New Ross (Irish: Ros Mhic Thriúin, formerly Ros Mhic Treoin) is a town in southwest County Wexford, Ireland. It is located on the River Barrow, near the border with County Kilkenny, and is around 20 km north east of Waterford. In 2011 it had a population of 8,151 people, making it the third-largest town in the county after Wexford and Enniscorthy.
The port town of New Ross dates from the Middle Ages. The earliest settlement in this area dates back to the 6th century when St. Abban of Magheranoidhe founded a monastery in what is now the Irishtown. The original earthen banked circular enclosure of his monastery was visible around the graveyard until about 10 years ago when it was unceremoniously removed by the council. It has been replaced by a concrete wall and steel fence. Its name, Ros, was shortened from Ros Mhic Treoin, or the Wood of the Son of Treon. Little is known of the town in pre-Norman times, except for the writings of St. Abban, who lived in the late 6th century. He founded of a monastic settlement, which lies under the present day St. Stephen's Cemetery in the Irishtown.
New Ross was in the territory of Dermot McMurrough and came to prominence when the Anglo-Normans conquered the region. The Norman knight William Marshall and his bride Isabella arrived during the early part of the 13th century. An earthen defensive structure called a motte was quickly built at Old Ross in order to hold the newly conquered territory. A medieval borough sprung up around it - peopled by English and Welsh settlers. William later founded the port town down by the river, leaving the native Irish living around the monastery up the hill. Isabella was the only child of Strongbow who was married to Aoife, daughter of Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster. The arrival of Isabella and William is described in the Chronicles of Ros, which are in the British Museum. It records that in 1189, Isabella set about "building a lovely city on the banks of the Barrow". The town's fortunes further increased when King John made William Earl of Pembroke at his coronation in 1199. A year later, the Earl Marshal transferred the Norman capital of Leinster to Kilkenny and New Ross became the main port.
The town grew around the bridge built by William Marshal, son-in-law of Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (Strongbow), and a leader of the Norman invasion of Ireland. The town of New Ross (the town of the new bridge) was granted a Royal Charter in 1207. The port gained concessions from King John in 1215 and again in 1227 but these were later revoked by Henry III and Edward I to protect the port of Waterford. Even with these handicaps, New Ross was Ireland's busiest port in the 13th century. These restrictions were lifted in the 14th century by Edward II and Edward III.
The spiritual needs of citizens were not forgotten and a great Church, St Mary's Abbey, was erected which was to become one of the largest parish churches in Ireland. St. Mary's Church (Church of Ireland) was built in 1811 on the site of the nave of the abbey. A friary was built in Friary Lane during the medieval period but no trace of it survives above ground these days. A religious run lepers' hospital was established in the Maudlins in the later Middle Ages but this has recently been removed. There are two Roman Catholic churches, both built in the 19th century. These are the parish church of St. Michael and St. Mary, and the Augustinian church.
The town prospered with the arrival of rich merchants, pirates, tradesmen, religious orders, and merchant bankers. However, in 1265 the citizens found it necessary to build a wall around the town for protection against attack by the native Irish and feuding Norman families. The building of the wall was a community effort with towers and gates added to its defence. The wall can be still spotted on Jones' Hill, Goat Hill, The Three Bullet Gate, fragments in the Bullaun and also in Lidl carpark. It is sorely neglected and desperately needs conservation measures to prevent its final decline. A portion of a gate survives at fair gate or maiden's gate at the bottom of the Irishtown.
The town was the target for attack in the 13th and 14th centuries by Irish chieftains, particularly the McMurrough-Kavanagh clan and for many years the town was forced to pay the clan for protection.
The town was fought over in the Irish Confederate Wars of the 1640s. In 1643, the town resisted the siege by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, who fought a battle near the town with an Irish army under Thomas Preston, 1st Viscount Tara. However it was later taken by Oliver Cromwell, during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649 who discharged three cannon shots at the Aldgate and thereafter it was known as the Three Bullet Gate. The Three Bullet Gate is referenced in several Irish ballads, as the Bearna bhaoil (Gap of Danger), such as Kelly the Boy From Killanne and most notably in the Irish National Anthem.
The town is an important crossing point on the River Barrow, being located between the river estuary, and the point where the River Nore joins the Barrow and was the location of one of the bloodiest battles of the 1798 rebellion. During this Rebellion, a fierce and decisive battle took place in New Ross on 5 June between the Irish rebels and the British forces. The poorly armed rebels captured most of the town by weight of numbers and drove out the defending soldiers. The soldiers returned later in the day and recaptured the town. Over 2,000 people died during the battle and most of the thatched buildings were burned.
The 18th and 19th centuries were prosperous times for New Ross with the colonisation of North America. Local merchants sailed their own ships back and forth to the colonies often carrying Irish emigrants. A replica of one of those ships, the Dunbrody, is now berthed on the quay in New Ross and offers visitors to the ship an insight into life as a passenger during the late 19th century.
Over the years, seven bridges have spanned the river Barrow to connect the Port of New Ross with its neighbours in Rosbercon. However, at various stages down through the centuries, the bridges collapsed due to neglect or were destroyed by armies. During the times when the town was without a bridge, a ferry service or passage was maintained between both shores and this kept the military and economic ties with Waterford open.
Thousands of people left the quayside over the years to start new lives in Britain, America, Newfoundland, Canada and Australia. The most famous emigrants were Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy, great-grandparents of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States. President Kennedy returned to visit his ancestral home in June 1963.
- Dunganstown, 6 km (4 mi) south of New Ross is the ancestral home of the Kennedy family which includes Joe Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the USA, Robert Kennedy and Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy whose great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy emigrated to America from there.
- Other emigrants included the grandparents of Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, the American playwright and winner of the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature. Before emigrating, they lived in Rosbercon, just across the river Barrow from New Ross.
- Father James Cullen, founder of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, was born in New Ross.
- John Redmond, Nationalist leader and politician, was MP for New Ross.
- Michael O'Hanrahan, freedom fighter executed in 1916, was born in New Ross. The present road bridge over the River Barrow is named after him.
- Martin Jerome Keogh (1852–1926), New York State Supreme Court Justice, was born in New Ross.
- Maverick Sabre contemporary singer / musician grew up in New Ross
- Kevin Doyle Irish international footballer player who currently plays for Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Greg Bolger Football player based with League of Ireland team St Patrick's Athletic
- Gráinne Murphy Irish International swimmer who won Silver in the Freestyle 1,500m at the European Long Course Championships in Budapest in 2010 and bronze in the 400m & 800m Freestyle at the European Short Course Championships in Eindhoven in 2010.
- Sean Connick Former Fianna Fáil TD from 2007 to 2011. The first TD in the history of the State to use a wheelchair.
There are four primary schools in New Ross, two for boys, one for girls and one mixed-sex school. The two boys' schools are Michael Street National School which caters for children from Junior Infants up until 1st Class. They then move up to the Senior school, New Ross CBS, which children attend from 2nd class up until the time they leave primary school in 6th class. The girls' primary school, St. Joseph's, caters for students from Junior Infants to 6th Class. There is also a mixed school in New Ross, St. Canice's, which is situated across the bridge in Rosbercon.
Recently there has been talk of amalgamating the CBS and St. Joseph's to create a mixed school and build a new school on a green-field site on the outskirts of the town. There has been increased pressure on the Department of Education to provide this new school in New Ross because of the state of the CBS which is over 150 years old.
There are five secondary schools in New Ross, one is all-boys, two are all-girls, and two are mixed.
- St Augustine's and Good Counsel College, New Ross, is an all-boys school which caters for over 750 students making it by far the largest school in New Ross.
- St. Mary's and Our Lady of Lourdes are the two all-girl secondary schools.
- The two mixed schools are the Vocational College and the CBS Secondary.
The number of students attending the Vocational College and the CBS has been in sharp decline in recent years due to the popularity of the other secondary schools in the area. The McCarthy Report which was commissioned by the Department of Education to assess the schools in New Ross recommended the amalgamation of Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School, New Ross Vocational College and New Ross CBS Secondary. It has yet to be decided whether the findings of this report will be implemented.
There are many sporting organisations in the town of New Ross, such as the Geraldine O'Hanrahans GAA Club, New Ross RFC, New Ross Celtic Soccer Club, New Ross Town Soccer Club, New Ross Boat Club, New Ross Badminton Club, New Ross Swimming Club and New Ross Golf Club. The sporting organisations in New Ross have been making great strides to serve the people of New Ross even better in recent years with the GOH GAA Club having recently completed a massive development at the club grounds incorporating a brand new clubhouse with a meeting room, 6 new dressing rooms, a shop and a ball alley to add to their already impressive grounds. New Ross Celtic Soccer Club have also only recently completed a major development at their club grounds in Butlersland. They now have a clubhouse, two full size soccer pitches and two astro-turf pitches. New Ross RFC recently added a second pitch to cope with the increasing popularity of their club. The future looks bright for sports in New Ross especially with Merty Whelan leading the defence.
Arts and Culture
Theatricals have a long history in New Ross going back to medieval times, many performed on the site of the Norman Church of St. Michael which now houses the towns arts centre, St. Michael's Theatre. The present building was built in 1806, eight years after the Insurrection of 1798 and served as the Parish church until 1902 when the new parish church, St. Mary's & Michaels, was opened. St. Michael's Theatre boasts a 300-seat theatre, a 50-seat studio venue, an art gallery, a cinema, a coffee shop and a bar. Now a fully fledged arts centre, St. Michael's has a staff of 12 who bring a year round arts programme, theatre, music, dance and visual arts, unrivalled in the south east. ( www.stmichaelsnewross.com )
The town's boasts one of the largest free festivals in Ireland, the JFK Dunbrody Festival celebrating the Dunbrody famine ship. The festival is held on the 3rd weekend in July each year and attracts crowds in excess of 25,000. Centered around three open air concerts in the town park, the festival also has French & Irish markets, cultural and sporting events, and a lively pub trail. N.B In 2010 a charge was introduced for entry into the main concerts in the town park,
The town of New Ross enjoys a wide variety of music, including local rock bands, singers and Trad Groups.
There are a number of choirs in New Ross and the town also hosts musical stage performances each year, as well as the "AIMS" choral festival. In addition the New Ross Piano Festival is held each year at St. Mary's Church of Ireland church. New Ross is home to New Ross Musical Society, New Ross Pantomime Society and New Ross Drama Workshop, all producing very successful productions every year with local casts.
The main roads go through the town, causing considerable traffic congestion.
The town has an abandoned rail link from Waterford. When opened in 1887, the line ran through from Macmine Junction on the Dublin to Wexford line and later in 1904 the line was opened (with one intermediate station at Glenmore) to Waterford.
In 1963 the line from Macmine Jn closed and the track was removed; the remaining branch from Waterford stayed open to scheduled 'daily goods' traffic, this however ceased in 1976.
The line officially remains open for the purpose of conducting special fertilizer traffic from the Albatros fertilizer factory into the town. While the last fertilizer special ran in 1995  and Irish Rail no longer carries fertilizer traffic, New Ross station officially remains open, however the rails at level crossings on the Main Waterford Road and at the station gates are now covered over. The line is now effectively closed as the connection to main line at Abbey Junction in Waterford has been removed. The last train to run was a weedsprayer train in 1994.
Many of the town's inhabitants work in surrounding towns such as Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. Re-opening the railway would allow a light commuter rail option to these areas and solve the local traffic problems. New Ross railway station opened on 19 September 1887, closed for passenger traffic on 30 March 1964 and closed for goods traffic on 6 September 1976.
New Ross is Ireland's only inland port, some 32 km (20 mi) from the sea on the River Barrow. A small marina has recently been built just downstream of the town. The tall ship Asgard II which provided sail-training, often docked in New Ross on its travels and many locals have sailed on the ship from their home port.
Until the creation of ships too large to reach the port, in the 19th century, New Ross was a prosperous port town. However, the river is too shallow to allow passage of large ships and the port gradually went into decline. The town continued to be a prosperous market town for the rich agricultural hinterland, but suffered from severe recession throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and early part of the 1990s. Now there is a small amount of industry in the area and most businesses centre around services and retail although the local retail trade is under pressure from a number of larger retail outlets like Tesco, Lidl and Aldi which attract business away from the centre of town to the outskirts. However the town is so small that many of these shops are within walking distance of one another.
Latterly it has benefited from professionals making their homes in the town who work in Waterford, about 25 km (16 mi) away. There is also a strong international community, mainly eastern European, in New Ross, associated with the transport and manufacturing industries. There are two Polish shops and one Lithuanian. A degree of tourism associated with The Dunbrody replica famine ship and the connection with the Kennedy family also benefits the town.
New Ross is home to the Dunbrody replica famine ship which is moored on the Quay, and allows visitors to experience the sights and smells of life aboard an emigrant ship.
The JFK Dunbrody Festival is held each year in July in the town and centres primarily on live music on the festival stage.
In the picturesque village of Duncannon, 21 km (13 mi) to the south of New Ross the historic Duncannon Fort is located alongside the lovely Blue Flag beach.
The Hook Lighthouse is located 39 km (24 mi) south of New Ross and is thought to be one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world.
The Kennedy family Homestead, the ancestral home of US President John F Kennedy is located 8 km (5.0 mi) south of New Ross, and the JFK Arboretum which is dedicated to the memory of the late president is also located to the south of the town.
New Ross plays a part in a storyline from the soap opera Days of our Lives in January–February 2008, featuring Shirley Jones as an aged Colleen Brady, who reveals herself as the true mother of John Black. The scenes are set in New Ross.
New Ross is home to the Ros Tapestry project, a major community initiative being undertaken throughout County Wexford by a team of voluntary embroiderers. The fifteen tapestry panels are expected to be completed by 2010. The tapestries depict events around the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in south east Ireland, and specifically the founding of New Ross by William Marshall.
The Tholsel (Town Hall) was erected in 1749 by Charles Tottenham, a member of a Protestant Ascendancy family, then very prominent in the town. Its facade includes three noteworthy plaques. One is to Michael O'Hanrahan, the freedom fighter. Another is to Father Cullen, the temperance Pioneer. The third commemorates the hundredth anniversary of "ye glorious Battle of the Boyne".
The National Ploughing Championships for 2012 were held in Heathpark just outside New Ross. They ran from the Tuesday the 25th of September to Thursday the 28th. Over 187,000 people attend the Championships over the three days.
- PDF (4.22 MB) – Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved on 19 May 2008.
- http://www.cso.ie/census and http://www.histpop.org. Post 1991 totals are for New Ross urban, New Ross environs, and New Ross Rosbercon urban. For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee “On the accuracy of the pre-famine Irish censuses” in Irish Population, Economy and Society edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p54, and also “New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850” by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 473-488.
- Keogh's tombstone, pictured on FindAGrave.com. Accessed: 28 April 2010
- New Ross Celtic Soccer Club's Website.
- Johnson's Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland , ( Stephen Johnson ) Midland Publishing Limited
- "New Ross station". Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 19 November 2007.
- http://www.newrosstc.ie/ New Ross Town Council website
- Irish Times 30 June 2008