It is believed that Ireland was inhabited sometime shortly after the ending of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 - 8,000 B.C. With its proximity to the continent and Britain it is likely the some of the earliest settlers arriving in Ireland landed and settled in this coastal region of County Wexford. Estimates place the arrival of the first humans in the area as happening between 5000 B.C. - 3000 B.C.
The Celts arrived during the fifth Century B.C. The Celtic tribe believed to have control of the area were the Brigantes, this is thought to be the only example of a Celtic tribe to be inhabiting both Ireland and England. Local evidence of earthen mounds enclosures 'Raths' exist. Also some physical evidence remains to suggest that the area has been used as a significant area for druidic rituals. It is said that a pagan shrine linked to sun worship existed. Around 140 A.D. the Egyptian cartographer Ptolemy called the headland now called Carnsore Point, ‘Hieron Akron’ which roughly translates to the Sacred Promontry. This is thought to be in reference to the pagan rites practised there by the Celtic Druids. A rock formation used in later years as a mass rock may have originally been a druids altar. There is also a standing stone in a field nearby. Until quite recently this area was still a stronghold of the ancient mime play of ‘mumming’.
The traditionally held belief is that Our Lady's Island was founded as a monastic site by St. Abban a nephew of St Ibar during the 6th Century. It was an established place of pilgrimage by the year 600 A.D. The stone oratory of St. Vaugh's is likely to be an example of the Christianizing of a pagan site to establish religious dominance in the area. A number of other more extraordinary claims have been made about amazing feats performed by these early Christian saints. One story mentions the arrival of one of the saints to these shores after floating across form Europe on a giant rock. A local well was also associated with curing warts and sore eyes.
At least as early as 888 A.D., the Vikings had established a settlement of some sort at Loch Garman, the old Irish name for the area around what is now Wexford. This new Viking settlement was called Waesfjord which later became Wexford. There are also many Norse or Viking place names in the area especially around the coast itself reflecting the nautical tendencied of the race- for example, Saltee islands and Selskar.
In 1166 Rory O'Connor becomes the High King of Ireland about this time Dermait MacMurrough, King of Leinster, is deposed and went to England. A year later he returned after organising a political alliance with English Norman Barons. Richard de Clare known as Strong bow agreed to help reinstate Dermait to his title in return for Dermaits daughters hand in marriage and a promise to inherit the title and lands on Dermaits demise. The first Normans landed in 1169 in Wexford and Quickly established control of the area. A number of estates been taken and given over to loyal members of Strong bows army. The baronies of Forth and Bargy in the most south and east area of the county were heavily colonised. A sign of this concentration was the use of an old English dialect, known as Yola still spoken in remote areas until the 19th century. Even to this day the odd word seeps into local phrases. Many of the castles and windmills in the area are the legacy of these Normans.
A number of the Norman Knights involved in the invasion of Ireland were also involved in the crusades of the time and later. An example of which can be seen with the De Lamporte family. The island of Our Lady's Lake was acquired shortly after the Norman Invasion by Milo de Lamporte, he died on crusade a few years later at the decisive Battle of the Horns of Hattin in Galilee on 4th July 1187. His son Rudolph established the Tower House and Augustinian prioryB on the island which he gifted to the church before his departure in 1237 for the Holy Land. Before he left, he asked that prayers be said for the repose of his soul. Poignant as he too was later killed in battle by the Saracens.
Cromwell and Penal Laws
Along with the siege and suppression and raids of various locations around the county of Wexford and Ireland as a whole the small church in Our Lady's Island was plundered by Cromwell in 1649. The crucifix from the nearby church of St. Ibar was lost when a local boy was shot trying to cross the shallows of the lake to take it to safety. It was not located again until 1887. It is now in the parish church in a simple shrine which tells its history.
Though many earlier laws were enacted against Catholics in Ireland 1695 marked the beginning of what were termed the Penal Laws. These discriminated against Catholics and did not start being relaxed until the end of the 18th Century. During this period masses were conducted in secret throughout Ireland. They were called hedge masses or station masses due to their transient and hidden nature. One such remote meeting place and mass rock was said to be located near Carnsore point. There is indeed a rock with a cross carved on its underside to support this claim.
Wexford was the scene of the most intense and widespread fighting in the rebellion of 1798, and for a time a citizens' republic was established on the French model in Wexford town. Ultimately the Rebellion failed and in a four week period it is estimated that the county of Wexford lost 20,000 people from a population of 120,000.
Wexford was long associated with prosperous farming and this coupled with a lower population density than much of the rest of the country may have contributed to why Wexford suffered less than many other Irish counties when the Great Famine struck in 1845. However there was considerable emigration particularly from the north of the county which continued throughout the 19th century. From 1845 to 1890 the population of the county roughly halved from 202,000 to 112,000 persons.
Early 20th Century
In 1916, a small rebellion occurred at Enniscorthy to coincide with that at Dublin. On Thursday, 27 April 1916, Enniscorthy town was taken over by about 600 armed rebels. They refused to believe the news of the Dublin surrender but eventually downed arms after leaders travelled to Dublin for confirmation by Padraig Pearse himself.
During the first World War, a huge number of ships were sunk off Wexford's coasts. The area of sea around Tuskar Rock came to be referred to as "The Graveyard" - the graveyard of Allied ships. Quite a number of German U-boats were also sunk in Wexford coastal waters.
The Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) which the I.R.A. fought in an effort to end British rule of Ireland and try to create an independent Irish state. Through out this period several Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) Barracks were attacked in County Wexford some of which had to be abandoned. An I.R.A. training camp was located at Ballytory near Our Ladys Island. Following almost immediately after was the Irish Civil War (1922-1923) , Wexford was very much in the thick of the action again. Many people lost their lives on both sides. Much destruction of property also occurred with many large estate building set on fire.
During the second World War the Marine and Coast Watching Service was setup. Three of the posts were located nearby at Rosslare Point, Greenore Point and Carnsore Point. Several incidents were reported. A German Heinkel Bomber crash-landed at Nethertown following aerial combat offshore with British aircraft killing all five crew onboard. Also a number of mines drifted ashore around the coast. On one particular night 29 sea mines were washed ashore between Carnsore point and and Rosslare. Carnsore point had a large EIRE sign made from whitewashed rock in an effort to inform pilots they were over Ireland.
Late 20th Century
Carnsore Point was placed on national headlines in the 1970s after a proposal to build a nuclear energy plant. A couple of free concerts were held at Carnsore Point in 1978 and 1979. These were called "Get To The Point" and "Back To The Point" respectively, the concerts were very successful and brought to the public focus the question of nuclear power in Ireland. The plans for the nuclear plant were abandoned and today a wind farm has now been built on the site, featuring 14 windmills generating electricity.