About the Old Fort of Maryborough

Built between 1547 and 1548 during the tenure of Bellingham, Lord Justice of Ireland, in the reign of “the boy King” Edward VI, a town grew up around the Fort walls from the 1560’s, renamed Maryborough in honour of Queen Mary.

A church located on present day Railway Street was added in the 1580’s as the town expanded and was granted a market by Royal charter. The “unruly” O’More’s and other native clansmen of the county constantly harassed the New Settlers. The town and Fort were attacked and placed under siege a number of times by Rory and his son Owney Mac Rory O’More.

Although burnt down in 1597/8, the garrison recovered enough power by the following year to capture and slay 35 rebels who had their heads placed on spikes along the Fort walls as punishment for their uprising.

By the early 1600’s the natives had been broken and many were transplanted against their will from Laois to marginal lands in Kerry. However, conflict arose again during the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland in the mid-1600s.  The Fort surrendered to the Catholic leader Owen Roe O’Neill in 1646, gave refuge to the Papal Nunico Cardinal Rinnuccini in 1648 but was recaptured and dismantled by Cromwell’s Generals Hewson and Reynolds in 1650.

The modern town continued to grow up around the Fort and it was used briefly as a barracks for a Leinster Dragoon Regiment up until the early 1800’s.

A castle located near present day Fortune’s Corner/O’Loughlins was pulled down in 1835 leaving us today with just one rounded bastion tower and sections of defensive walls, from the once mighty original fortification.

Join us for a series of history tours of the Old Fort Quarter with renowned historians Teddy Fennelly and Michael Parsons this June 24th and 25th during the Old Fort Festival. Leaving from the site of the new library on the main street of Portlaoise, be brought through the historic cultural quarter of Portlaoise town as Teddy and Michael regale stories of battles won and lost, the development of the town and the history of the fort – a colonial military fort built before any other colony of the British Empire. Along the way you will stop to hear the story of the famous Portlaoise Plane which was built right across from the tower of the fort in Aldritt’s garage, it was also the inspiration for the career of Col. James Fitzmaurice – the pilot who flew east wets across the Atlantic in a Bremen.

Walks will leave at 2pm and 4pm sharp both days

Attendance is free : Book here