Overview of Skerries History, Part 1.

Early writers tell how an island off Skerries was used as a landing place for an invasion, which happened in the second century. This island was probably Red Island or maybe Shenick. When the invaders landed they formed rank and at low tide marched to the mainland. They then proceeded to Knocknagin, north of Balbriggan where they were defeated.

In 432 AD St. Patrick landed on Church Island and this is recorded by Ware in “Antiquities of Ireland.”

On the coast of Dublin lies Holmpatrick, or the island of Patrick, called so in Memory of the holy man who landed there in 432 and from there passed to The mainland to enlighten Ireland with the rays of Christian religion.

According to a reference in the Book of Armagh, written about the year 800 AD, in ancient times the islands off the coast of Skerries were known as the “isles of the children of Cor.” They are called by this name in the Book of Armagh, which was written about the year 800 A.D. This old Irish name suggests that the islands were named after the people that lived on, or near them, the descendents of a man named Cor.

It is recorded in the annals of Munster that in the year 797A.D. the Danes carried out one of their earliest raids in Ireland when they plundered the monastery on Church Island. St. Mochonna founded this monastery shortly after St. Patrick arrived in Ireland.

Sitric, who was a son of a Dane called Murchard, refounded the monastery on Church Island in 1120. He dedicated it to St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. By this time the Danes who had settled in Ireland had become Christians.

The influence of the Danes still lives in local place names. Skerries got its name from the Vikings. The word Skerries comes from the Danish word skere meaning rocks or a reef, and ey meaning an islet or small island.

It was applied to the series of islets and their sandy reefs, which lie just offshore opposite the town. The prefix holm in Holmpatrick is also an old Danish word meaning harbour.

In 1148, a very important synod was held on Church Island. It was summoned by Saint Malachy, the archbishop of Armagh to settle differences between the Irish Christians and the Pope. Fifteen bishops, two hundred priests and other clergy were present. In connection with decisions made at the Synod, St. Malachy was sent to Rome for discussions with the Pope. He never reached Rome as he died on the way in France at the monastery of Clairvaux, in the presence of St. Bernard.

In 1256 the monastery was moved to the mainland as the monks then thought that an island was unsuitable as the site for a monastery. This was done with the permission of Henry de Londres, the archbishop of Dublin, following a request to do so by the monks. This move created the monastery of Holmpatrick. In time the monastery began to join up with the fishing village of Skerries to form the heart of the town, as we know it.

In 1488 a man called Lambert Simnel claimed to be king of England and was actually crowned in Dublin. King Henry VII sent forces to Ireland to put down this rebellion and some of those forces landed in Skerries.

When Silken Thomas rebelled against the king of England in 1534 he ordered his followers to assemble in Skerries. However the Lord Lieutenant had knowledge of his plans and successfully foiled them. He had four vessels, that could not be towed away, burned in the harbour and carried away a number of small boats.

Published here: November 2002 – updated 25 Feb 2014.