Ardee is a small town in County Louth, and though not the oldest settlement in the country it nonetheless shows an enormous amount of history and habitation from many centuries ago. With that comes a great deal of fascinating history to look into, so let’s take a view of the town’s history from the earliest point of its settlement up to more recent times.
The town gets its name from Irish folklore, where it was originally called Atherdee from the Irish Áth Fhirdia meaning the Ford of Ferdia. This is where, in legend, a battle occurred for the defence of Ulster from the Queen of Connacht. Cúchulainn and Ferdia battled for four days until Ferdia eventually fell and is said to be buried on the southern banks of the River Dee on which the town sits. To this day there is a bronze statue of these legendary figures featured prominently in the town.
Evidence shows that there was development by at least the 13th Century, though unfortunately much of the original, medieval development has been removed my modern advancement. It was a walled-town during this early period of which there are several examples in Ireland. There remains a medieval castle and street pattern which attest to this. Ardee Castle remains among the most striking buildings in the town, and is the largest fortified medieval tower house in Ireland. It was used as a prison during the 17th and 18th Centuries and is believed to have been built in the 15th Century.
The town was granted their charter by Henry V in 1414. An electorate of 24 burgesses and 80 freemen selected two MPS in the previous decades for the borough of Ardee, though this was later abolished by the Municipal Corporates Act of 1840. Today the town still comprises the townlands, of which the Ardee bog makes up a great portion. All of this was very important to the original inhabitants of the town and how their lives were lived.
Erasmus Smith founded a philanthropic trust in the 17th Century which would establish a school for boys in 1806 and for girls in 1817, and by 1824 they were the only schools in the country. This made the area an important point in the wider community especially as, at least at first, bothy Protestant and Catholic children could attend the school. By 1868, though, only 16 protestant boys attended the school and in 1954 it became known as Saint Mary’s Church of Ireland National School.
A railway station was established and opened in 1896, though passenger services would only last until 1934. Today it is accessible by road, and the former trackbed was lifted in the 1980s after freight services finally ended in 1976. Today, much of the route is a designated walkway.
Humble in origins and throughout history, then, the town of Ardee nonetheless is and has been a hub of people and culture for at least 700 hundred years and will continue to be throughout time.