JONATHAN SWIFT LIVED FOR A WHILE IN TRIM COUNTY MEATH
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin on 30th November 1667 and was given over to a nurse to be minded in England. He did not meet his mother again until he was 21 years old, this was not unusual in those days.
The cost of his education was funded by his uncle Godwin Swift. He was educated at Kilkenny College and Trinity College, Dublin where he was awarded a B.A. in 1689. He was appointed secretary to Sir William Temple and in 1692 received an M.A. at Hart Hall, Oxford.
In 1694 having taken holy orders, he became Prebend of Kilroot, County Antrim but soon tired of that isolated life and returned to Moor Park, Surrey in 1696.
Between 1696-1699 he wrote many books and like most of his writings they were all published anonymously. Although Swift was not a native of Meath he lived for some years in the Trim area, as Vicar of Laracor, near Trim together with Agher and Rathbeggan.
His best known book popularly called “Gullivers Travels” was published in 1726. He won immense popularity when his “Drapiers Letters” foiled a plan to foist on the Irish a new debased currency “Wood’s Halfpenny” – the patent for which had been obtained by bribery. His Modest Proposal “suggested that the people should be relieved by the sale of their numerous children as food for the rich”.
Swift was one of the most commanding intellects and writers of his day. His prose is unmatched for simple strength and clarity. His satire was savage in its mockery. His letters are among the best in English literature. He died on 19 October 1745 leaving £ 8,000 in his will for a home for the insane and to this end St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin was built.
Swift was buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
St Patrick’s University Hospital is a teaching hospital at Kilmainham in Dublin. The building, which is bounded by Steeven’s Lane to the east, and Bow Lane West to the south, is managed by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.
The hospital was founded with money bequeathed by the author Jonathan Swift following his death as “St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles”.
In March 1747, Dr. Steevens’ Hospital agreed to provide a small amount of land fronting Bow Lane for the purposes of building St. Patrick’s, however it was nearly three years afterwards before construction commenced, as the governors became involved in lengthy discussions over plans and architects. In considering the challenges of building such a hospital, it is important to remember that no such institution for housing lunatics had ever been built in Ireland before, and except for Bedlam in London, there was no comparable building in England either. The first step the governors agreed upon was for a high wall to be built around the site. This was achieved in 1747-8 at a cost of £146.
By 1753, the building (designed by George Semple) was completed, but the governors did not have the money to furnish it, to employ staff, or to maintain charity patients. Thus the building lay empty for another four years. On Monday 26 September 1757, the hospital finally admitted its first patients, consisting of six men and four women, referred to as ‘pauper lunaticks’ in hospital records.
In “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift”, the poet anticipated his own death:
He gave the little Wealth he had,
To build a House for Fools and Mad: And shew’d by one satyric Touch, No Nation wanted it so much: That Kingdom he hath left his Debtor,
I wish it soon may have a Better.
Swift himself was declared of unsound mind by a Commission of Lunacy in 1742. Will Durant said of him: “He went a whole year without uttering a word.”
Richard Leeper, who was appointed Resident Medical Superintendent in 1899, introduced a series of important initiatives including providing work and leisure activities for the patients. Norman Moore, who was appointed Resident Medical Superintendent in 1946, introduced occupational therapy, including crafts and farm work to the patients.
After the introduction of deinstitutionalisation in the late 1980s the hospital went into a period of decline. In 2008 the hospital announced the expansion of its outpatient services to a series of regional centres across Ireland. A mental health facility for teenagers known as the “Willow Grove Adolescent Inpatient Unit” opened at the hospital in October 2010.
In July 2011 Trim Tidy Town’s all-out effort to win big in the National Tidy Towns Competition included a number of striking murals springing up around the town. One of the most colourful was a depiction of Gulliver at the old mart, which has become quite a tourist attraction. Until a few days ago I was unaware of the 30ft long mural. The painting of Gulliver and other murals at Spicer’s wall on Watergate Street and underneath the bridge at the Maudlins roundabout are the work of professional artist Meaghan Quinn.
The mart was the venue for the weekly livestock sales for 53 years until 2004 is destined to be used for a housing development. TE Potterton has been trading as an auctioneers since 1886, operating weekly livestock sales at Castle Street in Trim from 1957 until it relocated to an open site less than a mile away on Summerhill Road in 1962. The Trim Mart was for many years one of the largest on the north east.
Following its opening in May 2023 by Minister Heather Humphreys, Solstice Arts Centre undertook the management duties of the new Swift Cultural Centre in Trim on behalf of Meath County Council. The name reflects both the importance of the acclaimed author of “Gulliver Travels” and Trim resident, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), as well as the significance of the swift to Trim’s wildlife and urban ecosystem. The Swift Cultural Centre will collaborate and share meeting rooms and cultural spaces with Trim Library to provide a diverse and enriching community learning, engagement and performance programme for the public. Community use by local artists, societies and community groups remain the primary and core value of the space. The €9m development of the theatre and library included the refurbishment of the former St. Patrick’s Chapel for use as part of the centre. With a seating capacity of up to 235 people, Swift Cultural Centre provides a much-welcomed space for local drama, music and theatre groups.
Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a 1726 prose satire by the Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, satirising both human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is Swift’s best-known full-length work and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver’s Travels “to vex the world rather than divert it”.
The book was an immediate success. The English dramatist John Gay remarked, “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.” In 2015, Robert McCrum released his selection list of the 100 best novels of all time, where he called Gulliver’s Travels “a satirical masterpiece”.
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