Oldcastle, County Meath
|Elevation||200 ft (61 m)|
|Time zone||WET (UTC+0)|
|• Summer (DST)||IST (WEST) (UTC-1)|
|Irish Grid Reference||N550803|
Oldcastle (Irish: An Seanchaisléan) is a town in County Meath, Ireland. It is located in the north-west of the county near the border with Cavan, approximately 13 miles (21 km) from Kells. The R154 and R195 regional roads cross in the town's market square. As of the 2006 census the town's population stood at 2,226.
In recent years Oldcastle has grown mainly due to an influx of workers from Eastern Europe to work in the several industries, particularly furniture, bedding and victualling located in the area.
Oldcastle is the 18th century creation of the Naper family who had received parts of the Plunkett estate following the Cromwellian wars. St. Oliver Plunkett, who served as Lord Archbishop of Armagh in the seventeenth century, and who was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in Middlesex (now in the Marble Arch area of the City of Westminster in London) in 1681 on false charges, was the most famous member of this family.
It was also the birthplace of Isaac Jackson, son of Anthony Jackson III (who some say was a yeoman son in turn of the Charles II courtier, Sir Anthomy Jackson II, of Killingswold Grove, East Yorkshire, England) of Eccleston, Lancashire, England who died in nearby County Cavan after 1666. Isaac was an early Quaker in Ireland, as was his father. He moved to Ballitore, County Kildare, where he married and raised a large family, mostly all of whom emigrated with their parents to Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA in 1725.
Oldcastle suffered quite badly during the Great Famine and subsequent emigration. Owing to the continuation of a Gaelic way of life in the north of the county, Oldcastle suffered far more than the richer more arable land in the southern part of County Meath. The poorest class lived where Irish culture was strongest and were obliterated by starvation and emigration. Nonetheless, land patterns visible today still reveal a strong attachment to the pastoral farming of Gaelic culture. Politically and culturally the area has a strong tradition of support for radical republicanism, the Gaelic Athletic Association and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann; a local paper published in the town in the early 1900s gave its name to one of the Irish political parties, Sinn Féin.
Oldcastle Workhouse was located on St. Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Lennox Street), part of the R195 (the main road to Castlepollard), on the southern edge of the town. Designed by George Wilkinson in a neo-Tudor style, and probably built in the late 1830s or early 1840s, it was demolished in the late 1950s. St. Bridget's Terrace was built by Meath County Council on the site around 1960. Many Germans, Austrians and Hungarians were interned in the old workhouse by the British Government during the First World War.
Fennor Upper and Lower in Oldcastle is said to be named after Queen Medb's daughter, Findabair (Fennor). In Irish Mythology, she was sent as an offering to Cú Chulainn in his fight against Medb and her army from Connacht. She was killed by Cú Chulainn and the area was named after the place where she was murdered and buried.
A monument was erected in 1961 in Oldcastle Square by Meath Brigades Executive, Old IRA Federation, 1916-1921 to the memory of Commandant Seamus Coogan and Commandant Patrick McDonnell who were killed by British Crown Forces during the War of Independence. The monument in the form of a cross was unveiled by Seán Dowling, Chairman of the National Federation of the Old IRA.
In November 1997 McKevitt and other IRA dissidents held a meeting in a farmhouse in Oldcastle, County Meath, and a new organisation styling itself Óglaigh na hÉireann was formed. The organisation attracted disaffected Provisional IRA members from the republican stronghold of South Armagh, as well as other areas including Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, Tipperary, County Louth, County Tyrone and County Monaghan.
Annual vents such as the Oldcastle Show and Le Chéile are some of the highlights of the year. The Oldcastle Show is held every August in the Gilson National Park and Le Chéile Arts & Music Festival is held on the bank holiday weekend in August at various venues around the town. The festival has been running since 1998 and has featured acts such as Aslan, The Saw Doctors, Shane McGowan, The Riptide Movement and Kodaline. Fr Ray Kelly is also a local feature and performs in his own parish church.
Oldcastle GAA club is 125 years old.
The town has a wide range of other clubs available for all to join. The track and mountain running club of Saint Brigid's Athletic club are also located in close proximity of Mullaghmeen forest with such notable members as Gerrard Heery who finished 2nd over 40 in Snowdon international mountain race 2013, and other endurance members such as Eamonn Fitzsimons who has completed and ranked highly in many international multi day adventure and foot races representing his club and country
Oldcastle had a bed-manufacturing industry including firms such as Gleneagle Woodcrafts, Briody Bedding and Respa Bedding which are a major source of employment for the area.
There are the engineering firms located in the parish of Moylagh, County Meath, approximately 5.0 miles (8 km) from the town. These industries have attracted many immigrants to the area for work, mainly from Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Poland.
Tourism is important to Oldcastle. The town is located a short distance from the Loughcrew Cairns, a major tourist attraction. Built around 3300 B.C. as passage tombs they predate the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
Oldcastle is located in the foothills of Sliabh na Caillaigh.
There is a mixed primary school, Gilson National School, and a secondary school, St. Oliver Post Primary. This secondary school has been expanded in recent years, with the opening of a new building in 2002. The secondary school celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, opening four new classrooms on the date. Noel Dempsey and Bishop Micheal Smith were present. On 3 March 2007 the school won the All-Ireland Vocational Schools Championship Senior Cup 'B' Competition in Gaelic football.
Recently a new community library was opened replacing a smaller library in the town and is located next to the local Credit Union.
The Gilson National School is said by the local Chamber of Commerce to be the "Gem in the Crown of Oldcastle's architecture" The Gilson National School's trust and building owe their existence to the generosity of Laurence Gilson, a native of Oldcastle Parish. A statue of him was unveiled in May 2011. Gilson donated money to the town of Oldcastle in 1810 for the establishment of a multi-faith school.
The Show Hall in Oldcastle is located near the church. It hosts bingo, show dances, show bands and Le Chéile concerts annually.
Oldcastle railway station, at the end of a branch line from Navan, opened on 17 March 1863 and for many years provided a source of revenue and income for local farmers as well as other industries in the area by allowing local goods and produce to be transported to the main ports of Ireland for export. The station closed for passenger traffic on 14 April 1958 and the branch finally closed altogether on 1 April 1963, during a period when numerous railway lines were being closed.
Bus Éireann route 187 services Oldcastle from Monday to Saturday. It provides transport to neighbouring towns and villages of Mountnugent, Ballyjamesduff, Virginia and Kells. Onward connections e.g. to Dublin, Cavan, Navan and Enniskillen are available at Virginia/Kells. There are four journeys both to and from Oldcastle each weekday. Subject to road safety the bus will stop to pick up and set down passengers at any safe point along the route.
- Fr. Ray Kelly, singing priest
- Alicia Adelaide Needham (1863-1945), composer of songs and ballads
- Thomas Nulty Roman Catholic bishop (1818-1898) and land reform advocate
- Richard Ridgeway, Victoria Cross recipient
- CSO Census 2006
- Mooney & O'Toole, pp. 38-39.
- Real Irish Republican Army
- [stbrigidsathleticclub.com/ www.beastofballyhoura.com/ www.snowdonrace.co.uk/ http://www.oldcastlechamber.com/clubs_entertainment.htm Oldcastlechamber.com]
- Casey, Ann (2011-03-23). "Tribute to Oldcastle man set for May Day unveiling". The Meath Chronicle. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
- "Oldcastle station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-11-22.
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