The construction of Fishguard Harbour was authorised by the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Act, 1899 and during the next few years no expense was spared in making Fishguard the destination for Irish traffic. To provide sufficient land for the harbour station, quay and necessary buildings, large quantities of rock had to be blasted out of the cliff face and a total of 27 acres was created as a result. Harbour Village, located above the harbour, was built to accommodate staff at the harbour and over the years many Irish people working on the route have settled and married in Fishguard and Goodwick.
The official opening of the Fishguard to Rosslare service took place on Friday 30 August 1906 by the GWR. From the outset two daily sailings were offered between Fishguard and Rosslare with further services added to Waterford and Cork. The GWR was unsuccessful in attracting trans-Atlantic liner trade although the Mauritania visited the port in August 1909.
During the First World War sailings were disrupted when the ‘St’ vessels served as troop and hospital ships and the same applied during the Second World War when both the St David and St Andrew were used at Dunkirque. However tragedy struck two of the ships during the Second World War. In the early hours of Friday 13 June 1941 the St Patrick was bombed and sunk in a quarter of an hour with the loss of 30 lives, including her master, Captain Faraday, just 14 miles off Fishguard. The St David, a hospital ship, was bombed and sunk during the Anzio landings with a loss of life in 1944 and survivors were picked up by the St Andrew which was also damaged.
Services returned to normal after the war and in 1948 Britain’s railways were nationalised and British Railways took over from the GWR. Car traffic continued to increase and in 1964 the St David was converted to a side loading ferry. Major investment at the port continued over the years with probably the greatest change in the Fishguard to Rosslare crossing coming in 1994 with the arrival of a high speed catamaran, the Stena Sea Lynx. The present service is provided by the super-ferry Stena Europe and the express Stena Lynx lll with the latter completing the crossing in two hours.
Fishguard, Goodwick and Lower Town form a close and friendly community at the heart of north Pembrokeshire. The area is famous as the location of the ‘Last Invasion of Britain’ when in 1797 French troops landed nearby. Local heroine Jemima Nicholas captured many of the invaders single handed and the Frenchmen later negotiated their surrender at the Royal Oak inn and laid down their arms on Goodwick Sands. A visit to the area this summer will be especially rewarding as in addition to the usual annual events the community will be commemorating the centenary of Fishguard Harbour with visits by ships and a steam train, two exhibitions and other events. Fishguard stands on an imposing headland commanding superb views of the bay. It is the main shopping centre of north Pembrokeshire with two small supermarkets and family-run shops and businesses. There is a choice of hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes with several pubs providing entertainment at weekends. Theatr Gwaun in West Street has a cinema as well as regular live events. The town provides many superb walks including the Marine Walk which has outstanding coastal views. Lota Park is a place where both adults and children can relax and play. A new Leisure Centre provides facilities for the young and old and is a refuge in wet weather.
Goodwick was just a cluster of fishermen’s cottages until the early 1900’s when work began on creating a harbour to handle transatlantic crossings. These hopes were short-lived but Fishguard Harbour became, and still is, a major sea crossing to Ireland. The lifeboat is based in the harbour and seals and dolphins are sometimes seen in the bay but are more numerous just off the coast. Goodwick has a number of shops, hotels, pubs and cafes and the Fishguard Bay Hotel (once a Great Western Railway Hotel) stands imposingly overlooking the bay. Goodwick Beach, a Winner of the 2006 ‘Seaside Award’, is a favourite with families and the Ocean Lab on the Parrog has a cyber café, coffee shop, a soft play area and tourist information centre. Goodwick Moor is a Nature Reservce. From Goodwick explore tiny hamlets on the Pencaer peninsular including Llanwnda and the church of St Gwyndaf and visit the scene of the French landing at Carreg Wastad and the lighthouse at Strumble Head.
Lower Town, in Welsh ‘Y Cwm’, is the old port of Fishguard. Situated at the mouth of the Gwaun river its picturesque setting has been used as a location for many films including ‘Under Milk Wood’ starring Richard Burton. Local fishermen and pleasure boats add to the attraction. Go up the hill to the site of the old fort, again overlooking the harbour.
The Coastal Path is easily reached as is the National Park which includes the Gwaun Valley situated a few miles inland. Formed during the Ice Age, the wooded valley is ideal for walking or cycling and you can continue over moorland to the Preseli Hills and climb to the highest point in Pembroke-shire, Foel Cwm Cerwyn, where on a clear day you can see Snowdonia to the north and Ireland to the west.
Of the many famous, or infamous, men that grew up in the area Bartu Ddu, or Black Bart, is one of the most interesting. Born in 1682 at Little Newcastle, 6 miles from Fishguard, he was probably the most successful pirate of all time. In less than 4 years he captured over 400 vessels and amassed a fortune of over £50 million pounds in today’s money.
Visit the local Tourist Information Centres for information on how to make the most of your visit.
The Mayor of Fishguard and Goodwick, Cllr Michael Lloyd (pictured first left) and Fishguard Harbour Centenary Committee Secretary, Cllr Hatti Woakes (pictuted third from left) accepted an invitation to attend Centenary events in Rosslare last weekend - 9th & 10th September. These included visits to exhibitions of the work of local artists and of memorabilia associated with the building of the port, and of railway and ferry services. A well-attended Centenary mass was followed by dinner and a splendid evening of Irish song and dance. During the visit Cllr Lloyd gave an interview to South East Radio and joined the Mayor of Wexford in reading lessons during the church service. At the close of the evening entertainment he warmly thanked the Rosslare community for including representatives from Fishguard and Goodwick in their celebrations.
Rosslare Harbour is naturally also commemorating its centenary and two members of their committee paid a visit to Fishguard Harbour to meet members of the Fishguard Harbour committee for an exchange of views and ideas. Pictured (l to r) are Carl Milne, Stena Line Route Marketing Manager; Cllr Mike Lloyd, Mayor of Fishguard & Goodwick Town Council; Cllr Hatti Woakes; Terry Fortune, Rosslare; Brian Howells, Chairman of the Chamber of Trade & Tourism and Des Murphy (Rosslare).