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About the Book


Newry, one of the most interesting and dynamic towns in Ireland, is also one of the oldest.   For more than five thousand years the area has been the centre of intense human activity: Neolithic settlement, the arrival of St. Patrick and Christianity, Viking and Norman invasions, the Williamite wars, the Newry Canal (the first true canal in these islands), a bustling industrial port, the Great Famine emigration, the upheavals of the Home Rule crisis, partition and the Troubles.


This new updated edition of the illustrated history of Ireland’s ‘Frontier Town’ gives a vibrant account of Newry’s richly diverse past and of the resilience and vitality of its people from ancient times to the present.





About the Author


Born in Belfast and educated at Queen’s University, Tony established Newry’s first museum in 1985.  He then became development officer for the Federation for Ulster Local Studies.  On getting married in 1996 he moved to Dublin.  He is assistant publisher with Books Ireland and Museums Editor with History Ireland.  He divides his time between Dublin and Carlingford, near Newry.



Praise for Tony Canavan and Frontier Town;


“The story is told well and might serve as a model for town histories. The author has a good eye for the telling illustrations and there are hundreds in the book.”

The Irish Times


“If a book causes us to look at something with new eyes then it has been worth reading. This illustrated history of Newry passes the test! … The book is a mine of information.”

Andersontown News


“If you only ever read one book about Newry, make sure it is Canavan’s!”

The Newry Journal





Sample Excerpts


...Despite the English names of these abbots, Newry remained an Irish house and was to suffer when the English attempted to undermine the Irish-controlled section of the church.  In 1373, by order of Edward II, Newry was despoiled of the lands it held in the County Louth area.  The reason given was that the abbey was composed of ‘meere Irish conversing only with such and spending on such people their rents and profits’.  The fact that such an order was given was recognition that Newry was an Irish monastery and that the king’s writ could run no further than County Louth, since all to the north was beyond the Pale…




...Following the surrender, two inquisitions into the abbey were conducted in August 1550.  From these we know that the one-acre site of the abbey contained a church with a steeple, a chapter house, a dormitory, a hall, an orchard and a garden. The lands of the abbey consisted of forty-eight carucates (approximately 5,500 acres), with seventy-two messuages and cottages, two salmon weirs on the Clanrye and a water mill.  The customs of Newry market also belonged to the abbey...




...Perhaps we should pause and consider the magnitude of the task that was about to be undertaken.  The proposal was to build a channel of some eighteen miles in length that would be large enough to take vessels capable of carrying a load of coal and sailing upon the open sea.  The channel itself would have to climb to a height of seventy-eight feet above sea level and, of course, retain an even depth of water along its whole length.  This would be a daunting task by any standards but when we remember that this was the period before the Industrial Revolution, when engineering was still at the ‘pick and shovel’ stage, with no mechanical or steam-powered drills or excavators to assist in the digging of the canal, we can perhaps appreciate the enormity of the challenge.  No undertaking of this size had been carried out in the British Isles before, so the engineers and labourers involved had to learn as they went along.  If the canal was successful, then they would be taming one of the great elemental forces….




...The close proximity of the UVF and the Irish Volunteers in Newry led to some strange situations.  In keeping with ‘military’ ethics, officers on both sides tried to avoid confrontation with the ‘enemy’ until war should officially be declared.  Hence marches and drills tended to tale place in defined areas or at pre-set times in order to avoid clashes.  Certain areas were considered ‘neutral’ and it was understood that neither side would enter them….



...One thing that had changed, however, was the re-emergence of loyalist terrorist groups determined, as they saw it, to ‘carry the war’ to the IRA.  From the early months of 1975 the Troubles took on a quite different character. Street demonstrations, riots, bombings and attacks on the security forces continued, but sectarian attacks were now being made by loyalist and republican groups.  This was the cast throughout Northern Ireland but was particularly so in Newry and the surrounding areas.  Before the end of 1975, over thirty people had been killed as a result of terrorist violence.  A community that had become accustomed to death was particularly shocked at the attack on the Miami Showband on 31 July.  The van in which the band was travelling along the Loughbrickland Road, not far from Newry, was stopped by members of the UVF.  The band members were ordered out and then fired on by the gunmen…..

Frontier Town


An Illustrated History

of Newry


By Tony Canavan


               Price:  €19.95