Portlaoise

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Port Laoise[6] (historically spelt Port Laoighise) is the county town of County Laois in the midlands of Ireland. The name is properly pronounced /pɔrtˈliːʃə/ although a more anglicised pronunciation of /pɔrtˈliːʃ/ is common. The population in 2006 was 14,613.

Contents

History

The site where the present town is situated is referred to in the Annals of the Four Masters as Port Laoighisi during the 16th century. The present town originated as a settlement around the old fort, "Fort of Leix" or "Fort Protector", the remains of which can still be seen in the town centre. Its construction began in 1548 under the supervision of the then Lord Deputy Sir Edward Bellingham in an attempt to secure English control in the county following the exile of native Celtic chieftains the previous year. The fort's location on rising ground, surrounded to the south and east by the natural defensive barricades of the River Triogue and an esker known locally as 'the Ridge', greatly added to its strategic importance.

The town proper was established by an act of Parliament during the reign of Queen Mary of England in 1557. The English renamed the town Maryborough and the county was named "Queen's County" in her honour. The area had been a focus of the rebellion of Rory O'More, a local chieftain who had rebelled and had lost his lands, which the Crown wanted to be settled by reliable landowners. The following year, following widespread dislocation and dispossession of the native Irish in the region due to the newly established English colonists, the Ó Mórdha (O'More) and Ó Conchúir (O'Connor) families and their allies reacted against the English. For the next fifty or so years, the English settlers in Maryborough waged a continual, low-scale war of aggression against the native Irish inhabitants of the surrounding region who retaliated against the new colony.

In 1570, a charter of Queen Elizabeth I of England raised the town to the rank of borough. This allowed the establishment of a Corporation of the Borough, a body which consisted of a burgomaster, two bailiffs, a town clerk, and a sergeant at arms, as well as various other officers, burgesses and freemen. Until the Act of Union in 1801 and the abolition of its franchise, the town returned two members to the Irish Parliament. The Corporation itself existed until 1830.

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