Haggardstown to Dromiskin


Note: This account dates from the early 20th century. Mary Anne Coleman came from Crumlin, just south of Dundalk. She and her siblings were christened in Haggardstown Church. Her first husband Nicholas Callan came from Lurgangreen. They settled in Mooretown, a townland, part of Dromiskin. Her second husband, James Byrne, came from Milltown Grange, which originally belonged to the Fortescue family. Her daughters, Bridget and Mary Anne, used to go to Blackrock at the weekends in Summer.

Haggardstown is the ancient parish which contains Blackrock village and most of the country immediately south of Dundalk. It was originally known as "The Haggard" and belonged to St. Leonard's Abbey, Dundalk. In 1566 its houses were burned by O'Neill, while in 1589 an action by Lord Delvin and Thomas FitzSimon for the "Messes," a common or pasture between the Haggard and Dundalk, was disallowed, the Messes belonging to the Corporation of Dundalk.

In 1622 Henry Draycott, the grantee of the property of St. Leonard's Abbey, Dundalk, was impropriator of the rectory and repaired the church. This is the old ruin in the ancient graveyard close to Blackrock. About 1681 the Protestant rectors of Heynestown were also vicars of Haggardstown. In 1692 the church was ruinous and never seems to have been repaired since then.

The four walls of this church are still standing, and beside rises an obelisk erected to Dr. Lawrence Martin, a young Dundalk doctor who lost his life at the time of the fever in 1846 while attending and visiting the people of Dundalk. Not many hundred yards from the graveyard once stood an old castle, but nothing is now to be seen of it. Half a mile to the west on a gentle rise is the stump of an old windmill and close to it the modern Haggardstown Catholic church.

About a mile south along the main road is the small village of Lurgangreen, a few houses on each side of the road just beyond the Fane river bridge. Here in early days was a church called the church of the Lurgan. In 1180 a very desperate battle took place at Lurgangreen between John de Courcy and the O'Hanlon sept of Armagh. It was one of the rare cases in Irish history of a drawn battle. Very many were killed on both sides, and after the battle both armies retired to their homes. It is likely that the fight took place on the banks of the river near the present bridge.

Coming to much later times, at the beginning of last century Lurgangreen was infested with highway robbers, and the mail coaches from Dublin needed an escort of dragoons to see them safely to Dundalk. Freeney, the notorious highwayman, operated here. His band were captured after considerable trouble in 1820.

Blackrock, one of the many places of its name in Ireland, is a small seaside village, three miles south of Dundalk and facing the bay and the beautiful Cooley and Carlingford mountains. It is an excellent holiday place for children, the bay being very shallow and the water receding between each tide leaving a great extent of level sand, while there are rocks, a small river, and cheery fishermen to take out many boating parties when the tide is in. Bathing is absolutely safe as the water is never deep except in the course of the Shelly river and at the hole at Carra' Puncha. The latter is a rock of that name at the northern end of the shore and is dangerous for non-swimmers. There are many houses available for the summer months, while motor char-abancs running backwards and forwards from Dundalk several times daily make access easy. The view takes in the whole range of the Bellurgan and Cooley mountains, bare and rounded at the tops, but with fields and white cottages clustering thickly all along the lower slopes. In the middle of the bay is the spiderdike lighthouse. There have been occasional wrecks on this shallow shore, hence the lifeboat station, but fortunately its stalwart crew have not been called on for a number of years. In the past very successful horse races were held on the strand. In 1870 they were revived and again in 1885. At the present time Blackrock can boast of an up-to-date cinematograph house during the summer months.


Blackrock is usually reached from Dundalk by the Windmill or St. Alphonsus road, and the Long Avenue. This takes the visitor past the entrance to the Rifle Range, where in past years the Dundalk Rifle Club held many competitions and entertained the Irish Rifle Association more than once.

The road at the southern end of the village joins the main road from Dundalk to Castlebellingham (and Dublin) opposite the gate of the former CLERMONT PARK. The park, lately sold to the Estates Commissioners and divided among small farmers, was the property of the Fortescue family, who are said to be descended from Richard le Fort, who protected William the Conqueror with his shield, hence the name. The first of the family to come to Ireland was Sir Faithful in 1613, who lived at Dromiskin. The Louth family obtained six different peerages, Baron, Viscount and Earl of Clermont and Baron Carlingford. All the titles are now extinct. The late Major M. Fortescue, who lived at Stephenstown was the last County Louth representative of the family.


The present modern church was built in 1803, and beside it stands an old Anglo-Norman keep ivy covered and venerable.

The medieval church was dedicated to St. Nicholas de Felda and called the church of la Felde. In 1728 John Fortescue, rector, married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Bellingham. His grandson John was also rector in 1781.

In the graveyard is a monument to Thos. Fortescue and his wife, the Rt. Hon. Thomas James Fortescue and his two sons, Thomas James Fortescue and William Charles, Viscount Clermont, who died 1829.

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