Early writers tell how an island off Skerries was used as a landing place for an invasion, which happened in the second century. This island was either Shenick or Red Island which would have been a tidal Island at the time. When the invaders landed they formed rank and at low tide marched to the mainland. Where they were promptly defeated at the ancient settlement of Knocknagin, north of Balbriggan.
County: Dublin North
Scene: The Pier
Date: 1905 (estimate)
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Read about Skerries below
Skerries (Na Sceirí in Irish) is a seaside town in North Dublin, Ireland, and is now administratively part of County Fingal. However residents of the town still identify themselves as living within County Dublin. The name comes form the Norse word Skere which has descended into Hiberno-English as Skerry meaning a small coastal island, a Skerries being a group of them.
Skerries has five islands off its coast. They include Shenick Island, St Patrick's, Colt and Rockabill. There is also Red Island while called such is actually a tombola. The town itself is set along two long streets - Strand Street and Church Street. The town is built between the surrounding hills of North Fingal and the low lying beaches of Skerries. Red Island and the Mill Hill are high points on which you can look over the town.
Rockabill is two islands, the Rock and Bill, and has the largest numbers of breeding Roseate Terns in Europe. It is also the farthest away from the town and houses a lighthouse. On Shenick Island can be found a Martello tower, one of a number of defensive towers erected during the Napoleonic era along the Irish coast by the occupying British. The other islands are harder to reach, but it is possible by boat. Red Island also has a Martello Tower. St Patrick's Island is so called because this is where the Irish patron saint is reputed to have landed and begun his mission to convert the country to Christianity. It is also known locally as Church Island.
Early writers tell how an island off Skerries was used as a landing place for an invasion, which happened in the second century. This island was either Shenick or Red Island which would have been a tidal Island at the time. When the invaders landed they formed rank and at low tide marched to the mainland. Where they were promptly defeated at the ancient settlement of Knocknagin, north of Balbriggan. The Islands were previously known as the Islands of Cor possibly after the people who inhabited the islands originally. In 432 AD St. Patrick is reputed to have landed on Church Island, and according to the Annals of Inisfallen, Saint Mochonna founded this monastery shortly afterwards. In the year 797 A.D. the Danes carried out one of their earliest raids in Ireland when they plundered the monastery on Church Island. As the Origin of the name is Norse and many localities have norse based names, it is safe to assume the Vikings did settle and occupy the area. Sitric, who was a son of a Dane called Murchard, re-founded the monastery on Church Island in 1120. He dedicated it to St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. By this time the Danes who had settled in Ireland had become Christians. In 1148 Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, arranged a synod on St. Patrick's island to settle differences between the Irish Christians and the Pope. Fifteen bishops, two hundred priests and other clergy were present.
In 1496 the King gave permission to the Prior of Holmpatrick to build a pier. At this time Skerries was the property of the monastery of Holmpatrick and was known as the Port of Holmpatrick. In 1565, after the Reformation, the monastery and its lands became the property of Thomas Fitzpatrick. In 1605 the manor and lands of Holmpatrick was granted to the Earl of Thomand. In 1721 the last Earl sold the manor and lands, including the town of Skerries, to the Hamilton family of Hacketstown. In 1897 the Hamilton family were granted the title of Lord Holmpatrick. Comparisons between maps of Skerries drawn in 1703 and 1760 suggest that the Hamilton family was responsible for setting out the streets of the town as they are today. Between 1863 and 1865 a monument to the memory of James Hans Hamilton the local landlord and MP was erected in Skerries. The Monument is a reduced scale replica of the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.
It is now at the heart of the commercial, and shopping centre of the town. After the 1916 rising a British Destroyer landed troops at Skerries to help the Dublin garrisons suppress the rising. 200 men of the North Staffordshire Regiment landed under the command of Captain Clay. To try and impede their progress to Dublin local rebels blew up the bridge over the railway in Donabate.
Historically, Skerries has been a thriving fishing port and a major center of hand embroidery. In the late 20th century, it became a resort town (golf, sailing, motorcycling, etc.), and a desirable suburb for commuters to the city of Dublin. A Holiday camp was set up on Red Island in the 1950’s but was later torn down in the 1970’s as foreign holidays became cheaper and more popular. Red Island is now an amenity area for the local community, with a playground, and swimming areas. The railway station at Skerries is served by trains operating on the Dundalk - Dublin - Arklow route. Recently the Skerries Mills were restored by Fingal County Council as a local amenity and tourist attraction. There are 2 fully restored and working windmills, watermill and a museum and coffee shop. However one of the windmills has lost sails during storms in January 2007.
In Flann O'Brien's book 'The Dalkey Archive' Skerries is the location of the narrator's meeting with James Joyce. The narrator has heard a rumour that Joyce has returned from the continent and is working in a small country pub. He tracks him down to a place on the outskirts of Skerries, but Joyce denies all knowledge of 'that filthy book' Ulysses.
The emblem of Skerries is a goat, which derives from a legend concerning St. Patrick, and his island mentioned above. While St. Patrick was on shore one day buying supplies the good folk of Skerries rowed over to his island where he had a goat tied up for milk. They stole it, took it back to the mainland and ate it. When he returned he was furious, and bounded with a great leap from his island to Red Island (there is an identention in the rock which is supposed to be his footprint). He questioned them, and when they denied it he took away their powers of speech, so that they could only bleat like goats, until they eventually admitted their crime.