|Irish: Ráth Fraoileann|
Rathfriland shown within Northern Ireland
|Population||2,740 (2001 Census)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||Northern Ireland|
|UK Parliament||South Down|
|NI Assembly||South Down|
Rathfriland (from Irish: Ráth Fraoileann, meaning "ringfort of Fraoile") is a village in County Down, Northern Ireland. It is a hilltop Plantation of Ulster settlement between the Mourne Mountains, Slieve Croob and Banbridge. It had a population of 2,740 people recorded in the 2011 Census.
In older English documents, the village's name was usually spelt Rathfylan or Rathfrilan. It was once the capital of the Magennis family. The ruins (south gable 30 ft x 25 ft) of an old castle may still be seen on the hill upon which Rathfriland sits. It was a square building of 3-4 storeys with a stone barrel vault at the ground floor to lessen the risk of fire. The castle was once much bigger but most of it was pulled-down by Mr William Hawkins of London, the first Protestant proprietor there after the rebellion of 1641, and the rest destroyed by General Ireton on Oliver Cromwell's orders. The stones were used to build the Town Inn (the building of which still stands on the corner of The Square and Newry Street) and other houses in the village. In 1760 the Market House, which dominates the main square, was built for the linen market by Miss Theodosia McGill. An old map of 1776 prepared for the Meade Estate shows streets, lanes, tenements and gardens forming the early village.
A clock-faced war memorial stands in the square on the southeastern side. To this day, the names Meade, Maginess and Hawkins live on in Rathfriland, most notably in Iveagh Primary School where the three surnames are the name of the 'houses' or teams on sports day.
The "Battle of Dolly's Brae" took between Rathfriland and the nearby town of Castlewellan on 12 July 1849. Up to 1,400 Orangemen marched from Rathfriland to Tollymore Park near Castlewellan, County Down. When 1,000 barely armed Ribbonmen gathered, rocks were thrown at the Orange parade. Catholic homes were burned and 80 Catholics killed.
Rathfriland lies in the county of Down, the baronies of Iveagh Lower, Lower Half and Iveagh Upper, Upper Half, the townlands of Rossconor and Lessize, the district electoral area of Knockiveagh, and the civil parishes of Drumballyroney and Drumgath.
Famous personaliies with local connections include:
- Connor Tully, King of Bant.
- Theodosia Meade, Countess of Clanwilliam.
- Patrick Brontë, the father of the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) was born in 1777 in a cottage close to Loughbrickland, where he lived until a local vicar paid his way to Cambridge University in 1802. While studying at Cambridge, he changed his name from Brunty to Brontë. He preached and taught at Drumballyroney Church and School House, between Rathfriland and Moneyslane. The Brontë Homeland Interpretative Centre is at Drumballyroney.
- Donal Og Magennis, Lord of Iveagh, founder of the Rathfriland branch of the Magennis family. Surrendered his lands to King Henry VIII, who granted Donal Og Magennis a charter to retain his lands; given a knighthood 1542.
- George W. Bush, the 43rd President of The United States of America. One of the President's five times great-grandfathers, William Holliday, was born in Rathfriland about 1755 and died in Kentucky about 1811–1812.
- Catherine O'Hare, mother of the first European child born west of the Rockies, was herself born in Rathfriland in 1835. She and her husband, Augustus Schubert, joined 200 overlanders who went west across Canada in search of gold, and blazed the trail for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
- Andrew George Scott (alias "Captain Moonlight") was born in Rathfriland in 1842 in a house on Castle Hill. A notorious Australian bushranger.
- Margaret Byers (née Morrow) was born in Rathfriland in 1832. Margaret Byers was a teacher, a businesswoman, a pioneer of higher education for girls, a philanthropist and a suffragist. She said: "My aim was to provide for girls an education...as thorough as that which is afforded to boys in the schools of the highest order." In 1905 she was given an honorary degree by Trinity College, Dublin and in 1908 Queen's University, Belfast appointed her to its senate.
- Francis Brooks was born in Rathfriland in 1924. He is the Roman Catholic bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Dromore, Ireland.
- William Huston Dodd (1844–1930) was born in Rathfriland, and was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Queen's College, Belfast. In 1873 he was called to the bar, and in 1896 he was appointed president of the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society. He served as a High Court judge from 1907 to 1924.
- James McKnight (1801–1876) was born near Rathfriland and was educated in Belfast. In 1826, in the absence of the librarian, McKnight was appointed deputy librarian of the Linen Hall Library. He became editor of the Belfast News Letter in 1827 and when he went to Derry he worked on the Londonderry Standard though for a brief period he returned to Belfast to edit Banner of Ulster. He was an opponent of the repeal of the Repeal Association which sought to repeal the Acts of Union 1800 but a strong supporter of the Tenant Right movement, and in 1852 he joined the Tenant League. Among his work is the Ulster Tenants' Claim of Right, published in 1848.
- Charles Read (1841–1878) was born in Sligo. He had a business in Rathfriland, County Down, but went to London as a journalist when it failed. He wrote two much-acclaimed novels: Savourneen Dheelish and Aileen Aroon. Only three of the four projected volumes of The Cabinet of Irish Literature were completed before his death. The final volume was edited by T. P. O'Connor. He died in Surrey.
- Patrick Shea OBE (1908–1986) was born in County Westmeath and since his father was a policeman, he spent his childhood in Athlone, Clones, County Monaghan, Rathfriland and Newry, County Down. His father served in the Royal Irish Constabulary and had various postings until the RIC was disbanded on the Partition of Ireland in 1922. He later joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary, achieving the rank of head constable and later clerk of petty sessions in Newry. Patrick was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers, The Abbey, Newry. He joined the Northern Ireland Civil Service and attained the rank of permanent secretary in the Department of Education. He wrote Voices and the Sound of Drums. He was made an honorary member of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects in 1971 and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1977.
The following churches are located in the town and several more are found in the surrounding countryside:
- 1st Rathfriland Presbyterian Church
- 2nd Rathfriland Presbyterian Church
- 3rd Rathfriland Presbyterian Church
- St. John's Church of Ireland
- St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
- Rathfriland Reformed Presbyterian Church (Covenanters)
- Rathfriland Baptist Church
- Elim Pentecostal Church
All local Protestant churches are strongly evangelical.
Education is provided by three schools:
- Rathfriland High School
- Iveagh Primary School, a coeducational primary school that educates around 280 pupils aged from 3 to 11.
- St Mary's Primary School
Transport and communications
Rathfriland was served by Ballyroney Railway Station, three miles away. Goods and passengers were transported from the station to the village. The former GNR (I) line between Banbridge and Newcastle was shut down in 1955.
Rathfriland's official telephone dialling code, as in the rest of Northern Ireland, is 028. Local subscriber numbers begin with 4063xxxx. Rathfriland was a sub-exchange of Banbridge, and thus until the 2000 "Big Number Change", shared its 018206 area code. Like elsewhere in the former 018206 area (now (028) 406) is still normal to hear local numbers quoted in the old five-digit format (3xxxx)
Other sporting clubs include:
- Rathfriland Rangers F.C. - formed in 1962.
- Rathfriland Bowling Club - level green bowls.
- Rathfriland Junior F.C. - formed in 2002.
- Drumgath G.A.C. - Gaelic games.
- Rathfriland Angling Club - game fishing On the Upper River Bann and Drumlough Lake.
Rathfriland is classified as a village by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) but is described as a town by most residents. On the most recent census day (27 March 2011) there were 2,740 people living in the ward of Rathfriland. Of these:
- 21.8% were aged under 16 years and 22.8% were aged 60 and over
- 48.4% of the population were male and 51.6% were female
- 38.5% were from a Roman Catholic background and 56.8% were from a Protestant background
- 4.3% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.
This represents an increased population from 2,079 in April 2001. The population had increased from 1,886 in 1971 to 2,243 ten years later but had then decreased to 2,126 in 1991 and had continued to fall. New construction had increased the population to an estimated 2,575 (within the settlement development limit) in 2008. More details are available from the Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service.
The town has had its own newspaper (The Outlook) since 1940.
- Toner,G Ó Mainnín, M (1992). Place-Names of Northern Ireland Volume One. County Down I. Newry and South-West Down, p.126. The Northern Ireland Place-Name Project, Department of Celtic, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast. ISBN 0-8538-9432-9
- Placenames Database of Ireland: Rathfriland/Ráth Fraoileann (see archival records)
- "Parades and Marches - Chronology 2: Historical Dates and Events". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 16 April 2014.