In Darcy’s Field


Before Greystones there was Rathdown.

Under vanilla flavoured gorse bushes or perhaps a spongy field of grass hummocks, the spirit of ancient rathdown resides, but I can find not a trace of it. No obvious stone remnants remain and I get confused wandering around in a wild primordial wind with my head down trying to find I don’t know exactly what if truth be told.

In ancient times a great ancient castle stood somewhere here on the north side of Darcy’s field and over the tracks opposite the row of Grove Cottages alongside the Water of Rathdown stream that trundles down to the north beach.

Further back in time some prehistoric folks lived here during the Bronze Age and perhaps even some Neolithic masons too. They found some flints. Further inland in a field there is a distinctive rath that I must look for sometime.

Other clues that Greystones environs may have been a centre of prehistoric living were the recent finds at Charlesland of three carved yew pipes thought to belong to one of the world’s first musical instruments and a Neolithic tool found in the playground of St Brigid’s National School by a nine year old girl when she was playing some summer game.

The tome of old Irish heritage, the Annals of the Four Masters, perhaps hints that here is Rath Oinn, later bastardized perhaps to Rath Doinn, and the site of Milesian King Erimon’s ringfort, which allegedly dates to 500 BC. He was the son of Mil.

A recent archaeological survey has also indicated there are geophysical anomalies that point to medieval human activity and you can see from aerial pictures that there is definitely something there.

Much later this became the Barony of Rathdown and home of the Irish chieftain Domhnall Fitzherbert, with the much more complicated Gaelic surname of MacGiollaMcOlmog, son by marriage of the King of Leinster and it was he who resided here during the Norman invasion.

His descendant sold the land to a Norman called Nigel le Brun – a familiar name to fans of Irish music as Garech de Brun founded Claddagh records and until recently resided on the shores of the majestically black Lough Tay in Luggala with its piast monster – Ireland’s Nessie.

Then it went into the hands of the Talbot family of Powerscourt House fame and as Henry VIII proclaimed a family of fine defenders of the Palesmen. The Barony of Rathdown stretched to the very edge of the Pale and the Old Greystonians were right at the cusp of the conflict between settlers and Gael.

Then came that distasteful rampaging man Cromwell,  who one time tented on this or the other side of the head or perhaps down at Killingcarrig Castle where he is rumoured to have blown one of the sides of the walls off in ire perhaps.

The Rathdown estate and its 300 acres was shared out among various owners including a Captain Tarrant and members of the Morris family, descendents of whom still live in Greystones.

Tarrant it is believed was responsible for much destruction in the area including the desecration of a local graveyard, the village of Rathdown, and perhaps the remnants of the castle much of which he used to rebuild his farmhouse. He lived in those buildings beside St Crispin’s Cell.

During the construction of the railway in the 1850s, nearly all of the remainder of the castle masonry was recycled and reused. Perhaps the closest I will come to finding the castle will be stepping on the sleepers as I walk back across the track and home.

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