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Ardglass is the Anglicisation of the Irish 'Ard Ghlais’; the green height. The name stems from a period when the sea circled most of the town and it stood out against the marshes. On top of the town is a conical hill known as The Ward. This hill is artificial and there is little doubt that this mound was raised as a monument to a warrior, bard or chief in pre-history. Ardglass has been a fishing port for more than two thousand years and developed as such due to its location on the east coast of Lecale and its sitting by a natural inlet.

Ardglass in Lecale – a ‘timeline’ sketch


This work-in-progress came from Gerry O’Sheas old Ardglass website. We have added to it since 2014.  Local historians George Rice, Michael Howland, Duane Fitzsimons, and Mike King have all reviewed it for any glaring errors. Suggestions for improvement or corrections to –

C.3000 - 2500 BC Burial of a warrior/leader at the 'Ward' of Ardglass where Isabella's Tower is situated.

C.2500-2000 BC Gaelic (Q-Celtic) Kingdoms emerge in Ireland and Britain. Recent research in Scotland has demonstrated that Gaels were indigenous to both Islands. It was a very sea-based civilisation. Popular history has the Gaels arriving from modern-day Galicia in North West Spain. Q-Celtic Gaelic alphabet Ogham stones are found from Cornwall to West Wales to the West Coast of modern England and all over Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Hebrides.

C. 1200-900 BC ‘P’Celts arrive from central and Western Europe. They speak Old Brythonic and we know them as ‘Britons’ and include what later became known as Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, Picts, and Breton. It is not known if they displaced Q-Celts already present, but it is likely that the two civilisations converged towards each other from West and East.

600 BC By the bronze age and into the Iron Age 300 BC the Gaelic Kingdom of Ulaid had emerged based at Eamhain Macha in modern Armagh covering much of modern Ulster, parts of North Leinster and Western Scotland. Its Kings were often High Kings of Ireland.

352BC The voyages of Pytheas of Massalia in Greece in the latter half of the 4th century B.C. recorded the Darini and what is called Downpatrick today, from where the local Gaelic Dál Fiatach kings of Ulster (Ulaid) ruled for at least 1000 years of recorded history up to the Norman invasion. Some Ulaid chiefs like the Magennis’ and MacCartans lasted well into the 1600’s. Ulaid surnames are very common on the electoral register in Lecale today. I checked the electoral register and found over 10% of the local electorate were ‘Ulaid’ – the MacCartans and Magees alone have nearly 500 names. Other Ulaid septs included Dál Riata in Antrim, Uí Coba of central Down, Dál nAraide and the Uí Conaile of Louth.

300 BC ‘Mag Inis’ (the ‘Island Plain’ modern day Lecale) was an important part of Ulaid, with its main Dún located at Downpatrick. Aside from Downpatrick, there are 15 other fortified Dún around Loch Cuan (officially ‘Strangford’ today) including some fortified islands like Dún Úi Neill off Killyleagh. People living in modern-day Ardglass, Kilclief and Dundrum would have communicated by sea and contributed war-ships to the fleet based in the Loch with their own local fortified Dúin also. (see maps in related articles and lists of boats contributed by each area to the Ulaid fleet). Later the Ulster king Connor (Conchobar) Mac Nessa’s palace is recorded as being in Mag Inis.

Between 53 BC and 43 AD Romans invade and occupy Britain, conquering British kingdoms South of Scotland.


82 to 84 AD The Roman Naval Invasion of the Scottish Isles and circumnavigation of Britain is likely to have brought the Ulaid formally into conflict with the Romans for the first time.

By 100 AD Language of Pictic peoples of Eastern and Northern Scotland had split off from common Brittonic by the 1st century AD. The Roman frontier between "Britannia" and "Pictland" is likely to have increased the split. Ulaid Gaelic Kingdom included the rest of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

117 AD Roman Historian Tacitus notes Irish Ports. Gaelic Ireland was involved in trade with Mainland Europe and Britain from ancient times, and this trade varied over the centuries. Ardglass was ruled by local Dál Fiatach Kings who often were Kings of Ulster, High Kings of Ireland or even rulers of the West of Scotland and thus was likely to have been very involved in this trade.

150 AD  Ptolemy in his map of AD 150 updated Pytheas’ records showing Dúnum / Downpatrick.


C. 200 AD Dúnum later became known as Rathkeltair  after Celtchair a ferocious Dal Fiatach Ulaid warrior mentioned in the epic tale of  Táin Bó Cúailnge  (The Tain Saga of Cucullan) as aiding the Ulster king Conchobar mac Nessa in defending Ulster.

297 The Romans record Picti and Hibernii (Ulaid) naval attacks on Roman Controlled Britain and Britons.

C. 350 AD The Ulaid make Downpatrick, then called ‘Dún Lethglaise’ their new Ulster capital. Follows their defeat by the Oirghialla. The Ulaidians (Ulstermen) faced the destruction of Eamhain Macha their ancient capital since about 700BC in the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age. Note that in those days Downpatrick was also a port on Loch Cuan / Strangford Lough where  the Ulaid maintained a naval fleets. Ulaid or ‘Ulster’ is reduced to Antrim, Down and Louth with bits of modern Armagh and West Scotland. The Oirghialla gave us modern names like Hassan or O’Hassain (from the famous Oisin), MacCearnaigh (Kearney), O’Carroll, Connolly, O’Hare, McSherry, McCann and many others.  The Kearneys at 202 are the most numerous on the Lecale electoral register today. Overall the Oirghialla gave us about 1 in 20 surnames locally.


367 Scottii (Dál Riata) and Attascottii (possibly Dál Fiatach) are recorded along with the Pictii, as being part of a great ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ to expel the Romans from Britain and Northern Europe. Along with the Saxons and Franks they attacked the Roman Empire from Britain to Germany. Gaels to the west and Picts to the East simply sailed around Hadrian’s Wall and attacked Roman Britain from the sea. The Romans had to resort to a string of fortified watch towers and fortify towns as far as 40 miles inland from


400 AD to prevent raids.


410 Romans ultimately withdraw from Britain.


Saint Patrick arrives 


C415 Ulaid Dál Riata raid Romanised Wales capturing the 16 year old St Patrick. He is held for 6 years in the Wood of Foclut in Killala Bay County Mayo in slavery as a shepherd before escaping back to Britian.


432  Saint Patrick returns and is swept through the Strangford’s narrows and lands at the Slaney River just below present day Raholp. ‘Dún Lethglaise’ is the capital of an important kingdom and an obvious target for proselytising. The local Ulaid Dal Fiatach chieftain, Dichu MacTrichim was converted and gave him a barn for holding services called ‘Sabhall Phádraig’, meaning "Patrick's barn”. (barn=Sabhall=Saul)

C.460 Churches founded at Dún Lethglaise the Dál Fiatach capital Downpatrick and other Ulaid centres and locally in places like Rossglass, Ardtole, Ballyhornan, Killard, and Kilclief.


496 The annals record storming of the fort of Dún Lethglaise – this is the earliest formal written record of fortifications in Ireland and probably refers to Cathedral Hill which had been fortified since the Bronze Age.

498 Death of Caolan (known as Mochaoi) recorded suggesting that Nendrum monastery on Mahee island was already operating.

563 In Founding Iona, St. Columba sets off a wave of missions to the barbarian tribes in England, France, Germany, Central and Northern Europe as part of the ‘Golden Age’ of Saints and Scholars of popular history. Local saints like St Thornan of Ballyhornan or Kilclief Saints like Eogan, Niall, Caelan, Caolán, and Colman play a big role in missions in following 6 centuries founding religious institutions and places of learning throughout Northern Europe.

572 Ulster (Ulidia) recovers strength with Lecale-based Dal Fiactach normally recognised as kings of Ulaid. Báetán macCairill, Dál Fiatach/Ulaid leader is High-king of Ireland and Scotland. Báetán keeps his fleets in Loch Cuan (Strictly ‘Strangfjord’ is only the Narrows and much later). Other Ulaid groups include the Uíbh Eachach Cobha (Magennis’s, MacArtans and others) around the present diocese of Dromore, the Dál nAraidhe in the South of present-day diocese of Connor, the Dál Riada in Northern Connor or Coastal Antrim, the Uí Connaile in Louth and present day Carlingford Lough and those of the Dál Fiatach in the present-day diocese of Down,

578 Báetán returns to Lecale after restoring the Isle of Man to the kingdom of Ulaid.


584 Bishop Fergus of Dún Lethglaise recorded, meaning that this was now both a Royal and an Ecclesiastical centre.


620 Báetán’s son Fiachnae mac Báetáin takes the Ulaid fleet to England and makes war on the Angles of Northumbria in alliance with British Kingdoms to maintain Ulaid influence in Scotland and drive the Angles from Mann. He is succeeded by Congal. An alliance of British and Gaelic Kingdoms ultimately repulses the Angles of Northumbria out of modern day Cumbria and Lancashire.


627 Northumbians invade Mann but are removed by Ulaid


637 At the battle of Moira Congal, King of Ulster/Ulaid, meets Domnall of the O’Neills. Congal hasa more varied force of Scots, Picts, Anglo-Saxons and Britons (Welshmen) and substantial cavalry forces. It was reputed to have been the largest battle ever in Ireland lasting a week. Congal is killed and henceforth the O’Neills become the dominant force in Ulster with the Ulaid restricted to East Ulster ruled by Dál Fiatach Kings from Downpatrick and Lecale. The Dál Riata are restricted to East Antrim and Argyle. There are about 900 O’Neill surnames on today’s electoral register in Lecale - with Martin, Donnell and Neill being the most common. After this date only O’Neills or O’Connors were High Kings of Ireland until Great O’Brian.


637 Even more disastrously, the defeat at Moira was coupled with a naval defeat at the Battle of the Mull of Kintyre where the O’Neill fleet succeeded in defeating Ulaid’s. As a result the O’Neills’ forces were able to occupy Antrim and cut off the Ulaid from their strength in Scotland. This had a major impact on the Dál Riata who fall back to Argyle. After this date the Dal Riata vie with the 2 Pictish Kingdoms, the British Kingdoms of Strathclyde and Godaddin and Northumbrian Angles for present-day Scotland and North of England.


640 The British Kingdom of Godaddin in modern day S.E Scotland invaded from Northumbrian Anglia. This gives the Dál Riata and the Ulaid generally their first land border with the Anglo Saxons.


684 The aggressive Northumbian King Ecgfrith sent a raiding party to Ireland under his general Berht, which resulted in the seizing of a large number of slaves and the sacking of many churches and monasteries from Dublin to Drogheda where he was halted by the Ulaid. The reasons for this raid are unclear, though it is known that Ecgfrith acted against the warnings of Ecgberht of Ripon and that the raid was condemned by Bede and other churchmen.


685 Against the advice of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Ecgfrith led a force against the Picts of Fortriu, led by Bridei mac Bili and was slain along with most of his army at what is now called the Battle of Nechtansmere, located at  Dunnichen in Angus. The Northumbrians never regained the dominance Northern Britain, but remained one of the most powerful states of Britain and Ireland until they were absorbed into the Danish Viking Empire.

Saint Patrick arrives
Dál Fiatach

Dál Fiatach versus Vikings 


700 Origin of Lecale Around 700 Dál Fiatach territory in East Down is divided into 3 ‘halves’ with Mag Inis becoming Leath Cathail (Cathal’s Half of Dál Fiatach) becoming a subdivision of the ancient kingdom of Uladh.


738 Dál Riata capital at Dúnadd in Argyle is captured by the Picts and they regroup in Ulaid territory in Ireland.


750 Start of reign of one of the best known Ulaid Kings, Fiachnae McAédo of the Dál Fiactach. He took over much of Dál nAraide land towards present day Belfast and moved the seat of power to Lisburn and the Royal centre at Dún Lethglaise was converted to a major monastic centre. Fiachnae was a noted bridge builder like the first bridge over the Feirste at Béal Feirste that was still in use 500 years later.


753 Death of Scanlan, Abbot of Dún Lethglaise.


784 Ulaid Fleet recorded as sailing from Loch Cuain to Inís na Ríg (island of Kings) off present day Skerries to have a conference of Kings with the High King Donnachad Medí. Lecale at this time was the centre of an Ulaid Kingdom that included the Isle of Man, Solway Firth, the Scottish Isles, Antrim, Down and Louth.

The fleet of the Ulaid on Loch Cuan alone is recorded in the ‘tuarastal’ or tribute to the Dál Fiachach was as follows;

-          Dál Riata and others in Antrim - 7 ships (Dál Riata also maintained fleets in                     Scotland)

-          Dubhthrain (Dufferin today) - 10 ships

-          Arda (Ards today) - 8 ships

-          Leath Cathal (Lecale today) - 8 ships (Ardglass, Kiclief, Bailechuan (Strangford))

-          Mag Cova (Newcastle/Inland) - 10 ships (Iveagh and Mournes)

-          Muirthemne (Co Louth) - 10 ships (the Muirthemne also had ships in Carlingford             / Dundalk bay)


The book of rights gives no details of the Ulaid ships, but considerable detail is preserved over Dál Riata’s separate fleet in Scotland of the same period and we can safely assume they are similar. The Senchus fer nAlban in the 7th Century records the Dál Riata fleet as follows;

-          Cenél McGabhan 56 ships (they were also located in Antrim where they paid                   ship tribute to the Dál Fiatach)

-          Cenél Loairn 42 ships

-          Cenél McOengusa 43 ships

More importantly the Senchus (cencus) gives the specifications of the boats as requiring each group of 20 houses to provide 30 men for naval service with a minimum of 15 men to crew a 7-bencher. Assuming 2 replacement crews in the same manner of the Vikings, this meant that each ship had up to 50 men meaning that this fleet ccould field anything up to 7,500 warriors. 12-benchers have also been recorded amongst the Dál Riata and a 23 bencher recorded in stone on Dunluthe castle in Dál Riata territory in Antrim.


795 First Viking incursions on Ulaid coast 795. The coastal nature of Ulaid in Ireland and Scotland with its many islands made it an ideally placed for Viking raids. But the naval strength of the Ulaid both in East Down and in Antrim/Argyle with the Dal Riata made it difficult for the Vikings to establish themselves locally.

810 Bangor monastery attacked. 


811 The Annals recall that the Ulaid inflicted an early defeat on the elusive Vikings as early as 811 in Bangor and at Loch Neagh.


823 The monastery of Bangor was attacked in 823 and 824.


825 The Norse had plundered the Dal Fiatach royal monastery at Dún Lethglaise (Downpatrick) and then burned Mag nBili (Moville). The Ulaid/Dál Fiatach followed to inflict a heavy defeat on the invaders.


825 Around this time Ulaid’s Dál Fiatach may have lost control of Mann to the Vikings and Dál Riata lost Scottish Islands. Ulaid Gaels had dominated the Irish Sea from the Isle of Man to the Hebredies until the 8th Century and the arrival of the Vikings. The Vikings consolidated (mostly) Norwegian rule on the Islands until the O’Brian’s fleet beat them in 1111. This ‘Kingdom of the Isles’ often included Dublin until the Norwegians defeat by the O’Brian’s in 1014. Ultimately from 1153 Somhairle (‘Sorley’), a Dál Riata Earl of Argyle created the Gaelic-Norse ‘Kingdom of the Isles’ (see maps in related articles). Somerled's descendants eventually became known as the Lords of the Isles, with Dubgall giving rise to Clan MacDougall, and Raghnall to Clan Donald and Clan MacRuari. By 1266 King Alexander of Scotland who was descended from the Dál Riata incorporated the islands into the Kingdom of Scotland.


825 The Ulaid inflict a defeat on the Norse in ‘Mag Inis’ (‘Island Plain’ – the early name for Lecale).


826 High king of all Ireland is forced into discussing joint action with all the Irish Kings against Vikings. 


833 Vikings raid Loch Bricrenn (Loughbrickland, modern County Down) in the territory of the Uí Echach Cobo branch of Ulaid and Downpatrick itself was plundered and burnt, and its churches destroyed.


837Dún da Lethglaise in Lecale was numbered as one of the 4 great centres of learning in Ireland along with Cashel, Armagh and Lismore.


839 Vikings were on Lough Neagh and wintered there in 840-841 for the first time, raiding the various parts of Ulster including the Ulaid territories.

Between 824 and 877 When Saint Brigids Kildare cathedral was burned, it was decided that Down would be a safe repository for her relics. Saint Columba's remains were also first brought from Iona to Down in 824, his remains appear to have made several journeys across the Irish sea before finally being deposited in Downpatrick in 877.

842 The Dubhgaill (dark haired Vikings from Norway) attempt to set up a base on Loch Cuan.

843 Kenneth McAlpine of the Dál Riata emerges as the sole King of Scotland north of the river Forth, combining the Picts and the Gaels into the first modern European Nation State.


852 The Norse in Ireland fought a fierce naval battle with newcomers, the Danes (called Finngaill – or fair haired Vikings) at Carlingford Lough but were heavily defeated. Matudán the Ulaid king gave support in this battle.


853 The annals record a Cathal mac Tommaltaig of the Leath Cathail branch of the Dál Fiatach (IE Cathal of Lecale, modern County Down) who was slain by the Norse.


860s Meanwhile in England, instead of raids, the Danes mounted a full-scale invasion. In


865 an enlarged army arrived that the Anglo-Saxons described as the Great Heathen Army. This was reinforced in 871 by the Great Summer Army. Within ten years nearly all of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms fell to the invaders: Northumbria, then Anglia in 867, East Anglia in 869, and nearly all of Mercia in 874-77.Kingdoms, centres of learning, archives, and churches all fell before the onslaught from the invading Danes. Only the Kingdom of Wessex was able to survive.


866 The O’Neill High king Áed defeated the Vikings at Lough Foyle and uprooted all their settlements, plundering and burning all the Norse bases (longphorts) in the northern part of Ireland.


870 Dublin Vikings lead an attack on the British Kingdom of Strathclyde in SW Scotland with Vikings from the Isles and Norway, destroying their capital at Dumbarton Rock. This facilitiates the Dál Riata Scottish Kingdom to expand into Strathclyde and start pushing the Angles and Vikings of Northumbria out of SE Scotland.


877 Halfdan, Norwegian brother of the Viking king of York and Dublin killed on Loch Cuan,  Finngael (Danes) were involved in the battle. 


886 Ulaid King Fiachna (Dal Fiatach) is reported as having the Ulster fleet in Loch Cuan against the Vikings.


911 Annals of Ulster record the naval defeat of an Irish fleet from the kingdom of Ulaid by Vikings "on the coast of England" where Cumuscach the son of the chief of Leath Cathail was killed.


902 The Vikings were forced out of Dublin, but returned under King Sitric in 914 with help from the Viking kingdom in England established at York. This started a new and more intensive period attempting colonial settlement in Ireland as they had in England. Between 914 and 922, Viking settlements at Waterford, Cork, Dublin, Wexford and Limerick were established.


921 to 927 The Dublin Vikings supported by English based at York start a prolonged campaign in eastern Ulster, including Ardglass and the Lecale coatal villages, for the purpose of conquest in order to create a Scandinavian kingdom like the one based at York in England. They try to create a base in Ulaid Down including Lecale with ships based in Loch Cuan.


923 Fleet of Vikings from Loch Cuan wrecked at Dún Droma and 900 men drowned or slain


924 Vikings arrive back in Loch Cuan and capture several islands as a base, but were driven out the ‘men of Lecale’ after a determined 19 year campaign.


937  Æthelstan grandson of Alfred of Wessex defeated an alliance of the Scots, Danes, and Vikings to become King of all England including ‘Danelaw’ settled by Vikings. This united England for the first time until it was absorbed into the Danish Empire in 1016.


940 MacRagnall, king of the (Gallicised) Vikings on the Isle of Man attacks and plunders Dún Lethglaise and fortifies (probably) Castle Island on the Quoile as a base – the base is destroyed and the Vikings are wiped out by Matudán Dál Fiatach King of Ulaid. MacRagnall gave rise to the McDonalds if the Isles who would return to Lecale in the 1400’s in alliance with the O’Neills and Ulaid remants and drive out the last of the Normans (see below).


942 Matudán the Ulaid king leading ‘the men of Lecale’ finally wipes out all Vikings in Down after nearly a century of sporadic attempts at colonialisation.


944 Vikings’ colonial ambitions in Ulster finally halted by a series of defeats inflicted upon them by Muirchertach mac Néill the High King and Lord of the Northern O’Neills.


974 Surprise Viking attack on Nedrum monestary on Loch Cuan in which Sedna O’Deman the abbot is burnt to death in his own house.


980 Viking Dublin was sacked, and forced to submit by the Southern O’Neill High King Máel Sech Naill after defeating them in Meath.


989 The Vikings made a raid on Downpatrick again in, after which Niall King of the Ulaid is reputed to have built up the ‘Mound of Down’ as a maritime fort which can be seen behind the present day primary school by Mount Crescent. Downpatrick re-emerges as the capital of Uliad.


1002 Sitric (Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson), King of the Vikings of Dublin, passed through the mouth of Strangford Lough with a fleet and plundered Kilclief Church with considerable loss of life and taking many captives.


1011 King Niall O’hEochaidh (Haughey) establishes himself and his successors as stable rulers of Lecale and Ulidia for over 150 years. Ulaid have broken Viking power locally but face constant battles for supremacy against the O’Neills to the West.


1014 Traditionally the final defeat of the Vikings in Ireland Clontarf  by Brian Bóruma of Munster who had brought all Ireland under his sway – even the O’Neills recognised him as High King. But later incursions by the Vikings occurred in County Down.

On the Lecale  electoral register the most common O’Brien surname is Quinn with 110 entries, followed by McMahon at 75, Killeen, McGrath and McGrady have all about 50 each and Hay/Hayes at 40 – less than the O’Neill clanns and much less than Ulaidians or Normans but possibly as many as 1 in 20. This is a much lower representation than the National average, as while Brian brought Ulster and the Western Isles under his sway as ‘Emperor of the Irish’ his septs never settled in Ulster.


1016 Dún Lethglaise town, cathedral and ‘cloictech’ (literally bell/time tower) ‘round tower’ burnt by lighting.


1016 England wholly absorbed into Danish North Sea Empire. King Cnut was the younger son of the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard. When his father died on 3 February 1014 during an invasion of England, Cnut, who had been left in command of the fleet in the River Trent while Sweyn was in the south of England, was acclaimed by the Danes and and by 30 November 1016 the last English King had died, leaving Cnut king of England and part of the North Sea Empire, a unified kingdom ruled by Cnut the Great as king of England, Denmark, Norway, and parts of what is now Sweden between 1016 and 1035.

1018 King Malcolm of Scotland defeats Angles of Northumbria, now ruled by the Danish Empire and expands the boarders of Scotland far into what is now Northern England.

1022 McSitrics of the now Gallicised Dublin Viking fleet sailed north again against the Ulaid, only to be destroyed in a naval battle against King Niall O’hEochaidh’s Ulaid fleet South of Ardglass, after which many Norse crews and ships were taken prisoner.


1026 Niall then gathered his forces and leaves Lecale for a sea-assault on Dublin, sacking the Viking city. This epic feat was made easier by the death of the O’Neill high King to whom the Vikings of Dublin were now in vassalage to, and the failure of the Irish sub-kings to agree on a replacement.


1066 Norwegian invasion of Northern England fails with defeat at the hands of Anglo-Danish King Harold. Thereafter Vikings turn their attention again to Ireland and Scotland. Normans opportunistically invade and Harold has to march the length of England and meets an untimely end at the battle of Hastings in modern-day Southern England. Norman rule is forcibly established across England.


1080  Gofraid mac Sitriuc, King of the Isles, seizes the Isle of Mann.

By 1091, Gofraid had seized the kingship of Dublin, and thereby secured complete control of the valuable trade routes through the Irish Sea region.


1094 Muirchertach Ua Briain (O’Brian), King of Munster takes on the returning Vikings in Dublin and also drives Gofraid from the Isle of Mann.


1098 Ulaid from Lecale attack and capture 3 Viking ships from the Isles killing 120 of the crew.


1103 Magnus III king of Norway also tried raiding Lecale while trying to re-assert Norse rule in the Isles with the support of the English King Henry 1st second son of William the Conqueror who is afraid of O’Brien influence. But Magnus is killed by the Ulaid ‘men of Lecale’ near Downpatrick. From Downpatrick you can get to the spot on the Downpatrick and County Down Railway today.

1111 O’Briens win a series of naval victories over the Vikings from the Isle of Man to the Hebridies and establish themselves as the Kings of the Isles.


1100’s The defeat of the Vikings locally saw an Irish Ulaid renaissance in the area of present-day Down. The lands associated with the various monasteries were consolidated into larger dioceses at the Synod of Rath Breasail in 1111, their boundaries reflected the contemporary Irish tribal territories.  The Uíbh Eachach Cobha (Magennis’s and others) forming the diocese of Dromore, those of the Dál Fiatach forming the diocese of Down with those of the Dál nAraidhe forming the diocese of Connor extending to Dál Riata lands in North Antrim.  Bangor monastery was restored in 1124 and brought under Augustinian rule in 1137, and new monasteries were founded by local Ulidians, including that of the Cistercians at Newry in 1144.


By 1124 St Malachy became Bishop of Down, and set about repairing and enlarging the Down Cathedral. Ardglass was a flourishing port in the territory of the Ulaid chiefs ruled from the 1000+ year old City of Dún Lethglaise (Downpatrick). They belonged to the Dál Fiatach Sept of the Uliad Clanns ruled by Rory MacDunleavy who had his local headquarters at the Dún Lethglaise or modern day Downpatrick. The Dál Fiatach were the leading branch of the Ulaid who ruled Ulidia/Uladh (Ulster) which consisted in those days of only Antrim, Down and Louth. The Dál Fiatach had once been High Kings of Ireland and Scotland, but had been worn down by centuries of battles against the O’Neills and Vikings. Though they had eventually beaten the Vikings, they had lost out on the overlordship of Ireland to the O’Neills, O’Connors and latterly O’Briens. Ulaid had excellent infrastructure in bridges and roads and ports and had a strong naval tradition.


1147 Local Ulidians rashly attack the O’Neills of Tír Eoghain (Tyrone) who pursue them back to the shores of Dún Droma (Dundrum Bay) in Leath Cathail (Lecale) . The Ulidians suffered a heavy defeat, including the death of Archu Ua Flathraoi, "lord of Leath-Chathail”

1149 The victorious Cenél nEógain O’Neills plundered Ulaid from Snamh Aighneach (Carlingford) to Droicaid Na Fersi (Belfast Bridge) including Lecale and take Ulidian hostages.

The Normans arrive 


1170 Strongbow invades Ireland with the blessing of King Henry II along with other Norman-Welsh or Anglo-Norman Knights.


1177 John de Courcy, a Norman warlord arrived in Ulster in 1177 accompanied by knights with names like Rusell, White, Audley and others that were to become part of the names of Lecale townlands. He came from the direction of Dundrum and saw the substantial Cathedral City for the first time. He made a sneak attack on the Mound of Down in the night with huge loss of life while the Gaelic chieftain was entertaining the Papal Legate on a visit to Ulaid territory. Ruaidhrí Mac Dhuinnshléibhe O’hEochaidh (Rory son of Dunleavy of the Haughys) escaped and fought back but in 1201 the king of Dál Fiatach was slain by de Courcy. De Courcy did not have the permission of King John for this adventure.

De Courcy massacred the Irish Augustinian monks at Erenagh Downpatrick and later replaced them with French Benedictine monks at nearby Inch Abbey. The monastery at Nendrum was likewise dealt with and populated with English monks. The local Irish clergy had strongly supported Dunleavy. The Benedictines did not thrive, and by 1220 Down Cathedral  was in ruins and was further damaged by an earthquake in 1245.

Once De Courcy had built a castle in Downpatrick, bringing in supplies was vitally important for De Courcy’s efforts to hold on to power, especially with the native Irish still resentful of his presence. He needed to find a bay with sufficient depth for his ships; Ardglass, seven miles from his headquarters was his closest answer.


1178 De Courcy was checked by Conn Midhe O’Flynn in North Down and Murchad O’Cearbaill (O’Carroll) of the Oirghialla and had to contend with a guerrilla warfare from the DunLeavys (which went on for 100 years against Norman rule). De Courcy defeated 3 of the 4 Ulaid groupings and also pushed back the O’Neills, controlling most of the Irish kingdom of Ulaid/Ulster as ‘the Earldom of Ulster’, making his main bases in Dún Droma (Dundrum) and Carraig Fhurghais.

Ardglass and Carrickfergus became the main official English ports in Ulster after this date until 1637.


1180’s The Anglo-Norman Savage’s and Fitzsimon’s are generally supposed to have been the first colonists around Ardglass town and the founders of many local castles. There are a huge number of Norman or Gaelic-Norman names today on the Lecale electoral register – well over 10% with the biggest being Fitzsimons showing 345 names and large representation for others like the Savages at 71.


1185 John De Courcy appointed as ‘Justicar’ in Ireland by the 18 year old Prince John, sent by his father Henry II to Ireland to restore order as Norman rule was being rolled back by the Irish who had learned new military tactics and the Normans disputed amongst each other. De Courcy stabilised the areas under Norman control. He was however loyal to Prince/King Richard who went on the crusades, leaving Prince John in charge at home.

1186 With the relics of Saints Patrick, Brigid, and Columba having been unearthed in Down Cathedral after being hidden for protection Cardinal Vivian arrives. A translation of the relics takes place over several days after the feast of Saint Columba, 9 June. Lecale becomes a centre for Irish Pilgrimage. Jocelin is instructed to write The Life of Saint Patrick at Inch Abbey. The Bishop of Down is granted land at Bishop's Court in the centre of Lecale and an ecclesiastic court is established in Ardglass. 


1194 One of the early Norman adventurer knights named Rogerus de Dunsford mentions the church at 'Dunesford' which becomes a site of Norman settlement.


1197 Jordan De Courcy, younger brother of John killed.


1203 English ‘Prince’ John encouraged 2 Norman lords, Hugh de Lacy and Walter of Meath to attack Lecale and besiege Downpatrick. John De Courcy fled to the O’Neills for safety and then to his wife Affreca's Viking-Gaelic family rulers of the Isle of Man.


1204 De Courcy attempted to re-assert his lordship via Carraig Fheargus but was defeated. The City of Down (Downpatrick) was destroyed in the fighting.


1205 De Courcy again lands at Strangford and swept across Lecale, by-passing Downpatrick to besiege Hugh de Lacy at the ‘Rath Castle’ of Dún Droma. De Courcy controlled the countryside but the arrival of Anglo-Norman Lord Walter of Meath drove De Courcy from the country and Hugh de Lacy became Earl of Ulster.


1210 The now ‘King’ John felt the need to re-establish his kingship in Ireland over the areas controlled by the Normans. He landed in Waterford, marched to Dublin and thence to Carlingford where he sailed to Ardglass by July 12th.  One of De Courcy’s knights, an adventurer and later mentioned in the Magna Carta, was Sir Jordan de Sackville. He had controlled the Ardglass area for De Courcy. 'On the 12th of July 1210 King John stayed at ‘Castrum Jordani de Sackville’. Kings Castle is believed to be this castle. King John dispossessed de Sackville and other local Norman knights and lords.


1210 July 14th. King John’s army catches up with him and they proceed to take Rath Castle at Dundrum from whence de Lacy's forces had fled. Hugh de Lacy was now out of favour, so King John proceeded to sieze his lands, first Downpatrick and then Carrickfergus by 19th of July. King John left Down on 4th August for Dublin having subdued the Norman lords.


1210 September - King John forced to leave small garrison in Downpatrick to defend against the Irish of Iveagh in mid and West Down. This remaining Sept of the Ulaid had never been conquered by the Normans and gives us the modern names like Magennis and MacCartan.

1211 In grabbing what became the ‘Earldom of Ulster’ off De Lacy, King John brought the Normans in Ireland under his control, but was unable to deal with the Gaelic lords owing to a Welsh uprising led by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth Prince of Wales against England. King John forced to abandon his mission in Ireland. Although John put down Welsh rising, it resulted in increased independence from England for the Welsh.


1217 Jordan de Saukville re-confirmed in his possession of Ardglass by new English King Henry III


1227 King Henry III restores Lecale and the Earldom of Ulster to Hugh de Lacy.De Lacy took possession of Dundrum Castle, holding back the Irish of Iveagh.


1237 25th September. Treaty of York between Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland marked the end of Scotland's attempts to extend its frontier southward to Nothumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.


By 1260 The Irish have pushed back the Normans in Munster, Leinster and Connaught. The new High King Brian O'Neill arrives in Lecale with Aodh O’Connor of Connaught. They attack the Norman colonists near Ballyduggan in Downpatrick aiming to drive them out. Norman leader an Audley from Strangford village heads the successful defence and Brian is killed and his head sent to London.


1266, 2nd July End of military conflict between Magnus VI of Norway and Alexander III of Scotland over the sovereignty of the Hebrides and the Isle of Man with the Treaty of Perth ceding all islands to Scotland and Scottish naval power becomes significant in the Irish Sea.


1275 Last Viking ‘hold-outs’ in Mann suffered defeated by Scots in the decisive Battle of Ronaldsway, near Castletown.


By 1286 Ardglass and Carrickfergus are secure as the main trading ports of Anglo-Norman Eastern Ulster and the walled ‘City of Down’ or Downpatrick was the centre of a thriving English colony exporting cereals, beef, cloth and fish as in the days of the Ulaid Lords.


1314 Robert the Bruce puts an end to repeated invasions from England at the Battle of Bannockburn and invades York. O’Neill heavy infantry (Galloglasss) and cavalry support Bruce, and O’Neills given lands in Scotland.


1315 Attempt by the native Irish led by the O’Neills to make Edward Bruce, brother of Robert Bruce of Scotland, the king of Ireland and remove the Anglo-Norman colony. The Hiberno-Scottish army led by Edward created havoc in the colonised parts of Ireland starting in Carraig Fhergus. In Ulster the Anglo-Norman colony was largely destroyed. The city of Down and Anglo-Norman ruled villages in Lecale devastated from Strangford to Ardglass to Dundrum. Norman Downpatrick was ruined and Down Cathedral burnt and Saul looted. The local Gaelic MacArtan Chief turned against the Bruce invasion, and ambushed Bruce and the O’Neills but was badly beaten.


1316 Pressure on the Anglo Norman colonists results in them ‘going Gaelic’. For instance the eldest son of the Russells of Killough married successively a Magennis, a MacArtan and an O’Neill over 3 generations. While such marriages were forbidden by English law, the reality of the failure of the colony dictated change. Surviving local Anglo-Normans like the Russells, Savages and Fitzsimons’ soon become indistinguishable from the native Irish.


1318 The climatic effects of a mini ice-age caused by a volcano in Indonesia (unknown to people in Lecale at that time) triggered widespread famine around Europe and hindered the Bruce brothers conquest of Ireland. Widespread famine left their army unable to ‘live off the land’ as was the custom in those days. After devastating Norman settlements around Ireland, the invasion is defeated near Dún Dealgan (Dundalk) owing to Edward attacking a larger force before his brother Robert could arrive with reinforcements.

1347 English attempt to reassert themselves in Lecale, capture and hang the chief of the Iveagh Irish, Thomas MacArtan.


1348 The Black death devastated colonised areas of the country. Most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who mostly lived in more dispersed rural settlements. After it had passed, the Gaelic language and Irish customs and law came to dominate the country again. Ardglass and Lecale was again protected from Gaelic re-conquest or a long period by the strong English / Norman settlements South East of Downpatrick. The Lecale Coast lasted the longest of any area outside the Pale of Dublin. This allowed Ardglass to flourish, despite the dramatic decline in English fortunes throughout the rest of Ireland.

1360 Irish Iveagh Chief Art Magennis (MacAonghusta) killed by English forces led by the Savages of Aeds in Lecale.


1364 O’Neills formally adopt the title ‘Kings of Ulster’ having taken over most of the old Ulaid Kingdom from the Norman Earldom of Ulster.


1366 Statutes of Kilkenny brought stiff penalties against Anglo-Norman colonists who adopt Irish dress, language, sponsor bards, use Irish law, play hurley, grow beards, marrying Irish people etc etc. One of many futile attempts to stem the increasing 'Gaelicization’ of the colonists. Prohibits Irish from residing in English towns or cities overnight which resulted in the many ‘Irish Towns’ or ‘Irish Streets’ outside most medieval English towns in Ireland giving us ‘Irish Street’ in Downpatrick today outside the old city walls.


1370 The Magennises had become the chiefs of Iveagh and occupy the castle at Dún Droma, with Rathfriland their base and the MacArtans were making inroads to Lecale.


1375 Neill Mór O’Neill sacks Downpatrick 115 years after his grandfather Brian O’Neill had been killed trying to do the same thing.


1400 Scots/Irish fleet defeats the English on the Lecale Coast and in Strangford with many local English and Dublin Pale colony ships lost and very heavy casualties.


1400 Around this time both the manor of Ardglass and that of neighbouring Strangford was owned by Sir Janico D'Artas, a Gascon, who had accompanied King Richard II on his expedition to Ireland in 1399. Janico was appointed ‘Seneschal of Ulster’ and ‘Admiral of Ireland’.


1404 Scots allied to the Magennises invade Lecale, plunder Inch Abbey and the City of Down. Scots settle Lecale from Strangford to Dundrum.  Dublin government sent 800 solders to defend the Lecale colony.


1405 Janico negociates a treaty with the Scots whereby his son and a daughter marry the son and daugther of John McDonald of the Isles who is the leader of the Scots.


1413 Kilclief castle was built, followed by Jordan’s castle around 1420. Margarets and Ardglass castles were also built in Ardglass around this period. Unlike the other main English fortified harbour of Carrickfergus which had both a Castle and walls, Ardglass was defended by a ring of tower houses and the Newark. The 'New Works' or 'Newark' is built where the Ardglass Golf Club is situated today, the lower part still remains. This was believed to be built by a group of merchants from London and is believed to be the oldest trading street in Ireland. Up until 1425 Ardglass rapidly developed as a centre of the fishing industry and the main port of the Anglo Normans in Ulster.


1427 D’Artois’ daughter Alison carried the manors of Ardglass and Strangford to the Fitzgerald family on her marriage to Gerald 8th Earl of Kildare and Lord Deputy of Ireland under King Henry VII. One of the Fitzgerald’s, Henry (b 1761) married Charlotte Baroness De Ross and Strangford eventually passed to that family.  The fortified ‘New Works’ stayed in the possession of the Kildares or their relations until the Golf Club purchased it in 1896. A local historian called Harris reported another angle on how the Fitzgeralds of Kildare came to own Ardglass and Strangford villages. “It is certain that this southern part of Lecale originally belonged to the Magennises; and the Savages were only intruders, of a rather recent time. There is a tradition in these parts, that when the Savages had formed a strong body of men in order to oppress the Magennises and other Irish families in Lecale, the latter were obliged to call for the assistance of the Earl of Kildare, and promised him two townlands, according to the extent of their territories, and by that means, that noble family got Ardglass, and other lands thereabouts. When the earl had marched as far as Ballykinlar, the Savages submitted and so the quarrel ended." 


1430 Ardglass gets a Royal Charter from Henry 4th and William Hart is named ‘Portreeve’ and the revenue officers placed under him. Traditional Irish exports of wool, linen cloth, beef, fish, hides, cereals continued with imports of iron, wine and luxury goods as in pre-Norman times. Colonists travelled by sea owing to the inhospitality of the Irish interior despite the Irish sea being patrolled by Scots, Irish, Breton/Welsh and Spanish ‘pirates’.

1433 Ardglass was burnt down by the O’Neill’s and MacDonnell’s of Antrim and the Isles acting together to drive the Norman English out of Ulster. It is also around this period the MacArtans burnt Ardtole Church and massacred the largely Anglo-Norman congregation of Ardglass.


By 1450 the remaining English colony around Strangford Village was beginning to fade. As the Norman Earldom of Ulster collapsed the MacAonghusa/Magennis’ had expanded Iveagh all the way east to Dundrum Castle. The MacCartans are in Lecale.


1450 Great shoals of herring in the Irish Sea enriched local fishermen and enabled Ardglass to develop as a major fishing port and the Fitzgerald Earls of Kildare where made wealthy as landlords of the town.


1453 Soldiers and sailors from the English colony around Dublin take a break from fighting Welsh raiders and land in Ardglass and assist the Savages in a battle against the Aodh Búi clann of the O’Neills in North Down taking Henry O’Neill Buidhe prisoner.


1461 The remaining leaders of the beleaguered English colony in Lecale write to their King and plead for help against an alliance of ‘Britons’ (Welsh) and Scots from the Western Isles who are supported by the local O’Neill clanns, the O’Kanes, the MacQuillans of Castle hUillan, the Magennis’ of Iveagh, MacCartans of mid-Down and the O’Flynns of Ards. Their only ally is the Savages. The wars of the Roses meant that the English Kings could offer little help.


1464 Newly-restored King Edward IV recognises the work of the Savages by making a large payment to Janico Savage ‘Seneschal of our Earldom’ (those parts of Ulster claimed by English King but occupied by the Irish).


By 1471 All Lecale Anglo-Norman families have adopted Gaelic customs language and law and married into leading Gaelic families. Brehon Law and customs restored to Lecale.

1473 Act of Parliament recognised that English Law no longer applied in Ulster.


1489 Following a long line of corrupt absentee English Bishops, Tiberius Ugolino from Rome is appointed Bishop of Down and Connor by the Pope. This was one of a number of appointments to improve the governance, spirituality and the financial stability of the Church in Ireland.


1494 Poynings' Law or the Statute of Drogheda later titled "An Act that no Parliament be holden in this Land until the Acts be certified into England" was a 1494 Act of the Parliament of Ireland which provided that the parliament could not meet until its proposed legislation had been approved both by Ireland's Lord Deputy and Privy Council and by England's monarch and Privy Council. This rendered the Irish Parliament toothless until 1782. Poynings' intention was to make Ireland once again obedient to the English monarchy. Assembling the Parliament on 1 December 1494, he declared that the Parliament of Ireland was thereafter to be placed under the authority of the Parliament of England. This marked the beginning of Tudor direct rule in Ireland, although Henry VII was still forced to rely in practice on force wielded by Old English nobles such as Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and landlord of Ardglass. Poyning’s law still has force in Northern Ireland.


1512 Bishop Tiberius Ugolino at the request of Gelasius Maginnis Prior of Down Cathedral merges the lands of the Church in Ardglass with those of failed English monasteries in Downpatrick with the Irish monastery of St. Thomas the Martyr, plus lands at Ros and Ballykilbeg. This reorganisation created the funding to allow Magennis to restore Down Cathedral. (see 1588)


1513  The feudal Anglo-Norman landlord of Ardglass Gerald Mór Fizgerald of Kildare was one of the first in Ireland to be killed by a bullet while trying to establish English rule in Laois against the O’More clann. His son Gearoid Óg succeeded him as Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was confirmed in his possession of the Ports of Strangford and Ardglass.


1517  Norman-Gaelic Gearoid Óg finally marches to Lecale to recover territory from the Irish after campaigning in Leinster, He authorised to claim lands ‘recovered’ from the Irish as his own. He initially seized Dundrum Castle from Pheilm Magennis of the Iveagh and went on to have some success in Lecale against Scots and Irish.


1517 Papal Nuctio Francesco Chiericati meets Bishop Ugolino in ‘the City of Down’ as he returns from Loch Dearg via Armagh and Newry Cathedrals – possibly one of the earliest tourists following the modern-day ‘St Patricks Trail’.


1518 Gearoid Óg Fitzgerald confirmed in possession of Ardglass, Ardtole and Ross, Bright, Ballynagallagh, Ballynoe, Legamaddy, Woodgrange, Castlescreen, Ballybrannagh, Tollumgrange, Lismahon (now known as Ballykinler), Ballylucas, Bonecastle, Tullymurray, Kildares crew, and Loch Faughan.


1523  Gearoid Óg writes to King Henry 8th saying he has had to make a punitive expedition to put down a rebellion by the Savages and Magennis’. The local Irish chiefs had moved back into Lecale when the Lord Deputy was forced to return South to face more formidable rebels against English rule in Munster.

1523  Fitzgerald as an absentee Landlord is forced to lease his townlands in Lecale including Ardglass to Gelasius Maginnis Prior of Down who is strongly connected to the Magennis’ of Iveagh. After the death of Bishop Tiberius the English had gone back to the practice of appointing absentee English Bishops in Connor and Down so Gelasius was able to manage both Church properties and Fizgerald feudal possessions as his own personal fiefdom.


1526 Gelasius was killed by his kinsman the chief of the Magennis’ Donnell Óg Magennis. Thereafter the Magennis’ maintained control of Lecale for many years as both part of their Iveagh domain, and though their control of church appointments with Eugene Magennis being appointed as Arch-deacon in 1527 and made Bishop by the Pope in 1539.


1528 Thomas Jordan of Drogheda, a merchant, leased Jordans castle as a warehouse in Ardglass.


1534 Lord Fitzgerald fell out of favour and was forced to travel to London to explain himself and died in the Tower of London.

The Normans arrive

The turbulent centuries 


1534 The Act of Supremacy, passed by the English Parliament in 1534, which made Henry VIII Supreme Head of the Church in England and Wales, thus separating England from Papal authority. This would come to have huge significance later in the Ardglass and Lecale areas when the Tudor dynasty tried to re-establish English rule as many locals would refuse to accept the new Church triggering several centuries of turmoil and discrimination.

1536 Lord Leonard Grey, the Lord Deputy of Ireland received instructions from King Henry VIII to command an army against Irish rebels who would not acknowledge Henry's supremacy as supreme head of the Church of England, and renounce the Pope. Munster is devastated with new forms of warfare aimed at the civilian population which would be described today as genocide and ethnic cleansing.


1538 Lord Grey had arrived in Ulster and attacked Downpatrick. The monastery at Inch was suppressed and then destroyed along with Down Cathedral. In 1539 Grey stabled horses at the Cathedral.  The destruction of Down Cathedral was one of the charges for which Grey was eventually executed in 1541. For two centuries after that it lay in ruins. In 1778 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, visited and described it as a noble ruin. The Round Tower close to the Cathedral was taken down in 1790.


1542 King Henry decided he could not have other Kings within his realm and began a policy to reduce the leadership of Ireland to the same rank and structure as the English nobility. Thus in the policy called ‘Surrender and Regrant’ Irish monarchs surrendered their titles and independent lands to King Henry. In  return he created them Earls of the new Kingdom of Ireland and granted them their own lands back. The last King of Ulster and first original Irish Ulster Earldom was one such grant by Henry VIII to Conn Bacach O'Neill of Tyrone, on the creation of the Tudor Kingdom of Ireland.

This policy had the potential to put both Irish and Colonists on the same legal footing and resolve centuries of conflict where Irish Chiefs had no legal protection from the seizure of their land by colonists. But this was not to be on account of the new religious dispensation with the creation by Henry 8th of the new state-controlled Church creating a new cause for conflict.

1543 Chief Art Magennis of Iveagh travelled from Castlewellan in May to Dublin with his kinsmen Con Magennis Prior of Down and Eugene Magennis Bishop of Down and Connor . Art surrendered Iveagh to King Henry 8th and in return was recognised as Earl Lord Magennis of Iveagh in the new Kingdom of Ireland. Both Bishop Eugene and Prior Con surrendered their ‘papal bulls’ and were re-appointed Bishop and Prior by be the new Supreme Head of the Church (Henry 8th).  The Magennis’ succeeded in maintaining their control of Iveagh and in Lecale. They reverted to Catholicism on the death of King Henry’s son Edward VI, on the accession of Queen Mary.


1561 Conn’s son Shane O’Neill inflects a crushing defeat on major defeat on the English army as part of his rebellion when the English crown attempted to place their appointee at the Head of the Tyrone O’Neills.  Queen Elizabeth sues for peace while her representative in Ireland the Lord Deputy the Earl of Sussex continues to make attempts to assassinate or poison O’Neill. Shane's mother Lady Alice Fitzgerald, Tyrone's first wife, was the daughter of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and feudal owner of Ardglass. The 11th Earl of Kildare was brought in to make peace and Sussex discredited.

1562 January. William Camden described the wonder which O'Neill's Gaelic gallowglasses (heavy infantry) occasioned in the English capital, with heads bare in the manner of Gaelic warriors, their long hair falling over their shoulders and clipped short in front above the eyes, clothed in ‘outlandish’ saffron dyed shirts of fine linen.


1564 The English fail to deliver on their promises to Shane. They attempt a surprise attack on the O’Neills by landing of lowland Scottish troops at Ardglass and Strangford  in Lecale. However Shane wins significant battles in Antrim, ravages the Pale around Dublin and attempted to take Dundalk.


1565 Shane O’Neill reinforced ‘O’Neills Castle’ (Jordans castle) as part of his rebellion against Queen Elizabeth.  It is situated in the centre of the town, and appears to have been the citadel of Ardglass.  Records suggest that Newark or Ardglass Castle was also built up.


1567 Downpatrick captured by Shane O’Neill.  Shane was ultimately killed the same year by treachery in Donegal at the hands of the O’Donnells who had been aided by the English.


1567 Thurlogh O’Neill succeeded Shane in the Gaelic custom and was inaugurated as the ‘O’Neill Mór or King of Ulster rejecting English Kingship in Ulster. The English government support Hugh O’Neill as chief of the O’Neills as he had been brought up in the Pale and the Colonial Administration thought him an ally in Gaelic controlled Ulster.


1571 to 1577 Thurlogh O’Neill aids the Clandeboy O’Neills to defeat an Elizabethan plantation of County Down, but not before the Elizabethan army ethnically cleanse most of North Down, parts of Antrim and around Loch Neagh. Many atrocities include massacre of Clandeboy O’Neill families during a ‘peace banquet’ and the O’Donnell women and children isolated and then massacred on Rathlin Island by soldiers led, amongst others, by Sir Walter Rally.

MacArtans and Magennis’ are warned in time to frustrate planned plantations of their areas in mid-Down.  Lecale is placed under martial law as plantation is resisted. Further atrocities are prevented by withdrawal of support by a normally unshockable Queen, perturbed at the focus by her forces on eradicating civilians.

This attempted plantation and others in South Ulster galvanises the Gaelic clan Chiefs of Ulster who now have firm evidence of the Elizabethan governments plans to seize their lands and replace their populations with English settlers.


1578 Ardglass taken from the O'Neills by the Queens Marshall ,  Sir Nicholas Bagenal, who places a strong garrison there. English recognise Hugh O’Neill as chief in Ulster to undermine the power of Thurlogh.


1588 Lord Fitzgerald of Kildare had acquired land in Lecale on dissolution of the local monasteries by King Henry VIII.  The policy was originally envisaged as a confiscation that would increase the regular income of the Crown, but much former monastic property was sold off to fund Tudor military campaigns in the 1540s and later.


1595 Hugh brilliantly plays both sides and government awards legal title to the O’Neill lands to weaken Turlough and ease English growing penetration of Ulster. Hugh outfoxes them, coming to agreement with Turlough who abdicated in his favour. Hugh was subsequently inaugurated as The O'Neill at Tullahogue in Tyrone in the style of the former Gaelic kings, and became the most powerful lord in Ulster supported by nearly all the Gaelic Chiefs.


1594 English attack the Maguires in Fermanagh and occupy Enniskillen Castle. The fort was promptly besieged by Hugh Maguire, Red O’Donnell and Cormac McBarron O’Neill (Hugh O’Neill’s brother).  English Army sent to relieve siege destroyed at the battle of Biscuit Ford.


1595 Hugh O’Neill defeats the English general Bagenal at Clontibret in Monaghan


1598 Hugh O’Neill crushes the English Army at the Battle of the Yellow ford in Armagh killing Bagenal,


1598 to 1601 Simon Jordan holds Jordan's Castle against the forces of Hugh O'Neill for 3 years until he was relieved by Lord Deputy Mountjoy on the 17th of June.


1601 Battle of Kinsale. Spanish land troops on the wrong side of Ireland to support O’Neill, forcing O’Neill and O’Donnell to leave the safety of Ulster to relieve them. A mis-judgement by O’Donnell leads to defeat en-route to Kinsale. This defeat broke the military strength of the Gaelic Order in Ulster, terms were agreed in 1603, but in the face of ongoing incursions, in 1607 the chiefs of the leading Ulster clanns emigrated to the Continent in the ‘Flight of the Earls’.

1600 onwards – The Plantation The Fitzgeralds extensive lands in Lecale managed to protect Ardglass and many other townlands from plantation. Otherwise Lecale was a centre of English settlement: Downpatrick and Strangford ‘reverted to the crown’ in 1599 and eventually found their way into the possession of Mountjoy. Unlike other parts of Ulster, it was mostly the native gentry that was displaced, not the ordinary people who then became tenants to the new English landlords. The Cromwells had holdings including the abbey lands of Down, Inch and Saul acquired from Mountjoy, which passed to the Southwells in 1687; and in 1636 they sold Dundrum to the Blundells, from whom it passed by inheritance to the Hills/Downshires. The Cromwells obtained one-third of Cineál Fhaghartaigh from Mac Artáin, and this passed to the Fordes in 1637. The Conways, whose main estates were in south Antrim, owned Dromore in 1635, and a corner of County Down around Moira.  The Little Ards and parts of Lecale were still held by Gallicised Anglo-Norman families, including Savage (Portaferry), Fitzsimons (Kilclief) and Audley (Strangford). Savage married Montgomery’s daughter and converted to Protestantism. The Fitzsimons sold their holdings piecemeal. Following the rising in 1641, the Audleys sold part of their Strangford lands to the Wards in 1643, who acquired the remainder two centuries later. The Russells lost most of their estates around Downpatrick in Oliver Cromwell’s time. The southern part of County Down remained in the Gaelic MacAonghusa/Magennis family. Mourne was held by Anglo-Normans, with some Welsh and Scots settlement.


1622 Dunsford church had prospered until sometime before 1622 when it was described as being in ruins. The pre-reformation statue of St Mary of Dunsford survived. Statues of this type were mostly destroyed by the new regime now in control of Ulster following the planation. This is the only statue of its type locally to have survived from the middle ages.


1637 The Crown (Government) buys trading privileges Ardglass and of Carrickfergus from Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare. Then the whole was transferred to Newry and Belfast corporations, from which time the previously flourishing trade of Ardglass began to decline and the town ultimately became ‘only a residence for fishermen’ according to ‘Topographical Dictionary of Ireland’.


1641 Ardglass once again fell to the Irish after Downpatrick had been sacked as English forces driven out of Lecale. Anglo-Norman and Native Irish Catholics had managed to seize control of Ireland after the rebellion of 1641 against the Plantation and wholesale confiscation of land from the Catholics. Local Gaelic Chief Patrick MacArtan was supported by Lord Magennis and Con Óg O’Neill along with George Russell and other local Anglo-Irish Catholics. Ardglass was the scene of many bloody skirmishes until the Cromwellian regiment of Sir James Montgomery took possession of Lecale including Ardglass around 1653 as part of the Cromwellian re-conquest of the Country.

Following this rebellion the local Gaelic Chiefs, descendants of the original Ulaid in Down since before the time of Christ, finally lost their estates. Also many of the leading ‘Old English’ Norman families in Lecale for 5 centuries like the Russells around Killough to Bright, many of the Fitzsimons’ from Rathmullan to Kilclief, Merrimen of Ross, Gibbons of Balykinlar, Audleys of Audleystown and Walshes of Walshetown who had lands in Lecale since the time of de Courcy.  However anybody familiar with the electoral roll in Lecale knows their descendants are still here in profusion. Ardglass and all the townlands controlled by Fitzgerald escape confiscation. The Catholic ‘Old English’ were replaced by ‘New English’ landlords like Wards of Killough and Castleward, Cromwell in Downpatrick, Brettsin Ballykinlar, Johnstons of Kilclief, Hamiltons of Ernagh, the Palmers and the Wests of Ballyduggan. By 1659 a tax census of Lecale showed 1071 English and 1631 Irish. (Did not count Irish peasant tenants)


1689 Ardglass, Downpatrick and Lecale fall to rebels in Cogadh an Dhá Rí,"war of the two kings" after a Jacobite force under Richard Hamilton routed a Protestant Williamite militia in an encounter at Dromore, County Down (known as the Break of Dromore) on 14 March. The ‘New English’ flee mostly back to England and some of the old Lecale Anglo Norman and Gaelic families return.


1689 16th August, William's army under Marshal Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg landed at Ballyholme Bay in County Down and, after capturing Carrickfergus, marched unopposed to Dundalk. James's viceroy Tyrconnell (another O’Neill working for King James), commanding the main Jacobite army, blocked Schomberg's passage southwards but did not give battle. Schomberg’s army starts to disintegrate in the face of irregular ‘rapparee’ attacks and shortage of supplies.


1690  William upset with the failure of Schomberg arrived with a fleet of 300 ships at Belfast Lough on 14 June 1690. He landed at Carrickfergus, having mustered an army of 36,000 soldiers (including English, German, Danish, Dutch Catholic and French Huguenot troops). Goes on to win the Battle of the Boyne.


1691 The end of the war brings about dramatic changes to colonial policy in Ireland. Henceforth the official Colonial emphasis changes from replacing native Irish with English settlers, to changing Gaelic-speaking Catholics into English-speaking Protestants and in particular ensuring that all the land in Ireland is owned by loyal Anglican/English landlords who are referred to as ‘The Ascendency’. These changes have a profound impact on the daily lives of people in Ardglass and Lecale.


1695 onwards Penal laws introduced against Presbyterians and Catholics. Penal Laws (Irish: Na Péindlíthe) are a series of laws imposed in an attempt to force Irish Catholics and Protestant dissenters (such as Presbyterians) to accept the reformed denomination defined as the English state established Anglican Church or established Church of Ireland, The Penal Laws were, according to Edmund Burke "a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.". The list of prohibitions grows and covers all aspects of life from professions, to leasing land, to inheritance, religious practice.


1723 onwards Catholic education forbidden under the Penal laws. Illegal ‘Hedge Schools’ become widespread. While "hedge school" label suggests the classes took place outdoors, classes were often held in a house or barn. Subjects included primarily Irish language grammar, English and maths.  In some schools the Irish bardic tradition, Latin, Greek, history and home economics were also taught. This enabled many educated Catholics to make a living and supplied the 47 Irish Universities in France, Rome and Spain with students. Hedge schools continued to the 1890’s when National Schools funded by the government from the 1830’s finally out-competed them.


1744 Ardglass trade has collapsed since the changes of 1637. Ardglass was described as consisting only of a few ordinary cabins and 4 or 5 old decayed castles, with 29 Protestant and 62 Catholic families living there.


1763 Statue of Our Lady of Dunsford had lain in the church grounds for many years until it was removed by the Reverend Dr William McGarry before 1763 to his residence in Ballyedock. From here it found its way to Ardglass Castle (Ardglass Golf Club) where it stood on a stone pedestal inside a Norman arch at the front of the building. The statue was thrown into the sea when Ardglass Castle fell into disuse before the golf club bought it. Through efforts made by many including the Very Rev. Dr. Marner and the antiquarian Francis Joesph Bigger the statue was inserted into its present position on 25th March 1908.

1764 The returns of 10 Jun 1764 in Ardglass show there were 60 members of the Church of Ireland, 35 Presbyterians and 106 Catholics.


1775 American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) creates great fear in Colonial Government circles and long overdue reform of governance in Ireland slowly gets started. As regular army leaves to combat Americans and French, government calls for volunteers in case of invasion. Big response in County Down, creating companies of Irish Volunteers all over the county.


1779 the Irish Volunteers get involved in local politics, and threaten Colonial governed with revolution if laws taxing Irish exports to Britain, while not taxing British exports to Ireland are not repealed. Government caves.


1782  Irish Volunteers now so powerful that they force further reforms, including votes for well-off Catholics – but Catholics and Presbyterians still cannot become MP’s. Volunteer companies in Downpatrick, Killyleagh, Saintfield, Ballygowan, Newtownards, Porrtaferry and many other towns in Down.


1782 The resulting Constitution of 1782 is a collective term given to a series of legal changes which freed the Parliament of Ireland, a Medieval parliament consisting of the Irish House of Commons and the Irish House of Lords, of legal restrictions that had been imposed by successive Norman, English, and later, British governments on the scope of its jurisdiction. These restrictions had, in effect, allowed the Irish executive of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to control the parliamentary agenda and to restrict its ability to legislate rather and promote the objectives of the monarchy.

The most punitive restrictions arose in Poynings' Law of 1495. These restrictions were lifted in 1782, producing a period of novel legislative freedom. This period came to be known as Grattan's Parliament after Henry Grattan, a major campaigner for reform in the Irish House of Commons and leader of the Patriot Party.


1785 The government works to secure support from the Catholic Church which is horrified by the French revolution. Government makes deal to repeal of some penal laws including the training of priests in Kildare at Maynooth in exchange for support. Catholic Church thereafter strongly supports the Crown and Empire with few exceptions until after the 1920’s.

Downpatrick develops a ‘United’ Volunteer company with equal numbers of Presbyterians and Catholics following repeal of some penal laws and even has a Catholic lieutenant.


1790  Gaelic starts to decline as the main language in mid-Down and Ards. Historian Laoide finds it widely spoken south of a line from Scarva to Portaferry around 1790. Next to lose Irish was Upper Ards, Lower Iveagh and the parish of Aghaderg by 1834. It remains as the main language around Ardglass in Lecale.

The turbulent centuries

Georgian Renaissance 


1790 Lord Charles Fitzgerald redevelops a section of the 'New Works'  the castle for his home. This is now the Ardglass Golf Club. After a series of unfortunate events, Lord Charles forced to sell the Manor of Ardglass to William Ogilvie, husband of his mother, the Duchess of Leinster. It is because of this connection that the main thoroughfare of the village is known as Kildare Street.

1791 During the reconstruction of Ardglass Castle, the smaller castle called Horn was incorporated into the main building.

1791 Penal laws start to thaw with Dunsford Catholic Church built by the Reverend Edward Mullholland in Ballyedock. Before the erection of this church, Mass was celebrated along various hedges in the vicinity of the site of the present church. The selection of the precise spot for each occasion depended on the direction the wind was blowing. It is on the site of an earlier Catholic church which was recorded as early as 1194.

1795 A new United Irish Constitution ratified enabling the organisation to become more confidential and subversive. Branches are formed in Lecale, Upper and Lower Iveagh, Dufferin, Kinelarty, Upper Castlereagh and Ards. The lack of Scots Presbyterian planters in Lecale means the United Men are mostly organised from Mid Down upwards and Ards.

1796 Martial law declared in Lecale, many local revolutionary leaders captured. United Irishman Wolfe Tone secures the dispatch of the Expédition d'Irlande, and he arrives a force of 14,000 French veteran troops under General Hoche which arrived off the coast of Ireland at Bantry Bay in December 1796 after eluding the Royal Navy; however, unremitting storms, indecisiveness of leaders and poor seamanship all combined to prevent a landing.

1797 The French ship L'Amitie was shipwrecked on the coast at Sheepland while carrying guns and ammunition for the United Irishmen. Out of a crew of 104 men, only the helmsman survived. This was a huge blow to the revolutionaries in Down. Local residents sheltered the survivor for an extended period nursing him back to health. The path from Sheepland North along Lecale way is still known as ‘Steersman’s Pad’.

1797/8  The Orange order is officially encouraged to spread to Down. Most early Down lodges were formed in Lecale as there had been little Scots Presbyterian settlement in the area and planters mostly of Anglican English background. Lodges formed included Strangford (358), Downpatrick (359 and 432), Rathmullan (360), Inch (430) and Clough (313).

1797/8 Local Anglican gentry like Ward, Forde and Pottinger resisted Dublin’s attempts to arm the Orange Order in Lecale as a local sectarian militia realizing that Lecale would blow up in their faces if they did so – they try to copy Portaferry and raise a ‘mixed’ militia from their tenants. Local Orangemen were channelled into the militia at Ballynahinch, Seaforde and Castlewellan.

1798 Rev Moses Neilson arrested for preaching to Presbyterian parishioners in Gaelic at Rademon near Crossgar (It was their usual language at the time).

1798 The Rev. William Steele Dickson commander of the rebels in Down arrested in Ards two days before rising with several other leaders due to the treachery of informers Mageen and Hughes damaging the rising.

1798 Kings Castle Ardglass occupied by pro-government yeomany. They use it as a barrack for 30 years until about 1834. In 1830 a great part of the Castle fell down when workmen undermined it to make improvements. Today it is a nursing home. This ‘Yeomanry’ were part of the ‘South Down Militia’ who ultimately became the Royal Irish Rifles by 1890 and, after Lord Hill evicted many tenants around Ballykinlar in 1892, they took up residence in the Ballykinar base on 1,200 acres.

1801 Act of Union Irish Parliament is abolished in response to the 1798 rebellion, but also in recognition of the brutish miss-rule of the Ascendency Landlords in Ireland. The Act damages Ireland economically, but creates opportunities to reverse sectarian discrimination as UK Parliament not as strongly controlled by Ascendency landowners. Catholic Church strongly in support of UK government following French revolution and establishment of Seminary at Maynooth in 1795. Penal laws relaxed and most modern-day Catholic Churches in Lecale built after this date. 

1803 Thomas Russell United Irishman leader executed at Downpatrick jail after attempting further rising.

1806 William Ogilvie buys Ardglass. Ogilvie and rebuilds the town as a progressive and innovative landlord.

1810 Saint Nicholas' Church of Ireland opens for worship in Ardglass. This was built on the site of the Abbey of Saint Mary which was left roofless after the Reformation.

1811 Daniel O'Connell established the Catholic Board, which campaigned for Catholic emancipation, that is, the opportunity for Irish Catholics to become members of parliament. The Dublin Colonial regime under William Saurin, the Attorney General for Ireland tried repeatedly to suppress it, prosecuting its members. .

1813 Ogilvie and Sir John Rennie secure Act of Parliament to provide Ardglass with a new pier and lighthouse greatly improving the port.

1815 Dublin Castle Authorities hugely disappointed by failure of Daniel O’Connell to be killed in a duel.

1816 John Hughes is born, he discovers one of the biggest gold nuggets in the American Gold Rush and returns to Ardglass in 1850 after many adventures.

1820 Gaelic is still the dominant language in Lecale. The area described as Irish-speaking by Hume was ‘from Ballynahinch to near Newry and Newcastle and Lower Lecale.’

1820 A small harbour was operating in Ballyhornan.

1822 Preventative Water Guard formed during the Napoleonic wars changes its name to ‘Coast Guard’

May 1823, Daniel O'Connell launched the Catholic Association which was hugely influential in Lecale and which and campaigned for more Catholics to have the vote, to be allowed to take up public offices including being an MP, and to repeal the Penal Laws. With the membership subscription set at a relatively cheap price, the peasant and working classes could join. Affordability ensured large numbers. In effect, it became a universal Catholic organisation, transparent and populist with good governance. Members of the association were in essence the owners; their subscription fees going directly into the maintenance and running of the association. This was the first mass exercise in real democratic organisation in Britain or Ireland, creating thousands of people with good organisational and political skills that went on to form other organisations in Ireland the USA and Britain.

1824 Lifeboat Service started as ‘National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck’

1825 ‘National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck’ establishes boat station at Rossglass which closed in 1845 after lighthouse was built.

1828 The first stone of Saint Nicholas' Catholic Church is laid in May with land donated by landlord William Ogilvie. The church opened later in the same year and was dedicated by Bishop William Crolly. It was the second church to open in the village. The bulding fund received many donations from members of other faiths.

1829 Roman Catholic Relief Act allows O’Connell and his supporters start to take their seats in Parliament and many remaining anti-Catholic penal laws repealed. They form the ‘Repeal Party’ aimed at repealing the Union.  This Act broke the Tory anti-reform movement controlled by the Aristocracy in the UK and was the trigger for reform throughout the 1800’s.

30 March 1829 A meeting of the Catholics of the parish of Down, under the chairmanship of the Rev. Cornelius Denvir, voted an address of gratitude to O'Connell on having achieved Emancipation. Catholic middle class greatly benefits but many local people in Lecale live in dire poverty, essentially slaves to rack-rent and usually absentee Anglican landlords. Presbyterians in mid and North Down not much better off.


2 April 1829 O'Connell was present at a public dinner at Denvir's Hotel in Downpatrick in his honour attended by 'upwards of eighty gentlemen, of different religious persuasions.' He delivered a speech to an assembled crowd below from an upstairs window. O’Connell founded the ‘Repeal Party’ in the area. O’Connell’s block of MPs campaign for electoral and economic reform, the abolition of slavery and anti-Jewish legislation and the repeal of the Act of Union to create a new Irish Parliament under Queen Victoria. This and successor Irish Parties were allied to the Liberal Party until 1910 pushing reform after reform past the resistance of the Tory or Conservative party who are supported by the local landlord class.

1830 Down-based Orangemen resolve to assassinate O’Connell and resolve to ambush and kill him in Hilltown on the road from Dublin to Downpatrick where he is acting as a barrister in the case of Blackwood v Blackwood but he is warned by friends, armed himself and made his way via another route to Downpatrick. This was one of several attempts to murder O’Connell. Murder and mayhem by the Orange Order was tolerated by the authorities with little or no real police force locally with the local Ascendency landlords appointing their own baronial police. Although an 1822 Act established a force under chief constables and inspectors in each province, County Down was the last County in Ireland to have a police force. Daniel O’Connell campaigned for the establishment of the Irish Constabulary in County Down against vested interests. By 1841 this force numbered over 8,600 men across Ireland. The original force had been reorganised under The Act of 1836, and the first constabulary code of regulations was published in 1837. The discipline was strict and the pay low. The police faced civil unrest among the Irish rural poor, and was involved in bloody confrontations during the period of the Tithe War.

1830 Ulster Gaelic Society founded to preserve Irish Gaelic as a spoken language. Between this date and the foundation of Conradh na Gaeilge in 1893 by Douglas Hyde, the Gaelic language in Down moved from being the language of the rural poor to being a language of the educated living in towns.

1830 Tithe Wars start as newly enfranchised Catholics start to refuse to pay Tithes to the Church of Ireland. One of Daniel O’Connell’s ‘Repeal Party’ MPs, Patrick Lalor, a farmer, proposed a campaign of passive resistance saying "I never again pay tithes; I will violate no law; the tithe men may take my property, and offer it for sale; but my countrymen respect me and none of them would buy or bid for it if exposed for sale”. Lalor held true to his word and did not resist the confiscation of 20 sheep from his farm, but was able to ensure no buyers appeared at subsequent auctions.


1831 Catholic Association ensures co-operation with the Government’s census. Previously Irish people were suspicious because they thought the Government used the census to impose more taxes or grab land. The result greatly encouraged the Association because it showed the huge extent to which Catholics outnumbered Protestants and the degree of discrimination against Catholics. Whole parishes were discovered “where it was not possible to meet a single Protestant but with rich rectorships without a single parishioner” or “Teachers paid out of lavish parliamentary grants who had not a single scholar”. Mass corruption was exposed amongst the Ascendency class comparable comparable in scale the corruption in the Sind province of Pakistan today.


1830 Daniel O’Connell sets up the Repeal Association. A mass membership political movement to campaign for a repeal of the Act of Union of 1800 between Great Britain and Ireland. The Association's aim was to revert Ireland to the constitutional position briefly achieved by Henry Grattan and his patriots in the 1780s, but this time with a full Catholic involvement that was now possible following the Act of Emancipation in 1829, supported by the electorate approved under the Reform Act of 1832.


1831 Thomas Hunter is born in Ardglass and becomes the founder of the Hunter Colleges of New York, one of the largest educational establishments in America.


1831 National school system introduced by British Government with strict rules about not being dominated by any one faith. Rules opposed by both Presbyterian and Catholic Churches. Both churches were emerging from suppression under the penal laws. They wanted schools of their own tradition. Both the Government and the Churches had different but similar motivations for controlling the curriculum in National Schools; “that will aid us in a work of great difficulty, to wit, that of suppressing hedge schools” (Bishop Doyle). Hedge schools are seen as unholy incubators of republicanism. Schooling in English only is rigorously enforced by church authorities in exchange for church control of schools.


1831 Tithe war escalates. Authorities recorded 242 murders, 1,179 robberies, 401 burglaries, 568 burnings, 280 cases of cattle-maiming, 161 assaults, 203 riots and 723 attacks on property directly attributed to seizure order enforcement. On 14 December 1831, resisters used such warnings to ambush a detachment of 40 Constabulary at Carrickshock in County Kilkenny. Eighteen constables, including the Chief Constable, were killed and more wounded.


1832 Missionaries from the "Methodist New Connection" came to Ardglass and formed a Society in 1832. A very small plain building was erected in 1843 at a cost of £150 it had 28 seats which could hold 8 people each. The minister in 1910 was Rev. Thomas Orr from Downpatrick. The church was demolished in 1960s.

August 1932 Cholera devastates the community in Ardglass. A Board of Health is established and a field hospital is built on the grounds of Ardglass Castle. The Rev. George Crane contracts the disease while visiting the sick and dies. His grave is the only known grave marked in Ardglass.

November 1832 William Ogilvie dies at the age of 92. His remains were interred within the Church of Ireland and his loss was greatly lamented by the village. His grandson Major Aubrey William Beauclerk inherits the Ardglass estate having shadowed William for a few years.

1834 Gaelic starts to go into decline as the language of ordinary people in Lecale with it being used mostly by rural middle-aged and older people.

1836 Commission on the State of Irish Fisheries reported that Scottish dealers and curers no longer used the herring port of Ardglass.


1837 Ardglass described as being one of the most fashionable watering places in the north of Ireland. It had hot & cold vapour baths, lodgings and an elegant hotel. There were 41 two-storey houses, 4 three-storey houses and 75 one-storey. Ogilvie's most important contribution was the new harbour, pier and lighthouse because Ardglass then became a centre of the east coast fishing industry (mainly herring). Frequently there were 300-400 vessels in the harbour from several places in Ireland but mainly Penzance in Cornwall.

1838 The Parliament in London realising they were beaten on Tithes passed a Tithe Commutation Act for Ireland. This reduced the amount payable directly to the ‘Established’ Anglican Church of Ireland by about a quarter and made the remainder payable in rent to landlords. Tithes were thus effectively added to a tenant's rent payment. This partial relief and elimination of the confrontational collections ended the violent aspect of the Tithe War, it also brought the local Landlords into fresh focus for the next big political campaign.

1845 - 1852 An Gort Mór - more than 10% of the population in County Down died in the Great Famine. But this was well below the average across Ireland where the population of Ireland fell eventually by half. Lack of Irish Parliament prevents legislation to halt food exports to deal with famine as in the 1700’s.

1846 Impact of the Great Famine was marginally delayed in Lecale until October of 1846 when the Workhouse in Downpatrick serving the local ‘Poor Law Union’ starts to fill to record levels. In Ardglass a soup kitchen was opened through public subscription.

1846/47 The landed gentry used their power in the House of Lords to delay or water down relief legislation, but Acts of Parliament were passed in 1846 and 1847 to pressurized landlords into organizing paid relief work schemes. But County Down had one of the lowest rates in the country for the implementation of such schemes.

1847 Daniel O’Connell arrested on trumped up charges of conspiracy and sentenced to a year's imprisonment and a fine of £2,000. Released after three months by the House of Lords which quashed the conviction and severely criticised the unfairness of the trial. O'Connell died on a pilgrimage to Rome at the age of 71 after his term in prison had seriously weakened him. O'Connell's philosophy inspired leaders all over the world, including Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) and Martin Luther King (1929–1968). William Gladstone (1809–1898) described him as "the greatest popular leader the world has ever seen”.

1847 Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association collapsed with the arrival of famine. Younger members broke away and shocked by the scenes of starvation and greatly influenced by the revolutions then sweeping Europe, these ‘Young Irelanders’ re-adopt the Republican philosophy of the United Irishmen and move from peaceful agitation to armed rebellion in 1848/9. The attempted rebellion failed abysmally and those not deported and imprisoned in Australia fled to France and the USA.

1846/47/48/49 Local famine relief committees were set up in Ardglass, Bright, Ballyculter, Ballee, Saul, Hollymount, Ballyhornan, Ballybeg, Tullumgrange, Seaforde and two in Downpatrick. Families tried to avoid the workhouses which had become deathtraps with smallpox, whooping cough, dysentery, influenza and other diseases rampant.  

1846 The Down Recorder of October documented the record levels of ‘paupers’ being admitted to the workhouse focusing attention on able-bodied men admitted by the local Poor Union Guardians and noted that that even weavers were being drawn into the workhouse owing to the slump in that trade in County Down. The Recorder’s reporting reflected elements of the ‘undeserving poor’ in National press coverage which ignored the utter desperation of families in applying for what they knew to be deathtraps. This type of press coverage gave Westminster the cover to allow the famine to build to epic proportions without being held to account. There was a strong element of racism and sectarianism in the National press which made the situation worse.

1850 Resulting from the famine the Gaelic language in rural areas of Lecale went into precipitous collapse as Gaelic speakers were most likely to be in the socio-economic class affected by famine in Lecale and Ireland generally.

1854 ‘National Institute for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck’ changes its name to Royal National Lifeboat Service with 5 boats stationed in County Down at Bangor, Donaghadee, Portaferry, Newcastle and Kileel.

1857 ‘Will's Billy’ Curran, The Sage of Sheepland Mór born. A Gaelic speaker and traditional 'Shanachie' or story teller, his smallholding was a venue for local Céilí. The 'ceilidh' is a literary entertainment where stories and tales, poems and ballads, are rehearsed and recited, songs are sung, conundrums are put, proverbs are quoted, and many other literary matters are related and discussed. On many occasions you could find the great antiquarian Francis Joesph Bigger sitting along his hearthside along with the famous revolutionary Irishmen like Sir Roger Casement and Eskine Childers, father of a future Irish president. Billy was also a great nature lover and spent much of his life studying birds and wildlife, and fishing at Sheepland harbour for his dinner - he would have made his own flies out of bird feathers and threads from old shirts. Billy died in 1933.

1858  ‘Young Irelanders’ return and found the Irish Republican Brotherhood network across Ireland who would later organise the rising in 1916. They also found the ‘Fenian Brotherhood’ in the USA with support from millions of Irish post-famine immigrants. Fenians would later raise and army and invade Canada several times between 1866 and 1871. Trying to capture it and use it as a ‘hostage’ for a free Ireland. They even raided Australia to free prisoners. Fenians would morph into Clann na Gael in the USA and raise funds for the 1916 rebellion and the War of Independence. Both based around a republican democratic non-sectarian vision and oppose the Hibernians. They are resisted by both the British and Catholic establishment.

1860’s and 1870’s Fishing and in particular herring industry in Ardglass rapidly expands because of demand nationally in Ireland.

1860 Landlords lose many MP seats in Elections around Ireland to the new ‘Home Rule’ movement but continue to hold on in Down. The Home Rulers continue O’Connells work for reform.

1863 Ardglass town and surrounding townland was mainly owned by Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk.

1866 Ardglass boats sell summer herring in Howth, Scotland and England, with two steamers from England and one from Scotland conveying fish to Liverpool, Holyhead, Workington and Glasgow.

1871 The new Land Act makes it more difficult for landlords to evict without good reason

1872 The Ballot Act replaced open elections with a secret ballot system and Landlords can no longer easily check how their tenants have voted.

1872 Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) or Home Rule Party formed and proceeds to dominate politics in Lecale. Third biggest party at Westminster seeking home rule under the Crown by peaceful means. By the 1880s, the nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) was returning 80 MPs to the House of Commons; it had developed by then into the first modern political party in Westminster’s history, repeatedly attempting to get ‘Irish Home Rule’ and ‘land reform’ bills passed by the UK Parliament.

1873 Home Rule Party win majority of seats in Ireland, but Landlords win all seats in Down and hang on until 1885with support of Orange Order who organise the votes of newly enfranchised poor and landless Protestants. From this point on Landlord power wanes in County Down with the growth of the Home Rule Party who win the right of tenants to buy out Landlords. The Orange Order is absorbed into Unionist Associations by the gentry.

1879 The Irish National Land League founded at the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo, to “first, to bring out a reduction of rack-rents; second, to facilitate the obtaining of the ownership of the soil by the occupiers”.  Branches were set up in Scotland and the Crofters Party imitated the League, securing a Reform Act in 1886. This campaign was of great importance to the rural community of Lecale around Ardglass. Some have suggested that peculiarities of the Ulster leasing system had given tenants better protection in Ulster, however it did not feel that way to the largely Presbyterian and Catholic tenants in Down. 

1879 – 1882. The ‘Land War’ broke out. Though the League discouraged violence, agrarian crimes increased widely. Typically a rent strike would be followed by evictions by the police, or those tenants paying rent would be subject to a local boycott by League members. Where cases went to court, witnesses would change their stories, resulting in an unworkable legal system The League organised resistance to evictions, reductions in rents and aided the work of relief agencies. Landlords' attempts to evict tenants led to violence. Originally, the movement cut across sectarian boundaries, with many meetings being held in Orange Halls. But this ended as landlords and gentry extended their influence within the Orange Order. The government suppressed the Land League and the cause was advanced in Westminster by the Irish Parliamentary Party and its leader Parnell, himself a liberal Anglican Landlord.

1881 The arrest of the Irish Parliamentary Party leader MP Chares Stuart Parnell led to the Land League initiating a country-wide rent strike on 1881, after which the government suppressed the Land League but the cause continued to be advanced in Westminster by the Irish Parliamentary Party who used their block of votes in Westminster to effectively to win reform. The ‘Ulster Customs’ on renting land mean that many rural poor marginally better off in County Down compared to rest of Ireland, but there is a clear wish of Irish people of every hue to own their own land cuts across all sections of society.

1881 On the 6th January in Downpatrick, 10,000 people attended a Land League meeting addressed by Michael Davitt and Presbyterian and Catholic clergy. Government delivers second Land Act in response to this pressure which gave tenants legal rights to fair rents, free sale or their leases and fixity of tenure. The campaign continues for the right to buy out landlords.

1883 The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act ends Landlords ability to buy votes

1884 The Representation of the People Act 1884+5 extend the vote to 56% of the population and Landlords in Down begin to lose control once 1885 election is over.

1884 1st November Foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association for the Preservation and Cultivation of our National Pastimes. Maurice Davin was elected President, Michael Cusack, John Wyse Power and John McKay elected Secretaries and Archbishop Thomas William Croke, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt were asked to become patrons. It would be difficult to overstate the influence of the GAA in Lecale – if anyone can provide a local history please email us. I am aware that Kilclief GAC was founded in 1906 – but am looking for dates on the other clubs.

1885 Elections and in the new East Down constituency created locally and Richard William Blackwood Ker as local landlord was elected MP without a contest. He had been appointed Sheriff of County Down for 1880-81 and was the Member of Parliament for County Down, 1884–1885 and for East Down, 1885–1890.

1885 Nationally the Irish Parliamentary Party wins 85 seats out of 101 and hold the balance of power in Westminister and up the pressure for land reform, voting reform, progressive politics and Home Rule. They are opposed by the Torys supported by landlord MP’s like Richard Ker above.

1886 Ardglass grows as a fishing port with about 500 vessels regularly moored there.

1889 Ardglass continues to grow with petty court sessions and a police station with John Harvey in charge.

1885 – 1902 Political change from General Election with Irish Parliamentary Party dominating local politics with MacArtan, Small and McVeigh elected for South Down with Unionists holding onto East Down. Landlords and gentry use power in the House of Lords to block Home Rule Bills passed by Westminster in 1886 and 1993, but IIP succeed with land reform bills and most families in rural areas around Ardglass benefit.

1890 24 January. Meeting to discuss the proposed railway extension from Downpatrick.

1890  ‘South Down Militia’ became the Royal Irish Rifles by 1890 and, after Lord Hill evicted many tenants around Ballykinlar in 1892, they took up residence in the Ballykinar base on 1,200 acres.

25 March 1890. By-election. The vacancy arose because of the resignation of the sitting member, Richard William Blackwood Ker of the Conservative party. Local landlords ensured that only one candidate was nominated, James Alexander Rentoul, a Conservative member of London County Council, who was elected unopposed

1890’s A fall in quayside demand and prices for fresh fish to England results in Ardglass losing some of its share of Irish landings. This situation lead to the reestablishment of curing locally in the 1900’s


1892 Ardglass Railway Station opens.


1892 Landlord candidate James Alexander Rentoul elected unopposed again as MP

1893 Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League) founded by Douglas Hyde as part of the Gaelic cultural revival of from the 1890’s onwards. The effects of Gaelic League activity is seen in the censuses of 1901 and 1911 with growth of language within many local families.

1895 Landlord candidate James Alexander Rentoul again returned unopposed as MP


1896 Ardglass Golf Club is formed. The club was the idea of Rev. Thomas McAfee who seen the origins of the game in Scotland while recruiting a Scotch Gaelic speaking minister for Presbyterian fish processors working on the harbour. 


1898 Huge fresh fish market in England overtakes local fresh fish demand in record year for landings at Ardglass. Special steamers are employed to despatch fresh fish as soon as it is landed.

1900 Landlord candidate James Alexander Rentoul was elected unopposed once more as MP

1902 Appointment of MP James Alexander Rentoul as a judge triggers a by-election. Mr Rentoul was a disaster as a Judge and the only good thing the ‘who’s-who’ of the day could say about him was that he was a good after-dinner speaker.

1902 By-election shock locally when anti-Russellite Liberal Unionist James Wood becomes the first person to take the local MP’s seat off the Conservative-Party supporting local landlord class. Supports the Liberal Government and the Irish Parliamentary Party in introducing land reform – this is the beginning of the end of the power of the landlord class in East Down.

1902 First official records show that Ardglass exports 80% of its catches fresh to distant markets with the rest sold locally except for only 500 barrels of cured herring.

1903 The major herring fishing stations on the 4 coasts of Ireland are linked by a ‘telegraphic intelligence system’ modelled on the system deployed across Ireland for the mackerel fishery the year before. In the first year 20,000 telegrams were sent on landings, prices, the location of sea shoals etc. This attracted boats from other areas to Ardglass to take advantage of prices from the curing firms,

1903 Effective parliamentary action by IIP leader Parnell and his successors produces the Land (Purchase) Act 1903. This freed Irish farmers from slave-like extractive rents from a largely absent English landlord class. It allowed Irish tenant farmers buy out their freeholds with UK government loans over 68 years. The legal ownership of land by Irish people had been one of the main causes of war and mayhem in Lecale and Ireland in general since 1170. The impact of this change could not be underestimated and the local sense of social justice was undeniable.

1904 John Gordon's forge is opened at Chapeltown.

1905 Joe Hamill, green keeper for the Golf Club is tasked with moving some steps in the front lawn of Ardglass Castle. In the middle of the day he uncovers a carved stone. Telling nobody of his find he returns under the cover of darkness with his son John. They move the stone to the family home at Castle Place and put it under John's bed. John is terrified that someone will come looking for the stone and also because it has a carved hand on it. Six weeks later it is decided the stone needs to be given to the priest. They move the stone under cover of darkness to Chapeltown on a wheelbarrow. To deaden the noise on the 2 mile walk they wrapped sacking around the iron wheel.

1906 Unionist Captain James Craig elected for East Down – a local man who grew up around Tyrella and was Master of the Lecale lodge of the Orange Order

1907 Curing on a significant scale starts again in Ardglass after an 80 year absence


1908 Francis Joseph Bigger finding the stone placed at Chapeltown by Joe Hamill in 1905 recovers the feet of the statue of Our Lady of Dunsford from the water beneath the first tee of the golf course. New heads are added and the restored statue is placed in the niche under the steeple. It is unveiled on 25th March 1908. 

1909 Nearly 9000 barrels and 3000 half-barrels leave Ardglass harbour produced in six weeks by Scottish firms with labour from Peterhead and Donegal.

1911 Census showed the Ardglass parish population was 784 with 501 people in the town.


1910 Irish Parliamentary Party and other Nationalist parties win a massive victory at General Election. Unionists win East Down. House of Lords powers are finally reduced in 1911 so they can no longer block legislation longer than 2 years and this allows the Irish Home Rule bill introduced in 1912, with the expectation that it will be passed and implemented in 1914.It was the third such bill introduced by a Liberal government in a 28-year period in response to the Irish Home Rule movement.

November 1910 the Ulster Unionist Council formed a secret committee to oversee the creation of an army in Ulster to fight against the imposition of Home Rule, which was proposed to give Ireland self-government within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Council approached Major Frederick H. Crawford to act as its agent to purchase the guns needed to equip such an army.

1911 The benefactors of the estate foreclose on Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk. The entire village is put up for auction in hundreds of lots. Jordan's Castle was saved by Francis Joseph Bigger from the hands of a developer who planned to turn the site into a hotel. This played a key part in the Gaelic revival at the start of the 20th Century. The Belfast solicitor and antiquary, who had already restored the ancient churches of Raholp and Ardtole. He restored the vanished floors and ceilings, adorned the walls with pictures of Ulster chieftains and put on display a collection of native furniture and antiquities. He changes its name to Castle Shane.

1911 The ‘Crown Brand’ introduced for local fish, improving prices.


1912 Nearly 30,000 barrels of fish and 5,600 tons of fresh fish were exported from County Down. The quantity of herring landed almost breaks the 1898 record.

1912 3rd Home Rule Bill introduced in Parliament and Tory-led aristocratic landlords in the House of Lords use their remaining powers to block it for 2 years.

1912. Unionists founded the Ulster Volunteers, a paramilitary group aided by a number of senior retired Army officers, to fight if necessary against the British government and/or against a future Irish Home Rule government proposed by the Bill. The Ulster Unionists enjoyed the wholehearted support of the British Conservative Party, even when threatening armed rebellion against the British government.

28th Sept 1912 Sir Edward Carson signs the Covenant at the Belfast City Hall with a silver pen followed by  Lord Londonderry (the former viceroy of Ireland), the local East Down MP James Craig and representatives of the Protestant churches supported in all by 237,368 men “in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland”.

On the same day after a service of dedication at Down Cathedral, 1,189 men signed the covenant locally.

1912 Ulster Volunteer rallies in Finnebrouge estate near Downpatrick. Ardglass members cycled to the rally.

January 1913, the Ulster Unionist Council transformed the Ulster Volunteers into the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), consisting of men who had signed the Ulster Covenant aiming for a membership of 100,000. The UUC wanted to co-ordinate the paramilitary activities of Ulster’s unionists, as well as to give military backing to the threats of the Ulster Covenant to resist implementation of the Third Home Rule Bill, which had been introduced on 11 April 1912 by Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. This was regarded as a bluff by Westminster and Home Rule party leader John Redmond as well as most Liberal MPs, including Winston Churchill. But UVF membership grew to around 90,000 members, led by retired officers of the British Army, with the organisation under the charge of Lieutenant-General Sir George Richardson KCB, a veteran of the Afghan Wars. The UVF quickly had over £1 million pledged to it, and £70,000 invested in attempts to import arms.

1912  Tory leader Bonar Law in House of Commons backs armed rebellion against Parliament to prevent home rule bill.

26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914 The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers which took place in Ireland's capital city of Dublin. The dispute lasted from, and is often viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history. Central to the dispute was the workers' right to unionise.

23 November 1913 Irish Citizen Army ‘Arm Cathartha na hÉireann’ founded. A small group of trained trade union volunteers from the Irish Transport Workers Union (ITWU) established in Dublin for the defence of worker's demonstrations from the police. It was formed by James Larkin, James Connolly and Jack White to defend workers from big employers in Dublin resisting trade unions led by William Martin Murphy who was an Irish journalist, businessman and politician. Murphy had lost his MP’s seat to Home Rulers led by Parnell and had been dubbed "William Murder Murphy" among Dublin workers and the press due to the Dublin Lockout. He was Ireland's first "press baron", founding todays Sunday Independent in 1906, which company has gone on to have a near monopoly level of press ownership in Ireland.

25th November 1913  Irish Volunteers formed in 1913 explicitly to safeguard the granting of Home Rule, impressed by the impact of the Ulster Volunteer Force in overturning laws passed by the government and frustrated by the delay in Britain granting Ireland self-government. By Mid-1914, the Irish Volunteer Force had recruited 180,000 men with very large numbers throughout Mid-Down and South Down including Lecale. Recruitment was very heavy after the Larne gun-running by the UVF the following year.

1914  Rural peace in Ireland for the first time in centuries years with 75% of farmers buying out their landlords. Over 316,000 tenants purchased their holdings amounting to 15 million acres (61,000 km2) out of a total of 20 million acres (81,000 km2) in the country.

March 1914 British Army in Ireland mutinies against Westminster Government over 3rd Home Rule Bill, warning that they will not move against Unionists and the UVF.

25th April 1914. In the dead of night the Ulster Unionist Council and UVF landalmost 25,000 rifles and 5 million rounds of ammunition from the German Empire at Larne. Other landings in Donaghadee, and Bangor. Some 216 tons of guns and ammunition purchased in Hamburg. Included in this cache was; 11,000 Mannlicher rifles brought from the Steyr works in Austria; 9,000 ex-German army Mausers; and 4,600 Italian Vetterli-Vitali rifles. The Larne gun-running may have been the first time in history that motor-vehicles were used "on a large scale for a military-purpose”. The Belfast Telegraph was delighted and gave the whole affair favourable publicity and praising the organisation in Larne noting; “ It was an amazing sight to see this huge procession of cars nearly three miles in length descending upon the town with all their headlights ablaze”. Clearly the Belfast Telegraph had a weak grasp of democratic parliamentary politics when it was effectively supporting armed rebellion against Westminster. Many much smaller weapons purchases had resulted in the UVF as having just over 37,000 rifles by June 1914. The Larne gun-running returned the gun to the centre of Irish politics. The success at Larne heightened nationalist suspicions that the authorities were acquiescent towards unionist militants in Ulster. After the events in Larne, the nationalist Irish Volunteers, formed in late 1913, attracted many new members and started to look for guns.

30th April 1914 Following the Larne gun-running, Sir Rodger Casement stays in the Ardglass Arms and meets with Francis Bigger at Shanes Castle with a view to recruiting crew to smuggle arms for the Irish Volunteers. They they feel the British Army cannot be trusted to enforce the law if the Home Rule bill is introduced. Biggar advised against recruiting Ardglass men, but introduced Casement to two Gaelic-speaking Donegal men based in Ardglass who he could personally vouch for. Less than £4000 is available for the operation.

July 26th 1914 Transport from Germany to Ireland was carried out by Erskine Childers, Molly Childers, Sir Roger Casement, Alice Green, Connor O’Brien and Mary Spring Rice with the two two Gola Island, County Donegal sailors, Patrick McGinley and Charles Dugen sailing the Asgard and O'Brien's yacht Kelpie to the Ruytingen buoy near the Belgian coast. Sir Thomas Myles, a surgeon; barrister and politician Tom Kettle; and barrister James Meredith also sailed the Chotah. There they met the tugboat that had carried the rifles from Hamburg. The arms filled the Asguard’s cabin entirely, leaving little space to sleep or prepare food, all of which was done on top of the arms. On the return journey, they met with bad storms. Next they encountered an entire fleet of the British navy, out in anticipation of the outbreak of the world war. They landed the Asguard at Howth in a blaze of publicity in daylight. The Chotah simultaneously landed at Kilcoole in County Wicklow.

Their financial resources were much less that the Unionist/UVF and amounted to 1500 guns, dating from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 but were still functioning. They were later used in the attack on the GPO in the Easter Rising of 1916. However the major purpose of the operation was propaganda and publicity.

They were met with by members of Fianna Eireann ready with hand carts and wheelbarrows. Present were Bulmer Hobson, Douglas Hyde, Darrell Figgis, Peadar Kearney and Thomas MacDonagh. Ardglass connected Assistant Metropolitan Commissioner Harrell appealed for military assistance. The two groups met at Clontarf and A riot ensued between Volunteers armed with batons and the police. Many policemen refused to obey orders to disarm the Volunteers and those that followed orders were unable to seize the weapons. There followed another confrontation with the military detachment in which there was more hand-to-hand fighting involving bayonets and rifle butts. In the confusion Thomas MacDonagh and Bulmer Hobson succeeded in ordering the back ranks of Fianna Eireann Volunteers to quietly relay the guns away. By this stage a crowd had gathered, and on seeing the soldiers frustrated they began to heckle and jeer. Shots were fired and three people were killed instantly with thirty-eigh injured. One  man died later of bayonet wounds.

9th of June 1914  The Irish Volunteers has been secretly influenced by the Fenian IRB which had been instrumental in their establishment. But the IRB were never able to gain complete control of the organisation. This was compounded after John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, took an active interest. Though some well known Redmond supporters had joined the Volunteers, the attitude of Redmond and the Party was largely one of opposition, though by the Summer of 1914, it was clear the IPP needed to control the Volunteers if they were not to be a threat to their authority, and on 9th of June moved to take over the Volunteers. This led to a split at the start of World War I, 90% followed Irish Parliamentary leader John Redmond and joined the National Volunteers, enlisting in the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions of the British Army. 14,000 refusing to join; many of whom would later go on to join the IRA and participate in the War of Independence under the influence of the IRB.

28 July 1914 First World War commences and lasts until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved . Many smaller European nations were able to set up their own countries and escape the clutches of the giant colonial Empires.

1914 Although many UVF officers left to join the British Army during the war, the unionist leadership wanted to preserve the UVF as a viable force, aware that the issue of Home Rule and partition would be revisited when the war ended. They played on fears of a German naval raid on Ulster and so the UVF was recast as a home defence force. Ballykinlar became one of the main training bases for what was to become the 36th Ulster Division as UVF mostly fell into the Royal Irish Rifles area of recruitment.

18 September 1914 Parliament suspends the 3rd Home Rule Bill. This, when combined with the military preparations to resist the Home Rule Bill, pushes many towards radical action.

1915 Unionists like Edward Carson previously involved in gun-running and threatened rebellion against Parliament are invited to join the Cabinet, John Redmond of the Irish Parliamentary Party does not – likely a significant error – giving him responsibility without auithority. Massive casualties at Gallipoli triggers decline in IIP’s popularity.

Easter 1916 Irish Republican Brotherhood secretly organise rebellion which goes ahead in Dublin, but countermanding orders prevent the rebellion occurring in most of the rest of the country. Troops land from Britain and Dublin is recaptured after a week of street fighting and shelling.

1916 Ardglass man Deputy Commissioner Harrell of the Dublin Metropolitan Police is the one to give the order to troops to file on rebels and on civilian looters.

1916 Peace activist and key figure in the Irish Women's Suffrage and Local Government Association Thomas Sheehy-Skeffington was murdered by a soldier with local connections called Captain JC Bowen-Colthurst . Skeffington was the only son of Joseph Skeffington and Rose Magorian, of County Down. His parents were married at the Roman Catholic Chapel at Ballykinlar in 1869. Captain Bowen-Colthurst  having arrested Sheehy-Skeffington for no good reason, then used him as a ‘human shield’ with hands tied behind his back to allay attacks while his troops in raids on Rathmines. Arriving at the home and shop of  Alderman James Kelly (who was a British Conservative) Colthurst mistook him for Alderman Tom Kelly an Irish politician. The soldiers destroyed the shop with hand grenades. Bowen-Colthurst took captive a young boy, and two pro-British journalists who were in the shop – Thomas Dickson and Patrick MacIntyre – and a Sinn Féin politician, Richard O'Carroll. He shot O'Carroll in the lungs, and shot the boy as he knelt to pray. Skeffington witnessed and protested at the murders of the boy and O'Carroll on the way through Rathmines – Bowen-Colthurst told him: "You'll be next". The two journalists and Sheehy Skeffington were taken out to a yard in the barracks and shot dead by an ad hoc firing squad on Bowen-Colthurst's orders.

A major in the Royal Munster Fusiliers, Sir Francis Fletcher Vane, was in overall charge of defence at Portobello Barracks and arrived shortly afterwards, and was horrified at what had unfolded. His attempts to have Colthurst arraigned for murder were stopped and he was ordered to do a cover-up. He went to London where he met Lord Kitchener in Downing Street on 3 May 1916. A telegram was sent to Sir John Maxwell, commander-in-chief of British forces in Ireland, ordering the arrest of Bowen-Colthurst, but Maxwell refused to arrest him. Vane was dishonourably discharged from the British Army in the summer of 1916 owing to his actions in the Skeffington murder case. However Vane and Mrs Hanna Skeffington continued to campaign.

23 August 1916 Down Recorder outraged over enquiry into upstanding local soldier at the Four Courts. Conclusion was that the proclamation of martial law does not confer on officers or soldiers any new powers. The measures taken can be justified only by the practical circumstances of the case. The shooting of unarmed and unresisting civilians without trial constituted murder, whether martial law has been proclaimed or not.  Many other civilian killings investigated at enquiry. At his trial Bowen-Colthurst successfully pleaded insanity. Colthurst deemed 'cured' 20 months later on 26 April 1921 and was released with a full pension at the age of 40 in 1920.

After the 1916 Easter Rising William Murphy bought ruined buildings in Abbey Street as sites for his newspaper offices, however it was his viewpoints (expressed through his Irish Independent) that made him even more unpopular, by calling for the executions of Sean MacDiarmada and James Connolly at a point when the Irish public began to feel sympathy for their cause.

1917 Surviving leaders of 1916 rising take over Sinn Fein, a small Home Rule party. They turn it into a Republican party, organising defections from other parties. Irish Parliamentary Party remains strong in Down and Sinn Fein do not initially become politically dominant in Lecale as elsewhere in Ireland.

1917 Revolution in Russia means the end of herring exports to that country from Ardglass

Irish Convention June 1917 William Murphy the press baron invited along by the UK Government in an attempt to hammer out an agreement on the suspended 1914 Home Rule between all parties as to how it would be implemented. However he discovered that John Redmond was negotiating agreeable terms with Unionists under the Midleton Plan to avoid the partition of Ireland but at the partial loss of full Irish fiscal autonomy. This infuriated Murphy who criticised this intention in The Irish Independent thus severely damaged the Irish Parliamentary Party. This triggered the demise of the Irish party resulted in the rise of Sinn Féin, with whose separatist policies Murphy also did not agree with either.

March 1918 Convention's final report agreed but was dealt a fatal blow. With the urgent need for military manpower on the Western Front, the government decided in April 1918 to simultaneously introduce Home Rule and apply conscription to Ireland. This "dual policy" of conscription and devolution heralded the end of a political era and triggered an anti-conscription campaign, the rise of Sinn Féin and full-scale guerrilla warfare against British rule.

1918 Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland parliament at the general election. In the Downpatrick, Lecale and Ardglass area of East Down the Irish Parliamentary Party (Home Rule Party or IPP) and Sinn Fein failed to deliver and electoral pact as elsewhere. With a split Nationalist vote, David Reid a Unionist barrister from Belfast was elected locally with 42% of the vote. In Ulster overall, Unionists won 22 seats, Sinn Féin 26 and the Irish Parliamentary Party won 6.

1918/19 Troops returning from the Great War find Ireland transformed. War of Independence in progress and the mass of Irish MP’s refusing to recognise the UK Government.

1919 The end of the first World War allows the Ardglass herring trade to resume with Germany

21 January 1919 those Sinn Féin MPs who were not in jail or on the run assembled in Dublin's Mansion House and proclaimed themselves the parliament of Ireland, the First Dáil Éireann.

1 May 1919, UVF was 'demobilised' when its General Officer Commanding stood down.

1919 In September Sinn Fein banned and Government tries to suppress the Dáil. Alternative legal system springs up around the country called ‘Sinn Fein Courts’.

1919 William Murphy died in 1919. His family controlled Independent Newspapers until the early 1970s, when the group was sold to Tony O'Reilly whose use of their near monopoly of the Irish Printed (In my opinion – CE) also played a significant and destructive role in Irish Affairs almost up to the present day – even campaigning against John Hume and the 1998 Peace Agreement. O’Reilly lost control of the Independent Group to ex-Fine Gael tycoon Denis O’Brien from 2009 onwards, and this press empire has continued to mop up the press in Ireland without the sort of normal restrictions on concentration of press ownership found in normal developed countries – most recently the Belfast Telegraph.

1919 onwards Local units of the IRA used guns and explosives to attack police barracks at Ardglass, Clough, Castlewellan, Crossgar and Ballynahinch. Telegraph poles and trees were used in Lecale to block roads disrupt the authorities. In one such incident a senior officer of the Royal Sussex Regiment crashed his car on the way to Ballykinlar resulting in the death of his wife.

1920 In the city council elections, Sinn Féin gained control of ten of the twelve city councils in Ireland. Only Belfast and Derry remained under Unionist and IPP (respectively) control. In the local elections of the same year, Sinn Féin won control of all the county councils except Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Armagh.

1920 The publication of the Government of Ireland Act triggered big protests in ‘republican towns’ like Portaferry and Castlewellan who objected the UK governments proposal to partition Ireland and leave large Nationalist areas in a Unionist mini-state. Troops from Ballykinkar were deployed to try and stop Sinn Fein meetings.

25 June 1920 Ulster Unionist Council officially revived the UVF and appointed lieutenant colonel Wilfrid Spender as the UVF's Officer Commanding. Announcements were printed in unionist newspapers calling on all former UVF members to report for duty. However with limited success. Belfast battalions drew little more than 100 men each and they were left mostly unarmed.

1921 The UK Government and the Sinn Fein Government in Dublin agreed to a ceasefire (or "truce") on 11 July.

1921 Talks led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December. This treaty ended British rule in most of Ireland and, after a ten-month transitional period overseen by a provisional government, the Irish Free State was created as a self-governing state with Dominion status on 6 December 1922. However, Northern Ireland remained within the United Kingdom, triggering increased trouble in Lecale.

Insert boarder commission here - original plan has Lecale/Ardglass in the republic - see map in related artcile

1921 In December the Downpatrick Rural Council, Town Commissioners and the Board of Guardians of the ‘poor law union’ all pledged allegiance to the new Irish Dáil Éireann reflecting the mood of a significant majority around Lecale. This would result in their abolition and the area was ruled by a Unionist appointee until local government was restored in 1926.

1922 Huge increase in violence in the new six-county state, with anti-Catholic pogroms in Belfast and IRA units operating all over South Down. On 18 May 1922, Ardglass Barracks was under fire in battle between IRA and Sussex Regiment. There were attacks on the homes of the gentry with the Strangford Old Court home of the de Ros family destroyed in an IRA attack, with other attacks locally like those on Finnebrouge near Downpatrick and Killyleagh Castle.

Also in 1922  The Ulster Special Constabulary was raised as a local militia to support the hard-pressed police and it was the ‘Specials’ rather than the Army who patrolled Lecale in ‘Crossley Tenders’ arresting Republicans, guarding key installations and protecting the homes of the Unionist gentry. The Down Recorder reported that ‘citizens abed hear almost every night the crackle of rifle fire’.

The petty sessions in Downpatrick heard many cases where local people were seeking compensation for stolen motor vehicles, livestock that had been wounded during local ambushes and damage done to boats moored on the river Quoile that had been riddled with bullets. (The Quoile barrier was built much later and boats could still moor in Downpatrick.)

Ballykinlar Army Camp housed thousands of republican prisoners, but was surrounded by an area that had actually voted to secede from the State and sought to join the republican government in Dublin. Many notables were kept there like Seán Lemass the future Taoiseach / Irish Premier and the author Peadar Kearney who had also penned the Irish National Anthem.

1922 4th Home Rule Bill implemented for Northern Ireland and continued until it was suspended by the British parliament in 1972 as a consequence of the most recent Troubles. Home Rule never took effect in Southern Ireland due to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted instead in the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment in 1922 of the Irish Free State.

4th Home Rule Bill theoretically remained in force in Northern Ireland until it was repealed under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

1922 Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, ‘Poor Law Guardians’ and Work Houses abolished in the South and replaced by County Health Boards, but they continued to exist until 1948 in Northern Ireland.

15th November 1922 General Election. East Down Constituency abolished and is replaced by a two member constituency called ‘Down’ until 1950. Despite Republican or Labour challenges, both seats were held by Unionists until the Lecale area around Ardglass was moved to the new single-member constituency of South Down in 1950.

1923 Fishery Development Commission reports that in Ardglass alone, 20 tons of herrings can be disposed of daily by means of rail to Belfast and by motor lorry throughout Ulster to local markets and hawkers carts.

1923 Post war herring prices much lower going from 28 shillings per hundredweight to 9 shillings and sixpence.


1926 Herring Season starts early on 23 June. Cured herring being bought in Ardglass for good prices for the USA and Germany. All the space available in the harbour had been taken by 14 curing firms, almost all from Scotland. 150 women employed in curing/gutting. Half from the Western Isles and half from Donegal. A General Strike in Britain affects availability of coal for ships. Canny Ardglass traders arrange for the ships coming from Hamburg and Baltic ports for cured herring to arrive with coal as ballast, boosting their advantage vis-à-vis other ports.


1928 Herring season is late, only starting in the first week in August. over the next few years herring and fish stocks start to collapse, as do prices. This double-blow eventually leads to the Government in 1934 subsidising local fishermen to ‘tide them over’.


1929 From the Down Recorder newspaper Saturday 31st August 1929, page 3. New telephone service to New York through the new cable via Ballyhornan and the Isle of Man and then by wireless telephony from Rugby, opened on Monday. A three-minute call costs £9 6 shillings, and every minute extra £3 2 shillings. The time is charged from the moment the persons begin to speak. During the tests the voices in New York were heard with perfect clearness.

1934 Government subsidising local fishermen to ‘tide them over until things improve’ – they did not for some years. Herring trade in serous difficulty.


1941 Bishopscourt Aerodrome opens in November 1941 with the second world war. A future American President Dwight D Eisenhower visits in May 1944.

1946 The Georgetown Victory runs aground off Killard Bank. The plundering of the wreck for trophies was a concern for local people.

Georgian Renaissance
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