A well-travelled corpse.

Community Historian Brendan Matthews with a tale from 1881.

On a beautiful summers evening, back in the month of June in 1881, a ragman was walking into Drogheda along the Dublin road when he came across a horse and cart that was being driven towards the town at a very leisurely pace. The ragman enquired if perhaps he could hitch a lift from the driver and getting no response he took the silence for consent and so he boarded up alongside the driver.

As the horse and cart jogged along the road the ragman was bemused by the driver with whom he failed to draw into a conversation of any kind until it gradually occurred to him that the driver was actually deaf and dumb. The ragman then took the occasion to investigate the nature of the loading that the cart was carrying and he was astonished to discover that what he thought was a large trunk turned out to be a coffin and after removing the lid a little he was taken aback to find the shrouded corpse of a man inside. For the remainder of the journey the ragman remained as silent as his mysterious driver and on reaching the town he jumped off the cart and immediately informed the police at the South Quay barracks about the incident.

The police apprehended the driver of the horse and cart and took him to the barracks while the coffin and the corpse were removed to the Drogheda Union Workhouse pending further enquiries. Meanwhile the news of the grim discovery spread like wildfire throughout the town. The strange facts not being enough for the popular appetite, a bloody shroud and a mangled corpse added to the tale for sensational effect.

Various different rumours abounded and because this was also at the height of the Land War between the country’s landlords and their tenants and so the story went that the corpse was that of a Bailiff who supposedly had met his death by some sinister means and that the body was to be transported far away from where the crime was committed and by using the deaf and dumb driver he would be relied upon to keep his mind to himself.

However, subsequent enquiries revealed the real truth behind the events. The driver turned out to be one Billy Larkin, a well-known deaf and dumb man residing in Ashbourne, while the deceased was a labourer named Michael Byrne and both men had worked for a Mr. Kirk in Ashbourne and who had heard the news that his horse, cart and driver had been located in Drogheda and so Mr Kirk soon arrived in town.

It turned out that Michael Byrne had taken ill in Kirk’s employment and was removed to the Workhouse in Dunshaughlin where he passed away and Billy Larkin, the deaf and dumb man, was sent to the Workhouse to collect the body and bring it home to Ashbourne for interment.

Apparently Billy Larkin had fallen asleep on some hay which he was given to cover the coffin and awakening some time later he found the horse plodding along on a road that was entirely new to him and so he plodded along further and further from home until he met up with the ragman on the Dublin road outside Drogheda; apparently he had been on the road for two days. It was hoped by Mr. Kirk to then have the remains of the deceased, Michael Byrne, brought back to Ashbourne however, owing to the decomposed state of the body this was not possible and it turned out that the remains of poor Michael Byrne found their last resting place in the Drogheda Workhouse burial ground at Bully`s Acre.


Full Accreditation Status

Press Statement

Drogheda Museum Millmount is the first volunteer-run museum in Ireland to be awarded Full Accreditation Status under the Museum Standards Programme Ireland (MSPI) which is conducted by the Heritage Council of Ireland.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, who made the awards, Betty Quinn, Curator, Drogheda Museum Millmount, Richie Culhane, 414th Mayor of Drogheda, Michael Starrett, Director, Heritage Council of Ireland.   
Pictured at the awards ceremony at the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin are, front:- Richie Culhane, Mayor of Drogheda, Betty Quinn, Curator Drogheda Museum and Mary T. Daly, Drogheda Borough Council; back - Jim McArdle, Accreditation Officer, Drogheda Museum, Seán Corcoran, Chairperson
Old Drogheda Society and Brendan Matthews, Community Historian Drogheda Museum.


Drogheda Fenians Return - Day Three & Four

Monday 8th July at 1pm sees the start of our Tholsel Lunchtime Presentations.

The first of the week long presentations is "In The Great Dismal Swamp - John Boyle O'Reilly, Canoeist and Sports Enthusiast". There will be a general introduction to the week by Sean Corcoran, Chairperson of the Old Drogheda Society and a Director of Drogheda Museum, and there will also be contributions from Claidhbh Ó Gibne, artist and currach-maker who owns and operates the Boyne Currach Centre in Donore, Co. Meath, and also from Silver Bridge Kayak Club and Drogheda Boxing Club.

O'Reilly on the Delaware River
It is little known about John Boyle O'Reilly that not only was he a radical intellectual and poet but also an international figure in the social development of sport; particularly canoeing and boxing. His accounts of canoeing trips, particularly to The Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia are regarded as classics.

Here's a link to some of his writings on canoeing:

Drogheda Fenian Laurence Fulham

In the Tholsel at 1pm on Tuesday 9th July there is the second of our Lunchtime Presentations -
The Fenians and Photography - speaker Liam Kelly, author of 'Photographs and Photography in Irish Local History' (2008) will discuss the use of the camera and photography in Irish daily life, and its use by the authorities to aid in the identification of criminals using mugshots. There will also be contributions from the Drogheda Photographic Club using period equipment.

To round off Tuesday 9th July, at 7pm there will be a Fenian Town Walk led by community historian Brendan Matthews which will take in the main sites related to the Drogheda Fenians. Assembly is at the West court Hotel, West St., Drogheda and the duration is one hour.


'Drogheda Fenians Return' Gathering Celebration


                  Welcome home the descendants of the Drogheda Fenians of 1867!

This year as part of The Gathering celebration, whose emphasis is to welcome home the many Irish and their descendants that have emigrated over the years, Drogheda Museum has chosen to welcome back the descendants of the Drogheda Fenians. This year marks the 146th anniversary of the failed Fenian Uprising of 1867, after which many of the local Fenian members were forced to flee the country.

"The Fenians" was the popular name for a mass political movement called The Fenian Brotherhood or the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) which flourished in Ireland and among the Irish in America & Britain in the second half of the 19th century. They advocated an independent Ireland with votes for all and a nationalisation of agricultural land, and also the complete separation of Church and State, which meant its members included both Protestant and Catholic. In Drogheda they included some of the best and brightest of the population, and the fact that many of them had to leave after 1867 was a great loss of life to the town.

Many of the Drogheda Fenians who fled subsequently played prominent roles in the lives of their adopted countries - mainly in the U.S.A, Canada, Australia and Britain. Many of their descendants have contacted the museum over the years trying to trace their genealogies and we have been able to piece together the dramatic life stories of their ancestors. This year we invite the descendants of the Drogheda Fenians, their extended families and friends, and indeed anyone who is interested, to a series of events in Drogheda from Thursday 4th July to Sunday 14th July 2013.

Our week-long programme kicks off on Thursday 4th July at 6.30pm in Drogheda Museum Millmount with a brand new exhibition - Who Were the Drogheda Fenians? - focusing on the local branch of the movement, and examining their social history and the times they lived in.

On Sun 7th July at 3pm there is an excellent historical walk taking place to Monknewtown Cemetery - The Col. Leonard Banner Trail - lead by community historian Brendan Matthews, there will be a parade of the Drogheda Trade & Guild Banners up to Monknewtown Cemetery where Col. Leonard is buried. Assembly will be in the car park of the Tourists Rest pub, Rossin, on the main Drogheda to Slane road ("Dolly Mitchell's") with descendants of Col. Leonard and William Reynolds present.

 Afterwards at 4pm there will be an exhibition of the Banners and a celebration of their artist William Reynolds in the Tourists Rest function room along with music from local trad group Eitleán.

Never fear, there will be a bus available to shuttle people to the Tourists Rest and back into Drogheda so people can enjoy a drink or two whilst enjoying the music. The bus departs from the Lourdes Church at 2.15pm SHARP and also from Marian Park at 2.30pm SHARP and returns at 6.15pm in the evening. The fare for the bus is 5 euro.

Col. Patrick Leonard from Tullyallen was a major Fenian leader on both sides of the Atlantic and after his death in 1873 an annual commemoration attracted crowds of many thousands from all over Ireland and Britain to his memorial in Monknewtown cemetery. The Col. Leonard Fife & Drum Band was set up in his memory, and this later became the Drogheda Brass & Reed Band. His cousin, the artist William Reynolds, painted the famous Drogheda Trade & Guild Banners and designed the memorial.

More details of the upcoming events to follow...


Old Drogheda Society Extraordinary General Meeting

Dear Member,

just to remind you that you are invited to attend an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Old Drogheda Society to be held in the Governor’s House, Millmount, tonight, Wednesday 26th June 2013 at 8.00pm.

The purpose of the meeting is to vote on the adoption of the proposed Constitution and Rules of the Society (already forwarded to you) and also to decide on three amendments to this constitution which I enclose.

Also to remind you that the outing to Historic Balbrigan will be taking place tomorrow night, Thursday June 27th and there are till has some seats available.

*Old Drogheda Society **- History, Archaeology & Heritage*

*Millmount, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland. Tel. 041-9833097*


The Riot in Dooley Gate.

Community Historian, Brendan Matthews, with a piece that recalls a riotous event from 1917.

On a warm Sunday afternoon back in July of 1917 a newly formed Pipers Band from St. Mary’s Parish in Drogheda stepped out for the first time in public to take part in the Aerdheacht at the Shamrock Lodge on the north side of the town.

The pipers made their way down Mary St. followed by a large number of people with many of them wearing the Sinn Fein colours and they were joined by a number of men in James St. who carried a Sinn Fein flag which they began waving in a provocative manner much to the annoyance of a large group of women who had gathered to watch the procession on the pavement.

It was believed that these women were in fact relatives of men who were fighting for Britain in France and Belgium during this period of the First World War.

Anyway, when the marchers reached the Bullring the women began to throw stones at them and cries and counter-cries of abuse were also exchanged regarding Irish Nationalism and the Great War; however no one was seriously injured in the incident and the march was allowed to continue by the police to the field at Shamrock Lodge.

On returning home there was again some hostilities between the Pipers Band and members of the public in the Peter St. area.

The following Monday evening, a large crowd, numbering about 200, gathered outside Samson’s public house on Pitcher Hill, just opposite the entrance gates to Millmount, shortly after 10pm and began chanting Nationalist slogans, flag waving and cheering. Soon afterwards another group, which numbered upwards of 400, had gathered at the Bullring; many of these people were actually returning home from a day out at Laytown strand and were standing around as spectators watching the events on the hill above them.

Shortly after 11pm the crowd on Pitcher Hill began running down Mary St. shouting “Up the Rebels” and “Up the Green, White and Yellow”. Much of the crowd who had gathered at the Bullring began to disperse with women and children running in all directions, however a large number of them stood their ground and within minutes sporadic fighting had taken place in the Bullring, Barrack lane and the steps of Pitcher Hill.

The fighting and stone throwing became more intense and it soon developed into a full-scale riot leading into Duleek St. and the Platten road area.

Windows were smashed in many of the houses as the maddening crowd fought each other all the while shouting abuse such as, “Up the Rebels” which was retaliated by shouts of, “Up the Khaki”. A young police Constable by the name of Doherty had his house wrecked in Coolagh St., while a number of houses in Platten Road including the homes of the McEnaney`s and Flood’s were also badly damaged in the incident.

A large force of police arrived on the scene and peace was eventually restored shortly after midnight while the crowd dispersed into the darkness of the night.

In the follow up operations by the R.I.C. six men, all from the “Dooley Gate” district were arrested and charged with riotous behaviour namely Burke, Dyas, Murtagh, Mongay, Rourke and Connor with each one receiving a four month prison sentence; however, this sentence was later reduced by a hefty fine and a bond to keep the peace for twelve months.

The court was told that these young men were of good character and had never before come to the attention of the police and that things had gotten out of hand with the gathering of such a large crowd.

The night, which became known as the “Riot of Dooley Gate”.


Heritage Council Meeting

Sean Corcoran with a few tidbits on the Heritage Council extended meeting in Drogheda Museum Millmount


Drogheda Museum Millmount was the venue for a 2 day meeting of the Heritage Council on Tues and Wed of this week (18th and 19th June 2013). They lunched each day in the Tower Restaurant and the only break they took from their heavy meeting schedule was to visit the Little Tern Project in Baltray.

I just thought I'd share with you some of the thoughs of Louth Heritage Officer Brendan McSherry. They make for interesting consideration.

Brendan said theevent was a 'wonderful success'. All who took part 'very much enjoyed the visit and many of them were very pleasantly surprised by Drogheda and by the Boyne estuary generally.'

Brendan added that the venue was well thought of and that the food coupled with the sunshine made it a hugely beneficial experience.

He finished off by encouraging even greater work by all involved to promote 'the wonderful heritage resource in Drogheda, the Boyne Valley and Louth.'


The Pope who made a deal with the Unionists.

Community Historian, Brendan Matthews with an evocative piece on Drogheda's own pope.

Back in the 19th and early 20th century, there lived a man named Edward (The Pope), Heeney at Oldbridge, just to the west of Drogheda, in a small mud-cabin house adjacent to the Boyne Obelisk.

Mr. Heeney obtained the nick-name of the Pope, from the fact that he had taken part in the Papal War of 1860, when he was only 20 years old. He was recognised as an outstanding Lieutenant and had fought alongside two more local Lieutenants; a Mr. P.C. Greene of Moneymore and a Mr. Cronin of Drybridge, along with about 50 more men from Co. Louth; a number of them being from the Drogheda area.

Anyway, the Irish Papal Brigade arrived home to Queenstown (Cobh), in December 1860 before arriving in Drogheda by train, where they were received by thousands of people who lined the streets. Their return was also celebrated by huge bonfires at Moneymore, Drybridge and Oldbridge.

After the Pope arrived back in Drogheda, he settled back at his home in Oldbridge, where his humble little abode was situated only 30 yards from the famous Obelisk.

The Obelisk, a huge shaft of stone some 150 feet high sitting on a base that was some 20 feet square, had been erected in the year 1736 in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In his later years the Pope would come into Drogheda twice a week on a pony and trap and he was always a familiar sight as he wore the old “three-quarters” hat, which was as high as a tall hat, but rounded on top like a bowler.

One of the Pope’s favourite restaurants in Drogheda was that of Miss Hart’s in Laurence St, where he would sit at a table by himself and, never take his hat off while he was eating; `the Pope needs privacy`, he reportedly told friends, who had enquired why he always sat alone.

In June of 1923, the Pope was awoken from his sleep by a couple of armed men who told him to get dressed. The Pope reportedly told the men that, `if you’re going to shoot me you may as well do it here`; however he was told to leave his house and not go back until he had heard an explosion.

After the explosion had occurred, the Pope, who was now 83 years old, returned to discover that the Obelisk had been blown to pieces all over his land.

It was widely believed, for many years, that the Republicans had blown the Obelisk up; however, a revelation made in the 1980`s indicated that perhaps a number of `Freestaters` were actually responsible for its destruction, known that the blame would fall on the IRA.?

After the Obelisk had been blown up, hundreds of people arrived at Oldbridge to take home pieces of the shattered monument as souvenirs, many of them coming from the six counties of the North. And it was at this time that the Pope thought of the `brainwave` and began selling off pieces of the Obelisk stone according to size, thus, clearing his field of the debris and making a few quid at the same time.

The Pope also erected posters and advertisements in the area containing the following inscription.
To builders and contractors- for sale, the splendid building material which formed the Boyne Obelisk. Apply at once to Mr. Edward. P. Heeney, Oldbridge, Drogheda.
So, to the Unionist population in the North. If you have a piece of the Boyne Obelisk in your possession, would you happen to know if the souvenir stone was obtained, `free-of-charge`, or could there have been a `deal` made with the `Pope` to obtain it ?


Evening Outing to Historic Balbriggan


 Old Drogheda Society 

 Evening Outing


Historic Balbriggan


Thursday 27th June 2013

St Peter and Pauls Church - featuring the famous Harry Clarke stained glass windows, stopping at Balbriggan town park to view the Viaduct and to hear the story of the Dublin to Drogheda railway (1844). Strolling to Lighthouse (1769) and hearing the history of the harbour. Viewing the famous Smyth’s Hosiery factories (1780-1980) and hearing about the silk stockings made by Thomas Mangan for Queen Victoria. Concluding along the "Sea Banks" with the history of the sack of Balbriggan Sept 20th 1920.
The tour will be led by Jim Walsh
founder member of the Balbriggan Historical Society

Cost €15.00

including tea/coffee and sandwich at the City North Hotel on way back
Bus Departs Lourdes church: 6.15pm. Sharp
Bus Departs      Marian Park: 6.30pm.  Sharp

Booking at
Millmount Museum, telephone: 041 9833097

Please note:

members are advised NOT to park their cars on the property of the Lourdes Church.

Please note

That minimum numbers will be required for this outing` to operate