“This ford probably gives its name to Malahide which in Gaelic is “Bealach Thaighde”.1
he modern-day road from Swords to Malahide was laid out by the Talbots and runs from the Malahide Road roundabout on the outskirts of Swords down to the Dublin Road leading into Malahide (the portion of the road on the Malahide side was also at one time referred to as La Mancha Road).
The original road from Swords to Malahide, however, followed the route of what is now Estuary Road. From Swords, it ran past Seatown castle (part of which is still standing), following the same winding, meandering path as the modern road as far as Swords sailing and boating club. Here, the current road swings sharply to the right but the original route continued straight on, down to Cave’s Marsh and beyond.
The clubhouse and boat pen of Swords Sailing and Boating club are built on reclaimed land2 and so the road would have passed to the inside of both – near the copse of trees in the above photo and parallel to the path that runs through Estuary Green. Historic ordnance survey maps show a well along the route3 and in Rocque’s 1762 map of Yellow Walls4, the road can be clearly seen.
Ordnance survey maps from the late 19th/early 20th century also trace out the remains of the road.
Patrick O’Neill was a well-known historian and teacher from Swords who wrote a series of monographs in the 1960s dealing with Swords and adjoining areas. In one of these monographs1 he calls the route “the old sea road to Malahide”.
He describes how the route traversed the mouth of the Gaybrook stream by means of a ford (a shallow place in the stream that allowed it to be crossed). He also speculates that “this ford probably gave its name to Malahide which in Gaelic is “Bealach Thaighe” pronounced “Ballahideh”…to say “In Malahide” in Gaelic we write “I mBealach Thaighde”…Malahide therefore means the “passway of Thaighde”.
A variation on this is provided by WE Vandeleur in “Notes on Malahide”10. He writes: “The name of Malahide is derived by the Four Masters (Annalists who worked in Donegal about 1636 A.D.) from the Irish words baile ata trid – pronounced Ballahid, i.e. “the town of the ford of Teud”, Teud being a man’s name.”
Others derive Malahide from “Mullach Íde”, the Hill of Íde or “Mullac h-Ide“, the Sandhills of the Hydes (the Hydes were a Norman family from Donabate across the estuary from Malahide. The expression “Hill of Hyde” was said at one time to have been used locally to refer to Malahide.)7
The Placenames Database of Ireland5 website offers a number of other possible origins including variants on O’Neill’s suggestion, e.g. “Béal Átha Thíd” and “Baile Átha Thíd”. It also includes a whole host of variants on the English name including Mullachhydebeg, Malahyde, Malehide and Molaghide.
O’Neill suggests that “the names given to Malahide on the road-signs “Maol de hÍde” and “Mullach Íde” are mere guesses at the meaning.” He also speculates that “Bealach Thaighe” was named for someone who was “probably killed at the ford or performed some feat there”. Maybe there is some connection to the ancient past of the Broadmeadow estuary.
O’Neill also states that “Old Malahide is just beyond this ford. The new village came into existence only with the railway and even there the position of the old town is shown because the old station-master’s house and old offices are on this side of the railway.” This 18th century map supports this argument as it shows Malahide as a cluster of houses stretching out along the south shore of the estuary from Cave’s Strand to Bissett’s Strand.
A copy of the map1 hand-drawn by O’Neill to accompany his monograph is shown below.
The old sea road also played a role in the events leading to the Talbot family being forced to surrender their castle and estate for nearly eleven years in the period 1649-1660.
Following Oliver Cromwell’s sacking of Drogheda in 1649, he made his way with part of his army to Malahide, and, after a short siege, captured the castle. Given that the current Estuary Road and the then Sea Road formed the main route into Malahide from a northerly direction (Drogheda is just over 35 km north of Malahide), Cromwell would almost certainly have marched along this route with his army in the autumn of 1649, crossing the ford described by Patrick O’Neill.
The resident Talbots at this time were Sir John and Lady Talbot. They were given the infamous choice of going “to Hell, or Connaught” and naturally chose the latter, retiring to their estate in Castle-Ring, County Roscommon.
Around eleven years later, after the Stuarts were restored to the English throne, they regained possession of their castle and lands.8
The existing road (Cave’s Strand leading on to Bissett’s Strand) that skirts the estuary from the Malahide yacht club to the railway bridge was laid out in the mid-1930s.6
1. O’Neill, Patrick. An Macalla, No. 10, April 08, 1962.
2. Swords Sailing and Boating Club [online]
3. Ordnance Survey Of Ireland, 2011, Public Map Viewer [online].
4. Accessible at Europeana – the European digital library, museum and archive [online].
5. Placenames Database of Ireland [online].
6. Irish Independent, May 22, 1935.
7. Little, George A. About Malahide. Dublin Historical Record, Vol X Nr 1, March-May 1948.
8. The Metropolitan, a Monthly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts. Volume 3, 1832. James Cochrane and Company.
9. Ordnance Survey Of Ireland 25″ Map: [online]. Reproduced under licence from Ordnance Survey of Ireland; Licence No. NE 0000414.
10. Vandeleur, WE. Notes on Malahide. W. Tempest, Dundalk. Dundalgen Press, 1915.