About the Old Fort of Maryborough
Built between 1547 and 1548 during the tenure of Bellingham, Lord Justice of Ireland, in the reign of “the boy King” Edward VI, a town grew up around the Fort walls from the 1560’s, renamed Maryborough in honour of Queen Mary.
A church located on present day Railway Street was added in the 1580’s as the town expanded and was granted a market by Royal charter. The “unruly” O’More’s and other native clansmen of the county constantly harassed the New Settlers. The town and Fort were attacked and placed under siege a number of times by Rory and his son Owney Mac Rory O’More.
Although burnt down in 1597/8, the garrison recovered enough power by the following year to capture and slay 35 rebels who had their heads placed on spikes along the Fort walls as punishment for their uprising.
By the early 1600’s the natives had been broken and many were transplanted against their will from Laois to marginal lands in Kerry. However, conflict arose again during the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland in the mid-1600s. The Fort surrendered to the Catholic leader Owen Roe O’Neill in 1646, gave refuge to the Papal Nunico Cardinal Rinnuccini in 1648 but was recaptured and dismantled by Cromwell’s Generals Hewson and Reynolds in 1650.
The modern town continued to grow up around the Fort and it was used briefly as a barracks for a Leinster Dragoon Regiment up until the early 1800’s.
A castle located near present day Fortune’s Corner/O’Loughlins was pulled down in 1835 leaving us today with just one rounded bastion tower and sections of defensive walls, from the once mighty original fortification.
Guided heritage walks of the fort will begin at 1pm, 3.30pm and 5pm, departing from The Main Stage on Main Street, Portlaoise, Saturday and Sunday. The walks will be guided by the Laois Heritage Society.