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If there’s one thing that we’ve learnt here over our years of trying to put together the great big jigsaw that is Greystones it’s that every time you think you’re close to getting the full picture, you suddenly realise that there are a few thousand more pieces still in the box.

So, how to tell the history of Greystones in one simple post?

Well, thanks to the oul’ interweb, this particular history can just keep on evolving. Just like the town itself

So, we’ll be returning to this shot of local history on a regular basis, as we add a few more pieces to the puzzle. Such as who the hell the Orpin family were, and exactly how much of Greystones did they actually owne. Anyone out there actually know?

Suffice to say, we’ll be hoping that others will come forward with their own particular stories and archival material, so we can keep building that fuller, brighter, sharper image of Greystones.

For now, we’ll start with the basics. As anyone who has been on the site before will know, there are plenty of rabbit holes to explore on the site, from checking out the people and the buildings, the landmarks (such as The South Beach, our streets and The Harbour), Greystones on film, our ruins (including the once-grand La Touche Hotel), our shops, our beloved Ormonde cinema, and so much more. Oh, and you can catch the June 2017 reading at Greystones library on Kinlen Road resident Éamon De Valera here. And the town’s 19th century Ordnance Survey maps here.

If you’ve got about 18 days to spare, you can go hit that Olde button up on our topline menu. You’ll find a fairly comprehensive description of all the long and winding memory lanes that await you here.

The sweet thing is, with so many good people currently taking the town to exciting new places – a big shout-out here to the Flynn twins and Ross McParland, to name but three local heroes – the Greystones story is only going to get more and more interesting. And fun

Okay, here’s the potted history bit. Over time, we’ll expand on the details, and hopefully get noted local egghead historians such as Gary Paine, George Jones and Gary Acheson to contribute their own unique slices of the pie too…

Greystones: A History

Given that there are people every which way you turn in Greystones today – the town having grown more than a little since 2011’s 17,080 count – it’s wild to think that way back in 1891, there was a grand total of 500 people living here.

And just four of those were Catholics. The poor God-fearing, condom-dodging, aran sweater-worshipping feckers.

It took us a little while to reach even that lofty figure of 500, mind. In the early 1800s, there were 20 houses and 93 inhabitants, those numbers shooting up to 55 houses and 238 people by 1861, then 84 houses and 355 people by 1871, before someone bought a Barry White record and Greystones suddenly hit 1891’s dizzying heights of half-a-thousand people.

Mind you, Greystones wasn’t much to shout about back then. And it was a pain in the arse to get to. There were few roads and no trains for the first half of 1800s, and our coastguard station only arrived in 1821, way up in Blacklion – so, you know, it could roll like the clappers down to the sea.

Things could only get better, with the railway mercifully chugging into town in 1856 (thanks largely to famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel), and the harbour finally getting itself ship-shape in 1888. Six years later, and The Grand Hotel – later The La Touche Hotel – opened its doors for the very first time.

Sure, there was no stopping us after that. No matter how hard Bray tried.

Our history goes a little way back from even those early significant evolutionary leaps though. Greystones and its surrounding land was originally part of the ancient Irish territory of Cualann or Crich Cualann, an area that stretched from South Dublin down along the coast to East Wicklow. According to local historians Keith Barry and David Ward, writing in 1992, our town roots began when the 4th and last wave of Celtic settlers came to Ireland from mainland Europe around 500 BC. These Gaels or Goidels gave us our language, and it was Heremon, son of Spanish king Milesius, who defeated the Tuatha de Danann to become the first King Of Ireland.

Naturally, being top dog, Hermy set up digs in Greystones.

In the 16th century chronicle The Annals Of Clonmacnoise, it is written that Heremon then built a rath (fort) ‘on the sea shore of Rath-oinn in the territory of Cualann‘. All that remains of that fort today is its chapel, St Crispin’s Cell, whilst the first record of the Barony of Rathdown becoming known as Greystones (named after the large groups of rocks around The Cove) was in Topographia Hibernica, a 1795 publication.

As for the make-up of Greystones, Barry and Ward point out that ‘our townland is Kindlestown in the Civil Parish of Delgany, in the Barony of Rathdown, in the county of Wicklow, in the Province of Leinster‘. If you want to get all historical and administrative about it. It was in the 17th century that the townland became the basic division of land in Ireland, and when the Ordnance Survey in the first half of the 19th century started creating new townlands by dividing existing ones, we ended up with Kindlestown Upper (covering about 177 acres) and Kindlestown Lower (approximately 261 acres). Still at the centre of it all, Kindlestown Castle.

Despite the fact that Greystones was described as a ‘noted fishing place’ in that 1795 Topographia Hibernica article, the town had always struggled to make the most of its harbour. So much so that, in September 1905, a public meeting was held on the rocks overlooking the harbour, attended by the local fishermen, gentry and townsfolk, calling on the government to intervene in its struggles with an unfinished harbour. The Irish government snapped into action – 63 years later, the old Kish lighthouse was stuck onto the end of the town’s crumbling pier, like a plaster on a gash.

Not that such nautical shenanigans would have affected the town’s two big landowners, the La Touche family of Bellevue House and the Hawkins-Whitshed family of Killincarrig House (now Greystones Golf Club). Between them, these two families built much of the Greystones we know today, the La Touche family – French bankers who founded the Bank Of Ireland – buying most of the land around Greystones whilst the Hawkins-Whitshed family developed the core of the town. When sole inheritor Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed married Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, this power couple proved truly inspirational. Especially when it came to naming Greystones’ streets and landmarks.

And that’s kinda where we come in. Much of the Greystones of the 1950s and the following decades – even those grim, crippling, emigrating ’80s – is still with us today, although, naturally, the town has grown and grown – the Charlesland estate alone includes over 1,000 dwellings – and the old sepia-toned harbour has given way to a multi-million-euro marina that, slowly but surely, even the grumpiest of banjo players has come to recognise as a major boon for the town.

If Joe Sweeney – the Elvis of the Harbour – says the new marina is rock’n’roll, hey, it’s rock’n’roll.

And did you know that the Irish government finally got around to granting Greystones town status as late as 1984? Talk about a slow developer.

There’s too much recent history to squeeze into a few paragraphs here. Besides, quite a chunk of that history is all over this website, from our Nightclub Years to Gwen’s Week, from Fr Fennelly’s blessed Super 8 home movies to the 1970s photographic archives of Harry Acheson, the 1980s and ’90s photographic archives of Luke McGuinness, and the post-Millenial beauties of Eamon Flynn, all Greystones life is here. 

As, indeed, is Delgany, Kilcoole, Bray, KillincarrigNewcastle and Wicklow.

But not Newtownmountkennedy. We have to draw the line somewhere.

So, go explore, here, there, and maybe even actually out on the streets. And if you know another little piece of that local history jigsaw that we haven’t gotten around to yet, let us know, on info@greystonesguide.ie. Someday, we’ll all be history. So, let’s leave a mark.

Or, at the very least, a decent stain.

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