Arklow today is renowned as a vibrant, busy shopping and tourism town in County Wicklow . It boasts a range of crafts for which it is well-known, such as knitting, pottery and woodturning, but the town also has an interesting past.
The town saw action during the 1798 rebellion . Father Michael Murphy along with 20,000 poorly armed United Irishmen tried to take the town. The priest and 700 others were killed during the battle. A monument to the dead sits in front of St. Mary's and St. Peter's Church today.
The Arklow of yesterday was one of the main fishing ports in Ireland. During the 19th century, the fleet was large enough to employ 1300 men, most of whom would have worn the famous Arklow GeansaA, which would have been knitted by the women of the town. The pattern of the knitwear was unique and sadly useful for the identification of drowned sailors. Fishing is still a significant industry in the town although of lesser importance than in previous times.
Operating hand in hand with the fishing industry of Arklow were the world-famous boat building yards of the town. One of the most important of these yards was John Tyrrell's, in business from 1864 to the 1990s. Boats to have left this yard included Sir Francis Chichester's "The Gypsy Moth III", which won the transatlantic single-handed yacht race, and also the Irish Navy's training sail vessel the Asgard II. Boating firsts were also launched in Arklow. In 1826, the first RNLI Lifeboat station was set up and is indeed still in use today, while in 1908 the initial motor powered fishing vessel was launched here.
Arklow also produced notable shipping personalities. One particularly famous daughter of the town was actually a member of the aforementioned Tyrrell family. Kate Tyrrell took the boating world by storm as she became the first leading female Mariner. Often navigating her schooner herself, she broke various traditional norms - she shocked many by refusing to give up her name after marriage.
If you are interested in finding out more about the shipping history of the town, a visit to the Maritime Museum would be very worthwhile.
The town itself is well worth exploring and so to is the local area. The Wicklow mountains surround Arklow and the town is a good base to explore these wild stretches of Co. Wicklow.