Fingal is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Dublin Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. Its name is derived from the medieval territory of Scandinavian foreigners that settled in the area. Fingal County Council is the local authority for the county. In 2011, the population of the county was 273,991 making it the second most populous county in the state.
Terminology and etymology
The name "Fingal" derives from the medieval territory of Fine Gall (tribe or territory of foreigners), the Viking settlement north of Dublin. The Vikings referred to the hinterland of Dublin as Dyflinarskiri. It has also been claimed that the origin is from the distinction between Dubgaill and Finngaill; Fionn Gall means "fair foreigners" while Dub Gaill means "dark-haired foreigners". Seventeenth-century historians (e.g. the Four Masters and Geoffrey Keating) were generally of the view that the Dubgaill were Danish while the Finngaill were Norwegian (See Early Scandinavian Dublin). The Dubgaill, dominated by the Danish vikings, expelled the Fionngaill from Dublin town in 851.
In Ireland, the usage of the word county nearly always comes before rather than after the county name; thus "County Clare" in Ireland as opposed to "Clare County" in Michigan, US. In the case of those counties created after 1994, they often drop the word county entirely, or use it after the name; internet search engines show many more uses (on Irish sites) of "Fingal" than of either "County Fingal" or "Fingal County". The local authority uses all three forms.
Not until the Norman invasion of Ireland did the settlement and its hinterland become an administrative area. In 1208, the Lordship of Fingal was granted to Walter de Lacy by King John of England. The modern county of Fingal was established on 1 January 1994 with the division of the administrative county of Dublin under the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993. The Act provided for the legal establishment of the following local government administrative areas:
and also recognised the local government administrative area under the jurisdiction of the extant Dublin Corporation, vesting its powers in a renamed entity - Dublin City Council. The statutory instrument giving effect to the Act provided for the abolition of Dublin County Council - the entity that previously had responsibility for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin. The four entities collectively comprise the former entity known as County Dublin. The former County Dublin, which had been created as a feudal entity in the 12th century, was abolished under the Acts.
As part of the Dublin Region, Fingal is within the geographic remit of the Dublin Regional Authority. Following the enactment of the Local Government Act 2001, the Regional Authority was established. It is one of eight such Authorities in the state.
Early Gaelic history
In the 2nd century AD, Ptolemy identified Eblana (Dublin) as the capital of a people called the Eblani. In later centuries the territory north of the river Liffey was known as Mide or Midhe, i.e. "the Kingdom of Meath" (that to the south was known as Coigh Cuolan or Cualan). The west of this area was known as Teffia, and the east as Bregia (Latinized from Gaelic Magh Breagh, "the great plain of Meath"). Bregia comprised five gaelic triocha-cheds (equivalent to cantreds) or the later baronies, and was ruled by the king at Tara. These princes, and various Gaelic chieftains, held sway over the area until the coming of the Vikings in the 8th century.
Vikings and Hiberno-Norse
By 841 AD, a Scandinavian settlement was established at Dublin, abandoned in 902, re-established in 917, and developed thereafter. It was so established by the 11th century that it was regarded even amongst the surrounding native Gaelic population as a minor kingdom ruled by Hiberno-Norse kings. The Norse Kingdom of Dublin stretched, at its greatest, from Drogheda to Arklow, and while mostly a thin strip of coastal land, from the Irish Sea westwards as far as Leixlip in the central part.
After the Battle of Clontarf, when High King Brian Boru curtailed the power of the Vikings in Ireland, the Norse-Irish Kingdom of Dublin continued, with its own bishop, part of the Westminster hierarchy rather than the Irish, though it gradually came under the influence of the Kings of Leinster. Diarmuid MacMurrough established himself there before his expulsion by the High King in 1166, a series of events which led to the area being invaded in the late 12th century, by the Cambro-Normans. This was to form part of the heartland of the area known as The Pale during the successive periods of rule by Anglo-Norman and the latter kings of England.
After the Anglo-Norman invasion
Early Anglo-Norman grants
With the arrival of the Anglo/Cambro-Normans in 1169, the territory of the old Gaelic kingdom of Meath was granted in around 1172 to Hugh de Lacy by Henry II, King of England. Meath at that time included much of the northern part of the later county Dublin (including as far as Clontarf, Santry, and the Barony of Castleknock), part of the later county Kildare, and Delvin (in later Westmeath); Fingal was therefore implicitly included in the grant of "Meath" either as part of Meath proper or under the additional element of that grant “and for increase to the gift, all fees which he has or shall acquire about Dublin”. This element of the grant related to his role as Bailiff and was copied into the Gormanston Register.
Strongbow was probably also assigned some fees within the royal demesne of Dublin, as in the case of Hugh de Lacy’s custodianship of Dublin, in payment of his services. This appears evidenced by several grants which he made in his own name within the city to St. Mary's Abbey, and his foundation of a hospital of St. John of Jerusalem at Kilmainham. Therefore both Strongbow and Hugh de Lacy exercised lordships within the royal demesne of Dublin.
In addition to Dublin city, the royal demesne itself also consisted of the royal manors of Crumlin, Esker, Newcastle, and Saggart, in the south-west of the county, and the royal demesnes of O Thee (O'Teig), O Brun (O'Broin), and O Kelly (O'Ceallaigh) in the south-east of the county, which were rented from the Crown by Irish-speaking tenants. Over half of the land in the county of Dublin was granted to religious houses and priories, as well as archbishops and monasteries, and minor lay lords. In such way too, an estate was given to the Irish chieftain MacGillamocholmog, who held sway over the territory of Cualann (Wicklow) when the Anglo-Normans arrived.
In the whole of Meath, Hugh de Lacy had therefore enormous possessions – all the present county of Meath, Delvin in Westmeath, a portion of Dublin, as far as Castleknock and even to Santry and Clontarf. De Lacy parceled out most of this land to his vassals, who were to hold these lands from him, as he had held all Meath from King Henry, by military tenure. D'Alton also provides reference to the enumeration of these grants given in Hibernica, by Harris (pp. 42–43). Hugh de Lacy was appointed Viceroy in 1178, and again in 1181 after a brief period of royal disfavour.
By virtue of his grant of Meath, Hugh de Lacy was appointed a Palatine Count in that territory and divided it amongst his various vassals who were commonly called “De Lacy's Barons”. These were: Hugh Tyrell, Baron of Castleknock; Jocelin de Nangle, Baron of Navan and Ardbrecan; De Misset, Baron of Lune; Phepoe [or Feypou], Baron of Skrine; Fitz-Thomas, Baron of Kells; Hussey, Baron of Galtrim; Richard de Fleming, Baron of Slane; Adam Dullard or Dollard, of Dullenvarty; Gilbert de Nugent, Baron of Devlin and later Earl of Westmeath; Richard Tuite, Baron of Moyashell; Robert de Lacy’s descendants, Barons of Rathwire; De Constantine, Baron of Kilbixey Petit, Baron of Mullingar; Meyler FitzHenry of Maghernan, Rathkenin,and Ardnocker. As Burke points out, to some of these there descended the De Genevilles, Lords of Meath; Mortimer, Earl of March (and later Lord of Trim, from De Geneville); the Plunkets, of Danish descent, Barons of Dunsany and of Killeen, and later Earls of Louth (and later of Fingall, by letters patent); the Prestons, Viscounts Gormanston and Viscounts Tara, the Barnewalls, Barons of Trimleston and Viscounts Kingsland; the Nettervilles, Barons of Dowth; the Bellews, Barons of Duleek; the Darcys of Platten, Barons of Navan; the Cusacks, Barons of Culmullin; the FitzEustaces, Barons of Portlester. Some of these again were succeeded by the De Baths of Athcarn, the Dowdalls of Athlumny, the Cruises, the Drakes of Drake Rath, and others. These details are given in Burke’s Vicissitudes of Families, in the chapter on the O’Melaghlins, Kings of Meath.
John of England
In 1184, Prince John, then Lord of Ireland and Earl of Mortain gave half the tithes of Fingal to the episcopal see of Dublin, which grant was confirmed in 1337 by King Edward, and in 1395 by King Richard II when in Dublin.
This John was none other than the same who featured so prominently in the tales of Robin Hood during the reign of King Richard I, the Lionheart (Coeur de Lion) absent on the Crusades. In 1189, on the breaking up of Robin Hood's company, Robin Hood’s great companion Little John, is said to have exhibited his feats of archery on Oxmanstown Green in Dublin, until having been detected in a robbery, he was hanged on Arbour Hill nearby. Another Robin Hood-type, known as McIerlagh Gedy, is recorded as a notorious felon responsible for many thefts and incendiary acts in Meath, Leinster, and Fingal, and was taken prisoner, brought to Trim Castle, and hanged.
Walter de Lacy, son of Hugh, gained seisin of the lordship of Meath by charter in 1194 during Richard I's exercise of the lordship of Ireland, having previously been a minor when his father Hugh de Lacy died in 1186. Walter succeeded to all Hugh’s lordships, including of Fingal, which by grant of King John in 1208 was subsequently confirmed in perpetuity under the same terms as the palatine lordship of Meath, and no longer limited by the original conditions linked to service as bailiff of Dublin.
Prescriptive Barony, 1208
The first known administrative provision related to the original name was a palatine grant of the Paramount Lordship of Fingal, confirmed by letters patent from King John. This feudal barony or Prescriptive barony was granted to Walter de Lacy and his heirs in perpetuity in 1208. The grant was based on Hugh de Lacy, Walter's father, having held the same on a basis of grand serjeanty for his services as bailiff to the King. The grant describes the scope of administrative responsibility, and the limits of powers delegated. The gist of the grant is recounted as follows:
Grant and confirmation to Walter de Lascy, on his petition, of his land of Meath; to hold of the King in fee by the service of 50 knights; and of his fees of Fingal, in the vale of Dublin; to hold in fee by the service of 7 knights; saving to the King pleas of the Crown, appeals of the peace, & c., and crociae, and the dignities thereto belonging; the King’s writs to run throughout Walter’s land. Further grant to Walter of the custody of his fees, although the lords thereof hold elsewhere in capite; saving to the King the marriages of the heirs of those fees.
Other derivative or related grants and titles
As mentioned above, by the time King John granted Finegal as part of his inheritance to Walter, Walter’s father Hugh had already sub-infeudated parts thereof to his vassals (e.g. the Castleknock barony, granted by Hugh de Lacy to Hugh Tyrell, etc.). Therefore, Finegal was already a superior lordship (or paramount barony) when originally granted, consisting of lesser baronies (and their several manors), even though some of these may have been granted by Hugh in his capacities as Bailiff or as Viceroy, and later confirmed as held of the Crown in capite, and in perpetuity. The lordship of Fingal was therefore a paramount superiority over several sub-infeudated smaller baronies (such as Castleknock, Santry, Balrothery), and thus eventually accrued vicecomital attributes.
In addition, several other baronies existed as feudal holdings or were created within geographical territory of Fingal (such as Finglas; Swerdes Swords; Santry, Feltrim), and in other parts of Dublin: Howth and Senkylle (Shankill in southern Dublin).
A later, related, development was the granting of the first viscountcy in Ireland in 1478 to a Preston, Lord Gormanston, the Premier Viscount of Ireland, who at the time was a major landowner in the Fingal area, and a direct descendant of Walter de Lacy. That viscountcy was called after Gormanston as the latter was the principal seat and Manor of the Prestons at the time, having been acquired upon their relinquishment of occupancy of the Manor of Fyngallestoun. The Viscounts Gormanston continued to retain the Lordship of the latter under reversion., and the prescriptive barony of Fingal was also retained by the Viscount Gormanston as an incorporeal hereditament in gross, until passed to the late Patrick Denis O'Donnell.
Medieval taxation, and the Pale
Geographically, Fingal became a core area of the Pale, and that part of Ireland most intensively settled by the Normans and in due course the English. Records during the period 1285-92, of rolls of receipts for taxes to the King indicate Fingal as a distinct area, listed along with the baronies or lordships of Duleek, Kells, and Loxuedy, as well as Valley (Liffey), and sometimes under, sometimes separate from Dublin. Later records of rolls of receipts e.g. "granted to the King in Ireland of the term of Trinity a.r.21 (1293)" for the period 1293-1301 also include references to Fingal listed as a lordship, again along with the baronies of Duleek and Kells, and Dublin City, and Valley, all listed under Dublin County. Several other references also exist in the chancery records of the 14th century.
Abolition of feudal system
The feudal system was finally completely abolished in the Republic of Ireland under the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act (No. 27 of 2009) passed by the Oireachtas on 21 July 2009. The Act accordingly abolished feudal tenure, but preserved estates in land, including customary rights and incorporeal hereditaments.
Earldom of Fingall
A peerage title as Earl of Fingall was created in 1628, by King Charles I of England, and granted to Lucas Plunkett, Baron Killeen, whose first wife, Elizabeth O'Donnell of Tyrconnell thus became 1st Countess of Fingall. The Plunketts also intermarried with the Prestons, Viscounts Gormanston. The Fingall Estate Papers, acquired by the Fingal County Archives, do not however relate to any properties in Fingal, but rather to lands in Meath. That Fingall title became extinct upon the death of the 12th and last Earl in 1984, along with a peerage barony of the same name, not to be confused with the titular prescriptive barony of Fingal previously mentioned.
In the 1208 grant, the bulk of Fingal, considered to be "in the vale of Dublin", was part of the County Dublin, when the latter was established as one of the first twelve counties created by King John during his visit to Ireland in 1210. Its history forms part of that of Co. Dublin for the following eight centuries.
In 1985, County Dublin was divided into three "electoral counties", with "Dublin–Fingal" as the northern one. In 1994, the administrative county of Dublin was abolished, and three new administrative counties similar to the electoral counties replaced it, with "Fingal" in place of "Dublin–Fingal". It encompasses that part of the area anciently known as Fingal which lay within the former County Dublin, excluding the areas north of the Tolka but within city boundaries. With the enactment of the Local Government Act 2001, Fingal is determined and listed as a county.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Fingal. especially the section "Geography and political subdivisions" and its subsection "Towns and villages"