Wexford lies on the south side of Wexford Harbour, the estuary of the River Slaney. According to a local legend, the town got its Irish name, Loch Garman, from a young man named Garman Garbh who was drowned on the mudflats at the mouth of the River Slaney by flood waters released by an enchantress. The resulting loch or lough was thus named, Loch Garman.
The town was founded by the Vikings in about 800 AD. They named it Veisafjǫrðr, inlet of the mud flats and the name has changed only slightly into its present form. For about three hundred years it was a Viking town, a city state, largely independent and owing only token dues to the Irish kings of Leinster.
However, in May 1169 Wexford was besieged by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster and his Norman ally, Robert Fitz-Stephen. The Norse inhabitants resisted fiercely, until the Bishop of Ferns persuaded them to accept a settlement with Dermot. Wexford was an Old English settlement in the Middle Ages. An old dialect of English, known as Yola, was spoken uniquely in Wexford up until the 19th century. County Wexford produced strong support for Confederate Ireland during the 1640s. A fleet of Confederate privateers was based in Wexford town, consisting of sailors from Flanders and Spain as well as local men. Their vessels raided English Parliamentarian shipping, giving some of the proceeds to the Confederate government in Kilkenny. As a result, the town was sacked by the English Parliamentarians during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649. Many of its inhabitants were killed and much of the town was burned. Wexford Pikeman Statue by Oliver Sheppard in memory of the 1798 rebellion County Wexford was the centre of the 1798 rebellion against British rule.
Wexford town was held by the rebels throughout the fighting and was the scene of a notorious massacre of local loyalists by the United Irishmen, who executed them with pikes on Wexford bridge. Redmond Square, near the railway station, commemorates the elder John Edward Redmond (1806-1865) who was Liberal MP for the city of Wexford. The inscription reads: "My heart is with the city of Wexford. Nothing can extinguish that love but the cold soil of the grave." His nephew William Archer Redmond (1825-1880) sat as an MP in Isaac Butt's Home Rule Party from 1872 until 1880. The younger John Redmond, son of William Archer Redmond was a devoted follower of Charles Stewart Parnell and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party until his death in April 1918. He is interred in the Redmond family vault, St. John's Cemetery, Upper St. John's Street. Redmond Park was formally opened in 1931 as a memorial to Willie Redmond, younger brother of John Redmond. He was also an Irish Parliamentary Party MP and was killed in 1917 while serving with the 16th (Irish) Division on the Western Front during the Messines offensive, where he was buried. Willie Redmond had sat as a Parnellite MP for Wexford from 1883 until 1885.
Wexford's success as a seaport declined in the 20th century, because of the constantly changing sands of Wexford Harbour. By 1968 it had become unprofitable to keep dredging a channel from the harbour mouth to the quays in order to accommodate the larger ships of the era, so the port closed. The port had been extremely important to the local economy, with coal being a major import and agricultural machinery and grain being exported. The port is now used exclusively by mussel dredgers and pleasure craft. The woodenworks which fronted the quays and which were synonymous with Wexford were removed in the 1990s as part of an ambitious plan to claim the quay as an amenity for the town as well as retaining it as a commercially viable waterfront. Despite the bankruptcy of the contractor, the project was a success. In the early 20th century, a new port was built, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south, at Rosslare Harbour, now known as Rosslare Europort. This is a deepwater harbour unaffected by tides and currents. All major shipping now uses this port and Wexford Port is used only by fishing boats and leisure vessels.
GROUP TOUR INFO
Enjoy the Craic with an Irish House Party in charming County Wexford. Enniscorthy is well placed for exploring this south east corner of Ireland with Wicklow, Waterford and Kilkenny all within easy reach. The House Party package includes lunch each day and nightly entertainment plus free bar between 6pm and 9pm.
Depart the UK. Arrive in Ireland and check into your hotel.
Waterford City and Waterford Crystal. Today, visit Waterford, Ireland's Crystal county. Stop along the way at the Dunbrody Famine Ship, which for over 30 years carried emigrants from Ireland to America. Then enjoy a guided walking tour of Waterford and be sure to visit the Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, home of the world's most famous crystal.
Wicklow, Glendalough and Avoca. County Wicklow is known as the 'Garden of Ireland'. Nestled amongst the lush rolling hills are pretty little glens, cascading waterfalls, glassy lakes and intimate villages. See Glendalough, gateway to 'The valley of the two lakes'. Avoca is a typical Irish Village where the popular BBC series Ballykissangel was filmed. Also see the Meeting of the Waters and visit Avoca Handweavers.
Kilkenny and the Rock of Cashel. Today, visit Kilkenny, a city steeped in history and dominated by superb ancient architecture. See the 12th century castle, remodelled in Victorian times and set in extensive parklands. Other attractions in the city include St. Canice's Cathedral, the imposing Butler Castle and the Kilkenny Design Centre. Later, visit the iconic Rock of Cashel - a spectacular group of medieval buildings set on a outcrop of limestone. Also known as Cashel of the Kings, the Rock of Cashel was once the seat of the High Kings of Munster although most of the buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
After breakfast start the journey home.