Thursday 21 November 2019

Site of Ireland's first Norman stronghold documented in new book

Cllr Maura Bell, Michael Potterton, Bernard Doyle, Dermot Houston, Stephen Mandal, Catherine McLoughlin and Denis Shine
Cllr Maura Bell, Michael Potterton, Bernard Doyle, Dermot Houston, Stephen Mandal, Catherine McLoughlin and Denis Shine

Simon Bourke

The exploits of the Norman invaders are documented in 'Carrick, County Wexford', a book detailing the history of the site of Ireland's first Anglo-Norman stronghold.

Edited by Denis Shine, Michael Potterton, Stephen Mandal and Catherine McLoughlin the book, which has been released to coincide with the 850th anniversary of the Norman invasion, consists of a series of essays each of which chronicles a period of time at the historic archaeological site in Ferrycarrig.

Since 1987, the site has been incorporated within the Irish National Heritage Park, and in 2018 the Park partnered with the Irish Archaeology Field School to carry out a major archaeological research programme entitled 'Digging the Lost Town of Carrig'.

The results of this project along with that of previous research at the site are included in the book.

Fittingly, 'Carrick, County Wexford' was officially launched at the National Heritage Park, Ferrycarrig and Manager of the Park, Chris Hayes, said it will serve as the definitive account of this significant historical location.

'The book, and the essays in it, describe what it was like when the Normans arrived and is based on research we've carried out ourselves at the centre over the past 18 months,' said Chris. 'We have a tagline here at the Park: 'Carrick is where the Normans began'. When they came they more or less said, 'we're here and we're not going'. Their castle was a defensive structure and their ultimate aim was to conquer Ireland. This is where the history of colonisation in this country begins.'

Although the Normans eventually extended their reach across the South East and into other parts of the the country, their first ever settlement was at Carrick, a location they pinpointed upon landing in Bannow Bay in 1169. And, according to Chris, they swiftly set about making themselves feel at home.

'The round tower which stands on the site of the first Norman castle eventually became a town, within 60 years it had 112 houses. Strategically, Carrick gave them control and access into Wexford and, after 160 years, they moved into the town.'

While the book features contributions from a number of local and national historians, it also includes the work of a man regarded as an authority on all things Norman-related, the late Billy Colfer.

'The first essay in the book was written by Billy Colfer, he previously wrote about the arrival of the Normans, there's also a foreword by his son,' said Chris who also paid tribute to the book's editor for his work in ensuring it was released in time for the anniversary.

'Denis Shine was the editor and he drove the project forward, there was a lot of dfiferent authors so that made it more difficult. It took 16 months to put together from beginning to end, it was a pretty tight deadline.'

'Carrick, County Wexford - Ireland's First Anglo-Norman Stronghold' is priced at €24.95 and can be purchased at the Book Centre and the National Heritage Park.

Gorey Guardian