Dunlavin is a village with a rich and varied history. The name Dunlavin possibly refers to the Fort of Liamhán, who was a legendary princess of North Leinster. The Dunlavin area was settled from the earliest times and the stone circle at Castleruddery dates from 2500 BC. The early Christian period began in the area when St. Palladius established a church at Killeen Cormac, adjacent to Dunlavin. However, the area witnessed some unsettled times, two battles being fought at Dun Bolg in 598 and in 870. The site of the Battle of Glen Mama in 999, when Brian Boru defeated the Vikings, has been located in a valley near Dunlavin.

The Normans invaded Ireland in 1169 and in 1275 they fortified the area around Dunlavin against attacks from the Irish in the Wicklow Mountains. These continued into the 14th century and 80 people were burned in Fryanstown Church in 1332. Unsuccessful rebellions in the 16th and 17th centuries against English rule meant that the lands around Dunlavin changed hands several times. Sir Richard Bulkeley, owner of the land in the mid-17th century, established Dunlavin village and also intended building a university here but unfortunately it never materialised. Dunlavin became a market town and the Market House was built around 1740 by the new landlord, James Worth Tynte.

One of the most tragic events ever to occur in the village centred round the United Irish rebellion of 1798. Thirty-six men were shot on the village green and others were hanged at the Market House by forces of the crown. After the 1798 rebellion Michael Dwyer continued his resistance in the nearby Glen of Imaal until December 1803.

As relations improved in the 19th century, Dunlavin’s two churches were built around 1815. Famine stalked the region in the 1840s with the parish losing over 30% of its people. The post-famine years witnessed emigration which would continue to the 1950s. Local cleric, Fr. Frederick Donovan’s involvement in the National Land League and the National Federation meant that by the time of his death in 1896, Dunlavin’s farmers were on the way to becoming owners of the land they worked.

In the early 20th century Dunlavin lost many young in the First World War and in its aftermath came the War of Independence. The 1960s saw more prosperous times and in the early 21st century the population of Dunlavin has grown to nearly twice its 1901 number.

Points of Interest in Dunlavin

The special commissioned memorial was unveiled in 2003 to commemorate the visit of the North Dakota (USA) volleyball team to Dunlavin which was their host town. This was the first time that the Special Olympics were held in Ireland and Dunlavin played a full part in the occasion, with the visit of the volleyball team prompting a huge community effort in the village.

Built in the early 18th century, this three-storey, five-bay house was the seat of the Powell family but was burned out during the 1798-1803 period. It was never rebuilt. It stands beside an ancient cemetery and there is the moated site of an ancient rath nearby.

This fine building dates from about 1737-1741. The landlord of the area, Sir James Worth Tynte, reputedly paid £1,200 for its construction. The building is made of granite and became a makeshift jail during the 1798 rebellion. It was fitted out as a courthouse in the 1830s and it now houses the village library.

The townland of Lemonstown is probably named after St. Lemon. Lemon was a seventh-century saint who supposedly had genealogical links to the family of St. Patrick. An old church was recorded in this area but no trace remains today. However, the mound predates the church and is a fine defensive site. Prehistoric pottery has been found in Lemonstown.

Jonathon Swift (1667-1745) was one of the greatest writers of his age and possibly the greatest satirist ever to write in the English language. Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin. His association with St. Patrick’s Cathedral is well known but perhaps not as well known is his association with Dunlavin.

Early in his career Swift was offered several posts in the Church of Ireland and in 1709 was instituted as Vicar of Laracor (Co Meath) and was presented to the prebend of Dunlavin. This basically meant that Swift was an honorary canon of Dunlavin and was entitled to draw money from the tithes of the parish. As Prebendary of Dunlavin, Swift was also entitled to occupy a stall in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Swift’s appointment to Dunlavin ended ‘a period of considerable uncertainty’ in his life as the extra income (meagre though it was at just £14.8s.0d) meant that Swift could continue to write.

Swift’s term in the prebend of Dunlavin came to an end in 1713 when he was installed as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Today the Church of Ireland primary school in Dunlavin is named ‘The Jonathon Swift School’, reflecting this area’s association with the literary giant.

This impressive Victoria building dates from the late 19th century. Originally housing the Munster Bank, the property was later purchased by the Ulster Bank which retained a presence here for many years, The house is now privately owned.

The present house dates from 1860 and was built by the land-owning Tynte family to cater for any overflow of visitors who could not be accommodated in the family at Tynte Park, located outside Dunlavin on the Baltinglass road. The landlord’s agent also used Tynte House on specified days during the year to collect the rents on land and properties in and around Dunlavin. The house is owned by the Lawler family and offers guest house accommodation and holiday homes.

This is the burial place of Cormac Mac Art who is reputed to have been High King of Ireland from 254 to 277 A.D. Among the headstones of interest are an ogham stone, a stone with a carving of a monk and the ‘dog’s paw’ stone marking the grave of King Cormac Mac Art.  St Palladius, a predecessor of St. Patrick, built a church on this site in the 430s and the name Killeen means ‘the little churchyard’.

The original Rathsallagh House dated from c1704 when Richard Ryves commissioned the construction of a new stable there. The house was burned out during the 1798-1803 period and the old stables were then converted into the present house. Pennefathers succeeded Ryves as the landlords there. Rathsallagh Country House is owned by the O’Flynn family and offers luxurious accommodation and has a golf course.

This wheeled pump, standing at the intersection of the village’s main street, supplied water to the populace for more than a century. One local trader built a water trough beside it and sold pails of water for horses at a penny each. The British and later the Irish army used the facility as they marched from the Curragh Camp to the Glen of Imaal and vice versa.

Although not much is known about this landmark, it is of interest because it brings together three traditions of belief. The pagan standing stone has been surmounted by the metal cross, symbolising the triumph of Christianity over earlier beliefs. However, the placing of the ‘lucky’ horseshoe on the cross indicates the continuance of superstition, entwined with Christian beliefs in this area.

This holed stone is reputedly the grave of the Viking Prince Aralt who was killed by Brian Boru’s army at the Battle of Glen Mama in 999. This battle was among the most decisive in Boru’s long campaign against the Vikings. The historian J. F. Shearman has identified a nearby valley as the battlefield.

Also called Tornant, this mound marks the site of a large rath which probably dates from as far back as the Bronze Age. Later the Normans built a ringwork castle here and the first Dunlavin village settlement grew up around the site. There is also an old graveyard here where the victims of the 1798 massacre in the village are interred.

This new type of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age embanked enclosure, known as a henge, dates from c. 2500 B.C. It was probably used for ceremonies and rituals and similar monuments elsewhere had an astronomical significance. Two huge quartz boulders form the entrance to the circle which is about 100ft in diameter and is surrounded by whitethorn trees.

Devotion at the holy well dates back to Norman times. The well was once the scene of a large pattern but this was suppressed in the 19th century due to fighting and drunkenness. Many cures have been attributed to water from the well and the pattern, held in late June, was revived in the late 20th century.

Dating from 1815, this church replaced an earlier place of Roman Catholic worship which stood on the same site. The church was extended in 1898 and refurbished in 1998 and is still in use. The old coach house and stable have been refurbished and now form the parish centre.

The Village Green dates from c.1660 and was the setting for the sale of animals at fairs in bygone days. The triangular shape was common to many Irish villages. During the 1798 rebellion, it was the scene of an atrocity when at least 36 prisoners were shot here as suspected United Irishmen on 24th May. (see below)

The Celtic cross monument was erected to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Dunlavin massacre. The smaller monument was unveiled on the bicentennial of the atrocity and remembers those executed both at the Market House and on the Village Green. Monuments were also erected in St. Nicholas of Myra chapel and at Tournant cemetery where the men were interred.

This pleasant park stands on the site of an old cemetery. Headstones from as far back as the mid-17th century line the perimeter of the park. These date from the time of the original building of the modern village by Sir Richard Bulkeley on this site. The original village Anglican church stood behind this site.

The village was remodelled and its streetscape altered by Sir James Worth Tynte c.1740. The Market Square dates from this time. At its widest point the Square measured 108ft across, making it one of the widest village squares in Ireland. It was the hub of commercial activity in bygone days.