17 Jan 2022

OPINION: Toberona residents bemoan lack of upkeep for historic landmark

Historic monument has fallen into disrepair

OPINION: Toberona residents bemoan lack of upkeep for historic landmark

On his visit to Dundalk in 2000, American President Bill Clinton remarked in his memorable address at Market Square, that one can only claim to be a true native of “the town” if their relatives are buried in the Old Castletown Cemetery.

The annual Blessing of Graves in the cemetery will be held this coming Thursday, 29th of June (at 7:30pm).

This area of Dundalk is steeped in history and derives its name from the various castles in the vicinity.

Sandwiched between Castletown Motte and Bellew’s Castle (now part of the present building of St. Louis Secondary School), the Old Castletown Cemetery is a link to our past, with its earliest inscription dating back to 1631.

On this majestic site overlooking the town of Dundalk, lie the ruins of a 13th Century church of St John the Baptist, patron saint of Castletown.

The name of the townland of Toberona originates from the Irish translation of “The well of St. John” (tobar = well; Eoin = John) and moreover, the local primary school – Scoil Eoin Báiste – is named in his honour.

To this day, beside a bridge over the Castletown River - a popular spot for angling enthusiasts - can be found this holy well, though one would be forgiven for overlooking it given its shameful, pitiful and unkempt condition.

This was the site of great Midsummer celebration in centuries past, with an annual patron held here on St. John’s Eve, June 23rd.

One of its former attractions was a poetic contest between local song-writers and harpists, the last of which is believed to have been held in 1827 when Art O Murphy vanquished Dr James Woods of Dundalk.

With the passing of another Midsummers Eve, perhaps we should consider restoring this monument which holds such significance in a historical area of our town.

Expert on local history, Harold O’Sullivan, is quoted as saying that he wanted “to bring home to people (of Dundalk) that they have a great town. They have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of”.

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