Irish: Baile Átha Fhirdhia
View north along Market Street,
from the battlements of Ardee Castle
Ardee is a town and townland in County Louth, located at the intersection of the N2, N52, and N33 roads. Ardee is on the banks of the River Dee and is equidistant between the county's two biggest towns - approximately 12 miles from Dundalk and Drogheda, while it is also close to Slane and Carrickmacross. With a population of over 5,000, Ardee has grown exponentially in recent years – thanks in no small part to its close access to its neighbouring towns and major cities such as Dublin and Belfast via the M1 motorway. Its name is from the Irish Baile Átha Fhirdhia, meaning "townland of Ferdia's ford".
Originally called Atherdee, its name is derived from the Irish Áth Fhirdia (the Ford of Ferdia), from the mythological four-day battle between Cúchulainn and Ferdia, for the defence of Ulster from Queen Maeve of Connacht. Ferdia fell after four days of battle and is buried on the southern banks of the river alongside the Riverside Walk. The pair are now depicted by a bronze statue on Bridge Street in the town.
Ardee is situated in the southern part of the ancient territory known as the Plain of Muirheimhne. The town lies along the 15th century Pale frontier between Dundalk and Kells.
The town comprises the townlands of Townparks – the greater portion of which compromises Ardee bog, and a small portion of Dawsons Demesne, which takes in the south-eastern quadrant of the town on the northern side of the river Dee.
To the west of the town is the Great Bog of Ardee, one of the most easterly raised bogs in Ireland.
Away from Ardee’s place in myth folklore, Ardee Castle in the town – also known as St Leger’s Castle) is the largest fortified mediæval tower house in Ireland. Built circa 15th century, the castle was used as a prison during the 17th and 18th centuries before going onto house Ardee’s district courthouse until recently.
Ardee is a prime example of a mediæval ‘walled town’, many of which can be found across Ireland. With its distinctive, central Main Street and long narrow properties extending away from the main street on either side, it holds many of the properties associated with the type.
This identity is enhanced further by surviving mediæval buildings – as mentioned above – and some of the features that survive within the town, notably the intact mediæval street pattern.
Ardee is home to many more historic buildings and structures – including Kildemock’s Jumping Church, Hatch’s Castle, Chantry College, St Joseph’s Hospital, Convent of Mercy and St Mary’s Church.
Legend has it that the Jumping Church at Kildemock had a non-Christian buried inside the Church walls and that later that night, the Church jumped so as to leave his remains outside of the sacred ground.
Ardee railway station, serving the town, was previously linked to the main Belfast-Dublin railway line at Dromin Junction station, along a five-mile-long branch line. Ardee railway station opened on 1 August, 1896 and passenger services ended on 3 June, 1934. The line continued as a freight service until finally closed on 3 November, 1976, serving the local fertiliser factory, sugar beet, and livestock transport. The trackbed was lifted in the late 1980s, and much of the short route is now a designated walkway.
Ardee has grown much since the turn of the 21st century, mainly as a result of easy access to new roads including the M1 motorway which links Dublin to Belfast. This development caused a growth in industrial businesses being established in and around Ardee. Oriel Attachments, manufacturers in excavator attachments, Oriel Flues -manufacturers in stove attachments, Bryan Lynch salads - manufacturers of fresh delicatessen salads and Farrell Office Furniture to name but a few.
Ardee Castle in Ardee has been recently been refurbished and was used to house the district courthouse, before it was moved and it is now housed in the new Civic Offices Complex at the Fair Green. The ancient townhouse is currently not open to the public but moves are being made by Louth County Council to open it on a permanent basis. In 2015, it was announced that €1.2 million would be earmarked for development on the ancient townhouse.
Ardee has a rich sporting heritage.
It is the home of two association football clubs - Square United and Ardee Celtic. In 2016, Square United celebrate their 40th year in existence.
Both teams have junior sections that cater for very young players all of the way up to Under 18 level. In 2015, Ardee Celtic announced a community partnership with Premier League side Crystal Palace while Square have a similar link-up with Everton.
Local footballer Ross Gaynor has represented the Republic of Ireland Under 21 team at international level and after returning to Ireland after a spell with Millwall, he has played for Cobh Ramblers, Drogheda United, Dundalk, Sligo Rovers and Cork City.
While at Sligo Rovers, Gaynor won a League of Ireland league title, a Setanta Sports Cup and an FAI Cup.
Ardee St Marys are the main GAA team in Ardee. There are four other GAA sides that operate in Ardee's hinterland - Hunterstown Rovers, Westerns GFC, John Mitchels and Sean McDermotts. Louth GAA legend Stephen Melia began his career with the John Mitchels in the 1980s. Hunterstown Rovers are twice Louth Intermediate Championships and they have won the Louth Junior Football Championship four times.
The town has one rugby club - Ardee Rugby Club which has a first and second senior team and a number of juvenile teams at various age levels for boys and girls. In 2015, Ardee Rugby Club won the McGee Cup and their youth sides pick up both the Under 15 and Under 17 North East Shield.
There are a number of other sporting groups in Ardee including Ardee Cycing Club and Ardee & District Athletics Club as well as tennis and badminton groups.
List of Clubs
- Ardee St Marys GFC
- Westerns GFC
- Hunterstown Rovers GFC
- Sean McDermotts GFC
- John Mitchels GFC
- Ardee Celtic
- Square United
- Ardee Rugby Club
- Ardee & District Athletics Club
- Ardee Badminton Club
- Ardee Tennis Club
- Ardee Archery Club
Arts and Festivals
A festival for Ardee was launched in 2009 titled the "The Turfman Festival". It was held on the August bank holiday weekend with numerous community events including a Festival Queen competition, tuft footing, and events happening on the street and in local venues from live music to face painting, art exhibitions and talks to a popular town-wide pub quiz. The last festival was held in 2013.
Since 2004, the town has hosted the Ardee Baroque Festival at various locations throughout Ardee. The annual two-day event which sees visitors travel from across the country and afar to take in some of the works of known composers and the other events taking place over the weekend. The Irish Baroque Orchestra headline the event every year.
Dermot O’Brien is Ardee’s most musical son. In the 1960s, Dermot’s band The Clubmen reached the top of the Irish singles chart with The Merry Ploughboy. Later in the decade, Dermot starred in his own RTE show ‘The Styles of O’Brien’.
His rendition of ‘The Turfman of Ardee’ is widely renowned across the country.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Preliminary Results
- "Ardee station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20070926042407/http://www.railscot.co.uk/Ireland/Irish_railways.pdf. Retrieved 2007-09-08.