extensive lime kiln and corn mill contiguous. The next are Shannon Grove, the agreeable seat of John Shannon Moore, Esq., J.P. ; Mount Loftus, the residence of Thomas M. Hewston, Esq.; and Hartsfort, the seat of Mrs. Neshitt. A little farther on is the pyramidal mountain of Cnoc Sighe (pronounced "Crock shee"), or "Female fairy hill;" the Irish word which English readers pronounce as if spelled " shee," means the feminine fairy as Bdn shee, the white lady, or fairy  woman. We next cross the Causeway Water, a small stream in summer, hut a rapid and noisy torrent in winter.
And here, while we rest upon the parapet, let us glance at the social condition of the country whose appearance we have endeavored to portray, and we shall find that the charms of nature do not surpass the moral beauty of the scene. From the base of the mountains indeed, the hand of industry has labored to subdue the sterile soil half-way to their summits to the shore, is thickly populated : the land, though light, is well cultivated, and amply supplies its population.

The majority of the houses are slated and plastered; and all are whitewashed, clean, and comfortable. The landlord from below Kilkeel to Ballyedmond is Earl Kilmorey; and the thriving condition of the tenantry reflects great honour upon the trustees, viz., the 'Hon. and Rev. Henry Cockayne Gust, Hon. John Henry Knox, and George Powell Higginson, Esq., and the excellent agent, Thomas Gibson Henry, Esq., J. P., who exercises his functions with a kindly firmness that leaves nothing to be desired. The remainder of the land to Rosstrevor belongs in part to the Marquis of Downshire, Earl Kilmorey, and D. E. Ross, Esq., M.P. The country, as we have seen, is naturally picturesque and beautiful in every feature. Villas, meadows, trees, and flowers, shady groves, and pleasant waters, and all the inanimate parts of creation are dressed in loveliness.

Now if these can infuse gladness into the heart of man, to see the rational creation happy and nourishing ought to inspire him with a far superior joy. And this pleasure the philanthropist can here relish ; and if he ask the cause of it, from an intelligent resident, ten to on/- he will be told it is the tenant-right, which farmers who have not laid down stones pay very high for the wrack, which makes excellent manure. The price of the tickets goes to pay a bailiff or watchman for keeping regularity and preventing trespass. The same provident and thoughtful superintendence of the bounties nature places at their door, would convert the tenancy of many an Irish landlord into a contented and prospering peasantry, who are now so many despairing and sanguinary chaouns. The next residence, on the shore of Mill Bay is Mrs. M'Elroy's, a neat house, with extensive lime kiln and corn mill contiguous. The next are Shannon Grove, the agreeable seat of John Shannon Moore, Esq., J.P. ; Mount Loftus, the residence of Thomas M. Hewston, Esq.; and Hartsfort, the seat of Mrs. Neshitt. A little farther on is the pyramidal mountain of Cnoc Sighe (pronounced "Crock shee"), or "Female fairy hill;" the Irish word which English readers pronounce as if spelled "shee," means the feminine fairy as Banshee, the white lady, or fairy woman. We next cross the Causeway Water, a small stream in summer, hut a rapid and noisy torrent in winter. And here, while we rest upon the parapet, let us glance at the social condition of the country whose appearance we have endeavored to portray, and we shall find that the charms of nature do not surpass the moral beauty of the scene. From the base of the mountains indeed, the hand of industry has laboured to subdue the sterile soil half-way to their summits to the shore, is thickly populated : the land, though light, is well cultivated, and amply supplies its population.

 

Now if these can infuse gladness into the heart of man, to see  the rational creation happy and nourishing ought to inspire him with a far superior joy. And this pleasure the philanthropist can here relish ; and if he ask the cause of it, from an intelligent resident, ten to on/- he will be told it is the tenant-right, which he will hear defined as that equitable law to which Ulster owes  her tranquility and comparative prosperity, and is here substituted for the agrarian law of Tipperary. But, as nothing could possibly be more foreign to the object with which this little book was written, than the introduction of any one word that should convey political offensiveness to any party, or any individual of any party, and as the tenant-right is a sort of question vexata, all we shall say about it is, that its existence is pretty generally reputed to have a beneficial influence by those who ought best to understand it. And to a casual but inquisitive observer such would appear to be the case. On this part of the Kilmorey estates (of Newry), although the tenant right has for political purposes been restricted, the farmers are not afraid to make improvements, as in other parts of the country ; hence, it is assumed, the thriving and comfortable condition of the people, which it is so delightful to contemplate. The land here is let at from 5s. to 30s. an acre; and the tenant-right sells at from 20 to 35 an acre, varying, of course, according to the quality of the land, and the improvements that have been made. This is the general rate, yet there have been instances where it has been sold much higher, but they were extraordinary cases. Like many other good things, this tenant right may have its abuses. But on the Kilmorey property, where the rule appears to be " live and let live," no one ever dreams of questioning the tenant's right, or of mulcting him by additional rent for the improvements he makes on the faith of established custom. Another gratifying feature of this part of the country is, that the children and young gills all have a clean, tidy, healthy  appearance, which is most acceptable after gazing on the squalid misery of that class in some other localities, misery which often tempts one to exclaim with Boz, "Would that nursery tales were true, and that gypsies would steal such children by the hundred !" Here they are healthy, because they have abundance of food and salubrious air ; and they are tidy, because the junior females get full employment in flowering and needlework, at which they can earn from 4d. to Is. a-day, which keeps them comfortably clothed; and a local Fanning Society, under the management of its amiable and efficient Secretary, James Thomson, Esq., awards premiums for the best and cleanliest houses. Having refreshed our strength with this long rest on the Causeway Bridge, let us go on our way rejoicing. After you  pass a handsome villa, Seafield House, now the residence of Captain Bell, turn down to the shore, that you may enjoy the classic beauties of Ballyedmond, the delightful residence of Mrs. Stewart, which sits upon a green wood-skirted lawn, declining climbing gently towards the sea.  Up,  almost at the base of the mountain, is Bellview, the mansion of Captain Douglas.

 

Contact us at:  countydowngenweb@gmail.com

Copyright Fiona Jones, Brigitte Marmion, 2006 - 2008, All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 14:00:34 Eastern Time, USA.