These short blurbs were written for a panel installed in the Riverside Maxol station in Navan, County Meath, in 2023. The illustrations are by the wonderful Derry Dillon.
The Windscale Man
Navan-born Francis Beaufort oversaw the creation of a treasure trove of 2,000 maps, charting every sea on earth. He also invented the Beaufort wind scale, which measures windspeeds between Force 0 (dead calm) and Force 12 (batten down the hatches, it’s a hurricane.) The Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean is named in his honour.
Carpeting the World
The Navan Carpet Factory, which ran from 1938 until 2003, employed 550 men and women at its peak, making it the biggest employer in the town. The factory provided richly coloured, top quality carpets for global hotels such as the Marriott Hotel in Orlando, the Beverly Hills Hilton, the Waldorf Astoria NY and the Isrotel Princess in Eliat, Israel. The site is now the Blackwater Retail Park.
Pierce Brosnan became a global icon after he starred as James Bond in four 007 blockbusters between 1995 and 2002. Pierce spent his first 11 years in Navan, which he regards as his hometown, before joining his mother in London. In 1964, his stepfather took him to the cinema to watch ‘Goldfinger,’ the new Bond film. A few years later, he began training as an actor. The playwright Tennessee Williams gave him his first major stage role in 1975.
The longest run for any single in Irish music history belongs to ‘One Day at a Time,’ which remained in the charts for 90 consecutive weeks. The singer of the 1977 gospel classic was Navan-born Gloria Smyth. Music was in her blood. As a teenager, she performed alongside her family in a showband called the Arcadians. The Maxol station on Flower Hill, Navan, was opened by the Miami Showband’s Dickie Rock. Joe Tyrell, the Miami Showband’s pianist, was a brother of John Tyrell, one of Maxol’s leading painters.
My grandfather’s great-uncle Whitwell Butler fought at Waterloo. He was born at Staffodstown, Brownstown, Navan, County Meath, Ireland, in 1798 and educated at Sandhurst. At the age of 17, he apparently served at Waterloo as an Ensign in Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Mercer’s Company in the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, of the Foot Guards. Whitwell, is said to have spent the day in Hougemont Farm. Some say he carried the Colours at Waterloo but my late uncle, who knew his Waterloo, believed the Colours were left outside. I wonder if anyone knows more?
- Arthur Mathews, the BAFTA award-winning comedy writer of ‘Father Ted’, grew up in Navan.
- The Boyne Hill Stud near Navan was the birthplace of Blushing Groom, one of the only horses to have won the four top French two-year-old classics. Awarded the title of ‘European Champion Three Year Old’ in 1977, he went on become one of the most successful sires of all time.
- Sion House in Navan was owned by Robert Grimshaw Dunville, third Chairman of Dunville & Co.
- Metge Road in Navan named for the late Avia Riddell-Martin’s family
- See also my account of Bermingham’s Pub