Drogheda’s Biggest Taboo – Heritage

Some lads rode over from Italy to see this once... Photo: William Murphy, Flickr

This week in the Leader we broached the town’s biggest taboo, the H word. No, not heroin or handjobs in Storm but Heritage. No looking back through rose tinted glasses here though. The town did look better in the past but who knows? Maybe the redbrick awfulness of the Celtic Tiger will be admired in a hundred years…

Locals are always shocked when they see paintings of Drawda from hundreds of years ago. The vast majority don’t recognise it. This is because the town once looked really nice. Honestly, it did. Like somewhere in Europe.

It looked so nice that some foreign lads kem over from Holland and Italy in the 1700s to paint it. And you had to go everywhere on horseback then. So it’d want to have been worth it. They must’ve hearen good things.

Looking at the state of the place today, it’d be a hard see anyone riding over from Italy on a horse to see it. What’s changed? Well, for a start, most of the nice bits are gone.

Heritage Destruction

Town records tell us that locals were sick of foreigners coming over and causing havoc. First there was Cromwell, then King Billy. Enough was enough. It was decided that Drogheda was just too nice for its own good. Best to dress down. The attitude seemed to be “If you go out dressed like that you’ve only yourself to blem so you have.” The community went to work.

It took Drogheda several hundred years to destroy its once majestic town walls. Millmount survived for so long only because it’s on a steep hill and the townsfolk sent to demolish it would be too wrecked to take the hammer to it by the time they’d managed to climb up there.

The Butter Gate was knocked by the Council during the Emergency to see if there was any truth to rumours that butter (rationed at the time) was stored in its walls.

West Gate was pulled down after the then Mayor had a personal grievance with that direction and Sunday’s Gate was torn down after it was decided by a bishop that Sunday should be a day of rest, even for gates (gate collections were exempt).

Then there was medieval John Street with its 800-year-old Sheela Na Gig lost to a dual carriageway which 30 years later was replaced by a motorway. Perhaps worst of all, the Bridgeford perished to fire.

But fear not heritage lovers. Change is coming. Traffic is only allowed rumble under Laansis Gay in one direction these days and the Moneymore double decker bus is only allowed under it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Tourist Perceptions

So shoddy is the dereliction of care for the historical monuments of our town that visiting Americans regularly think it was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Randy and his wife Cindy Phister are a retired couple from Boston tracing their roots.

“We’ve been to Coventry and did a tour of the Blitz in London. So we can spot where a building was bombed and replaced with something incongruous and lacking in aesthetic merit. This place must’ve been flattened. That street over there with the horrible redbrick car park. [Points at Dyer Street] That musta taken a hell of a pasting. You guys musta needed a multistorey car park real bad, huh?”

At that point Cindy had had enough. “Lets get back on the bus Randy, looking at that is accelerating my cataracts.”

Naturally, their tour bus got wedged under Laansis Gay. Perhaps it was a blessing in diguise. They were headed to Dundalk.