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Drogheda over the years

Drogheda is an industrial and port town in Co Louth on the east coast of Ireland 56 km (35 mi) north of Dublin. Including suburbs and environs, Drogheda is the third largest town in Ireland, with a population of approximately 35,000 inhabitants.

In recent years Drogheda's economy has diversified from its traditional industries, with an increasing number of people employed in the retail, services and technology sectors. The town also has a community of independent artists and musicians who have been looking to the local economy rather than Dublin for employment.

The town is situated in an area with an abundance of archaeological monuments dating from the Neolithic period onwards, of which the large passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth are probably the best known.

The remarkable density of archaeological sites of the prehistoric and Early Christian periods uncovered in recent years in the course of development, notably during construction of the Northern Motorway: Gormanston to Monasterboice, or 'Drogheda Bypass', have shown that the hinterland of Drogheda has been a settled landscape for millennia.

The earliest monument in the town is the motte-and-bailey castle, now known as Millmount, which overlooks the town from a bluff on the south bank of the Boyne, and which was probably erected by the NormanLord of Meath, Hugh de Lacy sometime before 1186. The earliest known town charter is that granted to Drogheda-in-Meath by Walter de lacy in 1194. Sometimes it was also spelt "Tredagh".

Drogheda was an important walled town in the English Pale in the medieval period. The town was besieged twice during the Irish Confederate Wars. On the second occasion it was taken by Oliver Cromwell in September 1649, and it was the site of an infamous massacre of the Royalist defenders.

It is now a vibrant and busy town, with many local industries, exciting retail developments and a thriving arts scene, with an annual arts festival which draws international talent from all over the world.

DROGHEDA – A HISTORY

Various sets of adventurers had sailed up the River Boyne in prehistoric times, and one of them created the megalithic structures of Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth – these predate Egypt’s pyramids – and today they are one of Ireland’s major tourist attractions and a World Heritage Site. Circa 500 BC the intrepid Celts arrived and made this their home; and in 432 AD along came St. Patrick, bringing with him the message of Christ. In later times the wayward Vikings arrived; they stayed awhile but then moved to the River Liffey. The more gentle Cistercians arrived in 1142, and founded a monastery, giving it the delightful name ‘Fountain of Honey’; we call it Mellifont Abbey. The Anglo-Normans arrived shortly afterwards (1169) and in their businesslike way soon founded the town of Drogheda.

The town received its initial Charter in 1194 – a mere 25 years after the Norman Invasion. Its medieval origin is evidenced in a few remnants of the original town walls and some narrow streets that still survive in the town centre, plus several monastic settlements which fell into ruins following the Reformation. One of the town gates, Laurence Gate, still proudly stands as one of Ireland’s most majestic medieval structures.

Three events took place at Drogheda which had a profound effect on Ireland’s subsequent history – all of them in the 1600s and all of them turbulent. Firstly, the Siege of Drogheda (1641) was a prelude to the Confederation of Kilkenny which briefly gave rebel Ireland its own quasi Parliament. Secondly, in 1649 an army of 20,000 stormed the town; their leader has left an imprint that even today evokes consternation; his name was Oliver Cromwell. Thirdly, two kings arrived, disputing which of them should wear England’s Crown – they were James II and William III, and their confrontation took place a few miles upriver. This event is known as the Battle of the Boyne (1690) and it ranks with Waterloo as one of the great battles that changed the course of history, for England and Europe as well as for Ireland.

The River Boyne, which segments the town, has contributed greatly to its commercial success. The town’s crest depicts a sailing ship and the motto “God is our safeguard, merchandise our glory” – this infers that in former times it was arguably the busiest sea-port in Ireland, trading with other coastal towns as well as with foreign ports as far distant as Hamburg, Danzig (Gdansk), the Canaries, Cadiz and Newfoundland. Exports included wool, linen, yarn, corn and cattle. It had its own mint, and produced its own coinage.

The 1700s brought the harrowing times we associate with the Penal Days. At times Catholics were severely marginalised and on occasions they were tolerated so that Protestant pupils attended a school in Drogheda, which was established by Archbishop Oliver Plunket SJ. However, during a wave of severe religious persecution Oliver Plunket was taken to London and executed. His relic is contained in St. Peter’s RC Church in West Street. The 1700s also brought stability which encouraged a variety of business enterprises including soaperies, salt works, 8 tanneries, 7 corn and flour mills, several breweries and distilleries, and footwear production. In particular, the linen industry flourished, providing employment for 2,000.

The Act of Union (1800), the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the development of the cotton industry in England spelt disaster for Drogheda’s industries, especially linen. By the end of the 1800s Drogheda’s population had diminished by as much as 8,000, or about 40%. This trend was reversed during the 1900s with the recovery in the town’s fortunes, and the census of 2006 revealed a population of 28,894. Adding those citizens who reside outside the actual town boundary, we get 41,538, making Drogheda the largest town in Ireland.

DROGHEDA is located on Ireland’s East Coast, 48 kilometres (30 miles) north of Dublin, a half-hour’s drive from Dublin Airport and 2 hours from Belfast. Many commuters use the speedy rail service to Dublin. Its seaport in olden days eclipsed Dublin in trade and is still quite active. The town’s civic affairs are administered by Drogheda Borough Council, and its Mayor is chosen annually. Business and economic matters are handled by an efficient Chamber of Commerce.

There are seven golf courses within easy reach of the town, including Baltray Golf Club and Seapoint G.C. both of which are championship courses. Other sports clubs include GAA and Rugby. In 2007 Drogheda United AFC won the Eircom League Premier Division, and, in 2008, Boyne Rugby Club won the Provincial Towns Cup for the first time, retained the Cup in 2009 and in 2010 won promotion to the All Ireland League for the first time and are playing in Division 2B of the AIL for the 2011/2012 season.   

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