History of Skerries | Introduction

Early writers tell how an island off Skerries was used as a landing place for an invasion, which happened in the second century. This island was probably Red Island or maybe Shenick. When the invaders landed they formed rank and at low tide marched to the mainland. They then proceeded to Knocknagin, north of Balbriggan where they were defeated. In 432 AD St. Patrick landed on Church Island and this is recorded by Ware in “Antiquities of Ireland.” On the coast of Dublin lies Holmpatrick, or the island of Patrick, called so in Memory of the holy man who landed there in 432 and from there passed to the mainland to enlighten Ireland with the rays of Christian religion.

According to a reference in the Book of Armagh, written about the year 800 AD, in ancient times the islands off the coast of Skerries were known as the “isles of the children of Cor.” They are called by this name in the Book of Armagh, which was written about the year 800 A.D. This old Irish name suggests that the islands were named after the people that lived on, or near them, the descendents of a man named Cor. It is recorded in the annals of Munster that in the year 797A.D. the Danes carried out one of their earliest raids in Ireland when they plundered the monastery on Church Island. St. Mochonna founded this monastery shortly after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland.

itric, who was a son of a Dane called Murchard, refounded the monastery on Church Island in 1120. He dedicated it to St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. By this time the Danes who had settled in Ireland had become Christians. The influence of the Danes still lives in local place names. Skerries got its name from the Vikings. The word Skerries comes from the Danish word skere meaning rocks or a reef, and ey meaning an islet or small island. It was applied to the series of islets and their sandy reefs, which lie just offshore opposite the town.

The prefix holm in Holmpatrick is also an old Danish word meaning harbour. In 1148, a very important synod was held on Church Island. It was summoned by Saint Malachy, the archbishop of Armagh to settle differences between the Irish Christians and the Pope. Fifteen bishops, two hundred priests and other clergy were present. In connection with decisions made at the Synod, St. Malachy was sent to Rome for discussions with the Pope. He never reached Rome as he died on the way in France at the monastery of Clairvaux, in the presence of St. Bernard. In 1256 the monastery was moved to the mainland as the monks then thought that an island was unsuitable as the site for a monastery.

This was done with the permission of Henry de Londres, the archbishop of Dublin, following a request to do so by the monks. This move created the monastery of Holmpatrick. In time the monastery began to join up with fishing village of Skerries to form the heart of the town, as we know it. In 1488 a man called Lambert Simnel claimed to be king of England and was actually crowned in Dublin. King Henry VII sent forces to Ireland to put down this rebellion and some of those forces landed in Skerries. When Silken Thomas rebelled against the king of England in 1534 he ordered his followers to assemble in Skerries. However the Lord Lieutenant had knowledge of his plans and successfully foiled them. He had four vessels, that could not be towed away, burned in the harbour and carried away a number of small boats.

The new monastery of Holmpatrick flourished. Some idea of it’s importance may be got from the fact that it was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1538 prior to the general dissolution of the monasteries. Its proper name had been “The Monastery of the Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine”. What finally happened the buildings of the monstery is not clear. Not a trace of them remains. The site is marked by the square tower in Holmpatrick cemetery, all that remains of the old Protestant Church. In 1565, after the reformation, the monastery and its lands became the property of Thomas Fitzpatrick. In 1605 the manor and lands of Holpatrick was granted to Earl of Thomand.

In 1565, after the reformation, the monastery and its lands became the property of Thomas Fitzpatrick. In 1605 the manor and lands of Holpatrick was granted to Earl of Thomand. In 1721 the last Earl sold the manor and lands, including the town of Skerries, to the Hamilton family of Hacketstown. In 1897 the Hamilton family were granted the title of Lord Holmpatrick. Comparisons between maps of Skerries drawn in 1703 and 1760 suggest that the Hamilton family was responsible for setting out the streets of the town as they are today. Between 1863 and 1865 a monument to the memory of James Hans Hamilton was erected in Skerries. The Monument is a reduced scale replica of the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park.

The following inscription is on the four panels at the base of the Monument. This Monument was erected in memory of James Hans Hamilton Esq. M.P. Abbotstown House, Co. Dublin by the tenantry of his severel estates viz.: Holmpatrick, Dublin, Meath, Carlow, Down and Queens County in testimony of their esteem for him as a kind friend and benevolent landlord. He represented this County in Parliament for twenty-two years and died 19th june 1863. James Hans Hamilton repesented County Dublin in Parliament. It would be far more accurate to say that Ms.P. then repesented their own interests and the interests and the interests of the landowning class to which they belonged. Voting in those days was public and it was only in 1872 that the secret ballot paper was first introduced. Tenants entitled to vote gathered at Balbriggan Courthouse and as the registrar called out their names, they shouted out the name of the landowner for whom they wished to vote.

As a reward for the vote the tenant was given half a crown (now =16 c.), a substantial amount then, by the landlord’s agent. Situated as it is, the monument was built as the focal point of the old town. It is now at the heart of the commercial, and shopping centre of the town. After the 1916 rising a British Destroyer landed troops at Skerries to help the Dublin garrisons suppress the rising. 200 men of the North Staffordshire Regiment landed under the command of Captain Clay. To try and impede their progress to Dublin local rebels blew up the bridge over the railway in Donabate.

Funded by the Cianan Clancy Community Enhancement Fund 1997 to 2018