The tourist who would visit some of the most charming
scenes in Ireland, and examine antiquities which, of their
kind, are acknowledged by competent authorities to be
unequalled in Europe, or, indeed, in the world, should stop
in this old historic town for at least one day. In the White
Horse Hotel his wants will be well cared for, but he should
not neglect to ask his host to furnish a basket of
refreshments, which will be found very acceptable during the
course of a day's exploration along the banks of the Boyne,
or in other directions where inns are unknown.
The old name of Drogheda was
Drochet-Atha (the Bridge of the Ford). The town is
pleasantly, and for trade, advantageously placed upon the
river Boyne, at a distance of about four miles from the sea.
There is scarcely a period of Irish history in which it does
not figure as a place of importance. The town was strongly
fortified, and to this day considerable portions of its
walls as well as two gate-towers remain nearly intact. Of
the ports, or gates, that called St. Lawrence's is quite
perfect. It consists of two lofty circular towers connected
together by a wall, in the lower portion of which a
semi-circularly-headed archway is placed. The towers, as
well as the walls by which they are connected, are pierced
by numerous loop-holes, and it is probable that the latter
were anciently, upon the town side, divided into stages by
platforms of timber extending from tower to tower.
The other remaining
gate-tower of Drogheda is called the West Gate. It is
octagonal in form, and furnished with long narrow
loop-holes, wider in the centre than in the other parts, and
its passage was strengthened by a portcullis, the groove of
which remains nearly perfect.
The walls of Drogheda,"
wrote Mr. Dalton, in his excellent History" of the
place, "extended in their circumference, including the
breadth of the river, somewhat more than a mile and a half,
and enclose an area of about sixty-four acres of the old
Irish measure, the general height being from twenty to
twenty-two feet, and their thickness, from four to six,
diminishing towards the summit, so as to allow a space of
about two feet, with embrasures for the soldiery to act
from. In latter times, probably after the invention of
gunpowder, this space was augmented by an addition of three
or four feet, supported by columns of stone and elliptic
arches, on and through which a passage led round the town,
with doorways through the gates, castles, and turrets. The
banks of the river were also fortified by walls and turrets
projecting into the water."
As might be expected from its
history, which need not be here quoted at length, Drogheda
is full of ecclesiastical points of interest. The chief of
these is Magdalen Steeple, the only remains of a Dominican
Convent, founded by Lucas de Netterville, Archbishop of
Armagh. It was here that, in 1395, four Irish princes, or
kings, made their submission to Richard the Second of
England. ..... This graceful tower occupies an elevated
position near Sunday's Gate, on the northern side of the
town. It forms a splendid subject for the pencil, and in the
beautiful mouldings of its arch and windows the
architectural antiquary cannot fail to find subject worthy
of close attention.
The next ruin of interest is the Church of St. Mary's,
situate near the upper end of West-street. This is a
foundation of the time of Edward the First. The building is
a melancholy example of neglect and profanation, a dirty
lane passing nave and chancel.
Before leaving Drogheda the
tourist should see the southern portion of its wall, where
the breach made by Cromwell is still traditionally pointed
out. Through this opening it is said the troops of the
Protector rushed carrying all before them, and in a short
time an indiscriminate massacre, which lasted for five days,
If he have time to spare in
the evening, he might well take a walk or drive down the
side of the river, visiting Beaulieu, Mornington, and the
mouth of the Boyne, where, on the southern side, he will see
an ancient building called the Maiden Tower, and near it a
small pillar, of solid masonry, called the Maiden's Finger.
That these structures were intended as landmarks there can
be no question, and that they were erected in the time of
the Virgin Queen is, from their name, highly probable. The
tower is tall, narrow, and quadrangular in plan, and
contains nothing but a spiral stair of stone leading to the
top, which is flagged all over, only an aperture sufficient
to admit a man to pass through being left open.
It is traditionally stated that this very unique edifice was
erected by a fair lady to watch the return of her knightly
lover, who had gone to wars in a "far countrie." It was
agreed beforehand that when the ship returned a white banner
should be hoisted at the mast head, if the lover lived, but
if the contrary, a black standard should be displayed. The
preconcerted signal was forgotten; and upon the warrior
arriving at the Boyne's mouth, and seeing a strange castle
erected upon his territory, he at once concluded that it was
the watch-tower of an invading enemy, whereupon, as a signal
of defiance and vengeance, he ordered a black flag to be
displayed. This, the watchful maiden seeing, she was filled
with despair, and wildly threw herself from her eyrie, and
was dashed to pieces on the rocks below.
The Boyne-Scene of the
Battle-Donore-King William's GlenÂ
"The Boyne," wrote Petrie, "is of a
character as beautiful as could be, found anywhere, or even
imagined. Scenery of this class of equal richness may be
often found in England, but we do not know of any river's
course of the same length in which natural beauty so happily
continues, or in which so many interesting memorials of past
ages could be found."
A conveyance should be hired for the
day, and the driver desired to proceed to the Boyne
Monument. A short drive brings us to the scene of a conflict
which settled the British Crown upon the head of the Prince
of Orange. "To one party the engagement gave victory,
liberty, civil and religious, broad lands, power and
dominant sway; while the other suffered not only present
defeat, but subsequent confiscation, penal laws, exile,
It is to be presumed that few readers
of our Guide are not more or less acquainted with the
circumstances which led to this most important engagement.
At any rate it would be quite out of place here to discuss
It will be enough to say that in
point of numbers the opposing armies appear to have been
pretty well matched, each numbering, according to the most
reliable accounts, some 30,000 men. King James witnessed the
conflict from a height called Donore, situate at a very safe
distance (for him) upon the southern side of the river. King
William sat on an opposite bank during some time of the
engagement and thereby nearly lost his life. According to
the German writer Kohl, "James displayed but little courage
in this memorable battle. He abandoned the field even before
the battle was decided, and made a ride of unexampled
rapidity through Ireland. In a few hours he reached the
Castle of Dublin, and on the following day he rode to
Waterford, a distance of 100 English miles. Nevertheless,
James sought to throw the whole blame of the whole defeat
upon the Irish. On arriving at the Castle of Dublin, he met
the Lady Tyrconnell, a woman of ready wit, to whom he
exclaimed, 'Your countrymen, the Irish, Madame, can run very
fast it must be owned.' 'In this, as in every other respect,
your Majesty surpasses them, for you have won the race,' was
the merited rebuke of the lady."
The loss of William's troops was
about 500; that of James's 1,000; a small number for
so decisive a battle......
From all accounts, this battle was quite a "touch and go"
business as to which party might have succeeded. An Irish
officer of distinction having been interviewed on the
subject, naively replied that at the worst the affair was
"drawn," and that if only the generals could be exchanged,
and a new encounter established, a very different result
would follow; or words to that effect. As it was, the Irish
army was certainly not routed. After a vain endeavour to
resist the crossing of the Boyne by the Williamite forces,
its centre and right wing fell back upon Donore, and
finally towards the close of the day, retreated in
tolerable order to Duleek, towards which place the left
wing, already beaten above Rossnaree, had retired. Here with
the Nanny water between them, both parties halted for the
night, with the exception of King James."
It is a fact not generally known to the writers of popular
Irish ballads, and so forth, that green was never the
National colour of Ireland. There is no authority for the
entertainment of an idea that the country ever possessed
what is usually considered a national colour. It is a matter
of history, as noted by Sir William Wilde, that at the
Boyne, while the Irish troops wore pieces of white paper in
their caps, every English soldier was decorated with a
branch of green. By a singular contradiction to the popular
idea it would appear that the Irish national colour, if such
ever existed, was red, the colour usually associated with
The obelisk .... indicates the very spot where the
forces of William crossed the water.
Before leaving the scene of this memorable conflict, in
which, as the old song states –
"James and William staked a crown,
And cannons they did rattle,"
I may extract portion of a very
spirited ballad which appears in the late Sir William
Wilde's "Boyne and Blackwater." It is from the pen of
an anonymous writer, and appears to be based on olden and
trust-worthy authorities. At any rate the circumstances
related therein are acknowledged to be historically true,
though perhaps the writer's sympathy for the Williamite
party has led to a little over-colouring in his picture of
THE BOYNE WATER.
'Twas bright July's first morning
Of unforgotten glory,
That made this stream through ages
Renowned in song and story.
Yet not her charms on history's
For nature's own I sought her,
And took my pleasant pilgrimage,
To see the sweet Boyne water.
Here, musing on these peaceful
The mind looks back in wonder;
And visions rise of hostile ranks,
Impatient kept asunder.
From every land a warrior band,
For Europe owns the quarrel,
His hand shall clench no barren
That snatches this day's laurel.
Her crown a realm decreed him;
And here he vindicates her law,
And champions here her freedom.
And ne'er let valour lose its meed,
A foe right nobly
Though changeless love for king and
With treason's stain be branded.
Ah! wherefore cannot kings be great,
And rule with man approving?
Or why should creed enkindle hate,
And all their precepts loving?
Here on a cast land, life, and fame,
Faith, freedom--all abide it;
A glorious stake! --play out the
Let war's red dye decide it!
Now, strike the tents--the rolling
Their loud defiance beating,
Right for the ford brave Schomberg
And Sarsfield gives him greeting.
Grenade and musket--hut and hedge
In flame unintermitting;
I' the very sedge, by the water's
The angry fuse is spitting.
And back they go, the unsated foe,
Still thundering though retreating,
Away! the Walloon broadsword's blow
Will never need repeating.
And away together hilt to hilt,
Through the frighted hamlet going;
The lavish blood, like water spilt,
In its narrow street-way flowing.
But where is James? What? urged
Ere quailed his brave defenders!
Their dead in Oldbridge crowded lie,
But not a sword surrenders;
Again they see found the 'vantage
Their zeal is still untiring;
As slowly William hems them round,
In narrowing ring still firing.
O'Neill's upon the English front
With whirlwind fury wheeling;
And flank or front, where'er the
Their stoutest columns reeling;
Up Bradenburgh! thy bravest yield,
The hoof they're trodden under:
On Enniskillings, and the field
Shakes to their tramp of thunder.
Well honoured be the graves that
O'er every bold and true heart!
And sorrows sanctified repose
Thy dust, discrowned Stuart!
O'er scenes like these our hearts may
When calmly we review them --
Yet each awake its part to take,
If time should e'er renew them.
Here from my hand, as from a cup,
I pour this pure libation;
And ere I drink I offer up
The fervent aspiration–-
Let man with man--let kin with kin--
Contend through fields of
Whoever fights, may freedom win!
As then at the Boyne
Leaving the scene of the battle
we pass through a beautiful, fertile and richly wooded
district, with the noble demesne of Townley Hall to the
left; the river and the heights of Donore in the opposite
direction. Near Townley Hall is the glen through which
William led his army. It is a most picturesque defile, and
should be visited. Its opening lies close to the road, so
that to see it will occupy but little time.
Wakeman, W.E, The Tourists Picturesque
Guide to Ireland - Comprehensive tourist guide to
Ireland, containing numerous scenes of interest and Irish
scenic attractions, Dublin, 1885-1886, (2nd
edition), pp117-125 extracts. (National Library of
Ireland, Dublin & www.origins.net).
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