The Historical Scene
A mere 23 years after the uprising of 1798, 16 years after Trafalgar, 9 years after Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow – the Battle of Waterloo an event clearly in people’s minds, just 6 years earlier.
The year in which Faraday propounded his “Basic Principles of Electricity”.
On the 29th June in that year the formal deeds were registered constituting a separate Parish of Booterstown – carved out of the existing Parish of St. Mary, Donnybrook.
Some weeks later, in early September 1821, the British Sovereign, George IV, arrived in Ireland on a State Visit, one of the main purposes being the naming ceremony of the magnificent harbour which was being built, its massive piers thrusting out into Dublin Bay, consisting of granite blasted from the side of Dalkey Hill.
The records of the day describe how “His Majesty, George IV, previous to his embarking from the Royal Slip did in most gracious manner name the Asylum Harbour in which the Royal Fleet had been riding during His Majesty’s stay in Ireland, “The Royal Harbour of His Majesty”.
In like manner, His Majesty was pleased to name the town growing up in the neighbourhood of the Harbour “KINGSTOWN”.
The above two events, at first sight, seem little related apart from their common year of occurrence. It is probably true to say, however, that the superb harbour of Dun Laoghaire (to give it its present title) owes its beginning to a disaster which took place 14 years earlier within the present parochial boundaries of Booterstown, near the point on the coastline now called MARETIMO.
In a fierce gale on the night of 19th November, 1807 the troopship “Prince of Wales” outward bound from Dublin Port with the 18th Regiment of Foot, and other Corps (many from South Mayo and mainly Militiamen) was driven ashore in a blinding snowstorm. 120 lives were lost. In the same gale, one hour later, the troopship “Rochdale” grounded near the present Seapoint Martello Tower, with the incredible loss of 265 lives. Who can nowadays visualise such a holocaust, looking down from the coast road at peaceful windsurfers or bathers at the self same place on a summer’s day? Contemporary records tell us that the sands of Booterstown Parish were strewn next day with the corpses of the victims. Those from the “Prince of Wales” lie buried in a mass grave in the small (and relatively unknown) cemetery opposite the Bird Sanctuary at Booterstown.
A headstone near the wall, erected by order of the Earl of Harrington – Commander of the Forces in Ireland – recalls the tragic night and can be seen to this day.
Public outrage at these events at length forced on the authorities the realization that provision of an East coast harbour of refuge for sailing vessels, where none existed between Dublin and Wexford, could be delayed no longer. An Act of Parliament authorised the building and voted the necessary funds.
1817 saw operations begin and, as we have noted, in our Parochial formation year of 1821 was the scene of a great State occasion and naming ceremony.