Portlaoise is the capital town of county Laois. The town is fifty-three miles from Dublin, and the main roads from Limerick and Cork to the capital link up at Portlaoise. It is an historic town, founded over four hundred years ago to advance the English colonisation of Ireland.

Nowadays many of its historic remains lie concealed from the thousands of people who pass through it every week. The relative dearth of easily visible historical remains is partly due to the violence of Portlaoise's early history, but also to the rapid growth and expansion of the town in recent years.

The story began in 1547 A.D. when Portlaoise

was established as a fort. The O'Moores of Laois and the O'Connors of Offaly had terrorised the English settlers of the Pale and extorted black rents from them following the failure of the Silken Thomas rebellion. When in 1547 they rose in rebellion again, military expeditions were dispatched under St. Leger (and later Bellingham) to subdue them. The military campaign was successful. Giolla Patrick O'Moore and Brian O'Connor were defeated and brought under arrest to England. There, their lives were spared but their lands confiscated. The fort of Laois, from which the town is named, began in 1547-48.

It was built to protect the English, who were brought in on the O'Moore territory, and also to guard the southern flank of the Pale. The early fort was variously known as Governor, Port Laois, Campa and Fort Protector. But the fort, and town which began to grow around its walls, was soon to have a new name.

In 1556, the lands of the Seven Septs of Laois were confiscated for plantation by English settlers. Laois was to be known as Queen's County and the Fort of Laois was to be named Maryborough after Queen Mary.

Courtesy of Michael Parsons



previousPrevious - Lea Castle
Next - Colonel James Fitzmauricenext