“Your Locality in the Newspapers(1750-1900) ” is the title of a talk to be given by historian Noel Carolan in which he explores what the newspapers have to say about people, events and places around Slane, Grangegeeth and nearby. It will take place in the Slane Youth Cafe, Chapel St., Slane, on Thursday 26th April at 8pm. It is a chance to hear long forgotten reports from the locality. All are welcome.
Ardcalf — Ard Coll — The height of the Hazels. It is pronounced locally as Ardcalph. It contains 504 acres and is the property of Mr. Adair. All cultivated except for about 8¾ acres of plantation in its SW part. Barley is grown.
Brittstown — Britt is a family name. But it could be a memory of the wooden tower called a Bretesche which the Anglo Normans erected on top of the Motte nearby. It is the property of the Conynghams. It Contains 155 Acres.
Bryanstown — Baile Bhriain — Brian’s Town. The property of Lord Claremount and contains 275 acres. Leases for 25 years. The highest part of the townland is 445 feet above sea level. There is a quarry in its SW part.
Carrickdexter — De Exters Rock. There is no other name. Here there is an old castle belonging to Lord O’Neill. Contains 374 acres including 95 acres of uncultivated and 22 acres of plantation. This townland has wide divergencies above sea level from 65 feet to 409 feet. Several plantations along the river Boyne. 44 perches south from Drogheda – Navan road is a large limestone quarry. 21 perches north of the river are the ruins of an old castle. About the centre of the townland is an ancient wayside cross.
Cashel — A stone fort – contains 298 acres.
Castleparks — The property of Conyngham and contains 269 acres including about 29 acres of uncultivated land and 20½ acres of plantation. No leases. Craig Baron is the highest part of this townland and is 409 feet above sea level. Most of the north west part is rocky.
Coal Pits — Poll a’Ghuail — Hole of the coal – so called because a shaft was sunk here in search of coal. Contains 116 acres and is the property of the Marquis of Conyngham. Let to tenants at 21/- per Irish Acre.
Commons — Coimin — Sir William Petty’s map called it “The Comon of ye Hill” It contains 234 acres all cultivated. Above its centre is a small gravel pit.
Davidstown — Baile Dhaidhe. Property of Sir Wm. Somerville and contains 203 acres and no leases. Fieldstown — No Irish name heard of here. The property of Mr. Hamilton it contains 54 acres and all is cultivated. It is let to tenants at 24/- to 36/- per acre
Furry Hill — Mullach Altinne – the Hill of the Furze. Conyngham owns it. Contains 136 acres all cultivated.
Harlinstown — Harlin is a family name. Contains 178 acres and belongs to the Marquis of Conyngham. Its roads are in good repair. The village of Harlinstown comprises a few ground floor thatched houses made of mud. Near a junction of the roads from Drumconrath and Kells to Slane. Harlinstown House is a neat ground floor slated farmhouse at an intersection of the road.
Higginstown — Baile Ui Uiginn — 197 acres of well cultivated land, the property of Mr. Rodgers. Let without leases at 20/- to 30/- per acre. The farm produce is wheat, oats, barley, flax and potato. The principle grain market is Drogheda.
Devlin’s Bridge is at the North East on the Slane to Collon road. 14 perches from it is the corn mill, three storied and in good repair the property of John Devlin, the miller. The wheel is an overshoot, 14 feet in diameter and 41 feet in breath. The buckets are 10 inches deep. There are two pairs of stones, each five foot in diameter and the average quantity ground each week is 60 barrels. The miller only grinds his own corn which he purchases from the neighbouring farmers. The amount of cess levied at the spring assizes of 1836 was £10-6-0. The number of cess payers is 14.
Knockerke — Cnoc Adhairce — Hill of the Horn. Contains 465 acres the property of Miss Williams.
Knockmooney — Cnocan mHaonaigh — Mooney’s Hillock. Contains 147 Acres all cultivated. The property of Mr Cammock. The old and new roads from Slane to Collon pass through its west side.
Mooretown — Murthan Na gCrann — Mooretown of the trees. Also called Baile Gan Gortach – the scarce or starving townland. Contains 204 acres, the property of Sir P.Bellew. The village of Mooretown is in its southern part. The lowest part of this townland is 188 feet above sea level. It contains 12 ground floor thatched poor looking cottages. A taste for cleanliness seems absent from this hamlet.
Mulladellin — Mullach Dioluin — Dillon’s Hilltop. Contains 264 acres the property of Conynghams. There is a stone quarry in its Northern part. It is 334 to 497 feet above sea level.
Newrath — Rath Nua – Contains 195 acres all cultivated except for about 6 acres of plantation in its N part. About its centre is a small quarry.
Rathmaiden — Rath Mic Criathain – MacCrehin’s fort. Locally it is called Rathmacreehan. O’Donovan says Rathmaiden is a vile corruption. There are several graves to the people of the name Rigmaiden in the protestant churchyard. It contains 257 acres and is the property of the widow Delaney. In its upper part it has a small stone quarry. There is a small motte in the townland.
Rushwee — Rois Bhuidhe – the yellow wood or shrubbery. Contains 105 acres. All cultivated. No leases. Rents 28/- to 50/- per Irish Acre. Property of the Conynghams. Contains a Roman Catholic chapel and a school. Rushwee village contains some 14 detached ground floor houses.
Slane Castle Demesne — Contains 563 acres and belongs to Conyngham. 19 acres are a portion of the river Boyne. It is let at 40/- and 50/- per Irish acre. The town of Slane is in its south east part, having at its north side Mount Charles, a clump, a neat two story slated house. The river Boyne bounds this townland at its south over which is Slane Bridge on the Dublin Road and 48 perches East is Slane flour mills, in excellent repair. 5 perches further east is the Mill house, a two storied slated house. In the south east of the townland is Janeville Cottage, also two storied and slated. Both of these houses are in very bad repair. On the north side of the village are two limestone quarries.
Slane Village — This is a small neat village, containing 64 houses, a church, chapel and three schools. Five of the houses are three storied, 41 are two storied and 9 are 1 storied. Only one is thatched. The rest are slated. The trades represented are five carpenters, three blacksmiths, one mason, one slater, eight shoemakers, two tailors, one butcher, twelve publicans and eight grocers. There is a fairly comfortable inn which is much frequented by people going to and coming from Dublin, who having to make a journey too long to execute in one day stop a night in Slane. It is a post town and a fair village. A market held on Thursdays was granted by Charles II but this has been discontinued for a long time. The mail coach from Dublin to Derry arrives at 10.30pm . A mailbag from Collon and Drogheda is despatched at 7.00am each morning. Four fairs are held by charter on 2nd April, 2nd June, 12th September and 8th November for the sale of horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, hardware etc. No tolls or customs are extracted. A Strabane and Omagh coach plies through Slane.
The village square or octagon is the great feature of Slane, carefully designed as a unit to give a dignity to the village. The four three storey houses, larger in size and scale than the other buildings in the village, face diagonally to the center of the crossroads, and the end of the terraces forming the village streets have their gable ends designed in each case with a pair of blind arches. This was done for appearance only. The arches could have had no practical function.
The four houses were not all built at the same time, nor by the same person. The first to be built, on the north west corner, was an inn. The site on the north east corner was given on 13th August 1767 to Henry Fisher by Viscount Conyngham, stipulating that a house was to be built within five years to the same plan as the new inn lately built opposite this site ‘in the circle laid out in the Towne of Slane’. One admires the foresight of this planning. All four houses were built in due course on a similar plan. They are of grey limestone with the walling in squared but undressed stone roughly set in courses or layers with dressed quoins. They show their individuality in the splendid doorways, each of a different design. The windows have simple cut stone jambs and a neat keystone, slightly projecting, in each lintel. They look better with the small panes rather than the large ones of a later date.
The layout of the whole unit now includes the front garden walls and gates, but these were added much later. In 1836 the north east corner had a curved front wall. The other three houses opened directly on to the ‘Market Square’ with a fountain in the center. By 1855 the Constabulary Barracks on the south west side had the curved wall and by 1883 all four houses had it and the fountain had disappeared. The gates on the north west and south west corners have center knobs bearing the shamrock and rose and thistle emblems of the union of 1800. Street furniture included eight lovely wrought iron lamp standards on tapered stone bases. Four bases remain and these were re-sited in 1986, fitted with new lamp standards and electrified, by the Tidy Towns Committee.
In 1796 ‘the hunting lodge of Viscount Conyngham in the Circus in the town of Slane was attacked by miscreants who were forced to fly’.
There are many tales told of the persons by and for whom these four houses were built, but they may be dismissed as mostly fiction. The most popular, as told by some tour guides, is that they were built for four Conyngham sisters who were not on speaking terms. In fact there never were four such ladies. Another story is that they were built for the representatives of religion, medicine, law and order, but this too can be scotched, although in fact in the latter part of the nineteenth century they were indeed occupied by the priest, the doctor, the magistrate and the constabulary.
Fennor is separated from the rest of Slane Parish by the River Boyne. An abbey was founded here at an early period, called Finnabhair-abha, “the bright field of the river”( From the Irish version of Nennius p.214). The patron saint was St.Neachtain, a deciple of St. Patrick. His festival was marked in our Irish calendars at the 2nd of May.
In the Four Masters and our other Irish Monasticons we get the following:
804 Maelforthartaigh, Abbot of Fennor & Kilmoon, died.
827 Maelumha, Prior of Fennor, died.
833 The plundering of Fennor, Slane & Glendaloch by the Danes.
837 Tigernach, Abbot of Fennor and other churches, died.
843 Fiachna, Abbot of Fennor, died.
847 The cross which was on the green of Slane was raised up into the air; it was broken and divided, so that part of it’s top fell at Teltown and Fennor.
882 Eochu, Abbot of Fennor and Kilmoon, died.
902 Ferghil (Virgilius), Bishop of Fennor and Abbot of Indeidhnen, died.
1024 Fachtna, Professor and Priest of Clonmacnoise, airchinneach of Fennor and Indeidhnen, and the most distinguished Abbot of the Gaedhil, died at Rome, where he had gone on a pilgrimage.
After the Anglo- Norman invasion we find Fennor a parish church. In the reign of Edward the Third, Rev. Stephen Palmer was pastor of Fennor (Pat. 32.) In the same reign Revs. Thomas Malecken and Henry de Rathfaygl were successively pastors of Fennor. In the reign of Richard the Second we find Rev. Robert Wakeman pastor to this parish (Rol.Pat.8.Ric.11). The old church of Fennor is situated on a height, on the southern bank of the Boyne, convenient to the bridge of Slane. The church measures fifty five feet by nineteen, and had a chancel arch twenty two feet from the east end. The patron saint since the Anglo-Norman invasion has been St. Michael, and a station was held on his festival at the residence of a gentleman in the parish. ( Mass was celebrated on Christmas morning up to approx. 1850 at Fennor House, the residence of James Cruise Esq. James Cruise died on the 19th April 1862 and was interred in the family tomb in the churchyard in Duleek ).
Since the beginning of the 1700’s Fennor has formed part of the union of Slane. Before that it was part of Duleek parish. Inneidhnen was situated in the territory of Bregia, in the neighbourhood of Slane. ( Extracted from The Diocese of Meath by Rev. A. Cogan).
NAMES IN FENNOR PARISH
Griffiths Valuation 1855
FENNOR CASTLE (in it’s historical context)
Written by John Ryle
Fennor Castle, now in ruins, stands on an elevated site on the south bank of the river Boyne at Slane, Co. Meath. It has a commanding view of the picturesque valley from Slane Castle to the West, down river to the great prehistoric passage graves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth to the east. To the south the fertile land rises gently to the hill of Cullen. To the north lies the Hill of Slane, one of the earliest and more important Christian sites in Ireland. Nearby, in the shadow of the castle, is Fennor Cemetary and the ruins of the old church. In 1991 a fragment of a Celtic cross dated circa 875 AD, and now on display in St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Slane, was discovered here. In the valley below, a sturdy stone bridge spans the Boyne and the Boyne Canal. The old Slane Mill, just below the bridge, was the largest in Ireland when it was built in 1776.
In order to appreciate Fennor Castle in its historical context some understanding of the building and development of castles in Ireland would be most helpful.
The Annals of the Four Masters, compiled between 1630 and 1636, the most important written source of early Irish history, states that prior to the coming of the Normans in 1169 there were only seven stone castles in Ireland. This was due in all probability to allegiance to and observance of the age old political system and social structure, which obtained at that time. Each clan had its own well defined territory which was recognized by all others. Struggle and strife between the clans was more for status and supremacy, the payment of tribute, settling old scores, the theft of cattle etc. but never for conquest. Therefore it would be reasonable to assume that they did not see the necessity to build strong fortifications to defend their territories. They were well capable of building such as there is ample evidence of magnificent stonemasonry throughout the land. However, all was to change dramatically with the coming of the Normans in 1169.
Dermod McMurrogh, the cruel, tyrannical king of Leinster, was expelled by Rory O’Connor, High King of Ireland in 1166. Determined to regain his kingdom at any price Dermod fled to England to seek help from Henry II, the Norman king of England, and his barons in England. Those adventurers who went to his aid were more intent on acquiring new lands for themselves than restoring Dermod to his former status.
The Norman invaders, apart from their numbers, were militarily vastly superior to the Irish forces that they encountered. Consequently, they quickly established themselves in the eastern part of the country. Being extraordinarily well skilled in building strong fortifications, they set about ensuring that what they had conquered they would hold. They started building castles.
Medieval castle building in Ireland can be roughly divided into three phases.
The palisaded earthworks 1169 – 1220
The great stone castles 1190 – 1330
The later medieval fortalices.
THE PALISADED EARTHWORKS
The earliest hurried campaign castles built by the Normans were mainly of the motte and bailey type. A deep circular ditch was dug and the excavated earth was heaped as steep and as high as possible forming a flat topped mound or motte. A larger and lower area, the bailey, was constructed in similar fashion its ditch linked to the main ditch of the motte. The top of the motte was ringed by a strong timber palisade and crowned by a large central tower, the refuge of the castellan. The bailey, similarly palisaded, housed the ancillary buildings of the lords household, hall, chapel, stables, byre, smithy and of course the garrison.
The fortifications were erected in great numbers as they could be built comparatively quickly by unskilled labour and being very steep, were difficult to attack and capture. There is a fairly good example of one at Thurstianstown, about a mile from Fennor.
THE GREAT STONE CASTLES
When the Normans had established themselves effectively speed of erection was no longer crucial. To consolidate their conquests they built stronger, more permanent, fortifications – stone castles. Though varying in size these castles were basically similar in concept to the motte and bailey. The motte was replaced with a great stone tower called a donjon, defended by an enclosing stone wall with a ditch. The earlier donjons were square or rectangular buildings and the extremely thick walls were strengthened with external buttresses. The finest example of this earlier type is undoubtably Trim Castle. Completed in 1220 its extensive fortifications cover three acres.
The latter part of the 13th and the early parts of the 14th centuries were the “golden age” of castle construction. Defensive weaknesses were recognised and corrected. The corners of the older buildings were susceptible to mining. Consequently, circular towers were added to protect the corners. Later, large polygonal or circular towers called juliets replaced the circular towers. The walls were strengthened by gradually becoming thicker on the outside towards the ground, known as a basal flare or batter. A missile, dropped from above, would strike the battered wall and bounce off outward into the face of the enemy.
Many innovations and improvements were introduced, Gatehouses, controlling entry became more important and outer gatehouses, known as barbicans, were erected for further protection. St. Laurence’s Gate in Drogheda is a magnificent example. A second enclosing wall, lower and beyond the main wall, was added, giving a concentric defensive system. Battlements appeared as did the portcullis and drawbridge.
Political strife and especially the plague of the Black Death in 1349 caused the building of castles to virtually cease not only in Ireland but in Europe as well. The age of the great castle had passed and when building restarted it was initially on a fairly modest scale.
THE LATER MEDIEVAL FORTALICES
As the years progressed, the decendants of the Normans were assimilated more and more into Gaelic civilisation, becoming as is said, ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’. They had adopted the language, music and culture of their neighbours with whom they shared the island of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish were beginning to re-establish themselves as a potent force once again and the Norman lords were quite happy to live in peaceful terms with them. The great Norman lords transformed themselves in time, into, more or less, independent Irish princes but with the significant differences that they never lost consciousness of their traditional position as English barons and they never renounced their allegiance to the English crown. This tenuous loyalty served the interest of the crown until under the Tudors, it was strong enough to undertake the policy of reconquest. Ironically, they were nourishing a flame that would one day burst into conflagration and claim themselves among its first victims. Thus, during the 15th century, three major power groups evolved, the Irish, the Anglo-Irish ( the descendants of the Normans ) and the English.
The English kings claimed sovereignty over the whole of Ireland but being preoccupied with wars in Scotland an France, their influence lessened over the years and latterly confined to a small area around their administrative capital of Dublin. This area, roughly comprising most of Co.Louth, most of Co.Meath, a section of Co.Kildare and Co.Dublin is known as the Pale. However, the loyal residents of the Pale were subjected to many trials and tribulations – from within, at the hands of the crown forces provided to protect them and from those Irish chieftains beyond, who continuously raided their lands, stole whatever possessions they had and exacted tribute from them.
Within the Pale the building of fortified dwellings was encouraged, in particular by a statute of Henry VI in 1429. ‘It is agreed that every liege man of our lord the king, of the said counties (the Pale ) who chooses to build a castle or tower sufficiently embattled or fortified within the next ten years, to wit twenty feet in length, sixteen feet in width and forty feet in height or more, that the Commons of the said counties, shall pay to the said person to build the said castle or tower, ten pounds by way of subsidy’. Later minimum internal dimensions were stipulated, fifteen feet by twelve feet. So housing subsidies are nothing new. Several of these tower houses were built, in particular along the banks of the Boyne. It is reckoned the older part of Fennor castle was part of one of these ten pound castles. The third phase of castle building had commenced.
The building of tower houses was not confined to the Pale alone. They proved to be quite popular and were built all over the country by the Irish and Anglo-Irish lords alike. Of over four hundred castles in Co.Limerick nearly all are of this type. Some were very basic constructions, others were very large complex structures, e.g Bunratty Castle. The greater number now lie in ruins. Fortunately some are standing in all their glory as they were built so long ago and some others were restored or are being restored at present. Many of the original tower houses were extended in later centuries in the style that was in vogue at that time.
Tower houses were usually four story buildings. The chieftain lived on the topmost floor where the windows were made larger than the narrow defensive loop style lower down. Fireplaces were common, as were lavatories or garderobes, which can be identified by the rectangular shaft going down through the wall and discharging to the outside at ground level. The roof was of oak and finished with slates or thatch. The outside walls were gracefully battered and the more sophisticated towers featured battlements with merlons and embrasures. Some had machicolated turrets resting on long corbels often placed half way up the tower as well as at roof level. The door was at ground level. The ceiling inside the door had a murder-hole through which unwelcome intruders could be shot. The outer defensive wall was called a bawn. Donore Castle, near Killyon, Co.Meath, is an outstanding example of one of the original tower houses or £10 castles of the Pale. It stands today, more or less, as it was built so long ago.
The first use of cannon in Ireland is believed to have been in 1488. Initially they were not very effective as weapons of attack. They were very heavy, cumbersome, unreliable and hazardous in operation. As defensive weapons, they also presented many drawbacks but castles and tower houses survived. However, in time, improvements and expertise meant that the typical medieval fortification was no match for the smashing power of iron cannon balls. The occupants began to look upon their fortified towers in a different light. The desire for more space and light than was provided in the tower house led in the closing years of the sixteenth century to the development of a different type of building. This could still be defended but gave many of the benefits of a country house. Fennor, like many such buildings of that era, was extended and was one of the earliest examples of this type of building, incorporating as it does, many interesting features of that time.
ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES OF FENNOR CASTLE
Fennor castle is now a total ruin – only the shell remains. However, the T-shaped three storeyed structure plus attic gives us many clues as to how it looked in its prime. The stem, projecting northwards, was just a part of the original tower house, as is a section of the north wall of the main building extending westwards from the stem. That which survives could have been a subsidiary chamber turret of a substantial tower house. Although modified during the construction of the house, evidence of the original features can still be seen.
The ground floor was vaulted – a specific feature of tower houses. Traces of the springing of the vault still exist on both the east and west walls. Also at this level, there is a fine example of a double splayed loop with limestone lintel. Other internal features include lintel headed recesses, probably used as cupboards. The larger windows are post medieval. Perhaps they replaced loops when the building was extended! Externally, the tower is gracefully battered, about three metres in height. The end of a garderobe shaft in the east wall at ground level is clearly visible, peculiarly enough, adjacent to what may have been the main entrance. At roof level, there is evidence to suggest that an original parapet has been replaced with a post medieval gable. Many tower houses had an enclosing wall or bawn but there is no trace of such at Fennor.
The later structure consists of ground level basement, first floor, second floor and attic. The stem was used more than likely as a staircase. There is a chimney stack at either end, there being fireplaces at both ends at basement, first floor and second floor level. The fireplace at basement level has a sizeable oven attached. Obviously this was the kitchen. What appears to have been the only entrance is at this level. However, it was possible that like other houses of this era, there may have been an entrance at first floor level, where the south wall was breached to create an opening. This opening is a downward extension of a first floor opening which could have been either a door or a window. The south wall, probably the main aspect of the house, has six medium sized windows at first and second level. There are openings at all levels on either side of the chimney stack on both the east and west gables.
In the absence of historical documentation the dating of buildings such as Fennor is not an exact science. We have to rely mainly on archaeological evidence and historical opinion, not forgetting local tradition and lore. The original structure was most likely a ten-pound tower house. There are many examples within a radius of twenty miles. Opinion is divided as to the later building. Some hold that it is late 16th century, others maintain that it is early 17th. Whichever it is, its proximity to being Elizabethan is quite important. Building was almost at a standstill in those turbulent times in Irish history but is was the beginning of a distinctive transitional period in Irish architecture, leading eventually to the construction of the more elaborate and ornate stately homes of the 18th and 19th centuries.
This far I have outlined as I see it, Fennor Castle in its historical context. There is another story to be researched and told – the story of the people who built it, those who lived there and how and why it is as it is today. There are many, many questions to be asked, to which, hopefully, the answers will be found. There is an intriguing road ahead.
SOUTERRAIN at FENNOR SLANE CO. MEATH
Written by Etienne Rynne
In June, 1963, while digging foundations trenches for a house on the southern side of the river Boyne about 1,100 metres to the south east of Slane Messrs. Joe Ledwidge, jnr.,and Liam Kiernan, both of Slane, discovered a souterrain. The site is in the townland of Fennor and can be plotted on the O.S. 6 inch scale sheet No. 19 for Co.Meath at a point 10.9 cm. from its southern margin and 39 cm. from its western margin. It is at a height of 135 feet above O.D. in the brow of a rather steep rise overlooking the river Boyne and 100 metres distance from it. Following on a report to the National Museum Of Ireland by Mrs. Margaret Conway Moattown, Kildalkey, Co. Meath the discovery was investigated by the writer who would like to take this opportunity to thank Miss Eileen Binchy, Department of Archaeology, University College, Dublin, for considerable help with the actual investigation. Thanks are also due to Sergeant John Berkery, Garda Siochana, Slane, and to Mr. Ledwidge for much help on the occasion.
The souterrain, as known and surveyed, consists of two passages and a chamber, the latter being almost an appendage or extension of the shorter of the two passages. The principal passage, that is , the longer one, is at a higher level than the shorter passage and the chamber which are aligned at approximately right angles across its southern end. The souterrain is dug into boulder clay and, apparently. into the rock sub stratum, which, according to Mr. Ledwidge, was generally encountered at a depth of about 60 or 70cm. below the present ground surface. Both of the passages and the chamber are lined with dry-stone walling, roofed with transversely laid lintels which have smaller stones filling the interstices between them, and, in so far as could be examined, have a mud floor. The surface of the ground slopes very gently downwards from South-West to North-East, that is in the same alignment as the principal passage of the structure. The Northern end of the souterrain, as known, is 23 metres from the western boundary of the field and 37 metres from the northern boundary. No surface indications of any associated structure were noticed, no excavation was undertaken and no finds were made.
Three of the foundation trenches of the house cut across this passage and in digging them some of the lintels of the passage were removed so that entry could be affected at two points, one at the northern end and the other about half way along its length. Its surveyed length is about 14 metres and it averages about 85 cm. in width and about 90 cm. in height, where the floor is free from rubble debris. It runs in a roughly NE-SW direction for most of its length, before curving very slightly towards the south at a point about 9 metres from its northern end.
At its northern end the tops of the lintels are about 20cm. to 25cm. below the present ground surface while at the opening made about half way along its length they are about 40cm. below the present surface. When this is added to the fact that it was not possible to find clear evidence for any continuation of the passage beyond the point of discovery at its northern end, and that the ground began to slope more steeply downwards just north of this point, it would appear very probable that the original entrance to the souterrain ( or less likely, but just possible, its terminus ) may have been at or very close to the present northern end of this passage. The passage originally continued at its southern end but this is blocked with collapse or deliberate filling. However as the last three lintels of the passage at this end ( and the floor, in so far as it could be judged ) rise appreciably higher than those elsewhere in the passage, it would appear likely that its present termination may be close to its original end.
The dry-stone side walls of this passage are only slightly corbelled, except for the topmost course, immediately below the lintels, which projects further inwards than the others. There were twenty five lintels in the roof of this passage when surveyed (including the one removed about half way along its length ), but at least two or three had been removed from its northern end during the digging of the foundation trench for the house.
Entrance to passage 11 and the chamber is through a gap 45 cm. wide in the floor of this passage about one metre from its southern end. The floor of the passage at this opening is of stone consisting at its northern edge of a flat slab laid on top of the dry stone walling of the northern side wall of passage 11 below it, and at its southern edge of a large slab resting on the edge of the lintels of the chamber and of passage 11.
Passage 11 and Chamber
Descending through the floor of passage 1, as one faces southwards there is a small rectangular chamber on the right and a blocked passage on the left, the former being little more than the segmented western end of the latter. The total known length of the passage and chamber combined is about 4.1 metres, of which just under 3 metres is the passage and about 60cm. the chamber, the remaining 55 cm. being the short distance separating the two which is neither part of the passage nor of the chamber, but rather, the entrance to the chamber.
The chamber is one metre wide, 60cm. long and 85cm. high. For the most part its floor is covered with rubble debris which has slipped in, apparently through the opening in the floor of Passage 1. The two side walls are slightly corbelled, but the end wall rises vertically to the roof. The roof consists of three transversely laid lintels, the central one resting on the edges of the other two.
The chamber is separated from Passage 11 by a jamb like construction projecting about 35cm. inwards from the southern sidewall. This consists principally of a large stone, 55cm. by 30cm., thick, which does not, however, reach the roof but which has some dry-stone walling filling the space between its top and the lintel above it. The gap between this jamb like feature and the northern side wall, that is the entrance to the chamber, is just over 60cm. wide.
Passage 11 runs roughly south eastwards from the chamber and, for its known length, in a straight line with it. It averages about 95 cm. in width and is blocked at its eastern end by collapse of deliberate filling. Its known length is roofed by six lintels, the westernmost one (i.e. that at the eastern edge of the entrance through the floor of Passage 1 ) is dangerously cracked. The floor of this passage is covered with a considerable amount of rubble debris.
* * * * *
Because of the absence of any associated find or surface structure and because of the apparent lack of any significant feature, it is difficult to offer any opinion as to the purpose and date of this souterrain. On general grounds, however, it may be concluded that it served as a place of refuge connected directly or indirectly with a habitation site dating from some time during the first millennium after Christ.
There was a school established in 1812 in the chapel grounds at Slane. It was financed by parochial subscription. The school came under the National Board before 1835 and remained in use until the present old building was erected in 1847 on a site obtained from the Marquis of Conyngham. This tastefully redecorated building beside the church is now used as a Montessori school and meeting hall. The following is a very short account of the history of that building up to 1910.
1846 (ED/2/34); – granted to build two rooms each 34’x 18’x 9’ for 200 children. – granted to furnish. Taken into connection by the board under the management of Rev. D. O’Brien, the original applicant, with the Marquis of Conyngham as patron.
Slane School Expected Attendance 1846
No. of Schools Male 1 Female 1
Expected Attendance 100 Male 100 Female
Aid Granted Building 134.00 Pounds
Fitting Up 15.00 Pounds
Local Contribution 74.50 Pounds
1848 (ED/2/119) – building was leased to the Commissioners for three lives, or 31 years. The three lives were, The Queen, Prince Consort and the Prince of Wales.
1850 Teachers – teachers names were Patrick O’Brien and Mary Brophy. Female teacher was 20 years old. Male teacher was 29 years old. Male teacher had not been to Model School. The female did attend.
Questions asked by the board of Commissioners. (1850)
Q. What is the amount of local funds towards payment of teachers’ salaries?
A. None, except the weekly contributions of the pupils.
Q. Do the scholars pay anything, and what?
A. Generally one penny per week.
The average weekly attendance in 1850 was 45 males and 40 females.
1853 (ED/2/106) – Here there is reference to the Manager being admonished because Divine Worship was celebrated in the school house on two occasions while the chapel was being repaired. Commissioners required that in future the rule should be strictly adhered to.
1855 – it was recommended that a partition wall be erected in the school grounds to separate males and females. –
1858 – £9 – 4s – 0d would be paid for dividing wall between playgrounds on expenditure of £13 – 16s – 0d.
1859 – a teacher admonished for not adhering to the arrangements of the time table.
1874 – a teacher fined £1 – 0s – 0d for not keeping the accounts of the attendance in accordance with rule. Teacher cautioned respecting the absence slate. (4th Practical Rule). – Results fees threatened.
1877 – 5% deducted from results fees for unsatisfactory proficiency and neglect of penmanship.
Report upon application for salary to assistant teacher in Slane School (Female)
Name of teacher Alice Mathews
Age 19 Years
Date of appointment 1-10-1876
School Room size 34 x 18ft.
No. of females on roll 72
Average daily attendance 50.8
Names of other assistants/monitors None
– granted £25-0s-0d salary with share of result fees to Alice Mathews as assistant from 1-10-1876 to 13-2-1877.
1903 (ED/9/16272) – grant towards the cost of five forms for school 4851. A grant of 15s-9d on expenditure of £1-3s-8d. Grant was approx 2/3 of total expenditure.
1903 (ED/9/15552) – grant of five pounds towards the cost of providing a press on expenditure of seven pounds ten shillings for storage of science apparatus.
1904 (ED/9/18298) The manager Rev. John O’Rafferty applied for permission to build two classrooms and also for a grant to enable him to do the work. There was quite some correspondence between the Office of Public Works, the National Board of Education, the inspector and the manager regarding this application. The following is a letter from the Office of Public Works to the National Board of Education regarding the matter. The letter has been reproduced with kind permission of the National Archives.
Office of Public Works
18th May 1905
Adverting to your letter of the 31st March last, relative to Slane National School, County Meath, I am directed by the Commissioners of Public Works to enclose herewith a plan showing the additional classrooms proposed. The two rooms would measure 18’ x 20’ and as will be seen from the plans access to each could be had without entering the existing schoolrooms.
The present staircase leading to the first floor is steep and dangerous, and a new staircase, as shewn, would be required. The removal of the existing staircase would increase the length of the existing schoolrooms. Vestibules for hats, coats and fuel stores might be provided as shewn.
The present buildings appear to have been erected about the year 1847. They are in fair repair, having regard to their age. The walls and roof appear to be sound. The floor in the boys’ school is good, but that of the girls’ school requires new boards. In the boys’ school a new ceiling is required. The lighting in the latter school is defective, the windows being very small and ill adapted for both light and ventilation. New windows of an improved pattern are essential, and those of the boys’ school should be raised, and the ventilation of both rooms should be improved by providing inlet and outlet ventilators. Furthermore, the walls of the girls’ school should be wainscoted.
The cost of carrying out the works mentioned is estimated at 440-10s-0d. This would include the cost of supplying ten desks, each 12’6” long, two tables and two chairs for the new rooms. If in view of the foregoing, the Commissioners of National Education consider it desirable to proceed with the scheme a new lease would be necessary, as the present lease terminates with the life of His Majesty the King. The survey map of the site, enclosed, shows that the boundary measurements do not agree with those given in the abstract of the lease. The following figures indicate the discrepancy
Lease Map of Site
Frontage 84’ 0” 73’ 8”
Rere 96’ 0” 110’ 0”
Front to Rere 303’ 0” 289’ 0”
The site is at present, enclosed at the front on one side by a masonry wall, and at the rere and the remaining side by a whitethorn hedge. The Board think it desirable, however to draw the attention of your department to the question as to whether, in view of the large expenditure, and the age of the buildings, their renovation and extension should be further considered, or whether it would not be better to provide an entirely new building, where all the accommodation required could be obtained on the ground floor. In this connection it may further be added that the school on the ground floor is only ten feet high and that the upper floor is twelve feet high. Part of the height of the latter is reduced by the slope of the roof there being only nine foot two inches at the side walls. The present site is sufficiently large for all apartments on the ground floor and the building could be erected in close proximity to the road.
I am Gentlemen,
Your obedient servant,
The Office of National Education replied to the Board of Works and stated that owing to the lack of local funds the manager would not be able either to build a new school-house or to carry out the proposed extensive scheme of improvement. There was an inquiry if the additional classroom accommodation could be provided for one hundred and eighty pounds as sixty pounds was the utmost that the manager could guarantee.
In October 1905 the Office of National Education wrote to the manager, Rev. J.O’Rafferty P.P., stating that from reports it had received from the Board of Works, it appeared the building of a whole new school would be the best course to follow, in view of the large cost involved in rendering the existing structure suitable. The letter went on to say that as the local aid required for the erection of a new building or the enlargement and improvement of the old one was not forthcoming, and that as the funds placed at the disposal of the Commissioners for grants towards the erection, improvement etc. of vested schools were fully engaged to meet existing heavy obligations in respect of such grants, it was regretted that the Manager’s application could not be further considered.
The lease of the school expired on the death of King Edward VII in 1910. The Commissioners decided to surrender the premises to the owner – the Marquis of Conyngham. In December 1910 the inspector Mr. C. Bartley handed over the keys of the school in the presence of the Manager to Mr. E. G. Matchett, the landlord’s representative in Slane.
Managers – Rev. D. O’Brien was manager until 1857, when he died. He was succeeded by Rev. P. Callery P.P. He died in 1882 and Rev. P. Kelly was manager until he died in 1895. Rev. Patrick Briody was then appointed manager.
Teachers – Mr. Patrick Madden Mr. Michael Walsh Mr. Paddy Healy Mrs. Shaw Mr. Christy Welsh Ms. Josephine Hackett ( Cooney) Miss Peg O’Connell Miss Murphy Miss Anne May Coyle Miss Peggy Daly Miss Sinead Meehan Miss Donegan Ms. Attracta McGoey Miss Sugrue Miss Finnerty, Miss Tully.
During the second World War 1939-1945, popularly known as “the emergency”, units of the Local Defence Forces ( the L.D.F. ) were established in every town and village in Ireland and Slane was no exception. The local unit was based in the Parochial Hall. Activities were not confined to civic matters alone. Participation in sport was encouraged and members were entitled to compete at the various competitions organised at local, district and national level. Under the guidance of Bill Smith, office manager at Slane Mills, some of the local members, interested in boxing, trained for the L.D.F. Championships Drogheda District in 1945. They trained on the first floor of the Old Mill after work each evening. Those involved included Oliver Hussey, Larry Hussey, Willie Farrell, Joey Power, Jimmy Rock, Mattie Wall, Bert Gough and myself, Tony Heavey. Mattie Wall of Harlinstown won at welterweight, Joey Power of Fennor won at lightweight and I won the flyweight title. Slane received the Perpetual Cup for being the most successful unit in the championships. I then went on to the Army Boxing Championships but unfortunately lost in the final.
Following these successes it was decided to form a boxing club and to affiliate to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association of Ireland. A committee comprising of Peter McGuinness, Dan Smith, Paddy Smith, Patsy Lane, Eddie Colfer, Johnnie Lyons, Sean Lane and Tony Heavey was formed. Dr. Bradley was patron and medical advisor. He took an active interest in all aspects of the cluband acted as official timekeeper at all tournaments. The trainers were Tony Reynolds, Johnny Coyle and Paddy Connor, all very much to the fore in boxing circles not only in Drogheda but nationally as well. Use of the hall at Rossin was given free of charge by Mick Hoey. The ring was a permanent fixture. Slane Manufacturing Company donated the ring ropes from the previous training facilities in the Old Mill. Members usually cycled to Rossin for training, but more often than not, they ran all the way out and home again as part of their training schedule. Roadwork to build up stamina is a very essential part of training for the ring. After the war the L.D.F. was disbanded and the F.C.A. came into being. A new hall was built on the Mill Hill for the F.C.A. and training also took place there.
In conjunction with Drogheda Boxing Club, an international tournament against Wales was staged in Rathkenny Hall. Eamonn Harding was on the Irish team and he also fought in the return match in Wales. Sean Kearns, Ritchie Kearns and Harold Smith also featured on the programme that night.
Several tournaments were staged in the hall with some Irish champions taking part, notably Tony ( Socks ) Byrne, a bronze medal winner in the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. Tommy Murphy, Paddy McDonnell, Oliver Mullen and Joe Foley, of Dunshaughlin, now a missionary priest in Mexico. Sean Lane was the uncrowned champion at lightweight. Time and time again he encountered Joe Foley, an experienced international, and he always performed admirably.
There were over forty members of the club at all levels. Paddy Smith, Johnnie Lyons and myself supervised the training of the juvenile members. Training was held three or four nights a week from September through to the following May and members competed regularly at various tournaments. The club enjoyed much success and won several Meath Championships at juvenile, junior and senior level. Unfortunately, the club disbanded in 1960 due to the inability of the committee members to devote sufficient time and commitment to the club, as most were now on shift work at Slane Manufacturing Company where they were employed.