Skerries Harbour, Part 1

From the earliest times Skerries was used as an anchorage because of its excellent natural facilities as a harbour. As the town gets its name from the Vikings, and because many Viking surnames still remain in the locality, it is safe to assume that Viking recognised its advantages as a harbour, and settled in the area.

In 1496 the King gave permission to the Prior of Holmpatrick to build a pier. At this time Skerries was the property of the monastery of Holmpatrick and was known as the Port of Holmpatrick.

After the reformation the monastery and its lands became the property of Thomas Fitzpatrick in 1565. He was charged with the upkeep of the harbour on which he had to spend between 200 and 300 pounds on repairs. By 1605, when the manor of Holmpatrick was granted to the Earl of Thomond, the harbour is described as being in a ruined state. The harbour remained the property of the Earl of Thomond until 1721,and though there are some records of the harbour and pier for this period none describe its condition or size.

In 1721 the Hamilton family purchased the Manor of Holmpatrick, and the town and port of Skerries. In 1759 the Irish parliament granted £2,000 to John Hamilton to enlarge and extend the pier. Because of delays over the planning, and the deaths of some of those involved, the work was not finished until 1766.

Between 1767 and 1769 further petitions were made to parliament for a grant to extend the pier into ten feet of water at low tide so that large ships could berth there. This work would cost an extra £9,000. The act of union came in 1801 and this ended efforts to get aid from the Irish parliament.

Between 1800 and 1821 Hans Hamilton, who owned the estate at this time, did extensive repairs to the pier at his own expense. During the next century a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to obtain grants from the parliament in London to improve the harbour in Skerries. During this time the only important event regarding the harbour was that in 1877 control passed from the head of the Hamilton family to the Dublin Port and Docks Board.

In the present century representations for the improvement of Skerries Harbour continued, at first to the British authorities, and later to native Irish Governments. Eventually these representations bore fruit. In 1968 tenders were invited to build an extension 180 feet long and 30 feet wide to the existing pier. In March 1969 work started and was finished a year later. After two hundred years and appeals to three totally different kinds of Goverment the extension of Skerries Pier became a reality, though not into ten feet of water as envisaged in 1769.
Published here: November 2002