Wednesday 20 March 2019

The headland of the yew trees


RUSH, from the Irish Ros Eo meaning 'headland of the yew trees' was founded as an early medieval ecclesiastical settlement in the 7th Century AD. The church was associated with the saint Cuanna, whose obituary is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters in the early 8th Century AD and whose festival was kept on April 10th according to the Martyrology of Oengus.

As an ecclesiastical settlement, it failed to achieve the status of neighboring Lusk. Indeed, in the later medieval period, Rush was a chapelry attached to the Parish of Lusk.

The presence of five wells in the area (in Rush, Whitestown, Bridetree and Staffordstown) may be associated with the ecclesiastical settlement, of these, the well in Rush townland may well point to the location of Cuanna's foundation.

Later medieval ecclesiastical settlement includes the church and graveyard in Whitestown, which is dedicated to the French Saint Maur.

Earlier settlement in the Rush area can be traced to the Neolithic period (4000-2500 BC), when a passage grave was constructed in Rush townland. This site was also a focus for burial in the Early Bronze Age period (2500-1600 BC), while further prehistoric burials have been discovered at Beau, Whitestown and Balleally West townlands.

Perhaps the most enigmatic archaeological site around Rush is the Iron Age promontory fort at Drumanagh overlooking Loughshinny.

The site is an imposing headland modified to an impressive enclosure with triple ramparts, 365m in length delimiting the headland.

The site has produced a number of Roman objects such as pottery and coins dating to the first and second century AD and it is believed that a Romano-British trading colony was located here in the early centuries AD. The connection with Roman Britain is further emphasized by a number of burials reported at Lambay Island in 1927 which are believed to have been individuals buried in a RomanoBritish manner and buried with objects (an iron sword, mirror, bronze brooches and other ornaments), which were common to areas around Yorkshire and Lancashire in the late 1st century AD. Rush developed a reputation as a fishing port from the 16th century AD, celebrated for its cured ling. In the 18th century, quarrying of limestone and copper was important and the ruins of a windmill on the outskirts of the town are probably from this same period. By the end of the 18th century, continued fears of French invasion prompted the policy of watch-towers of the Martello type, an example of which was erected on the headlands of Rush and Drumanagh.

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