Dingle Town
An Daingean

Dingle Town
Dingle Pier and Town from the air

About Dingle

Dingle in the Irish language is "Daingean Uí Chúis". "Daingean" means fortress; "Uí Chúis" is generally accepted as translating to Hussey . . . Fortress of Hussey, the Husseys being a Flemish family that came to the area in the 13th Century.

Mountains at its back, Dingle faces comfortably onto a sheltered harbour. From level ground at Strand Street on the harbour's edge and at the Mall beside the Dingle River, three main streets rise: Green Street, John Street and Main Street. About 1,200 people live in Dingle, but it serves the larger population of the surrounding countryside, and in the summer months it caters for many visitors.

Fishing Boats in Dingle Harbour
Fishing boats

Fishing and farming have long been the major industries, but tourism has become an increasingly important business in the town, particularly since the filming of "Ryan's Daughter" in the area in 1969.

As a market town and fishing port, Dingle has long been well supplied with pubs; in recent years the number has hovered around 52, and the variety is almost as great as the number. There are large, modern pubs and pubs so small that five's a crowd; one that sells wellingtons and leather belts, another that sells sheets and blankets, and another that sells everything from beds and bicycles to creosote and fertiliser. Much of the social life of the town revolves around the pubs: during the winter there are card games and quizzes. In the summer pool tables are removed to leave more room for tourist customers, and Irish music is played almost every night in about ten pubs.

Thanks to the late Steve Mac Donough for allowing us to reprint from his book
"The Dingle Peninsula: History, Folklore, Archaeology", ©1993.
A new revised (2013) edition of the book is available from the Dingle Bookshop.


The Streets of Dingle

streets (66K)
The Streets of Dingle
Top left: Main Street; Top right: Dykegate Lane; Centre right: Strand Street; Bottom left: Green Street; Bottom right: The "Holy Stone" on Goat Street

The visitor to Dingle is greeted by hilly streets and brightly painted houses. The town's layout of the streets still reflects its origins as a walled borough.

Download a street map

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A STREET MAP OF DINGLE




History

The town was developed as a port following the Norman invasion of Ireland. By the thirteenth century more goods were being exported through Dingle than Limerick, and in 1257 an ordinance of Henry III imposed customs on the port's exports. By the fourteenth century importation of wine was a major business. Maurice Fitzgerald, 1st Earl of Desmond, who held palatine powers in the area, imposed a tax on this activity in about 1329. By the sixteenth century Dingle was one of Ireland's main trading ports, exporting fish and hides and importing wines from the continent of Europe. French and Spanish fishing fleets used the town as a base.

Connections with Spain were particularly strong, and in 1529 Thomas Fitzgerald, 11th Earl of Desmond and the ambassador of Charles V of Spain signed the Treaty of Dingle. In 1569 the commerce of the town was increased when it was listed as one of fifteen towns or cities which were to have a monopoly on the import of wine.

The Second Desmond Rebellion

The Dingle Peninsula was the scene of much of the military activity of 1579–1580. On 17 July 1579 James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald brought a small fleet of ships to Dingle. He made landfall, launching the Second Desmond Rebellion, but was to die soon after in a minor skirmish with the forces of a cousin. The fleet left the town after three days, anchoring at Dún an Oacute;ir at the western end of the peninsula, leading eventually to the Siege of Smerwick of 1580.

Walled town and chartered borough

The residents of Dingle applied in 1569 for a "murage grant" to construct walls around the town. The grant was not forthcoming on that occasion. Following the defeat of the Desmond Rebellion, Queen Elizabeth directed that a royal charter be granted to incorporate the town as a borough, and to allow for the construction of walls. Traces of these town walls can still be seen, while the street layout preserves the pattern of burgage plots.

Although Elizabeth intended to grant a charter, the document was only obtained in 1607. On 2 March of that year her successor, James I, sealed the charter, although the borough and its corporation had already been in existence for twenty-two years. The head of the corporation was the "sovereign", fulfilling the role of a mayor. In addition to the sovereign, who was elected annually on the Feast of St Michael, the corporation consisted of twelve burgesses. The area of jurisdiction of the corporation was all land and sea within two Irish miles of the parish church. The borough also had an admiralty jurisdiction over Dingle, Ventry, Smerwick and Ferriter's Creek "as far as an arrow would fly".

The charter also created Dingle a parliamentary borough, or constituency, electing two members to the House of Commons of the Parliament of Ireland.

The Linen Industry

Dingle suffered badly in the Nine Years' War and the War of Three Kingdoms, being burnt or sacked on a number of occasions. The town started to recover in the eighteenth century, due to the efforts of the Fitzgerald family, Knights of Kerry, who established themselves at "The Grove" at this time. Robert Fitzgerald imported flax seed and by 1755 a flourishing linen industry had been established, with cloth worth 60,000 produced annually. The trade collapsed following the industrial production of cotton in Great Britain, and was virtually extinct by 1837.

Fishing

Although Dingle is now a major fishing port, the industry dates from about 1830. The 1870s saw major development, when "nobby" fleets from the Isle of Man came in search of mackerel. Lowestoft herring trawlers subsequently joined the fleet, allowing for a longer fishing season. The pier and maritime facilities were developed by the Congested Districts Board, and the arrival of rail transport in 1891 allowed for the transport of fish throughout the country, and a canning and curing industry developed.



Read more about the history of Dingle's fishing industry.


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