Bullock Through the Ages

(compiled by Alice and Mairead)

Peaceful and unimpressive though it may appear today, few places can boast a more eventful history than the tiny settlement clustered around Bullock Harbour in the neighbourhood of Dalkey. (Newspaper cutting 11-4-61)

 Bullock, a small fishing village, has been known to many races, since pre-Christian Druids first built a standing stone circle here (now alas quarried to build the Martello towers). The name is said to derive from the Scandinavian for "Blue Haven" and again from the Gaelic word for a tidal blow hole which existed in the rocks. (Dalkey Newsletter)

Courtesy of Hall of Pictures

 The land at Bullock was given to the Cistercian monks by an Irish king 'beyond the memory of man'. Fishing rights came with the land and it was to protect these lucrative fisheries from the Wicklow tribes that Bullock Castle was built in the 12th century and around the castle grew up a tiny town, completely walled and protected at intervals by towers. The town became known as Bullock, and portion of the castle that guarded it stood until recently on Ulverton Road, Dalkey. (Dalkey Newsletter)

 Being equipped with a church, so as to avoid any unnecessary risks to the inhabitants entailed by attendance at places of worship. (Balls History of the County Dublin)

Bullock Castle stands on the Dun Laoghaire- Dalkey Road welcoming visitors to this beautiful and historic area.  The castle fell into disuse and luckily was left unchanged by it many owners. Now the first phase of restoration has been completed , the new roof keeps out the rain and the repaired stonework has dried out.




"Dear Sir, The following remarks upon the age and character of the Dalkey and Bullock castles, as coming from one who has carefully drawn, measured, and critically examined those most interesting remains, may probably be acceptable to you at the present moment.  You are quite at liberty to make any use you may think proper of my communication.

When no documentary evidence of the age of a structure can be obtained, it is generally possible by a careful examination of the building to determine the period to which the work should be assigned. In Ireland, our earliest structures, whether churches towers, or castles, are almost invariably very plain in character, but there is scarcely an ancient edifice in the country in which some attempt at ornament a moulding or sculptured corbel, for instance does not occur.  Now from the eleventh century down to the period of the Revolution of 1688 there was no century which did not possess a style of ornamentation more or less peculiar to itself in the castles or tower houses of Dalkey, Bullock, Monkstown, Kilgobbin, Pucks Castle and Shanganagh, all structures of the same, or nearly the same age and exhibiting the same form of windows, mouldings etc., we find in the arches and apertures a struggle between the semicircular and the earliest form of pointed arch head for predominance.  It is a fact well known to the architectural antiquary that towards the close of the twelfth century, the semicircular form of arch was very generally superseded by the first pointed Gothic.  True it is that the older form of arch is found in buildings of almost any age of the Christian period in Ireland; but it is equally true of the pointed arch head, formed of curved lines.

Bullock Castle can be dated to about 1150 from the use of curved pointed arches mixed with the older round arches.  The warrior's head high up on the outer wall also helps, by the style of helmet, to date the building.  The castle is oblong with a tower at each end, and the archway under the western tower was probably used to pass from one court to another within the boundary walls of the castle.  Inside the main door and inner porch is a large barrel-vaulted room originally used for the storage of grain, fish and other goods.  A spiral staircase ascends to a series of rooms.  On the way up a room on the left may be examined for its sturdy roof construction.  The large upper room was re-roofed as part of the current restoration and the access gallery erected at the height of the original second floor.  This gives a large hall for lectures, exhibitions, etc., and yet the original layout may be examined.  The original second floor fireplace is closed, but the corbels and windows indicate the former second floor level. The small kitchen off the upper room is over the western tower, in which there were originally three more floors.  The second floor level is reached by a short staircase which also goes into the battlements.

There would have been retainers at the castle to do the fighting, but it was not unknown for an Abbot to sally forth to battle at the head of his community.  Although built for defence, Bullock Castle was also used as an Inn for the cross channel traffic, which flowed through Dalkey, Ireland's main port.  The monks were known far and wide for their hospitality, and many found a resting place within its walls.  Amongst the notable overnighters was the son of Henry 1V.

Goshawks - so called from their habit of preying on wild geese - were found in the neighbourhood of Bullock until about a hundred years ago. (Winston St.John Joyce - Neighbourhood of Dublin)

In return for facilities and protection the monks established their right to extract from every fishing boat entering the harbour a toll of one of their best fish, herrings excepted, and from every herring boat a meise (about 600 fish) annually.  In 1346 the fishermen brought action against the Abbot for taking some of their catch, they thought the monks were running a protection racket, the case went to court and the fishermen nearly lost everything including their shirts, and the monks got their fish.

Ireland is full of Cistercian place names.  Whenever, the prefix "Abbey" is encountered it is a fair bet that there are Cistercian remains in the vicinity.   Dublin's Abbey Street, is named from St. Mary's Abbey, a rich Anglo Norman foundation, the walls of whose charter-house still survive in basements in the vicinity of Capel Street.  Its monks raised and tended vast flocks of sheep whose wool was exported through Bullock Harbour. They also established Monkstown Castle to defend their granges.

 In 1402, Prince Thomas of Lancaster, the King's son, landed at Bullock as Lord Lieutenant.  In 1410 the Abbot of the Blessed Virgin was the then owner of a castle, six cottages, 70 acres of arable land, eight acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture, 8 acres of underwood and a sea creak which is now Bullock Harbour. This was the then townland of Boulek.

 For 400 years the monks ruled peacefully, welcoming travellers, farming, fishing and spreading temporal and spiritual benefits, but Henry V111's commissioners brought this to an abrupt end with the dissolution on the monasteries in 1539.  At this time Bullock Castle was taken over by the Crown and alternately leased out or garrisoned during the turbulent centuries that followed. The Cistercian's stayed on in small numbers in some areas.

The Earl of Sussex landed in 1559 as Lord Deputy.

 In 1611 John Fagan who had a grant of land in Bullock died. And in the same year, 1611 the town and lands of Bullock are described as consisting of one castle, one ruinous tower, thirty dwelling houses, 10 acres of meadow, 200 acres of pasture and furze, with the fishing and haven to the main sea. (Dalton,s History of the County Dublin) A Dutch ship was taken by a privateer under the walls of the castle in 1633, and in the following century Bullock Castle saw the flight of some of the 'Wild Geese', Ireland's soldiers who escaped to serve in the continental armies.

 Clarendon's History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in Ireland contains the following reference to Bullock:- "In the same week (2 November 1641) fifty six men, women and children, of the village of Bullogge (being frightened at what was done at Clontarf) took boats and went to sea, to shun the fury of a party of soldiers come out of Dublin, under the command of Colonel Crafford, but being pursued by the Soldiers in other boats, were overtaken and thrown overboard." Subsequently Crown forces seized the Castle and a garrison of ten officers and 60 men was stationed there.

The incident at Clontarf referred to is the burning of the village by Sir Charles Coote in 1641.

 In 1703 Colonel John Allen obtained a grant of the town and lands of Boulek.   A serious affray between a party of smugglers and the local Revenue officers occurred here in 1735, and is described as follows in The Dublin Weekly Journal of 26th April 1735 - "Last week some of the King's officers made a seizure of a large quantity of tea and brandy at Bullock, and next morning several persons attempted to rescue it from the officers, which occasioned a great battle, in which several were wounded on both sides; one Mr. Brown, an officer, was shot through the thigh, and !tis thought two of the smugglers were killed".

Approaching St Patrick's Church, the harbour road is bounded by a six foot wall behind which lies the neglected Meagher's quarry.  Bullock was at one time noted for its rock, some of which was used in the building of the Thames embankment.  Re Mr Michael O'Flanagan exhibited a document dated April 24th 1773 which was a receipt for payment for the transport of 34 tons of granite from Bullock Harbour to the new Dublin wall presumably the South Wall of the Liffey. The granite was transported in a Bullock sloop and the ship's captain was John Mullarkey. Also exhibited was a receipt from the Dublin Ballast Office for 22s-8d "in full payment for Captain Mullarkey's crew"


Close to the harbour, and beside St Patrick's Church grounds is a residence called Charleville, the granite tower in the gardens is known as the spy tower. A hundred years ago the French émigré, Foy De Reviere spent years scanning the sea from this tower for French enemies whom he feared would come to arrest him.

 St Patricks Church was opened in 1843, and the school, which adjoins it, was built to the design of Edward Carson father of the late Lord Carson.



OLD DALKEY   Harry Latham

"The building of Bullock Harbour"

 Newsletter Oct 75

Extracts from the journal of the Lighthouse authority 1815-1867 (at that time the Corporation for preserving and improving the port of Dublin had another function as lighthouse authority in Ireland).


27TH August 1818


Present:                 J Goff Jrn. Esq. in the Chair

J Sandwith Esq John Patrick Esq      L Crosthwait Esq

J L Marquay Esq      W L Lunell Esq



Specification for building a new pier and quay wall deepening the harbour filling and forming the road at Bullock Harbour. The works to be in all respects executed as described in the plan elevation and sections hereunder annexed.

The foundation of the pier to be laid under the level of low water marks of spring tides by at least one foot.  To be faced with wrought granite stone in courses of twelve inches thick (except the Copeing Course which is to be eighteen inches thick) Header and Stretcher alternately the Headers not to be less than four feet deep in the bed and two feet long in the face and the Stretchers two feet deep in the bed and four feet long in the face on an average no Stretcher to be less than three feet long in the face and the said Headers and Stretchers to overlap each other at the joint at least eight inches and that the beds and horizontal joints be drove or chiselled round their edges and fair dressed between so as that they may form fair and solid joints throughout.

The backing also to be in courses of twelve inches thick to be of flat well-bedded rubble stone the face of the work for eight inches inward is to be done with Roman cement the backing mortar is to be composed of one part of the best lime and three parts of clean sharp sand.

The stones which forms the present breakwater to be removed and used in backing and filling the intended pier and also all the large stones which are laying at the external front of the pier and within sixty feet of the same to be removed therefrom and used in the intended works.

The wall which is to sustain the road leading to the pier as laid down in the plan from A to B to be built with hammered well-bedded rubble stone in courses not exceeding eighteen inches high but no stone to be less than two feet deep in the bed to be without mortar to high water mark and from high water mark to the Copeing to be built with mortar.

The harbour within the pier to be excavated to within one foot deep on the lower part of the foundation of wall set forth in the elevation from A to B and this excavation to be applied to the filling in of the intended road as far as is necessary for filling in and forming the road and the overplus to be carted so that the harbour may be cleared from projecting rocks and stones and the bottom to form a smooth surface.

The contractor will be allowed to quarry within the tower walls of Bullock what stones he may require for the completion of the above mentioned works.  The entire works herein before described to be completed within eight months from the date that the contract shall be perfected and the contractor to name two good and sufficient sureties with himself in the sum of £2,000 for the due performance of the respective works within the before mentioned period.

The contractor to be advanced from time to time sums of money not less at any one time than £500 upon the certificate of the proper officer.

 That the following advertisement inserted everyday to the 8th September in Saunders and Carricks newspapers -

 Harbour of Bullock near to Dun Laoghaire

"The Corporation for preserving and improving the Port of Dublin hereby give notice that they will receive proposals for building a new quay wall, pier, and other improvements of the harbour of Bullock agreeable to the plan, elevation, section and specification to be seen at the Ballast Office each day prior to Wednesday the 9th day of September next after which day no proposals will be received."

The proposals to be sealed up and directed to John Cossart, Esq. Secretary and endorsed "Proposal for building etc. a pier at Bullock".

 27th August 1818 By Order

John Cossart, Secretary

 Board Meeting 12th November 1818


Present: J Goff Jnr. Esq in the Chair

L Crosthwait, Esq R Shaw Esq

A Hawksley Esq

The Secretary laid before the Board the contract entered into with Mr Georgw Smith for building the pier etc. at Bullock with the bond of security for the due execution of the work

Ordered: That the Seal Keepers be requested to deposit the same in the iron safe.

Board Meeting 18th March 1819

Present: John Patrick Esq in the Chair

A Hawksley Esq J Sandwith Esq

L Crosthwait Esq G Drevar Esq

 An application being laid before the Board from Mr George Smith for a payment of £2,000 on account of building the harbour at Bullock and the same being referred to the Inspector of Lighthouses he reports thereon as follows:-

 "I have read the within application and examined the state of the works carrying on at Bullock Harbour and consider Mr. Smith entitled to an advance of £2,000 sterling on account of the same".

 George Halpin

Ordered: That the sum of £2,000 be paid Mr George Smith on account of said work

The Inspector of Lighthouses having laid before the Board estimates for erecting cranes at the new works at Bullock and it appearing that the subjoined of Mr John Clements is the lowest. Estimate for making a new crane in the following manner by John Clements:-

 "To making a new crane of the best English or Irish oak furnished iron and metal work and in every respect finished in a neat workmanlike manner and completed according to the crane now erected opposite Mr Crosthwait's stores on the north side of the river Liffey for the sum of one hundred guineas".

Resolved:  That two cranes be ordered from Mr Clements agreeable to his estimate.


Newspaper cutting 17-8-61 Yesterday

Bullock was a famous breeding ground for pilots, and on the quay there was a terrace of dwellings known as Pilots Cottages in which these one time specialists lived. (One dwelling remains)  Beyond the harbour on the right, at the end of the castle wall, stood Golden's Inn a popular tavern, frequented by sailor and smuggler alike and behind it, at the top of Castle Steps, at one time stood one of the original towers which protected the town.  To forestall the anticipated opposition of the local people, it was demolished by night near the close of the last century


1984 King of Dalkey Festival programme

John de Courcy Ireland


Stalwarts of the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Service

When the Dublin Port Authority decided in 1800 to set up round Dublin Bay Europe’s first co-ordinated lifeboat service, three points in the present Dun Laoghaire Borough, Old DunLeary, Sandycove and Bullock Harbour were chosen for stationary lifeboats, and in the early years of the last century these pioneer lifeboat stations began to operate.   The Sandycove station seems to have been the first to open, with a boat built by John Clements of Dublin for £75  (Dun Laoghaire’s present lifeboat, the John F Kennedy cost £45, 000 when new in 1967 and to replace her today with an exact replica would come to nearly £300,000, but she, of course is a highly sophisticated vessel with two 230 horsepower diesel engines - Clement’s boat had only twelve pairs of strong arms to propel her).

In 1816 Clements built a boat for £100, which, after a short spell at the Pigeon House, was transferred to Bullock, and reported in 1818 by the Port Authority’s supervisor to be "in good order" while that at DunLeary was declared to be "in good order, but rather too high forwards and aft".

In 1818 the first Bullock boat stood by a vessel temporarily grounded on Dublin bar in a March gale, and in April of the same year one of the boats stationed in the Borough area probably again the Bullock boat, picked off the riggings of the Mary of Cardigan, stranded and breaking up in a storm near the Poolbeg, three exhausted crew members who had been clinging there for two agonising hours.  The lifeboat had been manned by fourteen volunteers, including, the minutes preserved in the Port and Docks Board’s archives quaintly state "William Grimes, a poor man" - the first of many stalwart Dun Laoghaire lifeboatmen that I am naming in this article.  We know from the incomplete records of other fine rescues by Dun Laoghaire lifeboats in 1808, 1812 and 1820.

Then the present beautiful harbour (designed by the great Scots engineer Rennie in 1817) began to be built and by 1823 the Old DunLeary boat had been transferred to a more advantageous spot near the present lifeboat station.  Meanwhile William Hutchison from Co Kildare, one of Dun Laoghaire’s greatest lifeboatmen, had come on the scene, first as haven master at Bullock, later as the first harbour master of the new port.

While at Bullock, where he lived for a number of years, he acted as coxswain of the lifeboat stationed there.  In that capacity he showed exemplary skill, devotion and courage.

On December 28th 1821, Hutchison took the lifeboat out of the Liverpool brig Ellen, wretched near Sandycove.  All the crew of the stricken vessel was saved, but not before six of the lifeboat’s volunteer crew had been swept into the sea by a tremendous wave.  Hutchison, one of the six, and another managed to scramble back aboard, but Hugh Byrne, Thomas Fitzsimons, John Archbold and Thomas Grimes (surely a relation of William?) were drowned.  These were the first of a long list of Dun Laoghaire lifeboatmen to sacrifice their lives in the endeavour to save victims of the green and greedy seas.


Bullock characters of Yesteryear

Francis M’Lean, a dentist practising at 10, St. Stephen’s Green.   "Dentist" M’Lean, as he was generally called, lived for a time in Dalkey House and also in Bullock Castle.  Generous and convivial, he was well-known in the Dalkey area and spent much of his time boating there in the company of "Red Bill" Harwood, a venerable old pilot of the neighbourhood.

On one occasion  he and Bill were blown out to sea and finished up in Holyhead.   This and other adventures resulted in a firm friendship that was eventually marked by M’Lean allowing the old pilot a regular pension, and presenting him with his boat the "Sea Rover".

Bill Harwood lives in the churchyard of St. Begnet’s by himself, for when he was 100 years old he indicated to some friends the actual spot in the churchyard he would prefer as his resting place.  When digging his grave in the following year, a large stone was uncovered with crosses cut on its surface, and this served as the headstone of the old pilot.

This large stone is called the Rathdowne Slab and is now  in safe keeping within the complex of the new Dalkey Heritage Centre, where it is on view.  "The Granite Slab is one of 28 of its kind, which are unique to the Barony of Rathdown. It is suggested that these were pagan artefacts redesigned as Christian Burial Markers. Sited in St Begnet's Churchyard suggests an early Christian origin and can be dated to about the 10th century"

Memories of "Red Bill" were more actively preserved, however, by his friend, Pat Byrne, of tavern fame. Having purchased the "Sea Rover" he encased it in canvas, and beneath it for many years visitors were regaled with refreshments and reminiscence alike.

At the Dalkey end of Harbour Road may be seen an open green space where the corner has been widened, where until recent years, stood Cullen's Cottage, whose tenant in the days of ballast office ownership was in charge of a gate which debarred entry to all but residence, or those with business on the thoroughfare.  The road which slopes down to Bullock Harbour on the Dublin side of the castle is now called Harbour Road but at one time it was owned by the Dublin Ballast Office and was known as Ballast Office Road.

A turn to the left at the end of Harbour Road leads to Loreto Abbey. The Abbey was erected in 1842, but for a number of years before its erection the foundress, Mother Mary Bell, conducted a day school in Bullock Castle.


Courtesy of Hall of Pictures

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