a country steeped in myth and legend Wexford's history is no
A story tells of its origin in the mists of time,
when Garman Garbh was drowned on
the mudflats by waters released
by an Enchantress. The vast expanse of harbour
thus created was
named "The lake of Garman" or Loch Garman, the Gaelic
As we trace our origins to the Celtic tribes who moved westward
and were attracted to this natural harbour on
Ireland's south east coast.
Our Christian heritage almost certainly predates that of the
Patrick, as we had our own missioner Ibar,
whose presence is recorded under his
many varients such as Iver,
Iberius and Ivory.
The Norsemen are accredited with introducing towns to Ireland,
and Wexford was
among the first, dating back to the early 900's.
Our Norse and Viking ancestry is
frequently being proven by
archaeological finds within the town. From marauding
the Vikings became citizens and traders of early Wexford and
legacy includes the narrow winding streets and our
town's name, Wexford,
derived from the Norse, Weissfiord - inlet
of the mudflats.
In the Spring of 1169, the then prosperous town
was taken by an
invading force of Norman
knights, who over the following
enclosed the town and regulated trade.
Among the many
visitors to Wexford around this
time was the English King, Henry
II, reputed to
have done penance at Selskar Abbey for the
of Thomas a Beckett.
Through many turbulent years, Wexford survived
plagues and the religious
upheavel of the Reformation.
The 1600's also brought suffering. Wexford became a chief naval
base for the
Confederate Government in its war with the
Parliament Forces and this led to a
massacre in 1649, when
Wexford fell to the army of Oliver Cromwell.
disaster, the town was relatively calm for over a century, but
hot Summer of 1798, it exploded once more onto the stage
of Irish history.
In that year of insurrection, many of the woes
of previous decades came to the
surface, with violent results on
both sides. This created memories which still
persist in story
those dark days of 1798, Wexford
entered an age of
The port was about to reach its zenith,
with hundred of
ships trading with lands
in Africa, the Black Sea and the
States of America.
Trade increases led
growth of industries ranging from
whiskey distilling to
the manufacture of
The population grew steadily and
were constructed, while in 1851, work
began on the elegant twin Churches
were to dominate the skyline.
It was also in 1800's that many of to-days important
buildings were constructed,
St. Peters College in 1819 to
the Mechanics Institute in 1849 and the Tate School
the Municipal Buildings, in 1867.
The railway reached Wexford in 1870 and was continued
along the quayfront by
1882. In the early years of this
century, Wexford agricultural machinery
branch offices in cities such as Paris and Buenos Aires.
Many are familiar with the industrial strife of the
British General Strike of 1926 and
the Dublin Lock-out of
1913 but prior to both of these, the people of Wexford had
endured a lock-out for over six months 1911/1912, to
secure the right of trade
union representation. The great
war of 1914-18 also left its mark on Wexford.
part of the British Empire at that time, thousands of her
sons fought on
land and sea, with many giving their lives
in the struggle.
An American Airbase was established at Wexford during this
Its headquarters being where the present day Ely
Hospital is at the east end of
the bridge. American airmen
from the base patrolled St. Georges Channel to
After World War I there was little respite in warfare as
our country entered a
period of struggle for
independence followed by a civil war. Throughout all of
Wexfordians played a part and the town continued to
The Second World War found Wexford part of a neutral
country, but the war still
managed to inflict suffering
and death on our people. Although not part of that
our merchant navy was to experience many attacks and some
of our sailors
paid the ultimate price in keeping Ireland
After the war,
Wexford had mixed fortunes. Our traditional
industries began to
decline, as mechanisation advanced. Nature, by the
way of easterly storms and
sediment built-up conspired to end our shipping
tradition and emigration took its
toll on our working populace. But our cosmopolitan
outlook, springing from mixed
origins and our seafaring traditions, made the town
very attractive to
international companies and to a growing tourist
our narrow streets came a president and
ex-presidents. The American people presented
with a statue of John Barry, a Wexfordman deemed
as founder of their navy.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the U.S.A
visited the county town of his ancestors, just
months before his tragic death.
Dwight Eisenhower and Mayor Daly of Chicago were
other distinguished visitors to Wexford.
in 1982, we re-affirmed our Celtic European origins,
when Wexford became the ‘twin town’ of Coueron,
France, a fitting ceremony for a major town at the
Irish Gateway to Europe.
While looking ever forward, with urban renewal and
the increase attraction of international companies
to our highly trained youth, we never lose sight of
our past. We believe in our history and its
importance, not only to ourselves but to visitors.
With this in mind we have developed a major National
Heritage Park on the outskirts of our town. As well
as preserving our ancient town walls we have
established an impressive municipal interprative
centre at Westgate in a tower built around 1300 A.D.
This town of Wexford has a lot to offer you as a
visitor and as we begin a new century we hope to
present to you the remnants of the past in such a
as to please and stimulate your mind to read further
about our rich heritage