Wednesday 20 March 2019

Area steeped in history

• Robert O'Hara is an archaeologist and director of Archer Heritage Planning Ltd, Balbriggan.
• Robert O'Hara is an archaeologist and director of Archer Heritage Planning Ltd, Balbriggan.

Robert O'HARA Archer Heritage Planning

THE village of Naul, formerly The Naule, is derived from the Irish 'An Áill', which refers to the perpendicular cliff on which stands Naul Castle, also known as the ' Castle of the Roches' or ' the Black Castle'. Naul Castle was constructed by the de Geneville family who built it before 1200AD 'on a rocky precipice on the brow of a chain of hills commanding a fine view of the Vale of Roches, above which it towers at a height of 150 feet', as described by Samuel Lewis, who wrote a topographical history of the area in the 1830s. The wider area around the village displays a fine example of a passage tomb at Fourknocks, constructed in the Neolithic period. Fourknocks or 'the knocks' may derive from the Irish for cold hill (fuair cnoc) probably in reference to the passage tombs sited there. Bronze Age (2500700BC) occupation can be witnessed 2km to the southeast of the village with a complex of tumuli and a hillfort. In 1013AD, a year before he lost his life at the Battle of Clontarf, Brian Boru burned Naul, as part of his campaign against Norse settlements in the region. In 1052, the last king of Brega (East Meath), Maol na mBo, reputedly defeated Norsemen outside Naul in a field which later became known as ' the Camp Field' following the encampment of the Williamite army after their victory over James II in 1690. Garristown is described in Samuel Lewis' Topographical history of 1837 as ' a constabulary police station…with a dispensary...and a windmill on a hill near the village commanding a view over fourteen counties'. The church at Garristown, which originated in the early medieval period, was granted to the Augustinians in 1200AD by the Archbishop of Dublin.

Ballyboughal (town of the staff) was the name given to the town in the c.1113, when Ceallach, Archbishop of Armagh built the church and made grants of land around Ballyboughal for the protection of the Bachall Iosa, 'the staff of Jesus' believed to have been given to St Patrick before commencing his missionary work in Ireland. The staff was an most important relic used right up to the C16th AD as a source of solemnity when taking oaths or sealing agreements. In c.1173 Strongbow and his forces removed the staff to Christchurch Cathedral where it remained until 1538 when it was destroyed with other religious relics during the Reformation.