The Pale

The Pale

. In this district, many townlands have English, and even French names.


In 1171 the Norman conquest of Ireland assumed the sovereignty of the Plantagenet dynasty over Ireland. From the thirteenth century onwards, the Hiberno-Norman invasion in the rest of Ireland at first faltered then waned. Across most of Ireland, the Norman knights, and their servants who were mostly from Wales and Cornwall, increasingly assimilated to Irish culture after 1300. A series of alliances with their neighbouring autonomous Gaelic chieftains developed. The Norman lords in the provinces behaved as kings in their own right in their own areas, as the Gaelic chieftains had previously.

The remaining Lordship that gave direct allegiance to the English king shrank accordingly, and as parts of its perimeter in counties Meath and Kildare were fenced or ditched, it became known as the Pale, deriving from the Latin word "pallium", a fence. Parts can still be seen west of Clane on the grounds of what is now Clongowes Wood College. The military power of the crown itself was greatly weakened by the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), and the Wars of the Roses (1455-85). A parliament was created, which mostly sat in Drogheda, until the Tudors took greater interest in Irish affairs from 1485 and moved it back to Dublin. The Pale generally consisted of fertile lowlands, which were easier for the garrison to defend from ambush, than hilly or wooded ground. For reasons of trade and administration, a version of English became the official and common language, whose closest modern derivative is said to be the accent used by natives of Fingal.

In 1366, in order for the English Crown to assert its authority over the settlers, a parliament was assembled in Kilkenny and the Statute of Kilkenny was enacted. The statute decreed that inter-marriage between English settlers and Irish natives was forbidden. It also forbade the settlers using the Irish language and adopting Irish modes of dress or other customs; such practices were already common. In particular the adoption of Gaelic Brehon property laws undermined the feudal nature of the Lordship. The Act could never be implemented successfully, even in the Pale itself, as the first expansion of Dublin was to an area known as "Irishtown".Fact|date=September 2008

By the late 15th century the Pale became the only part of Ireland that remained subject to the English king, with most of the island paying only token recognition of the overlordship of the English crown. The tax base shrank to a fraction of what it had been in 1300. The earls of Kildare ruled as Lords Deputy from 1470 (with more or less success) by a series of alliances with the Gaelic clans. This lasted until the 1520s, when the earls passed out of royal favour, but the 9th earl was reinstated in the 1530s. The brief revolt by his son "Silken Thomas" in 1534-35 led on to the Tudor reconquest of Ireland in the following decades, in which Dublin and the surviving Pale was used as the main military base for expansion.

Origin of the name

The word "pale" derives ultimately from the Latin word "palus", meaning stake. ["Palisade" is derived from the same root.] From this came the figurative meaning of "boundary" and eventually the phrase "". Also derived from the "boundary" concept was the idea of a pale as an area within which local laws were valid. As well as the Pale in Ireland, the term was applied to various other English colonial settlements, and the Pale of Settlement, the area in the west of Imperial Russia where Jews were permitted to reside.


The Pale boundary essentially consisted of a fortified ditch and rampart built around parts of the medieval counties of Louth, Meath, Dublin and Kildare, actually leaving half of Meath, most of Kildare, and south west Dublin on the other side. The northern frontier of the pale was marked by the De Verdon fortress of Castle Roche, whilst the southern border roughly corresponds to the present day M50 motorway in Dublin.

The following description is from "The parish of Taney: a history of Dundrum, near Dublin, and its neighbourhood" (1895): [ [ The Parish of Taney (Ball & Hamilton)] ]

"In the period immediately after the Norman Settlement was constructed the barrier, known as the "Pale," separating the lands occupied by the settlers from those remaining in the hands of the Irish. This barrier consisted of a ditch, raised some ten or twelve feet from the ground, with a hedge of thorn on the outer side. It was constructed, not so much to keep out the Irish, as to form an obstacle in their way in their raids on the cattle of the settlers, and thus give time for a rescue. The Pale began at Dalkey, and followed a southwesterly direction towards Kilternan ; then turning northwards passed Kilgobbin, where a castle still stands, and crossed the Parish of Taney to the south of that part of the lands of Balally now called Moreen, and thence in a westerly direction to Tallaght, and on to Naas in the County of Kildare. In the wall bounding Moreen is still to be seen a small watch-tower and the remains of a guard-house adjoining it. From this point a beacon-fire would raise the alarm as far as Tallaght, where an important castle stood. A portion of the Pale is still to be seen in Kildare between Clane and Clongowes Wood College at Sallins."
Within the confines of the Pale the leading gentry and merchants lived lives not too different from that of their counterparts in England, except that they lived under the constant fear of attack from the Gaelic Irish.

End of The Pale

Eventually, after the 16th and 17th centuries, and especially after the Anglican Reformation and the Plantation of Ulster, the "Old English" settlers were gradually assimilated into the Irish nation, in large part due to their relative reluctance to give up Roman Catholicism (those who became Protestants were rewarded with a higher status). They kept their version of the English language, which had Cornish influences, for the most part. They were in fact joined by other English Catholics fleeing persecution under Queen Elizabeth I and subsequent monarchs. (Even in the 19th century, Leinster had few Irish-speakers.) This large body of middle- and lower-class English speakers, combined with their rejection by the ascendant Protestant upper class, provided much of the impetus for the displacement of the Irish language from Ireland's population.Fact|date=April 2008 This is also why the English spoken in the Dublin area sounds more like early Modern EnglishFact|date=February 2007 and is quite different from the Hiberno-English in the formerly-Gaelic-speaking parts of Ireland, such as County Cork (which has the stereotypical sing-song accent which replaces /θ/ with /th/).

ee also

*Greater Dublin Area
*Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia


External links

* [ A map of the Pale (late 1400s)]
* [ Origin of the word 'pale']

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