Know Your Drogheda

A local Louth historian, Brendan Matthews, argues that had Gerry Adams been more acquainted with the history of Drogheda he would have been better equipped in his responses to criticisms hurled his way over his use of the word "nigger" in a tweet.

Following the comments by Gerry Adams in recent days regarding the `N` word and comparing the people of Ireland and in particular, the people of Belfast, with the Black African Slaves sent to the West Indies during the 17th century, Mr. Adams stated something on the local radio, LMFM, on Tuesday morning, May 3rd, about such a comparison and made reference to a book titled To Hell or Barbados. 
This book is indeed a great, intriguing and fascinating read. 

However, had Mr. Adams kept himself in touch with the history of his own constituency in the `Wee County` and, in particular, perhaps kept in touch with the Journals that are published by the Old Drogheda Society, he may have had a little more `ammo` for LMFM`s Mike Reade, as the following extract from such a journal has recorded. 

Taken from: Cromwell at Drogheda; Some New Light on Old Faces
By Brendan Matthews, Historian

Also, regarding the town of Drogheda during the 1650`s there are references showing that the courts of justice were being held at some distance outside the town walls on both sides of the Boyne River, perhaps an indication of the, so called, holding-pens, in which men, women and children were held prior to being transported out of the country as slaves. 

Hundreds of these people were being moved from holding pen to holding pen until they reached Carrickfergus in County Antrim, where they were then transported to England before being moved on to the West Indies. The following is an example of such individuals.

“24th April 1653, Christopher Seagrave was allowed stay in Louth due to his failing health and being a weak person and unable to travel (to the West Indies) is permitted to stay as the Governor of Tredagh shall adjudge fitting provided that he doesn’t remove from the said place to be appointed by the Governor above the space of 1 mile without special license or to practice his religion.” Case heard at Drogheda.

“29th May 1654 “ It was announced “ Children were being Popishly Affected by Popish Schoolmasters.”

“9th April 1655. Ordered “Anyone who entertained Priests were to be arrested and an Order passed for Transportation.”

“21st May 1655.“To be transported to Barbados, any such persons of the Popish Religion and Irish Nation such are in prisons, as being rogues, vagrants, idlers and beggars.”

“8th November 1655. Ordered that “ All vagabonds and idlers to be exported to Barbados and priests because that sort of people are able to do so much mischief by having so greate an influence over the Popish Irish here and of alienating their affections from the present Government.”

“Oct. 1658. Ordered “ Nicholas Mooretown and others had a priest rescued from them by Rescuants in Co. Meath, ordered by the Board to apprehend any such of the said persons as they shall think fit to appear before the next assizes or general sessions at Drogheda.”

“April 1659. “ That it is lately assigned to Christopher Cleere of Tredagh Popish and Dangerous books, the books which are already seized upon. It is ordered that James Mortimer Esq., Sergeant at Arms or his Deputy to search the town for such books and to apprehend the said Christopher Cleere.”

Three other men, Tuite, Vernon and Brett were also transported from the Drogheda area to Barbados, the above named, Brett being the husband of Jane Talbot of Dardistown, a townland situated some 5km or 3 miles south of Drogheda, while the Genealogical Forum Records of Barbados, South Carolina and Virginia also contain more information on family names having their origins in the Drogheda area including the names of Kinch and Flood.

Those that benefited from the land settlements were the investors, adventurers and officers. However, there were numerous, ordinary Cromwellian soldiers who also benefited from its aftermath. Soldiers in the Drogheda area, such as Thomas Baker, John Page, Valentine Gratrix and Peter Draper who were being paid the handsome sum of £5 for every, supposed, “Priest” that they captured and brought back to Drogheda prior to them being transported to places such as Carrickfergus and Bristol, before being sent to the West Indies.

During the 1650`s it would have taken a dairymaid in Ireland two years to earn a wage of £5 and it would have taken Hugh Gallimore (the man who locked up the town gates of Drogheda each night), one year to earn such money.

There are several references to show that there was widespread abuse and corruption on the capturing of, supposed, priests and `Tory` rebels, so much so, that in 1655 the Commonwealth records record the following. 

“That the Commissioner General of the Revenue do inform themselves better, concerning how they determine who is a Priest and who is not, whether it’s by confession or conviction by due proof so that ye Commonwealth is obliged to make payment of the same demanded according to rule 11, etc and to certify what they find unto this Board.”

Regarding the transportation of slaves from Ireland, including Drogheda, to the State of Virginia via Barbados, an order was passed in September 1655 stating that servants arriving into that state from September 1653 `without indenture` and who were over the age of 16 years had to serve a further six years to their masters while those under the age of 16 years were to remain in bondage until they were 24 years of age`.

  • The above extract is taken from `Cromwell at Drogheda; Some New Light on Old Faces`. By Historian Brendan Matthews and published by the Old Drogheda Society, Journal No.19. 2012 pp 109-122.


  1. Irish were enslaved in their hundreds of thousands

  2. Sorry Brendan but why does Gerry Adams or anyone need all this information to justify the use of the N-WORD , having watched read and listened to Gerry Adams TD for Louth for many years I very quickly worked out why he used the most nasty hateful word that anyone could say or print about our fellow man , Adams never makes a mistake he is cold calm and collected when he either speaks or more especially when he puts pen to paper , Mr Adams has for those who really know him a very short temper, he is a very angry man, but most of all he never forgets.
    Why does he feel the need to continually come up with excuse after excuse as to why he used the N-Word, a mistake is a mistake an unreserved apology is all that is needed not the never ending tripe he has been spewing out everyday since.
    What should be remembered at all times is that this is not something he said in the heat of the moment he deliberately logged into his Tweet web site and wrote the word down knowing that his followers and others would see it. Mr Adams TD is someone who doesn’t like to be disrespected because he believes he is a statesman, Mr Adams is not a racist in any form but he is a very angry man and angry people seek revenge, maybe we should be looking at people that have disrespected him at sometime in the past to find the reason behind his outburst