Enniskillen is a town and civil parish in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is located almost exactly in the centre of the county, between the Upper and Lower sections of Lough Erne. It had a population of 13,823 at the 2011 Census. It was the seat of local government for the former Fermanagh District Council, and is the county town of Fermanagh as well as its largest town.
Enniskillen in the late 19th century
The town’s name comes from the Irish: Inis Ceithleann. This refers to Cethlenn, a figure in Irish mythology who may have been a goddess. Local legend has it that Cethlenn was wounded in battle by an arrow and attempted to swim across the River Erne, which surrounds the island, but she never reached the other side, so the island was named in reference to her. It has been anglicized many ways over the centuries – Iniskellen, Iniskellin, Iniskillin, Iniskillen, Inishkellen, Inishkellin, Inishkillin, Inishkillen and so on.
The town’s oldest building is Enniskillen Castle, built by Hugh (Maguire) the Hospitable who died in 1428. An earthwork, the Skonce on the shore of Lough Erne, may be the remains of an earlier motte. The castle was the stronghold of the junior branch of the Maguires. The first watergate was built around 1580 by Cú Chonnacht Maguire, though subsequent lowering of the level of the lough has left it without water. The strategic position of the castle made its capture important for the English in 1593, to support their plans for the control of Ulster. The castle was besieged three times in 1594–95. The English, led by a Captain Dowdall, captured it in February 1594. Maguire then laid siege to it, and defeated a relieving force at the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits at Drumane Bridge on the Arney River. Although the defenders were relieved, Maguire gained possession of the castle from 1595 to 1598 and it was not finally captured by the English until 1607.
This was part of a wider campaign to bring the province of Ulster under English control; the final capture of Enniskillen Castle in 1607 was followed by the Plantation of Ulster, during which the lands of the native Irish were seized and handed over to planters loyal to the English Crown. The Maguires were supplanted by William Cole, originally from Devon, who was appointed by James I to build an English settlement there.
Captain Cole was installed as Constable and strengthened the castle wall and built a “fair house” on the old foundation as the centre point of the county town. The first Protestant parish church was erected on the hilltop in 1627. The Royal Free School of Fermanagh was moved onto the island in 1643. The first bridges were drawbridges; permanent bridges were not installed before 1688.
By 1689 the town had grown significantly. During the conflict which resulted from the ousting of King James II by his Protestant rival, William III, Enniskillen and Derry were the focus of Williamite resistance in Ireland, including the nearby Battle of Newtownbutler.
Enniskillen and Derry were the two garrisons in Ulster that were not wholly loyal to James II, and it was the last town to fall before the siege of Derry. As a direct result of this conflict, Enniskillen developed not only as a market town but also as a garrison, which became home to two regiments.
The current site of Fermanagh College (now part of the South West College) was the former Enniskillen Gaol. Many people were tried and hanged in the square during the times of public execution. Part of the old Gaol is still used by the college.
Enniskillen is the site of the foundation of two British Army regiments:
- Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- The Inniskillings (6th Dragoons)
The town’s name (with the archaic spelling) continues to form part of the title to The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment). Enniskillen Castle features on the cap badge of both regiments.
The Enniskillen Dragoon is a famous Irish folk song associated with the Inniskilling Dragoons Regiment. Tommy Makem wrote additional verses and re-named the song Fare Thee Well, Enniskillen.
The Chieftains sing a song that mentions Enniskillen titled “North Amerikay”.
Jim Kerr of Simple Minds was so moved by the horror of the Enniskillen bombing in 1987 that he wrote new words to the traditional folk song “She Moved Through The Fair” and the group recorded it with the name “Belfast Child”. The recording reached No. 1 in the UK Charts, Ireland and several other countries in 1989. The single was taken from the album Street Fighting Years; the single version was also published with the title “Ballad of the Streets”. The video to the song was shot in black and white and displays poignant footage of children and the destruction of the bombing. Similarly, U2 held a concert the same day as the bombing; during a performance of their song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, singer Bono passionately condemned the bombing, stating “fuck the revolution” in his mid-song speech. The footage is included in U2’s rockumentary Rattle and Hum.
Neil Hannon also mentions Enniskillen in his song “Sunrise”.
The Irish language novel Mo Dhá Mhicí by Séamus Mac Annaidh is set in Enniskillen.
On Census day (27 March 2011) there were 13,823 people living in Enniskillen (5,733 households), accounting for 0.76% of the NI total and representing an increase of 1.6% on the Census 2001 population of 13,599. Of these:
- 19.76% were aged under 16 years and 15.59% were aged 65 and over;
- 51.80% of the usually resident population were female and 48.20% were male;
- 61.62% belong to or were brought up in the Catholic religion and 33.55% belong to or were brought up in a ‘Protestant and Other Christian (including Christian related)’ religion;
- 35.59% indicated that they had a British national identity, 33.77% had an Irish national identity and 30.35% had a Northern Irish national identity (respondents could indicate more than one national identity);
- 39 years was the average (median) age of the population;
- 13.03% had some knowledge of Irish (Gaelic) and 3.65% had some knowledge of Ulster-Scots.
Like the vast majority of Britain and Ireland, Enniskillen has a maritime climate with a narrow range of temperatures and rainfall. The nearest official Met Office weather station for which online records are available is at Lough Navar Forest, about 8 1/2 mi (14 km) northwest of Enniskillen. Data has also more recently been collected from Enniskillen/St Angelo Airport, under 4 mi (6 km) north of the town centre, which should in time give a more accurate representation of the climate of the Enniskillen area.
The absolute maximum temperature is 29.8 °C (85.6 °F), recorded during July 2006. In an ‘average’ year, the warmest day is 25.5 °C (77.9 °F) and only 2.4 days a year should rise to 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above. The respective absolute maximum for St Angelo is 29.4 °C (84.9 °F)
The absolute minimum temperature is -12.9 °C (8.8 °F), recorded during January 1984. In an ‘average’ year, the coldest night should fall to -8.2 °C (17.2 °F). Lough Navar is a frosty location, with some 76 air frosts recorded in a typical year. It is likely that Enniskillen town centre is significantly less frosty than this. The absolute minimum at St Angelo is -14.5 °C (5.9 °F), reported during the record cold month of December 2010.
The warmest month on record at St Angelo was August 1995 with a mean temperature of 18.8 °C (65.8 °F) (mean maximum 23.3 °C (73.9 °F), mean minimum 12.9 °C (55.2 °F), while the coldest month was December 2010, with a mean temperature of -1.8 °C (28.8 °F) (mean maximum 2.9 °C (37.2 °F), mean minimum -5.9 °C (21.4 °F).
Rainfall is high, averaging over 1500 mm. 212 days of the year report at least 1 mm of precipitation, ranging from 15 days during April, May and June, to 20 days in October, November, December, January and March.
The Köppen climate classification subtype for this climate is “Cfb” (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).
The town has two association football teams called Enniskillen Rangers and Enniskillen Town United F.C.
Enniskillen Rangers are the current holders of the Irish Junior Cup, defeating Hill Street 5-1 on Monday, 1 May 2017. The match was played at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast. They play their home games at the Ball Range.
Enniskillen Rangers have several notable former players including Sandy Fulton and Jim Cleary.
Enniskillen Town United F.C. currently play in the Fermanagh & Western 1st Division. Their most notable former player is Michael McGovern who currently plays for Norwich City F.C. At the moment, Enniskillen Town play their home games at The Lakeland Forum playing fields in Enniskillen.
Enniskillen Rugby Football Club was founded in 1925 and plays their home games at Mullaghmeen. The club currently fields 4 senior men’s teams, a senior ladies teams, a range of male and female youth teams, a vibrant mini section and a disability tag team called The Enniskillen Elks. Enniskillen XV won the Ulster Towns Cup in the 2018/19 season, defeating Ballyclare 19-0. The team currently play in Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1.
The rugby club was formed on 28 August 1925, when 37 attended a meeting in Enniskillen Town Hall. The name Enniskillen Rugby Club was agreed and the club adopted the rules of Dublin University. The first match was played on 30 September 1925 against Ballyshannon in County Donegal.
Enniskillen Gaels are a Gaelic Athletic Association club founded in 1927. They play their home games at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Enniskillen was the venue of the 39th G8 summit which was held on 17 and 18 June 2013. It was held at the Lough Erne Resort, a five-star hotel and golf resort on the shore of Lough Erne. The gathering was the biggest international diplomatic gathering ever held in Northern Ireland. Among the G8 leaders who attended were British Prime Minister David Cameron, United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the past, Enniskillen has hosted an array of international events, most notably stages of the World Waterski World Cup, annually from 2005 to 2007 at the Broadmeadow. Despite its success, Enniskillen was not chosen as a World Cup Stop for 2008.
In January 2009, Enniskillen hosted the ceremonial start of Rally Ireland 2009, the first stage of the WRC FIA World Rally Championship 2009 Calendar.
Enniskillen has hosted the Happy Days arts festival since 2012, which celebrates “the work and influence of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett” and is the “first annual, international, multi-arts festival to be held in Northern Ireland since the launch of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s in 1962”.
Rail – Historic
Railway lines from Enniskillen railway station linked the town with Derry from 1854, Dundalk from 1861, Bundoran from 1868 and Sligo from 1882. By 1883 the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) absorbed all the lines except the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway, which remained independent throughout its existence. In October 1957 the Government of Northern Ireland closed the GNR line, which made it impossible for the SL&NCR continue and forced it also to close.
Rail – Current
The nearest railway station to Enniskillen is Sligo station which is served by trains to Dublin Connolly and is operated by Iarnród Éireann. The Dublin-Sligo railway line has a two-hourly service run by Iarnród Éireann Official site – Timetables, bookings and operations The connecting bus from Sligo via Manorhamilton to Enniskillen is route 66 operated by Bus Éireann.
Bus service to Enniskillen is provided by both Ulsterbus and Bus Éireann, from Enniskillen bus station. Number 261, 261b and X261 Goldline buses run from Belfast to Enniskillen. Bus Éireann Route 30 runs from Donegal to Dublin Airport/Dublin City via Enniskillen.
Enniskillen has a World War II-era airport, Enniskillen/St Angelo Airport. The airport had scheduled flights in the past but now serves mainly private traffic.
The town is on the main A4/N16 route linking Belfast and Sligo, and on the main Dublin to Ballyshannon route, the N3/A46/A509.
Enniskillen was originally twinned with Brackwede – a Bielefeld suburb – where the Inniskilling Dragoon Guards were stationed in the late 1950s when the twinning was initiated; however, this suburb was incorporated into Stadt Bielefeld in 1973, the city with which Enniskillen is now officially twinned.
Though the twinning arrangements are still operational, at a meeting of the Regeneration and Community Committee, in February 2018, it was agreed that the twinning arrangements would be formally terminated at the end of the Council term in June 2018. However, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council still have plans to send representatives to Brackwede for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the twinning. Therefore, the future of the twinning is now somewhat unclear.