Newcastle is a small town in Co Down. The seaside resort lies on the Irish Sea coast at the base of Slieve Donard, one of the Mourne Mountains, and is known for its sandy beach. The name of the town is thought to derive from a castle (demolished in the 19th century) built by Felix Magennis in the late 16th century which stood at the mouth of the Shimna River. Although it is mentioned by the name of Newcastle as early as 1433, so it is likely that another castle had previously stood there.
In the 17th century Ulster ports began to rise in prominence. In 1625 William Pitt was appointed as Customer of the ports of Newcastle, Dundrum, Killough, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor and Holywood.
On 13 January 1843, boats from Newcastle and Annalong set out for the usual fishing stations, and were caught in a gale. Fourteen boats were lost in the heavy seas including a boat which had gone to the rescue. Only two boats survived, the Victoria and the Brothers. Seventy-six men perished, forty-six of whom were from Newcastle. They left twenty seven widows, 118 children, and twenty-one dependents. A Public Subscription was raised and the cottages, known as Widows Row, were built for the widows and dependents. A local song about the disaster says “Newcastle town is one long street entirely stripped of men.”
Photo: Widows Row, Newcastle, Co Down, © Mac Creative Photography