Fingal Pirates and Smugglers
Fingal is the name of the territory to the North of Dublin City and is the biggest growing area of Ireland. Fingal is derived from Fionn (fair) Gall (stranger) meaning the Scandinavian Vikings. But there was also Dubh Gall or dark strangers meaning Danish strangers.
Fingal, in Irish, also means tribe of the foreigners, that is "Fine"
(tribe) and "Gall" (Foreigner), the foreigners being the Vikings who invaded these lands round 850 AD. .
Fingal Smugglers and Pirates
Fine Gall is not to be confused with the current party in government, Fine Gael, which means "tribe of the gaels" – not "tribe of the ghouls"!
But speaking of ghouls the towns of Fingal; towns like Skerries and Rush thrived in the industries of crime and sometimes very ghoulish trade. Fingal's history is littered with smugglers, pirates, highwaymen and ghostly sea tragedies.
Fingal's coat of arms has a motto which says, "Flúirse Talaimh is Mara" meaning "Abundance of Land and Water", this was a perfect description of the abundance the criminals enjoyed round these parts.
Skerries literally means, the rocks. This refers to the islands off Skerries which includes Rockabill, Shenick and Red Island.
During the 1700s Skerries and Rush were a smuggler's paradise. The towns were haunted by the nigh time trade of smuggling tea, tobacco, wines, spirits and counterfeit money. They sailed to Scotland, Spain, Isle of Man and France. They used very fast boats called "cutters".
These were designed to outrun the Customs and Excise ships.
The Fingal smugglers and highwaymen had their own secret language up to the 1800s called Fingallian. It was a mixture of Old and Middle English, Old Danish and Gaelic. This gave the smugglers a secret "can’t talk" which only they could understand.
Among the families of smugglers were some who resorted to piracy and worse, wrecking. This was a vicious and callous practice. On stormy nights they'd place a lamp on the stern of their cutter (smuggler's boat). They'd then sail out in the fog, out among the islands and use the lamps to lure passing ships to the treacherous rocks round Skerries Point , the passing ships would think the lamp was a safety guide when, in fact, it led the ships to hit sharp rocks and founder.
The passengers drowned or were killed and all their belongings and ships goods were then stolen. Lovely people in Skerries!
Famous Smugglers and Highwaymen
The families of Shiels, Duff, Brannigan and Grimes were successful in criminal trades of smuggling and piracy. These are common names round these parts to this day. Here's a few infamous mariners.
Jack the Batchelor
The nickname for Jack Conner who operated a smugglers cave between Skerries and Loughshinney. Jack was very popular in high society as a romantic villain type.
Michael Collier the Highwayman
Known to be reckless but generous and gallant. Collier specialized in robbing on the Dublin-Belfast highway. His ghost is still supposed to haunt the road between Balscadden and Balrothery.
Luke Ryan – "The Black Prince"
Trained in the French army under an Irish regiment, Dillon's Regiment.
Fluent in French he then returned to Rush where he specialized in smuggling back and forth to France. During the American war of independence the French government commissioned Luke to attack and raid British ships and they called him "the Black Prince". Ryan was famous for escaping the gallows four times.