Clan Gathering 1999

 

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Artist: Angus McBride

 


1999 (April/May) DubhGhaill Clan Gathering


During April & May 1999 Clann O DubhGhaill members from Canada & the USA, as well as from Australia, met up in Dublin & Wexford. 

Most of the activities of the two groups were concentrated in counties Wexford, Waterford, Wicklow, Kilkenny, and Dublin. 

Prior to driving down to Wexford, some of the Australian members visited "Dublin's Viking Adventure". This living history attraction is an incredible reconstruction of life in Viking Dublin - an historical experience brought to life by "live Vikings". A visit to Dublin's Viking Adventure allows you to step back in time and enjoy the journey in the company of live Vikings (actors) as they introduce you to everyday life in the Dublin of 1,000 years ago. You get to make a simulated sea voyage in a Viking longship; see the houses where they lived and worked; and capture the sounds and smells and feel the past. Also on display is a compelling exhibition of Viking artefacts, discovered in the same area during recent archaeological digs, which all combines to provide visitors with a very real glimpse of Dublin's remarkable Viking heritage. 

 

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Dublin was settled by the Danish Vikings ("Doyles"!) about 1,000 years ago. They intermarried with the Irish and established a vigorous trading port at the point where the River Poddle joined the River Liffey in a black pool, in Irish Gaelic a "dubh-linn". Dublin still has many Viking aspects which can be found when walking about the older parts of town on the south side of the River Liffey. For example, Fishamble Street (now half its original length) was laid down during the 10th Century. It was the main thoroughfare from the Viking port to High Street, the principal trading street. (It derives its name from the fish stalls or shambles that lined the pavements.) If you have a look at the carvings on the wide footpath just below the entrance to John's Lane East, just below the Synod Hall Bridge next to Christ Church Cathedral, you see that they trace the outlines of two Viking dwellings, their outhouses and pathways based on a nearby archaeological dig. You will find other pavement carvings relating to the Vikings as you walk about this oldest part of Dublin. Christ Church Cathedral was first founded in 1038 by the Viking ruler of Dublin, King Sitric Silkenbeard. (The original structure was built of wood. The "modern" stone structure was built in the 1170's by the Norman knight called Strongbow.) "The Norseman" pub in nearby Temple Bar proved to be a popular "watering hole" for the Aussie walkers. (They also managed a few pints of Guiness at "Doyles Corner", which is a very well-known landmark pub just behind Trinity College.)

Strength


The Australians in the group, who travelled down to Wexford a few days earlier, took the narrow "Military Road" which winds down through the romotest parts of the Wicklow Mountains - home to the magnificent Red Deer of Ireland (the Heraldic symbol of the Doyles). The British had constructed this road early in the 1800's to get access to the Wicklow rebels, including many Doyle men, who were holded up in the southern half of Wicklow county. It was a considerable feat of engineering, traversing open bog and barren mountainscapes for about 40 miles. The Aussies stopped overnight in County Wicklow at beautiful Glendalough (the glen of the two lakes) ... a magical place - an ancient monastic settlement tucked beside two dark lakes and overshadowed by the sheer walls of a deep valley. (It is one of the most picturesque settings in the Wicklow Mountains or for that matter in all Ireland, and the site of one of the most significant ancient monastic settlements in the country.) Glendalough's past and present status are thanks to Saint Kevin, an early Christian bishop who established a monastery there in the 6th Century. During the Dark Ages, Glendalough was one of the places that gave Ireland its reputation as an island of saints and scholars. Most of the present buildings date from the 10th and 12th Centuries and include the remains of seven churches, a monastic gatehouse (the only one of its kind), a fine Round Tower in excellent condition, and a monastic graveyard. However, Glendalough's remote location was still within reach of the Vikings, who sacked the monastery at least four times between 775 AD and 1071 AD. 

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The American and Canadian group travelled down the coast to Wexford by by train. This rail journey took them down past the magnificent seascapes between Dublin and Wicklow; through the Vale of Avoca (of Ballykissangel fame) and the Slaney Valley; towards the quays at Wexford Town.

Next stop Wexford Town! 

Our Viking ancestors arrived in the Wexford Town region around the year 850 AD, attracted by its handy location near the mouth of the River Slaney. The Viking name Waesfjord means "sandy harbour". The Vikings fortified the harbour town (a Viking Longport) with a defensive mound and a wall. The Vikings also allowed a Gaelic Irish village to be established outside their own walled settlement. Wexford was a handy port for Vikings to break their journey when sailing along the east coast of Ireland between the several other Viking settlements, such as Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Arklow, Wicklow, and Dublin. The shallow Wexford harbour also facilitated salt farming; and salt was a very important trading item to the Vikings. The Normans captured the town just after their first landings in the year 1169 AD, and later improved on the Viking wall - extending it to include the Gaelic Irish settlement as well. Tragically, Cromwell also included Wexford in his "1649-1650 Irish Tour" ... and three-quarters of the 2,000 inhabitants were put to the sword, including all the town's Franciscan friars - which was the standard treatment for towns that refused to surrender to Cromwell. (After the massacre at Wexford, surrender became increasily popular in Ireland!) During the 1798 Rebellion, rebels made a determined stand in Wexford Town before they were defeated by the British Army.

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Wexford Town lays next to the Salney River, close to its mouth at the Irish Sea. It has a very narrow winding Main Street that betrays its Viking origins, ... however it is about double the width of the original Viking street whose path it still follows, and in places you can almost shake hands across it. Archaeological excavations at the South end have revealed the remains of houses from the 11th Century. This quaint Main Street is lined, and over-hung, with lots and lots of historic buildings ... and, not surprisingly, a large proportion of them have Doyle business names painted out front. Somehow the cars and pedestrians still manage to share this charming little street - God alone knows how! On "The Crescent" next to the riverfront is a statue to Commodore John Barry, a local seaman born in 1745, who emigrated to America and founded the U.S. Navy during the American Revolutionary War. "The Bull Ring" is located between Commercial Quay and North Main Street. Before the low-lying ground was reclaimed, the sea once lapped against the higher ground here. The local pub remarkably doubles as a Funeral Parour & Undertakers, and is known as "The Cape". During Cromwell's "visit" the Bull Ring was the site of his long-remembered massacre. Around the Cross, which used to stand in the centre of the Bull Ring, the rampaging Cromwellian soldiers put most of the town's citizens and Priests to the sword in 1649. Today it is the site of the Wexford Pikeman, a fine bronze statue by Oliver Sheppard, which commemorates the 1798 Rebellion when, for a few brief weeks, Wexford successfully defied the might of the British Empire. In 1609 the Butchers' Guild undertook to supply a bull annually for baiting by dogs, hence the name "Bull Ring". Another landmark is the St. Iberius' Church (Protestant) which was built in 1760. Tradition holds that Saint Ibar built an oratory on this spot in the 5th Century. Interesting features of the Church are the late-Georgian interior decoration, the mid-19th Century Venetian Renaissance-style front on the Main Street, and the Altar, at which the Duke of Wellington was married. It was well worth the visit during our walking tour of the old town.

Lovely Day


Wexford Town's 14th Century West Gate Tower is one of the five medieval entrances to the town. It is located close to most sections of the remaining medieval town's walls & turrets, and affords a perfect view of the 13th Century Norman Walls with their square (pre-Crusades) and round (post-Crusades) defensive towers. It is also situated next to Selskaar Abbey, which was built in 1190 AD by Alexander de la Roche, who returned from the crusades in the Holy Land, only to find that his betrothed, thinking him dead, had entered a Convent. Broken-hearted, Alexander endowed the Abbey and became its first Prior. (Its present ruinous state is a result of Cromwell's "visit" in 1649.) The West Gate Tower has a really first-class audiovisual display on the history of Wexford which we all enjoyed watching, and which gave us all some very useful background knowledge of area. The West Gate Tower is also the symbolic "home" to the Clann O DubhGhaill /Clan Doyle, and has a number of items of interest to Clan Members on display. The West Gate Tower is a "must" for all Doyles to visit at any time of the year when they are travelling in Ireland. Close by to the West Gate Tower is located the Market House, built in 1775, with its arcades, once open to the public, now blocked up. To the left, the 19th Century Pugin-style Church, with its towering spire, may be seen. Just around the corner, above the "Tom Moore Tavern", the mother of the celebrated composer and poet was born. Nearby, in High Street, is the famous "Theatre Royal" which was first opened in 1832 and is now home to the world-renowned Wexford Opera Festival. 

Wexford Town proved to be an ideal "base" for "sleep-overs" between day-trips to other parts of County Wexford; as well day-trips to interesting places in County Waterford, County Wicklow, County Carlow, and County Kilkenny.

While in Wexford both groups attended at the Irish National Heritage Park, just outside Wexford town at beautiful Ferrycarrig. The Park depicts man's settlement in Ireland from about 7,000 BC to the arrival of the Normans in the 12th Century. We were able to stroll through the Park with its homesteads, places of ritual, burial modes and long forgotten remains. We also got to meet with more "live Vikings" (re-enactors) who showed us how the Vikings lived after they had settled in Ireland. They also let us handle the Viking weapons and armour ... which was really great for photo' opportunities! 

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Both groups also visited parts of the beautiful Hook Peninsula, which is to the south-west of Wexford, while on route to tours of Waterford Town. (Cromwell's statement that Waterford Town would fall "by Hook or by Crooke", referred to the two possible landing points from which to capture the area: at the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, or at Crooke in County Waterford.) On the way to Hook, we visited Tintern Abbey, the 12th Century Cistercian Abbey in a lovely rural setting near the village of Saltmills. (The ruined Abbey looked as though it had at some time in the past received the "unwanted attentions" of our Viking ancestors! However, it does appear as though some serious restoration work is now finally under way.) Hook is the same area where in 1170 AD 3,000 Irish Vikings ("Doyles"!) from Waterford Town attacked a group of invading Norman knights being led by Raymond le Gros. Although the Vikings out-numbered the Normans seven to one, they were defeated when le Gros stampeded a herd of cattle into them. Seventy of the Waterford Vikings were captured, had their legs broken, and were then thrown over the sea cliffs to their death. (Ouch!) At the southern end of the Hook Peninsula is Hook Head, and it is crowned by Europe's, and possibly the world's, oldest lighthouse. (It is said that monks lit a beacon on the headland from the 5th century and that the first Viking invaders were so happy to have a guiding light that they left these monks alone!) Also on the Hook Peninsula is the village of Templetown. The nearby Templar's Inn has some interesting memorabilia about the famous crusading Order of the Knights Templar, and this pleasant pub is conveniently (for visiting Knights Templar, anyway!) located just across the road from a ruined Knights Templar church. We then left Hook and crossed the estuary of the River Barrow from County Wexford to enter County Waterford by car ferry at a delightful village called Ballyhack. This village is dominated by a 15th Century Knights Templar castle. Once across the River Barrow we arrived at a charming little fishing village called Passage East. From there we motored into Waterford Town for a walking tour with a professional guide.

 

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The City of Waterford feels almost medieval, with narrow alleyways leading off many of the larger streets. Reginald's Tower (a medieval stone construction) marks the city's Viking heart and the surrounding area is particularly attractive. Georgian times left a legacy of fine houses and commercial buildings, particularly around The Mall, Saint George's Street, and O'Connell Street. However, it is a port city as the River Suir's estuary is deep enough to allow large modern ships right up to the city's quays. The Vikings settled at the site of the City of Waterford in the 8th Century, and it quickly became a booming trading post. Waterford's city walls were originally built by the Vikings around 1,000 AD. (In the "Reginald Pub" behind Reginald's Tower, we found a section of the old wall which used to be part of the sallyports - to allow boats to "sally forth" onto the inlet which used to flow right by the wall.) In the year 1170 AD the Normans defeated the Viking inhabitants after a desperate defence of the city. In 1649 AD the town defied Cromwell, but in 1650 his forces returned and the city finally surrendered. Although it escaped the customary slaughter, much damage was done and the population declined as Catholics were either exiled to the west of Ireland or shipped off as slaves to the Caribbean.

 

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While we were staying in Wexford, the Canadian & American group visited the town of New Ross, home to the reconstructed Famine-Emmigrant ship the "Dunbrody". The "Dunbrody" is the largest and most spectacular tall ship ever built in the Republic of Ireland. In the Ross Company dry-dock the 19th Century tall ship is already taking shape, and appears to be well advanced towards its final completion. When she is ready, she will 176 feet in length with towering masts of up to 130 feet in height. (The original "Dunbrody" would have had a crew of 14 and was capable of carrying 176 passengers.) New Ross is a port town astride the River Barrow. On the east bank it has steep and narrow streets and many interesting historical buildings. Also of interest is the ruin of Saint Mary's Church, built in the 13th Century. New Ross was the scene of fierce fighting during the 1798 Rebellion when a group of rebels tried to take the town. They were repelled by the defending British garrison, leaving 3,000 people dead and much of the town in ruins.

 

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On our one Sunday in Wexford, we attended the Viking Festival Mass at the Fransiscan Friary church. (Which has a magnificent Georgian interior.) The National Champions of the Irish Youth Bands Contest played in accompaniment with the priest saying Mass, and it was a delightful service. (The priest saying Mass was home in Ireland while "on leave" from a Catholic Mission Station in Central Africa ... another Viking "wanderer"!)

On the afternoon of the Monday "Bank Holiday" we attended the Championships of the County Wexford Hurling Competition. None of the overseas Doyles had seen Hurling before, and so we thoroughly enjoyed the "spectacle". (As the Chairman of the Clan Council later commented, "it looked like a bunch of Vikings trying to kill each other".) After all the matches were over, the Chairman of the Clan Council was called upon to make a speech and to award the trophies to the winning teams in the different grades.

Before leaving Wexford, both groups found time to visit Johnstown Castle (about 4 miles outside of town). The castle is the former home of the FitzGerald and Esmonde families, and it is a splendid 19th Century Gothic-style castellated house overlooking a small lake and surrounded by about 50 acres of thickly wooded gardens. There is also a very interesting Famine Museum located in the castle's grounds.

 

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On the way back to Dublin, the Australian group also stopped off at Enniscorthy, in County Wexford, to tour the National 1798 Visitor Centre. This unique family-friendly, enthralling interpretative exihbition about the Rebellion of the United Irishmen (which included both Protestants & Catholics) in 1798 combines audio-visual presentation, interactive computers, story boards and original artefacts. Enniscorthy also has a memorial to Father John Murphy and his band of rebels who stormed the town and captured the castle in May 1798. (One faction marched under the banner "M.W.S.", which stood for "Murder Without Sin".) The last major battle of the 1798 Rebellion took place on Vinegar Hill, to the east of town, where the rebels had set up their headquarters. On 9 June 1798, a force of 20,000 British troops almost completely surrounded the rebels, who held out against huge odds for 30 days. The fighting was exceedingly fierce and the slaughter of rebels by the British Army was great - a very sad day for the Doyles, who had men fighting on both sides. The Wexford County Museum is located in Enniscorthy Castle, and one or two of the members found time to see it as well. The town is rather attractive, sitting on the banks of the River Slaney in the heart of County Wexford (about 15 miles north-west of Wexford Town), and well worth the visit.

Good for you


The next DubhGhaill / Doyle Clan Gathering is at Wexford, Ireland in May, 2,000 ... next year, for the Millennium! (A "Members Only" affair)

Be there! 

For details about the next DubhGhaill / Doyle Clan Gathering, contact the Clan Office at P.O. Box 173, Dromana Victoria 3936, Australia


 

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