RATH EANNA – RAHENY HISTORY
The name Raheny derived from “Eanna’s Fort” or “Rath Eannaigh” and is a Rath of great age. The remains of the Rath are situated in the area bounded by the Howth Road, the Santry River and Main Street and may date from the Iron Age i.e. between 400 B.C. and 400 A.D.
Though the exact date of the Rath is not known the first inhabitants can be admired for their wisdom, they chose a site on the deep banks of the River Santry and by raising the Rath these early settlers had an impressive site to greet strangers as they arrived up the Howth Road.
As with many similar sites, the arrival of Christianity saw the site getting a new lease of life. A small wooden Church was built on part of the Rath, safely within its ancient enclosure. The site chosen was more than likely the area now occupied by the ruins of the Old Protestant Church in the graveyard. As a Celtic Church, the monks from St. Nessan’s Church of Ireland’s Eye ministered to the local population. Traditionally, the Church had been dedicated to St. Assam. Once again there is doubt as to who was the Raheny Assam. Was he St. Assam who was St. Patrick’s coppersmith, or was he Bishop Assam from the 7th Century, or perhaps the name is a corruption of St. Nessan.
By 1770 at least, Raheny could boast of its own school. The Parish Schoolmaster, William Biggs, not only looked after the pupils of the school, but he also acted as parish constable, beadle and clerk (or maybe he subcontracted the jobs). Then about 1786, Samuel Dick built a brand new Parish School right in the centre of Raheny Village, facing all the traffic arriving over the hump-backed bridge from Dublin. (Samuel Dick was also instrumental in building the crescent of cottages for his workmen a few years later).
In 1820, the Sweetman family, brewers by trade, set up the first Catholic School in the Village (Carvill Rickard Solicitors occupies the site). In 1875 the building, now known as the “old school” behind the scout den was built on the edge of the Rath in Raheny.
During the 19th Century some of the farms began to be changed or absorbed into the estates for the gentry. This movement began to accelerate, when in 1823-1824 construction of the Howth Road by Thomas Telford was brought straight across the Santry River by a new bridge (still visible from the Scout Den side), and the steep hill at the Blackbank’s end of the Howth Road was by-passed (thus leaving Fox’s Lane). All of this was to facilitate the Mail Coach going to the Holyhead Mail-boat at Howth Harbour. At its height, the Turnpike Trustees took over one of the cottages at the top of Fox’s Lane. They added a Toll-gate to it, so that they could extract tolls from the ships’ passengers who might not be passing through their main gate at Ballybough, but instead were branching off at Raheny Village for Coolock, Santry, etc.
The building of the Railway from 1838, coupled with its opening in May 1844, removed the isolation of Raheny. When Daniel O’Connell and about 700 guests attended a special gala in Edenmore House on the day before the official opening of the Railway by the Lord Lieutenant Earl De Grey the party arrived in two trains to Raheny Railway Station. Raheny had hit the headlines!
Even though Raheny was still a rural village, the two main Churches in the area provided worthy buildings for their flocks. St. Assam’s was opened in 1864, thus saving Raheny parishioners the long walk to Coolock or Clontarf. Then, in 1889, All Saints Church, sponsored by Lord Ardilaun, was built to replace the old Church in the Graveyard. Thus Raheny had two Churches by well-known architects of the period.
THE RAHENY RATH
The actual extent of the Rath has never been ascertained, but in the early 1960’s when the Howth Road was being widened, local archaeologist, Leo Swan, found traces of an ancient ditch. The graveyard, St. Assam’s Church, the Old National School, the Scout Den have all been built in the side of the Rath.
THE GRAVEYARD AND RUINS OF ST. ASSAM’S CHURCH
This ancient Christian site on the side of the Rath dates back to early Christian times. As a Celtic church, the monks from St. Nessan’s Church on Ireland’s Eye ministered to the local population. With the arrival of the Normans in 1171, the Church came under the control of the monks of St. Mary’s Abbey. In 1541 St. Mary’s Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII and its endowments confiscated including the Abbey’s Chapel at Raheny. The original Protestant Church was reputedly built on the site around 1600 and later rebuilt in 1712. It functioned as a Church up to 1889 when due to disrepair and the generosity of Lord Ardilaun of St. Anne’s Estate the Church was replaced by the present All Saints Church.
DICK’S CHARITY SCHOOL
This Schoolhouse was built right in the centre of the village in 1786 on an unused piece of land belonging to St. Assam’s Churchyard.
At that time, all traffic going through Raheny passed by its front door. The road from Killester to Howth veered down Watermill Road, thus avoiding crossing over the high banks of the Santry River and the old Rath. Built of stone and lime, with Irish style upper windows, it is reputed to have cost £150, all of which was paid for by Samuel Dick, of Violet Hill (later Edenmore House, now St. Joseph’s Hospital). It remained a schoolhouse up to about 1880. Lord Ardilaun had the building renovated. It was used as the Post Office and Dispensary for a while. This Dispensary was there up to 1915 or so.
Various people and families lived in the building over the years including the Gahan family who lived in it until the early 1960’s. In the latter part of the twentieth century it has acquired a commercial clientele, as a hairdressing salon, a bookmakers, shop and restaurants. After over 200 years Dick’s Charity Schoolhouse remains the oldest building in the village.
THE CRESCENT COTTAGES
In 1790 Samuel Dick had 8 Crescent Cottages built on a small piece of land, which had been a potato garden owned by James Reilly and were built to accommodate his workers from nearby Violet Hill. The rent from these cottages was used to pay the salary of the master of his charity school. The present Board of Governors of Springdale School continues to receive rent from seven of these cottages.
THE SANTRY RIVER
From branches in Harristown and Dubber, and with small inflows from Dublin Airport lands, the Santry River travels via Sillogue, to Santry Demense, now a public park where it forms a lake.
There was until recent times a holy well on its banks near the old St. Brendan’s Church site (now featuring the Church of Ireland church of St. John the Evangelist); the well site is marked by a tree and the waters are now drained into the river. The river runs alongside Edenmore in northern Raheny, and then, with a meandering stretch including a railway bridge, passes Raheny’s big Catholic Church, where water from the covered Holy Well of St. Assam joins. The Santry then goes under a bridge on the Howth Road (recently provided with lighting and viewing points) in the modern centre of Raheny and another on the old Main Street. It passes between the adjoining housing estates of Avondale and Maywood, and Manor House School, and comes to the old Bettyglen Estate, then to the sea.
THE NANIKEN RIVER
The Naniken runs through old Raheny glebe lands and into St. Anne’s Park, passing the City’s arboretum, and flowing through a valley redesigned for Lord Ardilaun, under a number of rustic bridges (a high metal bridge to a “temple folly” was removed in modern times).
NATIONAL SCHOOL – STATION ROAD
The school on this site, beside the railway bridge on Station Road, commenced about 1838. It is not known whether an existing outhouse on a new school was built at this date. The school was rebuilt during 1875 or 1876. The ground floor consisted of a classroom, teacher’s kitchen and sitting room, while upstairs, there were two bedrooms. It remained operational as a school up to 1962 when the new Springdale National School was opened. It is now used as a Montessori School.
ST. ASSAM’S CHURCH
For over 300 years Raheny had no Catholic Church. North of the Tolka eight parishes were grouped to form the parish of Coolock. These were Clontarf, Raheny, Killester, Coolock, Drumcondra, Glasnevin, Artane and Santry. The Raheny parishioners, during that time, had to travel either to Clontarf, Coolock or Fairview in order to worship.
In 1859 the first stone of St. Assam’s was laid and at the same time an appeal fund was set up to build the Church, contributions were received from both Catholics and Protestants alike.
On the 3rd of July, 1864, St. Assam’s was solemnly blessed and opened by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Paul Cullen. The Parish Priest was Canon Rooney V.F., and the architect was Patrick Byrne. St. Assam’s served the needs of the Raheny parishioners up to 1962, when the Church of Our Lady Mother of Divine Grace was blessed and consecrated by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid on Sunday July 22, 1962.