Swords Heritage Centre 

 email: swordsheritage@gmail.com  


Since the year began we have been planning new projects which we hope will be of interest to our many viewers. The current issue of Swords Voices is still selling well with an avid interest in back numbers. Issue 25 in the series will be published later this year.

We have added another video from our archives, so if you wish to see what Swords looked like in 1991 have a look in our Activities page. This was made when Swords twinned with a town in France; Ozoir le Ferriere which is near Disneyland Paris.The research on local history continues as there is always something new to find out about the past.

With all the 'new' people coming to live in the area, we aim to satisfy their curiosity and relate what we know about 'old Swords.' The history of education in the area is quite controversial, to read more about it go to our Shop page where 'Sewn By Candlelight' is available. The story began in 1804 when The Borough School in Swords was opened, and problems there were not solved until 1888.

We continue to bring people on historical walks, they visit our Museum and our Genealogy Department is kept busy with various queries from home and abroad. Our next video will have a genealogical content with two Swords people talking about their backgrounds, and relatives who emigrated to America., England, etc..




In 1986 we made a video of Swords Main Street and North Street which had proved popular at the time but last year we resurrected it, brought it up to date and put it on UTube.   We were amazed at the result; within two weeks over 5000 people had looked at it including those who were not even born in 1986.    We had many requests to make another this year to leave behind for generations to come.  We are still working on this and hope to launch it at Heritage Week later in the year..


FINGAL GENEALOGY keeps us busy with the many queries from those at home and abroad seeking their family history.   We also give talks to various local groups, have children from local school doing work experience, and also mature people who have taken a change of career. 


Recently we were involved in Cruinniu na Casca Fingal; the launch of it was held at Swords Castle and our group supplied the guide for bus tours of places of interest around Swords.     Plans for the future of the heritage of Swords are very positive with the proposed Cultural Quarter and the on-going restoration of Swords Castle going ahead.


We have included photos of the various projects in which we are involved on our Activities page, have a look and you may also view our various videos of Swords.


One of our projects for 2017 is to make a video of the Swords of today; this had been suggested
by some of the numerous people who have enjoyed our video of Swords in 1985, We had this re-edited
and the re-action to it on utube have been extraordinary.    Of course, the population of Swords had
increased since it was made and while locals are reminded of 'old Swords' new people are interested
to know what it was like some thirty years ago.  We hope to be able to do the new video early this
year to leave a record of the Swords of 2017 for posterity. 

To see the 'old' video on You tube look for 'Rambles Through Swords'. https://youtu.be/lrdsi_kM-BI
Our New Swords Voices 2016
The 23rd in the Swords Voices series was launched on Sept. 1st last.
This issue contains many stories of 'old Swords' interspersed with photos
old and new.  Stories include Mr James Bennett's  story of 45 years teaching
in St Colmcille's Boys' School, Swords.   Mrs Mary McCormack's tale of how she 
came to live in Swords via Mayo when she was 6 years old.  Memories of 
Swords in days gone by. Mrs Mary Graham, remembered by her daughter Mary and
her shop on North Street.   The Weston ladies in 1916 Rising also 1798. 
Tale of the Kelly Brothers who fought at Ashbourne and GPO during Easter
Week 1916 - varies snippets and poems for your entertainment..
The current edition of Swords Voices is now available at The Card & Party Shop, Main St.,
Spar Supermarket, Swords Manor, Swords Museum,& Carnegie Library, North St.,Swords.
Phone (01) 8400080.


The current edition of Swords Voices inlcudes 'Musings on 1916 Rising'.  
Read about Richard Coleman of Swords who died in Usk Prison in 1918;
Arthur Agnew who came over from Liverpool, was part of the Kimmage
Garrison. Charles Weston of Turvey who fought at Ashbiourne,
Peter Wilson who was killed in the Mendicity Institute,
JImmy Marks alos fought in The Mendicity Institute.
Ailbhe O Monachain,a Belfast man who is buried in Swords.
He was active in Galway with Liam Mellows and came to Swords 
as an Art Teacher in the local Vocational School.
"Let them remember that if the Irish Language is allowed to perish, the life of the Irish Nation as a seperate nation ceases." - Michael O'Hanrahan

 An interesting  tape of interview in Swords Museum taken in 1990s.

PRESS LINK to listen.


Many Swords men and women answered the call on Easter Monday 1916 and turned up at Knocksedan to fight for Ireland’s freedom.    On Swords Main Street alone several families had more then one son involved.   Starting at ‘The Star’ Pub there were three of the Taylor brothers involved, Thomas, Joseph and Christopher.   On Easter Monday Joe Taylor called up the street to Christopher Moran to tell him ‘it was on’.  Christopher (Kit) Moran, the son of an R.I.C. sergeant joined the rest of the volunteers including Tommy Duff who also lived on the same side of the street.  The Duffs were a Fenian family, many meetings were held in their house which was known as ‘The War Office’.  It was burned by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence. Tommy Duff was a Volunteer while his sister Mary was in Cumann na mBan.  On the other side of the street were the Colemans; Richard Coleman was deeply involved in the movement from 1914 and trained all the lads in preparation for ‘The Rising’.  Most of those mentioned already fought in the well documented ‘Battle of Ashbourne’ while Dick Coleman was the leader of those who volunteered to go into Dublin City in answer to a call from James Connolly for help.  They reached the GPO having walked from Finglas and some were sent to the Mendicity Institute to fight under Sean Heuston. Here Peter Wilson from The Green lost his life.   Dick Coleman was arrested again after the Rising and died in December 1918 having caught pneumonia while on hunger strike in Usk Prison in Wales...  Also on Main Street lived the Nugents whose son Christopher fought at Ashbourne and the Earlys son Patrick J. also fought there.    There are many more from outside the town and we hope to honour them with a further study of those buried in St. Colmcille’s Graveyard at a later date.       Detailed information on the Colemans of Swords is included in the current edition of ‘Swords Voices’ which is still available.
1916 Volunteers Buried in St Colmcilles Cemetery, Swords
On this Cemetery Sunday and on the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, I thought it
appropriate to name the volunteers who are buried in St. Colmcille’s Cemetery:
Arthur Agnew; Christopher Moran; Christopher Nugent; William Doyle;
James Marks; Peadar O Ceallaigh; Jack Kelly; Edward Stafford; Christopher Taylor;
Thomas Taylor; Joseph Taylor; Colm Lawless; Peter Moran; Bernard McAllister;
Kathleen McAllister (nee Lawless); Julia Mary Weston; Thomasina Weston Lynders;
Bartle Weston (Balheary); Thomas Weston (Balheary); Ailbhe O Monachain;
James Wilson; Tommy Duff; Mary Duff; Patrick Joseph Early; James Heron;
Felim Coleman; Joseph Norton; Peter Wilson (Balheary) and William Wilson (Balheary)
known as 'The Beck’ buried in St. Columba’s graveyard
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, Rest in Peace. Amen


There will be many versions of what happened in 1916 as much research has been done leading up to the commemoration of 'The Rising'.  In the Swords area many families were involved; in some families two or three brothers were in 'The Volunteers' while another brother was in the British Army.  This all leads to fascinating tales 
 and of course, everyone has their own version of what happened.  (See photos in our photos section). 

At least four of our group are first generation relations (sons and daughters) of those who took part Ireland's Fight for Freedom.  So if your want first-hand information why not get in touch.  We will be continuing our research during the year and will include various anecdotes as the come to light. 

 So far 2015 has proved to be busy heritage wise!

Our Museum at the Carnegie Library, Swords is open weekdays from 1.30 to 4.30 pm.
So far we have had numerous request to give talks & walks to those interested in local history.     The pending 1916 Rising Commemoration has sparked an interest in our '1916 Corner' in our Museum.   We hope to expand this during the year.  So far one school has booked in for a visit.  We have  a comprehensive list of those local men and women who took part in the Rising including those who were sentenced to death.

Our walk in St. Colmcille's Graveyard last year has sparked further interest in the Church and the Taylors of Swords.   

We hold Roll Books for Swords Schools  and other local sources which are not on line, so if you cannot find that elusive ancestor North Dublin ancestor, don't forget to get in touch. 

We would also love to hear from you if you have any local lore or photos to donate or have copied and returned.

 SWORDS HERITAGE WEEK  2015   was a great success and an excellent celebration of the heritage of our ancient town.


lst    'Free Items' by Desmond Gallagher, Portmarnock
2nd   'The End of the Novena' by Nora Mulligan, Donaghmede.
3rd:    'Talking to Eternity' Liam Turvey, Malahide

lst:  'My Legacy' Pauline Giffney, Killester
2nd  'If absence makes the heart grow fonder@ Frank Cumiskey,  Portmarnock

Winner ' Bittersweet Memories of the Way We Were'   Anne Lowndes Lawler
Runner Up:  'Small but Mighty'   Mary Graham McCarthy 

Our principal sponsors this year were Fingal Co. Council, Mary McCormack, Tara Winthorp, Dublin Airport Authority, Redmond Property Consultants; we are more than grateful to them all.

 SWORDS VOICES, VOL. 3  Issue 2, (The 22nd in the series) was launched

by Mayor of Finigal, Cllr David O'Connor, on Sept 2nd in 'The Star, Swords. 
A great night was had by all who attended with music by V & Ronnie Delaney with Paddy Murphy and Willie Crosbie of The Mummers. Many thanks to 'The STar' Maria, Raymond and  Michael for their hospitality.
Because of the pending commemoration of 1916 a section called 'Musings on 1916' is included.  Over the years many people were interviewed who mentioned their relation in the 'Rising' so it was decided to repeat their memories. Also included are the winning stories and poems from last year competitions.   And local memories from Paddy Gerrard,  Helen Cottrell, Marie Moffit, and Anne Lawler who were born and reared in Swords. Also included are the memories of Mrs Mary Greenan, now aged 95 who came to Swords in 1960 when her husband was appointed the local Dispensary Doctor.
All in all a great read for €5.00. 




We had a busy week with Swords Heritage Week,the first week in September.

For National Heritage Week we did a walk around St. Colmcille’s Graveyard in Swords.  This graveyard surrounds the RC Church on Chapel Lane.  Although Dublin were playing in Croke Park on the same day (Aug 31st)  some 30 people turned up to hear some interesting stories about those buried in the graveyard.    Several years ago we did a survey of the headstone inscriptions in the old part,, so if you think your ancestor is buried there please get in touch. 

Visitors on the day were from Swords and as far a field as Kildare.  Buried there is Andrew Kettle, who was known as ‘Parnell’s Right-hand Man’ also father of Tom Kettle described, among other things, as one of the poets of WW1.  

There are the O’Colmains who were deeply involved in the 1916 Rising, the Corballys of Rathbeale Hall,   Dr. R.J.May a renowned breeder of Irish Wolfhounds.

There were ordinary people whose lives turned out to be extraordinary, like Patrick Cleary who visited Paris in 1894 when people hardly went into Dublin City.  He contracted rabies having been bitten by a mad dog.  A far-seeing young doctor at the time was aware of the research done by eminent scientist Louis Pasteur, so Paddy and five others went sent to Paris to be treated by the great man.

Stories for another day arise from the plaques in the Church.  They take us to Roark’s Drift (Zulu Wars), building of the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Suez Canal & Turkish Wars.

The sun shone down while we walked about and it is hoped to do another ‘walk’ in the future.

Please get in touch if you think your ancestors are buried in the graveyard.

Many thanks to those who supported the various events during the week:
Swords in old Photos at Swords Museum,
Tracing your Fingal Roots at Swords Museum.
1914 in Swords - walkabout the town.
Launch of Swords Voices in 'The Star'.
Literary Awards at Carnegie Court Hotel.
Launch of Images of Swords.
A particular success was walk around St. Colmcille's Graveyard on Aug. 31st.
Don't forget 'Swords Voices' now available at XL Newsagents, Main Street, Swords Museum Carnegie Library, North Street, also Spar, Swords Manor.

Phone 8400080   email: swordsheritage@gmail.com 


The 20th Swords Voices - the publication produced by Swords Historical Society was launched 3rd Sept. 2013 in The Star , Swords by Cllr Tom O'Leary, Deputy Mayor of Fingal.;   Read Shane Redmond's memories of how Swords evolved commercially,   Life in 'old Swords', Fingal Fairy Tale, The Lockout 1913 in Swords etc..- interspersed with interesting photos.  Available at Swords Museum,  North Street Swords,  Tel 018403629'
FINGAL GENEALOGY (NORTH DUBLIN) is managed by Swords Historical Society Ltd.  Affiliated to the Irish Family History Foundation and founded in 1988, the group is part of a network of county centres throughout the island of Ireland.  Researchers are available to help those who wish to trace their North Dublin roots.  Parish Registers  (C.I & R.C) have been indexed by the group with various other local sources; Headstone Inscriptions, Interment Records, Vaccination Records, Roll Books, Dog Licence Records, etc., all aid to finding that elusive ancestor, local place name or town land.          Tel 018400080    email: swordsheritage@gmail.com 

Swords Historical Society

Since SWORDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY was founded in 1982, dedicated volunteers have worked to record, promote and preserve all aspects of the heritage of the greater Swords area.  Swords, in Fingal, Co. Dublin was founded by St. Colmcille is the year 560 A.D., when he blessed the ‘well of clear water’ thus giving the town its name; ‘Sord’ meaning ‘clear or pure’.   The Saint’s Well is maintained by the Society who refurbished it in 1993.   The Society’s Museum and Heritage Centre at the Carnegie Library, North St., Swords is run by volunteers and is open weekdays from 1 p.m. to 4.30p.m.  There is a fascinating collection of old photos and artefacts on display and  their oral history project has produced the annual ‘Swords Voices’ publication. Now in its eighteenth year the publications have chronicled the memories of local people, thus creating a unique social history of the area.

Members also are available to give historical walks around Swords, and talks to students, ethnic groups etc.  They are always interested in hearing from anyone with a tale to tell or old photos or memorabilia to loan or donate.

Swords Historical Society Ltd, Carnegie Library, North Street, Swords, Co. Dublin
Phone (01) 8400080   email: swordsheritage@eircom.net    or swordsmuseum@gmail.com.  


The Swords area abounds with many mysterious or romantically sounding names which have probably been corrupted over the generations.    But what of the new names, you man ask?     The naming and numbering committee within the Planning Department of Fingal Co. Council works with members of local history groups to try to ensure that news developments are given names which have some connection with the area:

HOLY WELL:   Named after the nearby St. Werburgh’s Well.   St Werburg was an ancient Saint, the daughter of the King of Mercia.   Mercia was an around Bristol in England.    

BUNBURY:   Col. Bunbury and Mrs Bunbury are names to be found on ancient leases and deeds for properties around the Swords area.   Also found is the name Lord Rathdonnell of the Bunbury family.

WATERSIDE:   The Civil Survey for Swords of 1654 mentions ‘ye waterside’ between the land of Russell of Drynam and Russell of Seatown Castle; this is exactly where the present estate is.

JUGBACK:  This is an example of an old name which has been currupted over the years.   The Civil Survey describes it as ‘jugebage’ giving credence to the old Swords way of called the area ‘Jugbag’.  

COOLDRIONA:   A corruption of the name ‘Coldrimhna in Connaught’ were a battle ensued when St Colmcille refused to return a Gospel he had borrowed from St Finian of Moville.   The story is well documented.  The Cooldriona Apartments are beside St Colmcille’s Well in Swords.


Since our Oral History Project began in 1992 we have interviewed numerous local people, recording their memories of the greater Swords area.  This resulted in a collection of tapes which we have recently been working towards transferring to CDRom for protection. The tapes were recorded solely for their historical content with a view to publishing them in our ‘Swords Voices’ series, the quality of some is not so good.   However, family and friends of those involved who would like a copy may get in touch:   Those included are:

Mr. George Pyper; Mr Sean Rock; Mrs Anastatia Heron; Mr Paddy Tyrrell; Mr Paddy Weston; Mr Frankie Monaghan; Jane & Paddy McCabe; Fr. Frank Cavanagh; Mrs Mary Graham; Mrs Ella McLoughlin; Mrs Kathleen Harford; Mr Paddy McKittrick; Eddie & Maureen Hughes; Mr John Joyce; Mrs Anne Flynn; Mr Gerard O’Brien; Mr Larry Geraghty; Mrs Catherine (Cosy) O’Reilly; Mrs Frances Donnelly; Mr Joe Savage; Mrs Eithne Geary; Mrs Edith Barrett; Miss Ruby Dow; Mrs Alice Dow; Mr Dan Golden;  Mrs Elsie Cullen; Mr Tommy Reid; Mr Tom Moore; Mr James Garrigan; Mrs Margaet Thorpe; Mr Desmond Keane, Liam Heron; Frank Daly..

Many topics are included and those interviewed in the earlier editions had memories of early 20th century events in the greater Swords area, like Shop-keeping, Inn Keeping, Undertaking; Farming; Life in Great Houses; Building; Thatched Houses, Black & Tans; Early Transport, Priesthood..


There will be many events taking place next year to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf one of the most famous events in the history of Ireland.  Places with connections with Brian Boru will come to the fore.  For generations school children in Swords, Co. Dublin learned about the famous battle and how the body of Brian Boru was waked overnight at the monastic settlement of St. Colmcille there, on route to Armagh for burial.  An account of the Battle translated from an ancient Irish manuscript (Cath Chluana Tarbh) by Irish antiquarian John O’Donovan gives an interesting insight into the connection with Swords.  Accounts of the deaths of Brian and his son Morogh are also given in translations from ‘Annuals of Innisfallen and Ulster’ by  Mr. Hardiman in his ‘Irish Ministrelsy’.   

Towards the end of the battle confusion became general through the Danish army and they fled on every side.  Brian’s servant Laidin sensed the confusion and he quickly entered the tent of Brian who was praying before a crucifix.  Laiden suggested that he take a horse and get away.  Brian refused saying ‘it was to conquer or die I came here but you and my other attendants should take my horse to Armagh and communicate with the successor of St. Patrick – that I bequeath  my soul to God, my body to Armagh and my blessing to my son Donogh.;  give 200 cows to Armagh with my body, and go directly to  Swords of Colmcille  and order them to come for my body tomorrow and conduct it to Duleek of St. Kianan, and let them convey it to Louth, whither let Maelmurrrated Journal, 4/1/1862.

(C)  Bernadette Marks December 2013.   ay the son of Eochy come with the family to Armagh and convey it to the Cathedral.’  

According to his will, the body of Brian was conveyed to Armagh. First the monks of Swords in solemn procession brought it to their Abbey and from there the next morning, the clergy of Duleek brought it to the church of St. Kianan...   Here the clergy of Louth brought the corpse to their own monastery. The Archbishop of Armagh received the body at Louth and then it was conveyed to the cathedral.  For twelve days and nights it was watched by the clergy and there was a continued scene of prayers and devotions. It was interred with much funeral pomp at the north side of the altar of the great church. The body or Morogh with the heads of Conang and Aeolian prince of Decies were deposited in the south aisle of the church.  Brian’s grandson Turlough and most of their chiefs were interred at the monastery of Kilmainham. 

Compiled from ‘The Battle of Clontarf’ in Dublin Illust

Creating Employment

Bernadette Marks

With ‘creating employment’ or ‘getting people back to work’ foremost in the minds of the new Government, it might be interesting to look at the employment that was available in the Swords of the early 19th century.    The history of the Old Borough School, built in 1809, has been well documented but it might not be known that one of the perks of being a pupil at the school was to be apprenticed to a trade.    This would have been a valuable asset to the smart young pupil when records show that employment in the area was mainly for farm labourers or domestic servants.    In 1835 Robert Savage, Michael Kennedy, William Sandford, Michael Keegan, Samuel Wilson and Michael Donohoe were apprenticed to the trade of shoemaker.   William Fellows was to be a jaunting car maker, John Knowd a millwright, and William Leggett a harness maker. These trades illustrate the dependence on horse-drawn transport at the time and also the need for good boots for walking.  Elizabeth Green, Mary Coleman, Sarah Green, Anne Tierney, Richard Dowling, Mark Dowling and William Blood where to be mantua makers. What is a mantua you may ask?   It ties in with the fact that sewing was high on the curriculum of the school; a mantua being a loose fitting dress worn by women.

Although the town of Swords has expanded over the years, many of these surnames are still to be found, so if you think your ancestor learned a trade in Swords, further research may be done at the local Heritage Centre.

Copyright (C) Bernadette Marks 2013


By Geraldine McGovern

Geraldine grew up in the Swords of the 1960s, a time when many changes where happening in the town.  Her stories of earlier times come from listening to her late father.

GERALDINE:  My father was born in 1914 when the family lived on Main Street. Swords.   His name was Mattie Smyth.   He was the eldest of seven, four brothers and two sisters:  Paddy, Mick, Matthew, Jim, May, Tom and Bridget.The Family lived at the old Dispensary on Main Street and then down the Hollow. In 1934 they moved to a little cottage on Commons East on the Drinam Road.  Mattie was 20 years old at that stage.

They were reared by their parents John Smyth and Mary Jane McEvoy; my grandparents.    Mary Jane was a little small woman who worked hard at rearing her family, especially during the war years, when life would have been very tough, with three young boys at that stage.    Mattie (my father) told us how he used to cross the fields to school in his bare feet with his brother Paddy.  School in those days was New Boro School on Seatown Lane.  He grew up fast, he would tell us, and money was tight. As soon as you reached eleven or twelve, you were off to work the farms around Kinsealy, or Kinsaley as he called it.   May and Bridget helped granny at home and left school early too.

As they got older, Mattie went to work as a groomsman up in Cloghran Stud.  There he met my mother Katie; she worked in the kitchen...   She was a ‘live in’ as she came from Longford.  They married in the late fifties and lived for some time up at Greenhills, Cloghran, until 1964 when my mother tragically died.    My father had to move in to his sister May and her husband Oliver’s house in Newtown where she took over the rearing of my sister Mary and I.   Mary was seven and I was five. Mattie continued to work up in the stud farm for all of fifty years.  

His brothers Jim and Tom worked in the Airport and Mick worked in Squibbs on the Watery Lane.   Jim and Mick married and settled in Swords and lived all their married lives in Seatowh Villas.  Tom never married and continued working in the Airport till he retired in 1986.  He also did 50 years service.  He continued living at the family home at Commons East and died aged 71 in 1996.

While looking through some old postcards my father kept, we were amazed to see how they kept in contact with each other by way of postcards, especially during both World Wars.   Most of them were to my granny Mary Jane, from her sisters Lily and Cissie who were working in large houses over in Glasgow. Lily also wrote from Linden Convalescent Home in Blackrock, Co. Dublin which she described as ‘a lovely place’. There was also a postcard from Donabate to Swords;  it would probably have seemed like miles away back then!   In one of the postcards Lily mentioned that she would love to hear from M. Cleary and I have since found out that the person was a relative of my good friend Bernadette Marks.  What a small world it is, as I have been helping her in voluntary work for local heritage at the Carnegie Library for the past year and we never knew there was a connection between our families.

At the family home were a set of War Medals from the Great War 1914-18.  Being young and naïve and never wanting to ask any questions about where they came from, we never knew who in the family served in the war.  Obviously it had to be someone close to the Smyths for them to have what was called the ‘Death Plaque’ or ‘Dead Man’s Penny’.  The name inscribed is ‘Michael Salmon Pte’
Regiment:  5th Lancers (Royal Irish)  Born: Dublin.   :  Rank: Private.
My Granny’s brother. Matthew McEvoy also fought in the 2nd world war, but he survived.   Since tracing my family on both sides to see if the name Salmon pops up, I have still drawn a blank; Michael Salmon still remains a mystery   Why were these medal kept in the Smyth home on the Commons?   Do they belong to someone else?   Who Knows?     If any reader can give a clue, please get in touch.

My father Mattie lived to be a ripe old age.  He died aged 81 years in May 1995...

Copyright Gearldine McGovern (C) 2013


In a place called Swords on the Irish road
It is told for a new renown
How we held the horns of the cattle, and how
We will hold the horns of the devil now
Ere the lord of hell, with the horn on his brow
Is crowned in Dublin town. *

Much has been written this year about the 1913 Lockout in Dublin but few people are aware of the incidents that happened in Swords.  Swords at that time was mostly an agricultural area with many people employed as ‘farm laborers’, so anything that disrupted this way of life was serious.   The ‘Drogheda Independent’ of September and October 1913 is full of reports of happenings in the Swords area.  They are too numerous to mention them all, but we will try to give an idea of what when on and the location of some of the places mentioned.    

From about 1908 onwards, city based union organizers caused discontent in rural areas. James Larkin himself traveled about Swords, Balbriggan and Howth areas where he had some success in organizing farm workers and laborers into a unionized group; the idea being to seek recognition of the ITGWU from large estate holders and independent farmers. The ITGWU was based chiefly in Swords, the organizer being Frank Moss.  

Report includes one by John Lawless who said he was a member of the Transport Workers’ Union and when in employment he followed threshing machines.  He was out of work now and on Oct. 4th he was in Daly’s Hotel (now Slaughtered Lamb) drinking a pint when Moss the union delegate in Swords came in and asked him if he were a union man.   He replied that he was.  Moss ordered all union men to leave the premises but Lawless said he would not go until he had finished his drink.  Moss grabbed his drink from him and spilled it.    Another witness, Andrew Rochford, an engine driver out of employment,, stated that he was also in Daly’s when Moss came in and he (Rochford)  was caught by the shoulders and called a ‘scab’.  A crowd then rushed to the hotel shouting ‘all union men leave, scabs remain behind’,   Sergeant Moran stated that the same evening a crowd rushed to |O’Connor’s pub the other side of the street, shouting in a similar manner.  A serious riot occurred on the Wednesday night when strikers tried to stop cattle and sheep belonging to local farmers.  The police arrived and stone and bottles were thrown at them.  There was a baton charge and a number of strikers were wounded in the melee, two policemen were injured and the barrack windows broken.  Christopher McKittrick  and Patrick Rourke were arrested.    Incidents also occurred on the farms of Mr Long of Castlefarm, and Mr Brangan of Skidoo.  A Mr. O’Malley of Santry had five horses injured when the hair was cut from their tales.     

This is just an idea of what went on and it is interesting to note that many of the surnames mentioned are still to be found around the area.   If you think any of them may be your ancestors, please get in touch for further research.
*Part of a ballad by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) about an incident during the strike of farm workers in North County Dublin 1913.  (There are several verses).

© Bernadette Marks 2013.


In the early part of the 20th century, like the village forge, the village pump was where the latest news was passed around, giving rise to the expression ‘Parish Pump Politics’.       About fifty or sixty years ago, particularly in rural areas it was common to see children and mostly women making their way to ‘The Pump’ in the morning so as to have a supply of drinking water available for the day.  Washing of clothes could be done with rain-water collected in the barrels which stood outside most houses.  The trip to the pump was a bit of an outing, as people met their neighbours and heard all the local gossip.

In this area The Balrothery Board of Guardians had, in the 19th century,  the  responsibility of erecting pumps throughout North County Dublin  This they did on the recommendation of the committees of local dispensaries.  The minutes of these bodies make interesting reading.  Important items on their agendas might include the erection of a new pump in a certain area; it was discussed at length and voted upon.

Next door to the Old Borough School in Swords were Walshs The Pump Makers.  They were also well sinkers and plumbers.   Their workshop was a hive of industry with lathes for turning wood and metal, giving out plenty of noise and activity.  The three Walsh brothers inherited the business from their father and they had the contract of sinking wells and erecting pumps all over Fingal.  They were also responsible for installing an early form of central heating in many of the great houses in the area.

The first water pumps were carved out of wooden logs but in time cast iron pumps were introduced.  The older type of pumps were square, while the more recent were round.   One of the Walsh brothers had a chance to put his engineering skills to another use in 1904 when the famous Gordon Bennett Motor Race passed through Swords. They story goes that one of the French drivers had repairs done by Mr. Walsh, which were successful enough to enable him to continue the race.  As motor cars were fairly rare then, Mr Walsh was the talk of the town for some time.

Nowadays the Village Pump is just a curiosity; a nice ornament for garden or roadside.  But we might soon resort to the old rain-water barrel again to save water! 

Copyright Bernadette Marks (C) 2013

It is well known that Wells are associated with olden times when the comfort of modern plumbing was unknown. They are known today as Holy Wells, but these wells were venerated long before Christianity. Many contain curative properties and are dedicated to various Saints and in some villages were the scene of an annual festival or pattern.  The fact that some wells are said to remain cold in hot weather or hot in cold weather, is explained by their situation regarding sunlight.

The earliest form of improving the means of collecting drinking water for households was the pump.  Many of these replaced wells and made access to the water easier.  The earliest pumps were square and made of wood while later pumps were made of iron and in time were round like those seen today as ornaments.  Up to the middle of the 20th century rainwater was collected in barrels which stood outside houses; only those in ‘great houses’ had pumps inside.  In bigger cities there were ornamental fountains, and smaller ones for drinking and even pumps with horse troughs nearby to water the horses.    There is no doubt that no matter now it is provided, people will always need water, either from the earth or sky.

                  1.  ST. COLMCILLE’S WELL< Well Road, Swords.  Reputed to be where Swords got its name when St. Colmcille blessed the well of                     
.                      clear water; ‘Sord’ being the Gaelic for ‘clear or pure’.
                   2.  ST COLUMBA’S CHURCH, BELFRY & ROUND TOWER;   Round Tower surviving remainder of St Colmcille’s Monastic
                        Settlement.   Mediaeval Tower c1300 AD – Sexton’s Lodge of Architectural interest. Built 1870. .
3    Old Vicarage c1730 – now apartments with part of original building retained.
4    SWORDS CASTLE c 1200AD   - Built as a Summer Palace for lst Norman Archbishop of Dublin, John Comyn.  At present being restored by Fingal County Council.
5    FINGAL COUNTY HALL – once the site of Swords House, the home of the Norman family of Taylors of Swords.  Records show the family came there in the 13th century and built a ‘Mansion House’ in 1403.
6    ST.COLMCILLE’S RC CHURCH, Chapel Lane.  Pre Catholic Emancipation church – built in 1827 on site donated by James Taylor of Swords House.  Graveyard contained many interesting headstones including stone to Andrew Kettle who has know as ‘Parnell’s Righthand Man’.
7    THE COURTHOUSE, North Street built 1845.- Classical style designed by Alexander Tate.
8    TEACHERS’ RESIDENCES, North Street   - BUILT IN 1890    -
9    CARNEGIE LIBRARY, North Street, built in 1909.  Redbrick building typical early 20th century.  Now houses Swords Museum/Fingal Genealogy Centre.
10    OLD BOROUGH SCHOOL, Main Street.  (Now Public House)  Built in 1809 with fund awarded after the Act of Union from the Borough of Swords was disenfranchised.  Designed by noted architect of the time, Francis Johnston.   The story of the school is well documented; a controversial story of education in Swords.. 


Bernadette Marks

If we were to go back a bit in time to when I was growing up in the Swords of the 40s and 50s , we might not understand some of the local dialect,   Many unfamiliar words, which I like to call ‘Fingal Speak’  were used in everyday conversation.   One sometimes hears the odd one still, but by and large they have died out; perhaps taken over by the ‘Dublin 4’ or ‘ Dort’ accents.

My childhood memories go something like this;   Mammy would be up early in the morning to get the range lighting to boil the kettle for breakfast.   Sometimes it was easily started because there might have been a bit of greisha from the night before. I got ready for school and if the weather was mild I could not be cloustered up too much.   Off we went down the Chapel Lane where there were many examples of flora and fauna to be investigated, including the bulkeshans growing along the ditches.  We sometimes picked primroses and cowslips taking care not to get prodded by a dalk   Some elderly people passing by would greet us with ‘Hello Girsha while we hurried along in case we’d be late for school.

In school we were treated to other dialects as most of the teachers came from other parts of the country.  Back home from school I would find my mother busy with various chores like looking after the hens and chickens.   A little chicken was described as dawney and usually did not survive.  If I were late getting home from school and tried to make an excuse I would be called an impudent rossie.  If mother felt she was overworked looking after everything and everyone, especially when her sisters came to stay, she would say she was a ‘right old pilgaldry’.   She made lovely cakes but if I tried to pick at them before tea, I was accused of glauming them.  If I tried to deny this, I was a ‘little cinnatt’.

Summers were idyllic with plenty of outdoor activities to amuse us, and often there were summer jobs to had on local farms. If the work was hard we were mullackin and when it rained we got ‘possin wet.     As the days came to an end it was off to bed early and to try begging to stay up a bit later, was ‘sloothering’ and it didn’t work.!

LAWNEYDAY    An exclamation of surprise or regret.  Laine De – fullness or perfection of God.
GREISHA   Griosach – fire. Burning ashes.
CLOUSTERED  Probably a corruption of cludha – covered, hidden or protected.
BULKESHANS Ragworth – Gaelic – Balcaisean.
DALK   Dealg – thorn or pin. The word may be Danish. ‘Dalkey’ is accepted as a Danish word–thorn  island.
GIRSHA  A young girl – Girrseach.
DAWNEY  Delicate, weak – Donaidhe – miserable.
ROSSIE Rude, Robust, Blustering female.
PILGALDRY  A rambling woman. An irresponsible rambling woman.
GLAUMING  To grope – to unsuccessfully attempt to grasp something.
CINNATT  A dodger – Bargainer who through trickery gets an unfair advantage.
MULLAKIN   Working or walking in mud.  Mulchan – a slough or bog.
POSSIN WET   Saturated with rain.
SLOOTHERER  A person who persuades with flattery in his own interest.  Slusaire – a wheedler.
Copyright  Bernadette Marks (C) 2013  


The following are some excerpts from the diary of Mrs Howard wife of the Rev Francis Howard who was Vicar of Swords from about 1838 to 1850:

Swords June 21st 1838
I am often to be found in my garden when I ought to be in the village, but I hope to be more active in future.  I am weary of making resolutions and breaking them.

June 22nd:
Up late, no reading breakfast, so much for resolutions of industry.  Mrs Bannister seems near her end. Walked round by the Chapel – home by five – played with baby – gardened.

Saturday:    Up late.  Got ready to go out.  Then to the school to give out the books; had hardly time – must be earlier in future.

Sunday:  I new Clergyman breakfasted with us, sat after breakfast – he preached very well. All that he said was right as far as I could judge, but it was uninteresting – no point – nothing to remember.  He did all the evening service.  Francis and I stayed home.

Monday:  Wet day – great flood in the river.  Mr Davis left us after breakfast – on the whole we like him – after he was gone.    Visiting Lady Domville, Santry, and home five.

Wednesday:  The new housemaid came; a nice gentle looking person.  I spent tye morning making various regulations.  Then a visit to Mrs Coghlan who had lost her little boy and whose little girl is dying.   Gardened a little; planted the roses at the end of the garden near the buddleia.  Then had a visit from Lady Talbot.  Wrote to Casey and to Mrs Trench congratulating upon the birth of her grandchildren.  In the evening Francis read ‘Oliver Twist’.

Thursday:  Dreary morning.  Francis drove to town to vote at Kildare Street; brought me the account of the death my dear Bessie Wingfield’s little boy. My heart does indeed ache for her.  Oh, how grateful I ought to be that my treasure is spared to me.  Bessie loved her darling so much.

Sunday February 24th:   
Francis had a sever attack of gout; he has now been a fortnight in his room, during which time I have seldom left him, unless when unavoidably called away by household causes and of them I have had several.  I have found Catherine to be drunken and have parted with her at a few hours notice…

Monday:  Francis came down to the drawing room.

Tuesday:  Francis and I drove to enquire for Mr Corbally; home by the green.

Mss: 3577-3578, Wicklow Papers, Diary of Mrs Anne Howard wife of Rev Francis Howard of Swords.   Manuscripts Dept, National Library.

The Rev Francis Howard, second son of William second Earl of Wicklow, preached his last sermon at St. Columba’s on Sunday 15 September 1857. He was aged 57 years.   He is buried at St Columb’as as are his youngest daughter Sarah and eldest daughter Kathleen Charlotte.




Sean Brett

Sean Brett was born and reared at Ballamadrough between Swords and Donabate. His memories of school days remind us of the many changes in the area.

SEAN: My name is Sean Brett. I’m from Ballamadrough which is a townsland between the Hearse Road and The Estuary. We as young fellows used to walk from there to the National School in Swords; the old School on the Seatown Road and occasionally we would get a lift with P.J. Burke, Rafael’s father, who was a male nurse in Portrane Hospital. He used to be coming through Swords to the Dail as he was a T.D. at the time. Even though he didn’t know us, he’d always put three or four of us in the back seat. In Swords we were taught by Miss Curtis, Mrs Keane (formerly Tighe) and downstairs we had Mrs Hamill in early years, Mr Kavanagh and Mr Keane.

Mr Keane had a Rover car; a lovely black car and at that time it would be rated as quite an expensive car. He used to park it beside the school yard where the old stone house is. I think it is used by the marriage counseling people now. He used to park it in the garage at the back of that. Occasionally at lunch hour he would take it out, take the rug off and give it a good shine up. Sometimes we used to get the Portrane Bus home . It used to come from Portrane and park outside Savages on the Main Street. In those years the street was very quiet and the bus used to be able to turn between the Chapel Lane and Savages as there was plenty of space. We’d be going home about 3.30pm. I forgot to mention Feenans who lived in Swords House, opposite Savages on the Main Street; one of the Feenan women used to pick apples from a orchard they had there; a fine big orchard at the back of the house. She used to pick the windfalls and bring them down in a white bucket along her own property... She’d walk down along opposite the schoolyard and we young fellows used to be jumping to get the apples to see who’d get the best ones. The teacher had to get on to her as he was afraid that the bigger fellows jumping for the apples would hurt the younger lads. Then she’d disappear for a while and then she’d come back and we used to be delighted when we’d see her coming.

Another thing I remember was when we’d be sitting in the Portrane Bus waiting to go home, you’d see Barney Lawless heard of cows; he’d be bringing them home to milk. They’d be coming from where they’d be grazing in the Chapel Lane. A field off the Chapel Lane. They’d walk down the Main Street. He also had a big whitehead bull with them and we used to be afraid in case he’d turn on us. But he (the bull) didn’t appear to have any interest in looking at us anyway. They used to walk down the Main Street and into Barney’s yard. I remember that quite well. It was the same in the morning when we’d be going to school; they’d be walking out of the yard, up the Street or sometimes down where he had some more land.

Copyright (C) Sean Brett 2012


The Victorian Dispensary on Main Street, Swords was once the pride and joy of the Balrothery Board of  Guardians. The Dispensary was administered by a committee who, in turn were answerable to ‘The Guardians’.   This committee met on the last Saturday of every month with members bearing local names like Long, Lowndes, Early, Corbally, Russell-Cruise, Forster, McCourt and Norton.  Their records give interesting insight into the social history of the town.    The original Dispensary, on the same site was described as ‘falling down’ and in 1894 they decided to buy an extra ton of coal to combat the dampness by lighting extra fires.  In 1896 ‘The Guardians’ bought the site from Lord Rathdonnell but plans for the new building had many set-backs and it was not until 1898 that the present building was constructed.

The committee meetings in the old building were long and some serious decisions had to be made.   Dr. Davys who had served the area as Medical Officer of Health for over 30 years died on March 11th 1894. One Dr. O’Donnell was appointed Locum until a permanent person could be found.  This Dr. O’Donnell was the bright young man who recommended that the patients who had been bitten by a rabid dog be sent to the Pasteur Institute in Paris. His action saved the lives of five patients but the ‘new man’ with modern ideas did not please all the committee members.  Many candidates applied for the permanent post including Dr. O’Donnell who was not appointed. Between their mundane duties of inspecting and erecting new water pumps, buying lime for the ‘privies’ (toilets), the committee managed to have their new Dispensary open by 1898.

What was once a modern dispensary and a fine example of Victorian architecture soon became inadequate to fill the needs of the ever growing town of Swords. With the erection of a new health centre on Bridge Street, the building soon turned to commercial use, and today serves as a betting shop.
Copyright (C) Bernadette Marks 2016

Copyright Swords Historical Society, 2016.  All rights reserved