Balbriggan has a diverse history ranging from the megolithic passage tombs at Bremore (yet to be excavated) to the more recent industrial age.
Over the ages the town has grown from a small settlement at Bremore to a fishing community at the very heart of the town and Balbriggan harbour built by the Baron Hamilton serves not only today's fishermen but stands as a testament to the fishing community of the past.
Standing poignantly over the entrance to the harbour is our lighthouse which, being built in 1761, is Ireland's second oldest lighthouse.The lighthouse is partnered along the coastal skyline of Balbriggan with the neapolionic watch tower infamously known as Martello tower. The Martello tower, built in 1804, stands to the north of the front beach and the lighthouse to the south giving the coved sandy beach an element of seclusion.
Adjacent to the Martello tower lies the ruins of one of two RNLI lifeboat stations.This particular lifeboat house by comparison to it's sister station located beneath the railway viaduct is in a poor state of preservation and stands now only as a reminder of the decline of fishing and sea trade off Balbriggans past.
King's Strand, which stretches north from the ruins of the life boat station, provides an opportunity to enjoy the romance of an untouched coastline.The local tradition of placing a stone or rock on the Sailor's grave at the north-most end of King's strand and just next to what is known as Cromwell's harbour is the only reminder of the commercial sea trade that was prominent along the Balbriggan coastline.
The Sailor's Grave is a mound of large stones that have been placed there over time as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives at sea, and in particular to those who lost their lives when the Bell Hill sank with all but one of it's crew.
The Sarah of Runcorn is just another of those many shipping and fishing tragedies that litter the coastline with nothing more than memoirs. Cromwell's harbour is very distinct as a pier at a particular tide and it is thought that the original fishing community may have harboured here.
Above the cliffs that tower Cromwells Harbour lie a small group of mounds known by some as Fairy Hills but are in fact the megolithic remains of passage tombs.At this point you can't really go much further in the county of Dublin and the Wishing Chair beneath these mounds is the most furthest point in Dublin to enjoy the panoramic views of the Mourne mountain's and the meath and louth coastline as well as Gormanston beach.
Nearby Gormanston is home to Ireland's oldest army barracks and a nearby pub also claims to be Irelands oldest pub! It was from the Gormanston army barracks that the infamous Black and Tans were sent to sack the town of Balbriggan in September of 1920 after an RIC sergeant was shot.
Looking back to view Balbriggan the recently rebuilt Bremore castle is dominant in the sky line as well as the chimney stacks of Smyths&Co. and Stephensons and the spire of St.Georges church. Bremore Castle which is built on the ruins of Saint Maloga's monastery is now once again an impressive building that boasts the finest craftsmanship.Within the grounds of the castle are a grave yard and the altar used by Saint Maloga.This altar has the saint's name and year on it, making it one of the oldest in Ireland.The local school is named after this saint and the nearby Lambeacher housing estate is also relevant. This housing estate also is known as Bath Road as it leads back to the Martello tower and the lifeboat station where there were once baths and a diving board.
Heading along Drogheda Street, the pubs of the Milestone and Harvest meet at the junction of Chapel Street .These two public houses were burned to the ground along with some of the houses on Chapel Street and other buildings in the town when the Black and Tans sacked the town. Clonard Street has seen the worst of the Black and Tans and many of the houses here were burned and today only a few of those very houses are left. Most of the town people fled to the fields around Clonard Hill during this raid and not far from where they found safety is the recently built Millfield shopping centre.
Smyths and co. or Smyco as known locally began trading in Station Street in 1780 and put Balbriggan firmly on the international map. Queen Victoria refused to wear anything but stockings made by Smyths and "Long Johns" would become known around the world as "Balbriggans". John Wayne has even made reference to "balgriggans". Many of the awards won by Smyths can seen on the side of the building. Other cotton and linen mills were operating around the town including "Gallen's mills" and "Deeds and Templar", and while only some of the factory houses remain overlooking the front beach Gallen's mills is still an impressive building right in the heart of the town.
Not far from Gallen's mills is the railway viaduct which separates the the harbour from the centre of the town. Beneath this viaduct is a car park which originally housed the gas works as well as Cumisky's coal yard. This area was developed in the early 1980's and is now a car park and it is here that the main events in the town take place including the "Summerfest".
While this website intends to offer only a brief account of Balriggan's rich history so much more can be discovered at Balbriggan Historical society and Balbriggan Harbour including the memoirs of the Manx fishermen who frequented the town and soon after find themselves rescuing survivors from the Lusitania.The history of the Bell Hill, Sarah of Runcorn and other coastal tragedies are documented also. Medieval battles, the camping of William of Orange after the battle of the Boyne, the success of champion cyclist Harry Reynolds, the visit of champion boxer Jack Doyle and Movita and the events of the "sacking of Balbriggan" and the murders of local men Gibbons and Lawless by British forces.
A family standing in the burned ruin's of their home on Clonard St. after the "Sacking of Balbriggan" 20th september 1920
Today this building is home to "Deli Burger" on Bridge Street.
Some of the houses on Clonard Street after the "Sacking of Balbriggan"
Sean Gibbon's and Seamus Lawless who were brutaly done to death on the 20th september 1920 by British forces are honoured on Bridge Street
The funeral of RIC Segeant Burke passes by the RIC barracks on Bridge St. september 1920. The Ashlyn dry cleaners now occupies the former barracks.Ironically this photo was taken not far from where the memorial honouring "Gibbons and Lawless" would finally be placed.The RIC sergeant was in Mrs Smith's bar when local volunteers entered the bar and shot him. Neither Gibbons or Lawless were involved.
Smyth and Co. or Smyco of Station Street remains very much today as depicted in this drawing. Many of the awards won by this internationaly renowned company remain on the walls of these buildings.
The diving board, boathouse, baths and Martello tower as they once were.Unfortunately the diving board was removed in the mid 90s. However,it is hoped that this area can be restored to its former beauty.
The gas works beneath the railway viaduct and town car park. It's at this particular arch of the viaduct that the ducks from the annual summerfest duck derby are collected. The towns street lighting was supplied from here and some of the old gas lamp posts can still be found throughout the town.
In this photograph the Martello tower is obscured by the Deeds and Templar and later Stephensons Linnen mill and the coast gaurd look out station.The large building on the left is all that remain's today.
This photograph of Bremore Castle was taken by local photographer Martin McNamara who has kindly given us permission to enjoy