||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (February 2014)|
Baile Átha Luain
The River Shannon and Church of Saints Peter & Paul, from Athlone Bridge
|Motto: Urbes Stant Legibus|
|Province||Leinster and Connacht|
|County||County Westmeath and
|Elevation||56 m (184 ft)|
|• Urban||15,558 - legal boundary|
|• Rural||4,595 - urban environs|
|Irish Grid Reference||N033420|
|Dialing code||090, +353 90|
Athlone (//; Irish: Baile Átha Luain, meaning "town of Luan's ford") is a town on the River Shannon near the southern shore of Lough Ree in Ireland. It is the largest town in the Midlands Region. Most of the town lies on the east bank of the river. By the terms of the Local Government Act of 1898, six townlands on the west bank of the Shannon were deemed to be part of the town and, therefore, part of the county of Westmeath. Recent growth has occurred outside the town's boundaries.
Athlone Castle is the geographical and historical heart of Athlone. The ford of Athlone was strategically important, as south of Athlone the Shannon is impassable until Clonmacnoise (where the Esker Riada meets the Shannon) while to the north it is protected by Lough Ree. In 1001 Brian Bóru sailed his army up river from Kincora into the town via Lough Derg to attend a gathering.
A bridge was built across the river in the 12th century, approximately 100 metres (330 ft) south of the current structure. To protect the bridge, a fort was constructed on the river's west bank in the town by Turloch Mór Ó Conor. On a number of occasions both the fort and bridge were subject to attacks, and towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification there. This was superseded by a stone structure built in 1210 by Justiciar John de Gray. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged.
During the wars that racked Ireland in the seventeenth century, Athlone held a vital position as home to the main bridge over the River Shannon into Connacht. In the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1653), the town was held by Irish Confederate troops until it was taken late in 1650 by Charles Coote, who attacked the town from the west, having crossed into Connacht at Sligo.
Forty years later, during the pan-European War of the Grand Alliance, the town was again of key strategic importance, being one of the Jacobite strongholds defending the river-crossings into the confederate-held Province of Connacht following their rout at the battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690. In the same year, the Jacobite forces of Colonel Richard Grace repelled an attack by 10,000 men led by Commander Douglas. In the following year's campaign, the Siege of Athlone saw a further assault by a larger allied force during which the invading troops of King William and Queen Mary eventually overran the entire city. The defenders were forced to flee further west toward the River Suck at such speed that eyewitnesses accounts record that they "flung their cannons into the morass" as they fled. The most recent account of the Siege of Athlone, written after the attack on 5 July 1691, was discovered in 2004 in an archive in the Netherlands. This contemporary source was penned by the victorious commanding officer from the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, general lieutenant Godard van Reede, in letters written to his family members in mainland Europe. In the account, the commanding allied officer reported that half of the city's defenders retreated westward towards the rest of their army, leaving almost 2,000 dead within the city walls and more than 100 taken prisoner, among whom were dozens of officers.
Location and access
That part of the town which lies east of the Shannon is in the province of Leinster, the county of Westmeath, the barony of Brawny and the civil parish of St Mary's. Unusually, the barony is coterminous with a single civil parish. In the Catholic Church, the eastern past of the town is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and the ecclesiastical parish of St Mary's.
Seven townlands lie west of the Shannon: Athlone and Big Meadow, Bellaugh, Bogganfin, Canal and Banks, Doovoge, Monksland (part of) and Ranelagh. Although surrounded by County Roscommon in the province of Connacht, they are deemed to belong to the county of Westmeath to preserve the integrity of the town. These townlands lie in St Peter's civil parish in the barony of Athlone South. In the Catholic Church, they are part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Elphin and the ecclesiastical parish of SS Peter and Paul.
Athlone is a popular stop for pleasure craft on the River Shannon. Lough Ree, the largest lake on the Shannon, is a short distance upstream from Athlone. Many boat hire companies work from here including athlonecruisers, the oldest hire boat company on the River Shannon. For craft to pass through Athlone, it is necessary to use a lock in the river that is beside the weir and downstream of the current road bridge. The lock, weir and bridge were constructed by the Shannon navigation commissioners in the 1840s. Before then, boats used a canal, about a mile and a half long, to the west of the river. The canal was built by Thomas Omer for the Commissioners of Inland Navigation. Work started in 1757 and had over 300 men at work. He built a single lock 120′ X 19′ with a rise of 4.5′, but there was also a guard lock, further upstream, with a single set of gates to protect the canal against floods. There were two lay-bys (harbours), one above the lock and the other at the upstream end. The old canal is no longer navigable.
Athlone railway station opened on 3 October 1859 with Irish Rail services from Athlone railway station eastwards to Portarlington, Kildare and Dublin Heuston and westwards to Westport/Ballina lines as well as Athenry, Oranmore and Galway.
Connections from Athlone via a change of train at Athenry connects Ennis and Limerick whilst a change of train at Portarlington connects Limerick Junction and Limerick. There are trains from Portarlington to Mallow, thence to Cork or Killarney, Farranfore and Tralee. Travel from Athlone to Killdare enables connections to Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford.
Bus Eireann, the national bus operator, operates from beside the railway station and provides an hourly service to Dublin and Galway. Other services include services to Limerick, Dundalk, Waterford, Cavan, Belfast, Longford and Roscommon. Other private operators also provide services to some towns and cities. Bus Éireann also operates a local Athlone bus service.
- 459 Bus Station-Willow Park (Norwood Court) via Golden Island Shopping Centre,Dublin Road and Athlone Institute Of Technology.
- 459A Monksland (River Village) -Garrycastle (Moydrum Road) via Galway Road,Saint Peter's Avenue,saint Anne's Terrace,The Batteries,Connaught Street,Northgate Street,Bus Station,Golden Island Shopping Centre,Dublin Road and Athlone Institute Of Technology.
- The town is also home to a number of privately operated services, including the Flagline bus company who operate local bus routes as well as a service to Tullamore.http://www.flagline.ie/bus-timetable-athlone.html
- Taxi service is widely available throughout the area.
The town is situated on the N6 road connecting Galway to Dublin. The N6 road forms a high quality dual carriageway northern bypass of the town. A number of national secondary roads connect Athlone with a number of other towns and regions. The N55 road connects with Ballymahon and Cavan, the N61 road connects with Roscommon and the N62 road connects with Birr, Roscrea and the south. The M6 motorway connects the town directly to Dublin and Galway, cutting travelling and commuting time considerably.
The RTÉ All-Ireland Drama Festival takes place annually in Athlone, and brings together nine amateur drama groups from across Ireland. The festival is supported by an active fringe which involves street theatre, art exhibitions, workshops and events for young people.
Athlone Literary Festival is an annual event which began in 1999, originally as a weekend celebration of the life and works of John Broderick, but which now features a great variety of speakers and debaters.
The Athlone School of Music opened in 2005, and is a grant aided project aimed at developing music education and services in the Midlands region.
Abbey Road artists' Studios launched in 2011 in a unique building from 1841. The Studios offer a dedicated space in Athlone town for local and visiting artists. The artists' studios consist of four individual artists' studios as well as a large multi-purpose upstairs space suitable for a variety of community cultural events, including exhibitions, performances, workshops and seminars. The Abbey Road artists' studios work closely with The Luan Art Gallery.
American crime writer James M. Cain references Athlone in his 1937 book Serenade, in a passage where two characters discuss tenor John McCormack: "--There's the language he was born to. John McCormack comes from Dublin". "He does not. He comes from Athlone". "Didn't he live in Dublin?". "No Matter. They speak a fine brogue in Athlone, almost as fine as in Belfast". "It's a fine brogue, but it's not brogue. It's the English language as it was spoken before all the other countries of the world forgot how to speak it. There's two things a singer can't buy, beg or steal, and that no teacher, coach or conductor can give him. One is his voice, the other is the language that was born in his mouth. When McCormack was singing Handel he was singing English, and he sings it as no American and no Englishman will ever sing English".
Tourism and amenities
Owing to its easy accessibility, and large choice of shops, Athlone is the main retail destination for residents in the Midlands area of Ireland. The vibrant town centre extends from Church Street in the west to Sean Costello Street in the East. It is flanked by the Athlone Town Centre, a modern (2007) shopping centre with 54 shops, cafes and the four star Sheraton Athlone hotel;. South of the city centre is the other Athlone shopping centre, the Golden Island Shopping Centre, which opened in 1997.
Athlone Regional Sports Centre is a facility (established May 2002) developed by the Town Council, this facility has a swimming pool, gym and AstroTurf pitches.
Athlone Castle reopened in 2012 following a multi-million euro renovation to transform the castle into a state-of-the-art, multi-sensory visitor experience. It features eight newly designed exhibition spaces pursue both a chronological and thematic sequence including 3D maps, audio-visual installations and illustrations by renowned illustrator Victor Ambrus (best known for his work on Channel 4's television series Time Team).
The Luan Gallery, a new multi-million euro contemporary art gallery opened as of 2012. The gallery is the first purpose-built, modern visual art gallery located in the midlands. Designed by Keith Williams who also designed the Athlone Town Civic centre. The Gallery was opened by Jimmy Deenihan the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Luan opened with a prestigious exhibition from the Irish Museum of Modern Art featuring the work of accomplished national and international artists.
Other popular attractions for visitors are the Glendeer Open Farm and the Viking Cruise of the Shannon. The town's tourist office is located at Church Street.
The Dublin-Galway Greenway will run through Athlone. The disused Athlone-Mullingar Railway will be used for the greenway in the east, and a new bridge is planned to be built for cycle/pedestrian traffic beside the Luan Gallery .
Education and industry
Athlone's major employers include companies such as Élan (pharmaceuticals), which originated in Athlone, Bioclin Laboratories (pharmaceuticals), Ericsson (telecommunications), Tyco Healthcare (medical equipment), Utah Medical (medical equipment), Pharmaplaz (pharmaceuticals), Alienware (computer hardware), ICT Eurotel (contact centre), and Athlone Extrusions (polymers).
Athlone is the regional centre for a large number of state and semi-state organisations. The Department of Education, The State Examinations Commission, Revenue Commissioners, FÁS Midlands Region, Bus Éireann, Iarnród Éireann, IDA Ireland, and Enterprise Ireland all have bases in the town. Athlone is also a major Irish military centre, Custume Barracks on the West bank of the Shannon is the headquarters of the Western Command of the Irish Army.
Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) is the regional third level college. Athlone forms part of the Midlands Gateway along with Mullingar and Tullamore. Alongside Waterford's Institute of Technology, AIT harbours ambitions of attaining university status, as there is no institution providing university-level education in the Irish Midlands. The AIT has a campus size of 44 acres and is planning ad developing to expand further. The institutes new purpose-built facilities introduced are the; hospitality, tourism and leisure studies building (2003), nursing and health science building (2005), midlands innovation and research centre (2005), engineering and informatics building (2010), and postgraduate research hub (2010). RTÉ located its midlands studio and office to Athlone Institute of Technology.
The Athlone institute of technology has memorandum of understanding with Rio de Janeiro State University, one of the largest universities in the Brazilian city. The AIT also has agreements with Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais of the largest and most prestigious Brazilian private universities. The institute also founded agreements with two leading Beijing university's the Capital University of Economics and Business and Beijing Union University. The agreements were signed by the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland as well as university representatives. Other agreements exist between the AIT and TVTC in Saudi Arabia, and a memorandum of understanding with the Georgia Institute of Technology. Further agreements exist with the Bharati Vidyapeeth one of the largest university's in India.
There are five major secondary schools in the Athlone area. They are Athlone Community College (mixed), Our Lady's Bower school for girls, Marist College school for boys, St. Aloysius' College school for boys, and Summerhill College school for girls.
In June 2010, Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced his support of the proposed Euro/China training hub in Athlone. In May 2012, the project was given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála. When completed, it will comprise a total of nine exhibition halls, nine smaller independent exhibition buildings, one temporary exhibitions space, offices, administrative services, some living quarters, hotels, shops, restaurants, pubs, a school and train station.
Between 1931 and 1975 the main radio transmission centre for Irish radio was located at Moydrum, Athlone (GC: ). The original call-sign was 2RN (a wordplay on the song "Come back to Erin"). It subsequently became known as "Radio Athlone" and could clearly be heard throughout Europe, and as far as Moscow. This changed as bandwidth allocations were accorded at the Helsinki Declaration.
It operated at a power of 60 kW (further increased to 100 kW in the 1950s). As antenna a T-antenna was and is used, which is spun between two 100 metres tall guyed masts with square cross section and which are insulated against ground. Many old radio sets in Europe had the "Athlone" dial position marked near the end of their tuning scales.
In the late 1970s the station reopened on a new dial position of 612 kHz for "Radio 2" (later known as RTÉ 2fm). Moydrum was also the location of Ireland's short lived Shortwave international radio service that was closed down in 1948 due to lack of money. Today, RTÉ's Midlands studios are located in Athlone, at St. Mary's Square. The local radio station is Midlands 103. Many also tune into Shannonside.
A new radio station, i102-104fm, has recently been launched,[when?] geared to the 18–34 age group in the midlands and north-east. And again in affirmation of Athlone's broadcasting roots, yet another station is about to be launched on a nationwide basis, using the 612 kHz band, with a Christian emphasis.[clarification needed]
As well as this the Athlone Community Taskforce and several members of Roscommon community radio station RosFM have begun broadcasting from the Athlone area under the banner of Athlone Community Radio. The first broadcast was 15 March 2008 and was set to run every Saturday and Sunday for the following 15 weeks until the end of the temporary license they received. They received a 10-year licence on 14 January 2011 from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. They broadcast on the frequency of 88.4 FM.
As well as having a Regional Sports Centre, Athlone has a variety of sporting organisations, including Athlone Town Football Club, who play their home games at Athlone Town Stadium in Lissywollen (5,000 capacity). Athlone Town F.C. have won the League of Ireland Championship in 1981 and 1983, and the FAI Cup in 1924. The team also qualified for the 1975–76 UEFA Cup, where they drew 0–0 against AC Milan.
The newly opened ten million euro Athlone IT International Arena, is now Ireland's first world class indoor athletics arena, boasting a floor space of nearly 10,000 metres squared. The arena was opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The arena has been admired by sporting legends including Sonia O'Sullivan and it has also hailed by Senator Eamonn Coghlan as the "best news story in Irish athletics history".
Athlone hosted the European Triathlon Championships in 2010. Approximately 5,000 athletes participated in the event. Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain won the event. Two years later he won a gold medal in the triathlon at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Athlone has many Gaelic football teams including Tubberclair GAA, Garrycastle GAA, Athlone GAA, with St. Brigids (Roscommon) GAA and Clann na nGael GAA being located outside Athlone itself. Garrycastle GAA qualified for the 2012 All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship for the first time in the club's history by beating Connacht Champions, St. Brigids GAA, in an all-Athlone semi-final. Garrycastle eventually lost the final to Crossmaglen Rangers in a replay of the final, the first match having ended in a draw by a scoreline of 1–12 to 0–15.
Athlone is home to Buccaneers RFC, with the club's grounds are at Dubarry Park. Dubarry Park (10,000 capacity) is also grounds to the Connacht Eagles, the team that represents Connacht in the British and Irish Cup and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship.
- The tenor John McCormack was born in Athlone in 1884 at the Bawn.
- Birthplace of Eugene Daly, a survivor of the Titanic disaster.
- Birthplace of Thomas Duffy, recipient of the Victoria Cross
- Birthplace of Stephen Donohoe, (1984–) Jockey and Sailor.
- Brithpace of John Larkan RN of HMS Pandora
- Birthplace of T. P. O'Connor, (1848–1929) journalist and Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons.
- Birthplace of James J. Browne, The current president of the National University of Ireland, Galway
- Birthplace of George Thomas Stokes, (1843–1898) Ecclesiastical historian.
- Birthplace of Rob Henshaw, (1993–) Irish rugby union player.
- Birthplace of John Broderick, (1924–1989) Irish novelist.
- Birthplace of Michael Joseph Curley, (1879–1947) Catholic Archbishop and educationalist.
- Birthplace of Declan Lynch, (1961–) novelist and playwright.
- Birthplace of Jimmy Elliott, (1838–1883) Irish-American world heavyweight boxing champion from 1865 to 1868.
- Birthplace of Richard Rothwell, (1800–1868) A nineteenth-century Irish portrait and genre painter. He was a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and was studio assistant to Thomas Lawrence.
- Birthplace of Thomas Flynn, (1842–1892) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross.
- Birthplace of Mary O'Rourke, (1937–) Politician (Various Minister Roles) and Author.
- Birthplace of Lisa Dwan, (1977–) Actress.
- Birthplace of Evelyn Gleeson, (1855–1944) Art Designer with noted close ties to both Elizabeth Yeats and Lily Yeats.
- Birthplace of Brendan Shine, (1947–) Folk/Country singer and Television Presenter.
- Birthplace of John Ellard Gore, (1845–1910) Internationally renowned Astronomer. one of the founding members of British Astronomical Association, was elected to Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Société astronomique de France, Royal Irish Academy. The Gore was named after him by the International Astronomical Union.
- Birthplace of Pat Barlow, (1915–?) Professional Footballer.
- Birthplace of Paul Brock, (1989–) Accordionist.
- Birthplace of Nicky McFadden, (1962–2014) Teachta Dála.
- Both Brian Lenihan, Jnr and Conor Lenihan Spent their childhoods in Athlone.
- Birthplace of Caroline O'Donnell, (1974-) Architect and Author.
- Birthplace of Stefan Molyneux, (1966-) Host of Freedomain Radio.
Athlone has long been the largest urban centre in the nation with a heroin problem outside Dublin. A report released by the Health Research Board described areas of "Athlone had an identifiable substance-use problem." The study revealed many had used heroin by their 18th birthday. Athlone experiences serious problems with heroin and cocaine addiction.
A report from the Midlands Regional Drug Task Force in 2005 reported that "Athlone town had become a 'heroin black spot'". It then expanded to say that heroin is more available in Athlone than in either Limerick or Cork. The report also heard of children as young as thirteen smoking heroin. The report suggests that heroin is "the easiest drug of all to get in the town". Senior Midland Health Board official at the time, Bill Ebbitt says there is considerable ecstasy use in the town, while there is "no shortage of cannabis in any part of the midlands". On 2 November 2011, an Athlone judge stated that heroin was "causing carnage" and serious damage to the area. As recently as 23 August 2012, Athlone has had the highest drug crime statistics in the region.
Athlone has had numerous bomb threats over the past years, including one on 10 October 2008 when a viable explosive device was found in the Athlone area. Possible links to a feud between factions in the midlands have been explored by Garda Síochána. On 10 March 2010, two viable pipe bombs were found outside two separate head shops in the town. The attacks were later traced to disgruntled drug dealers in the area. On 24 April 2012, an improvised explosive device was found outside a private residence in the town. All devices were made safe by Army Bomb Disposal teams.
Athlone is twinned with Chateaubriant, in the Pays de la Loire region of France. Student exchanges also take place between Athlone and the German towns of Ludwigshafen am Rhein, and Menden, although they are not twinned. They also make exchanges with the Spanish town of Fraga and Poland.
- History of Athlone
- Athlone Pursuivant
- County Westmeath
- County Roscommon
- Sean's Bar
- Lough Ree
- River Shannon
- Corlea Trackway
- List of towns and villages in Ireland
- Market Houses in Ireland
- Midlands Gateway
- Midland Railway Action Group
- RTÉ Radio
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