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Baile Uí Mhornáin
Maiden Tower, Mornington, and Mouth of River Boyne
Maiden Tower, Mornington, and Mouth of River Boyne
Mornington is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County County Meath
 • Total 11,872
Irish Grid Reference O149759

Mornington (Irish: Baile Uí Mhornáin, meaning town of the mariner) is a coastal village on the estuary of the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland approximately 5 km downriver from the centre of Drogheda. Together with the neighbouring villages of Laytown and Bettystown it comprises the census town of Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington, with a combined population of 10,889 at the 2011 Census and 11,872 (along with Donacarney) at the 2016 Census. Mornington is part of the wider area collectively known as East Meath.

The large townland of 1,223 acres (4.95 km2) is bound on the north by the River Boyne estuary and on the east by the Irish Sea. The townland extends along the seashore to Bettystown village and includes part of that village up to and including The Neptune Hotel. The townland, part of the civil parish of Colpe, touches on other townlands: Betaghstown to the south, Colp East and Colp West to the west and Donacarney Great and Donacarney Little to the south and west. Stameen lies to the west. Baltray, Beaulieu and Banktown lie across the Boyne.

Mornington can also refer to a larger area, a half-parish, within the Laytown-Mornington Roman Catholic parish established in 1986, and formerly part of the parish of St. Mary's in Drogheda. Mornington was also a former post office sub-district and used by a wider area for address purposes up to the 1980s.

Maiden Tower and the Lady's Finger

Ladys finger
Lady's Finger

Mornington contains the Maiden Tower and the Lady's Finger, two structures most likely to have been navigational aids for ships entering the River Boyne. A ship approaching the river mouth would be lined up to safely enter the narrow channel when the view of the Lady's Finger was blocked by the tower.

The Maiden's Tower which stands 60 foot high was built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It is suggested that this association with the Virgin Queen is how it got its name. The tower was already in existence by 1582 when it was proposed to build a tower of such height and strength as shalbe of a perpetual continuance like the tower at Drogheda at Ringsend. The tower was built as a warning beacon to sailors and marked the mouth of the river Boyne. At the topmost reaches of the tower one can command an extensive view over land and sea. Access to this parapet is by spiral steps tapering towards the top and through the barrel-vault at the top of the stairs. It is also believed to have acted as a look-out tower during the Elizabethan Wars with Spain (1585-1603) to give advance warning of approaching enemy ships. Entry to the tower has been blocked by Meath County Council.

Moran's Pub

Moran's Pub has been situated in the original centre of the village since the 1840s. Until quite recently it was run as a combined shop and bar by the last of the Morans, sisters Liz and Agnes. The traditional bar has been greatly expanded in recent years since being sold out of the family. However the original name and features have been retained and a new bar room put in which attempts to mirror the original look while providing the features of a modern pub.


Mornington was traditionally a fishing village based on salmon fishing and mussel dredging on the River Boyne. The fishery was commonly called the lord's fishery by the Stuart period. The point of land where the Boyne turns South-East before entering the sea is known locally as The Crook or Crooke, and in the nineteenth-century at the Maiden Tower a pool called the Long Reach, extending a quarter of a mile inland, was where vessels could lie at low water.

The fishing by draft nets was done from around 14 set stations and "Boyne salmon fishermen had a particular method of working which involved two men. One man stayed on shore holding a rope attached to the net, while the other rowed out into the river with the other end of the net. Once the whole net was spread out, the boatman rowed back to shore and the two men pulled the net to shore, trapping fish as it went".

A fish-meal factory was set up at the Crooke in 1968 by a Scottish concern with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara to process fish from the herring industry out of Clogherhead and Skerries. Its construction impinged on the customary right of fishermen to draw their boats up at that point. It wound up in the late-1970s following several years of heavy fishing by vessels which lead to Herring stocks in the Irish Sea collapsing. The private jetty continued to be regularly used by fishing boats from Clogherhead to moor up and the company was finally liquidated in 2003. The Irish Government bought the jetty and adjoining lands in 2001 for £170,000 to retain its use as a licensed location to land explosives in commercial quantities, chiefly for local quarrying enterprises, and munitions.

In 2006 amid concerns of dwindling spawning salmon numbers, the decision was taken to ban draft net fishing. Of the 50 fishermen then with licenses only 14 remained on and "they came to an agreement with the Inland Fisheries Ireland to take part in a scientific experiment that tags fish caught in the nets, under the eye of fishing inspectors. They are then released, allowing them to head back upstream".

The mussel fishing involved a particular currach-style boat or punt and a mussel rake dredged by hand similar to that on the River Conwy in North Wales. These can be seen in these images of mussel dredging in the 1990s. In 2006 the Drogheda Port Company undertook silt dredging from Tom Roe's Point deepwater berth to the viaduct at Drogheda. Mussel fishing has been suspended since.

Drogheda Port management of the River Boyne estuary channel has been a feature of the last 150 years, with major dredging work beginning in the 1830s following the Alexander Nimmo report of 1826. This report was based on a survey of the estuary undertaken by John Benjamin Macneill. A recent EPA report states that "From Drogheda town to the sea at Mornington the river has been trained by means of training walls constructed around the 1850s by the then Drogheda Harbour Commissioners. This captured the main river flow with estuarine polders being created north and south of the training walls. This important work had two effects in that it increased the tidal exit velocity and thereby produced a scouring effect and created a reserve of water from the estuarine polders to supplement the falling tide. As part of this engineering the old bridge at Mornington previously had a lock gate which restricted tidal water entering the Colpe stream.

Public transport

Bus Éireann route D1 and D2 provide several daily services between Laytown and Drogheda via Bettystown and Mornington. Matthews Coaches provide commuter routes to Dublin which serve Donacarney Cross and Laytown, Bettystown and Julianstown. Mornington is served by rail by both Drogheda train station and Laytown train station.


Church at Mornington, Co. Meath - - 627653
Old Star of the Sea church

There is one church in Mornington, it is Roman Catholic, and was dedicated in 1989 as the Star of the Sea (Irish: Réalt ná Mara). It replaced the earlier 'Star of the Sea' church built in 1841 on the buff overlooking the point were the Colpe stream enters the Boyne at the bridge at Mornington. This site was the original centre of the village and the location of a small Penal-era chapel. Before that a pre-Reformation church, part of which remains, was located here in the old graveyard adjoining. It was first recorded as being a ruin in 1622.

St. Patrick is said to have landed here, the mouth of the Boyne, anciently called Inbhear Colpa, on his way to Tara, though the church, and the former Church of Ireland church at Colpe, were traditionally dedicated to St. Columba. This association can still be seen in the name of the local GAA Club, St. Colmcilles. A former holy well dedicated to St. John was located near the new church in an area known as "The Glen" close to the Colpe stream. Its pattern was suppressed by a local priest in times past. Current burials in the parish take place in Reilig Mhuire (Piltown Road Cemetery) which was opened in 1985.

Mornington Beach

Mornington beach consists of dunes and a strand extending from the River Boyne mouth to the Neptune Hotel. It is a popular site for walkers and day-trippers in good weather. In recent years and with the popularity of Bettystown the name of Bettystown Beach has become more current. The Laytown and Bettystown Golf Club's location in the Mornington dune-system and the development of the area has also influenced the name shift. Mornington beach is now seen to consist of the dunes around the Maiden's Tower and that area of soft sand nearing the Boyne entrance walls for which signs are erected warning cars of the danger.

Historic past

Mornington was a settlement from the 13th century known as Marinerstown, and probably took its name from Robert le Mariner, who died before 1234. Known variously as Villa Marinarii, Villa Roberti Marinarii (c. 1211), Marinerston by Colp, Marinerstown or Mornanton it was established by the Normans as a 'manor' and though its tithes were granted by Hugh de Lacy in 1182 to support the Augustinian Abbey at Colpe, (founded as a cell of Llanthony Priory in Monmouthshire), it was separate to the more extensive and neighbouring Manor of Colp. The later took its name from Inbhear Colpha the older designation for the area at the mouth of the Boyne. 'Marynerton' is listed amongst the Irish possessions of Furness Abbey in Yorkshire and Llanthony in Gloucestershire at the Suppression of the Monasteries in 1536. By the Civil Survey of 1654 however Mornington was being considered part of the Civil Parish of Colpe and it appears in Samuel Lewis's "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" (1837) under Colpe, or Colpe-cum-Mornington.

The Maiden's Tower built in the sixteenth-century, see above, and the ruined tower-house castle at Donacarney Cross are the main historic remains in the area.

Mornington was the scene of one of the actions in March 1642 during the raising of the Siege of Drogheda of 1641-42 as the garrison undertook raids into the locality to disrupt the Northern rebels under Sir Phelim O'Neill surrounding the town. John D'Alton in his history of Drogheda quotes Dean Nicholas Bernard how:

Early on that morning [the 3rd] ... the forces under Colonel Wainman advanced hither, where they found the town abandoned, so that their whole work that day was to reap what was left, for which all sorts were permitted to go forth for pillage; the lanes so thickened with all sorts of grain, that the spring seemed to be harvest ... Such loads of corn were mounted on horses that upon the hills they looked like moving haggards, by which our great extremity was turned presently into plenty.

The town then with great joy set to brewing the captured grain for beer "having drunk nothing but water for a week". In this raid they also burned:

A fair house of one Draycot (who by the rebels was newly created Viscount Mornington, for his merit in the cause) ... which was done the rather in a just revenge of his fraudulent disarming many of our soldiers as they were making hither from the bridge of Julianstown. His library, with what could be preserved from the fire, was brought in hither and sold us at very easy rates; a very large parchment manuscript of a old missal, consecrated to that church of Mornington, came to my hands, the loss of which I presume they have valued more that their houses.

The house is recorded as the property of John Draycott of Mornanstowne and Valeran Weisley of Dingen in 1640, along with 308 acres. The Draycotts were one of the significant families in the area, descendants of Henry Draycott an English-born Crown official who was granted substantial properties in Counties Meath and Louth. The ruins of this house located on Church Road, recorded as a large, irregularly-shaped building described in gothic lettering as a 'Ruin' on the 1836 ed. of the OS 6" map was believed locally to have been the site of a former monastery.

The Ozanam Home now sits on the site of 'Mornington House', Coney Hall, formerly the principal residence in the area and owned by the Brabazon family. A plaque dedicated to James Brabazon, Esq., who died in 1794, shows his links to the Earls of Meath, and is found on the ivy-covered wall of the early church in the old graveyard of Mornington. The family's association goes back to their seventeenth-century ancestor, a Captain James Brabazon who was wounded at the Battle of Aughrim on the Williamite side. Another significant family in the area were the Weslies, later Earls of Mornington.

Title of "Earl of Mornington"

The title Earl of Mornington has been one of the greatest British aristocratic titles for centuries. Originally a British peerage, it is now a courtesy title. The current holder of the earldom is Arthur Darcy Wellesley (born 2010), the son of Arthur Gerald Wellesley, Marquess of Douro, and his wife Jemma, née Kidd, who is the sister of Jodie Kidd.

The connection to Mornington of the Wellesley, Wesley, Weslie, or, Weisle family name goes back to at least the sixteenth-century, as Lewis says on the suppression of Colp Abbey a place called Weisle's Farm in Mornington was paying tithes to the Abbey. Gerald Weslie, late of Dangan, "Irish Papist", who died in 1603, is mentioned in an inquisition of 1624 as having been in possession of "the manor of Marinerstown or Mornanton counting two messages and 120A and of a capital fishery commonly called the lord's fishery". Richard Colley, later Richard Wesley, 1st Baron Mornington inherited Dangan and Mornington in 1728. His son was the 1st Earl of Mornington, the father of Field-Marshal The 1st Duke of Wellington. The many places in Australia and across the world were named in honour of the second Earl, a brother of the Duke of Wellington.


Laytown and Bettystown Golf Club is situated in Mornington townland.

St. Colmcilles, or Naomh Colmcille, is the local GAA club. Their facilities are located at Páirc Uí Rís in Piltown, near Bettystown. Known as the "Blues", the club was founded in 1971 with the merger of earlier clubs 'Star of the Sea' and 'Shallon' in the East Meath area.

Laytown and Bettystown Lawn Tennis Club, Golflinks Road, Bettystown, is also situated in Mornington.


There is one primary school split into a girls and boys school in Donacarney which service Mornington. They are Realt Na Mara BNS and Realt Na Mara GNS. Mornington is home to Drogheda Educate Together Secondary School on Mill Road. The area is also served by nearby secondary schools such as Coláiste na hInse in Bettystown.

In 1837 a school of about 20 children was located in the 'small chapel at Mornington'. A neo-Gothic style red-brick school which now serves as the local community centre was built in the 1870s at Donacarney Cross. Designed in 1872-3 by P.J. Dodd of Drogheda, with an extension in 1885, it features separate doors for girls and boys at the front of the building. Its twentieth-century replacement, with a water tower, was demolished to make the site available for the present-day schools in the early 2010s.

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