CURRAGH OF KILDARE (HANDBOOK FOR TRAVELLERS IN IRELAND – 1906 EDITION)

by ehistoryadmin on November 7, 2019

The Curragh, 6m. long and 2m. broad, is a magnificent undulating DOWN lying in a N.E. direction from Kildare, and crossed by the old coach road from Dublin to Limerick. It forms an extensive sheepwalk of 4858 acres, the occupants of the adjoining farms alone having the right of pasture. “Nothing can exceed the extreme softness and elasticity of the turf, which is of a verdure that charms the eye, and is still further set off by the gentle inequality of the surface; the soil is a fine dry loam on a substratum of limestone.” Geologically speaking, this fine loam is nothing but drift, about 200 ft. in thickness.

There are but few early remains in it, and these only of an ancient road running nearly parallel with the high road, and a chain of small raths or mounds. Near the “Gibbet Rath” a tumlus was opened in 1859 and a cist was found containing a cinerary urn and human remains. Further exploration in other mounds yielded an urn and a large cist 8 ft. long containing four or five skeletons. Both forms of burial were evidently practised here in prehistoric times. The fame of the Curragh as a sheep-walk dates from an early period. St. Brigid had flocks here, and it was known in after ages as “Brigid’s pasture-ground.” Giraldus Cambrensis so calls it, and says, “no plough is ever suffered to turn a furrow,” and pays tribute to its wonderful fertility. It has been the scene of many an encampment prior to the permanenet encampment that occupies it at present; in 1646, by forces under General Preston; in 1783, by volunteers; and in 1803, by insurgents. At present several regiments are constantly quartered here, and the camp presents the same civilised means and appliances that exist at Aldershot, there being accommodation for 12,000 troops.

Its fame as a Racecourse is equally ancient, as its nameĀ Cuirreach, implies “racecourse,” and this great national sport has been held here for 2000 years. From its peculiarly springy turf, and the opportunities afforded to spectators, it has always held the first rank in the estimation of Irish sportsmen. The races are held four times a year – in April, June, September, and October. Near the S.W. boundary is a depression called “Donnelly’s Hollow,” the scene of a great prize fight between the champion and an Englishman named Cooper in 1815, in which the latter was defeated. The spot is marked by a small obelisk”.

The above description appears in the 7th Edition of Handbook For Travellers in IrelandĀ  (Revised and Edited by John Cooke) , published in 1906. It contains interesting descriptions of historic sites throughout Kildare including Colbinstown Cemetery, Kildare Town, Newbridge, Kilcullen, Monasterevan, Athy, Moat of Ardscull, Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Leixlip, Celbridge, Maynooth, Kilcock, Straffan, Clane, Sallins and Naas. A copy is available to consult in Local Studies Department in Newbridge, by appointment.

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