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Baile Átha an Rí
Athenry Castle
Athenry Castle
Athenry is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53°18′00″N 8°44′46″W / 53.300°N 8.746°W / 53.300; -8.746Coordinates: 53°18′00″N 8°44′46″W / 53.300°N 8.746°W / 53.300; -8.746
Country Ireland
Province Connacht
County County Galway
Elevation 47 m (154 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Urban 3,950
Irish Grid Reference M500282

Athenry (/æθənˈr/;[2] Irish: Baile Átha an , meaning "Ford of the King") is a town in County Galway, Ireland. It lies 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of Galway city, and one of the attractions of the medieval town is its town wall, castle, priory and 13th century Anglo-Norman street-plan. The town is also well known by virtue of the song "The Fields of Athenry".


St. Mary's Parish Church in Athenry.

Its name derives from the ford ('Áth') crossing the river Clarin just east of the settlement. Because three kingdoms met at that point, it was called 'Áth na Ríogh', or 'the Ford of the Kings'. On some medieval maps of English origin the town is called Kingstown. The kingdoms were Hy-Many to the north-east, east and south-east; Aidhne to the south and south-west; Maigh Seola to the west and north-west. Up to around 1000 it was included in Uí Briúin Seóla. In the mid-11th century it was part of the trícha cét of Clann Taidg.

The earliest remaining building in the town is Athenry Castle which was built sometime before 1240 by Meyler de Bermingham. In 1241, the Dominican Priory was founded, and became an important center for learning and teaching. It was ostensibly closed during the Protestant Reformation but survived until being desecrated and burned during the MacanIarla Wars of the 1570s, and was finally vandalised by Cromwellians in the 1650s. The Medieval walls around Athenry are among the most complete and best preserved in Ireland with 70% of original circuit still standing, along with some of the original towers and the original North gate.[8] The remains of the Lorro Gate were partially unearthed in 2007 during redevelopment road works in the area. In the centre of the town is the 'square'; it is here that markets were held and where the town's late 15th century Market Cross is still located. The monument which is of Tabernacle or Lantern type is the only one of its kind in Ireland and the only medieval cross still standing in situ in the country.[9] A Heritage centre now occupies the remains of the mid-13th century St Mary's Collegiate Church adjacent to the town Square. The original medieval church is largely destroyed but in 1828 a Church of Ireland church was built into its chancel.

In 1791, Caquebert de Montbret visited the town, which he described as:

[covering] 50 acres but has no more than 60 houses. ... there is an abbey of which the ruins are almost all standing. ... There is a big uninhabited castle called Bermingham's Court.. In the middle of Athenry is the stump of a cross destroyed in the wars, on which a crucifix in bas-relief still remains. ... I noticed at the door of a tavern a large cake decorated with a bouquet. It was a prize for the best dancer. ... The road from Athenry is very beautiful and there are no barriers (turnpikes)

Moyode Castle is another tall 16th-century fortified tower house of the Dolphin family, which went to the Persse family. The castle is now restored and inhabited and is located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the town of Athenry.

Economy and transport[edit]

Athenry Dominican Priory.


By road, Athenry is served by the M6 Motorway which links Galway city to Dublin. By rail, it is served by Athenry railway station which opened on 1 August 1851[10] and lies on the Galway–Dublin main line of the Irish rail network. The town is at the junction the Galway–Dublin line, and the partially complete LimerickSligo line (dubbed the Western Railway Corridor). Work ('West on Track') is underway to re-open further links, with the Ennis-Athenry section open since March 2010,[11] and the Athenry-Tuam section due in 2011, though not completed yet.


In 2015, Apple Inc. decided to build a €850m data center near Athenry, and a similar one in Viborg, Denmark.[12]

Clareen River.


Athenry is home to St. Mary's G.A.A. club[13] who have won numerous All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championships.

Athenry Athletics Club[14] has had a large juvenile section for many years and was complemented in 2002 by a senior section.[citation needed] The senior section now has over 100 members, approximately half of whom are women. The club has produced two Olympic sprinters, Martina MacCarthy, who is from Oranmore and Paul Hession who hails from Ballydavid, just outside the town itself. MacCarthy represented Ireland in the women's 4 × 400 metres relay at the Sydney games and Hession competed in the 200 metres at the Beijing games. A number of other club members have represented their country with distinction in both track and field and cross country across Europe and North America.[citation needed]

Athenry is also home to Athenry Soccer Club[15] which reached the 2006 final of the FAI Junior Cup.[16] In 2007 Athenry Soccer Club became the Galway Premier League Champions for the first time in the clubs 36-year history. The club has followed this by winning the Galway Premier Title again in 2008 & 2010. In 2007,2008,2010 & 2011 Athenry Soccer Club also captured the Connaught Junior Cup title.

Athenry Golf Club is an eighteen hole championship course located between Athenry and Oranmore in the townland of Palmerstown. The club is a mixture of parkland and heathland built on a limestone base against the backdrop of a large forest giving excellent drainage, which makes the course playable all year round. Athenry Golf course was extended to 18 holes in 1991 under the guidance of architect Eddie Hackett and further improvements in recent years have led to the club hosting recent Provincial and National championships.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Athenry is twinned with the town of Quimperlé in Brittany and, as of the 15th of August 2013, Renews-Cappahayden, Newfoundland and Labrador.


The following is a list of notable natives of Athenry:

Annalistic references[edit]

From the Annals of the Four Masters:[17]

  • 1249. The defeat of Ath-na-righ was inflicted on Toirrdelbach Ua Conchobuir, whereby Aedh, son of Aedh, was killed therein and Brian of the Doire and a great many of the nobles of Connacht were killed.
  • 1266. A bishop-elect came from Rome to Clonfert-Brendan, and the dignity of bishop was conferred on him, and on Thomas O'Meehan, at Athenry, on the Sunday before Christmas.
  • 1544: The Earl of Ormond went into Clanrickard to assist his kinsman, William Burke, son of Rickard; but the sons of Rickard Oge suddenly defeated him; and a good baron of his people, namely, Mac Oda, was slain; and more than forty of the Earl's troops were slain in the gateway of Athenry on that occasion.
  • 1597: O'Donnell (Hugh Roe, the son of Hugh, son of Manus) ... Having reached the very centre of Hy-Many, he sent forth swift-moving marauding parties through the district of Caladh, and the upper part of the territory; and they carried off many herds of cows and other preys to O'Donnell, to the town of Athenry; and though the warders of the town attempted to defend it, the effort was of no avail to them, for O'Donnell's people applied fires and flames to the strongly-closed gates of the town, and carried to them great ladders, and, placing them against the walls, they recte, some of them ascended to the parapets of the wall. They then leaped from the parapets, and gained the streets of the town, and opened the gates for those who were outside. They all then proceeded to demolish the storehouses and the strong habitations; and they carried away all the goods and valuables that were in them. They remained that night in the town. It was not easy to enumerate or reckon the quantities of copper, iron, clothes, and habiliments, which they carried away from the town on the following day. From the same town he sent forth marauding parties to plunder Clanrickard, on both sides of the river; and these marauders totally plundered and ravaged the tract of country from Leathrath to Magh-Seanchomhladh. The remaining part of his army burned and ravaged the territory, from the town of Athenry and Rath-Goirrgin Westwards to Rinn-Mil and Meadhraige, and to the gates of Galway, and burned Teagh-Brighde, at the military gate of Galway. O'Donnell pitched his camp for that night between Uaran-mor and Galway, precisely at Cloch-an-Lingsigh.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Blake, Martin J. 1900–01, Knockmoy Abbey otherwise called the Monastery of the "Hill of Victory" [Collis Victoriæ]. Notes on its history, and some ancient charters relating to it (hitherto unpublished), Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 1,(ii).
  • Blake, Martin J. 1902, The Abbey of Athenry, J.G.A.H.S., II (ii).
  • de Burgh Persse, Michael D. 1971/1972, De Burgh Fitzpatrick Persse (1840–1921) and His Family: An Essay in Anglo-Irish and Australian History, Corico, Victoria.
  • Bradley, J. 1985, Planned Anglo-Norman towns in Ireland, in Clarke, H.B. and Simms, A. (eds.), The Comparative history of urban origins in Non-Roman Europe. BAR International Series 255 (ii) Oxford, pp. 411-67.
  • Bradley, J. 1991, Town Life in Medieval Ireland, Archaeology Ireland, 5 (3), pp.25-28.
  • Bradley, J. 1995, Walled Towns in Ireland. Town House and Country House: Dublin.
  • Browne, P. 2003, Eagles Over Ireland:Athenry and Flying Fortress 1943.
  • Buckley, Victor M. and O’Brien, Kevin, A recently discovered souterrain at Carnmore townland, Co. Galway.
  • Chapple, Robert M. 2000, A statistical analysis and preliminary classification of gravestones from Craughwell, Co. Galway, J.G.A.H.S., 52.
  • Cody, Eamon 1989, An Archaeological Survey of the Barony of Athenry, County Galway, PhD Thesis. National University of Ireland, Galway.
  • Corbett, John and Margaret (compilers) 2004, Making shapes with slates and marla: A Gurteen anthology, Galway.
  • Creighton O. & Higham, R. 2005, Medieval Town Walls: An Archaeology and Social History of Urban Defence. Tempus: Gloucestershire.
  • Creighton, O. 2007, Town defences and the making of urban landscapes, in Gardiner, M. & Rippon, S. (eds.) Medieval Landscapes. Macclesfield: Cheshire.
  • Donovan O'Sullivan, Maureen 1942, Old Galway.
  • Fallon, Brian (Ed.) 1992, Erect Me a Monument of Broken Wings;An Anthology of Writings by and on Padraic Fallon. Athenry.
  • Finnerty, Martin 1951, Punann Arsa: The Story of Athenry, County Galway, Ballinasloe.
  • Givens, J. 2008, Irish Walled Towns. Dublin: Liffey Press.
  • Holland, Patrick 1997, The Anglo-Norman Landscape in County Galway, Land-Holdings, Castles and Settlements, J.G.A.H.S.
  • Healy, A. 1989, Athenry: A Brief History and Guide.
  • Jordan, Kieran (Ed.) 2000, As The Centuries Passed: A History of Kiltullagh 1500–1900.
  • Kelly, Cornelius 2002, The Grand Tour of Galway, ISBN 0-9537823-2-8.
  • King, Fr. Tony 1997, Looking Back – Athenry Church 1852, The Athenry Journal, 3(1).
  • Knox, H.T. 1915/16, The Mound at Tample,J.G.A.H.S., 9.
  • Knox, H.T. 1916–17, The Birmingham family of Athenry, J.G.A.H.S., 10 (iii and iv).
  • Knox, H.T. and a colleague 1920–21, Notes on the Burgus of Athenry, its first defences, and its town walls, & corrigendum, J.G.A.H.S., 11 (i and ii).
  • Mannion, J. 2004,The Life, Legends and Legacy of Saint Kerrill: A Fifth-Century East Galway Evangelist, 0 954798 1 3.
  • Mannion, Joseph 2008, Tech Saxan: An Anglo-Saxon Monastic Settlement in Early Medieval East Galway, J.G.A.H.S.,60 pp.9–21.
  • Martyn, Adrian James 2001,The Tribes of Galway, Galway.
  • Martyn, Adrian James March/April 2008, The First Battle of Athenry, East Galway News & Views.
  • Martyn, Adrian James September 2008 – July 2009, The Second Battle of Athenry, East Galway News & Views.
  • McAlister, R.A.S. 1913, The Dominican Church at Athenry, Journal of the Royal Irish Academy.
  • McKeon, James: Anglo-Norman frontier urban settlement in the Plantagenet realm: studies from south Connacht (2008).PhD thesis. NUI Galway.
  • McNeill, C. 1920, Remarks on the Walls and Church of Athenry,J.G.A.H.S.
  • Mc Neill, C. 1921, Remarks on the walls and church of Athenry, J.G.A.H.S., 11 (iii and iv).
  • Mulvey, Con (ed.) 1998The Memorial Inscriptions and Related History of Kiltullagh, Killimordaly and Esker Graveyards. Galway. ISBN 0-9533547-0-9.
  • Ni Chinneide, Sile 1952, Coquebert de Montbret's Impressionns of Galway City and county in the year 1791, J.G.A.H.S., XXV, pp.4–5.
  • Ó Cearbhaill, Diarmuid 1999, From Dooghcloon to Chicago: the life and career of Congressman Lawrence E. McGann 1852–1928, J.G.A.H.S., 51.
  • O'Connor, Fr. Tom 2003, Turoe & Athenry:Ancient Capitals of Celtic Ireland, ISBN 0-9544875-0-8.
  • O'Connor, Fr. Tom and Jordan, Kieran 2003, Archaeological Sites of Interest surrounding the Turoe Stone, Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 55, pp.110–116.
  • O'Connor, Fr. Tom 2006, Hand of History – Burden of Pseudo-History:Touchstone of Truth, ISBN 1-4120-3458-2.
  • O'Donovan, John 1928, Letters Containing Information Relative to the History and Antiquities of the County of Galway, Collected During the Progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1839. Bray.
  • O'Regan, Finnbarr (Ed.) 1999,The Lamberts of Athenry. Galway.
  • Orpen, Goddard Henry 1915–16, The Mote of Oldcastle and the Castle of Rathgorgin,J.G.A.H.S.,9 (i).
  • Qualter, Agnes 1984, Athenry: A Local History (1850–1983).
  • Papazian, Cliona 1991, Excavations at Athenry Castle, Co. Galway, , Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, 43.
  • Rabbitte, J. 1936–37, The Birmingham chalice, 17 (i and ii).
  • Rasche, Hermann 1995, ...a strange spectacle...German Travelers in the West 1828–1858, Journal of the G.A.H.S., 47.
  • Reddington, M. 1916/17, Count Patrick D'Arcy, an eminent Galway man of the 18th century; with tabular pedigrees of the D'Arcy family by Martin J. Blake, J.G.A.H.S., 10(i).
  • Roy, James Charles 2001, The Fields of Athenry: a Journey Through Irish History.ISBN 0813338603.
  • Roy, James Charles 2004, Letters to and from County Galway Emigrants 1843–1856, J.G.A.H.S.,56.
  • Rynne, E. (1995)‚ Athenry, In Simms and Andrews (eds.) More Irish Country Towns, pp.106-117, Mercier Press:Cork and Dublin.
  • Rynne, E. 1999, Athenry castle, Athenry Journal.
  • Sheey, Maurice P. 1964–1965, The parish of Athenry in 1434, J.G.A.H.S., 31.
  • Stanley, Fr. Cathal (Ed.) 2000,Castles and Demesnes: Gleanings from Kilconieran and Clostoken.
  • Waddell, J. 1985-86 Knocknagur, Turoe and local enquiry, 40.
  • Walsh, A. 1996 Smallpox in Athenry 1875, 48.
  • Westropp, T.J. 1895, Athenry, Journal of the Royal Irish Academy.
  • anon (1950),The Galway Reader, 2 (ii & iv), 3 (i & ii).
  • anon (O Donaill?, Padraig) c. 1983, The Story of Esker.


  1. ^ "Athenry Settlement Results". Central Statistics Office. 2011. 
  2. ^ Athenry is pronounced like Athens without the s, followed by rye; the accent is on the last syllable.
  3. ^ Census for post 1821 figures.
  4. ^ Histpop – The Online Historical Population Reports Website
  5. ^ NISRA. "Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency – Census Home Page". Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  6. ^ Lee, JJ (1981). "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses". In Goldstrom, J. M.; Clarkson, L. A. Irish Population, Economy, and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. 
  7. ^ Mokyr, Joel; O Grada, Cormac (November 1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850". The Economic History Review 37 (4): 473–488. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1984.tb00344.x. 
  8. ^ Thomas, A. 1992, Walled Towns of Ireland, Irish Academic Press.
  9. ^ Rynne, E. 1992, Athenry:A Medieval Irish Town, Athenry Historical Society.
  10. ^ "Athenry station" (PDF). Railscot – Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007. 
  11. ^ Kieran Glynn. ", Athenry, Co Galway, Ireland". Athenry. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Tech giant Apple to invest €850m in new eco Irish data centre
  13. ^ "at". Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Athenry Athletic Club | Information on Athenry AC and running in the West of Ireland". Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  15. ^ "Athenry Soccer Club". Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ UCC,ie – Annala Uladh: Annals of Ulster

External links[edit]