One explanation of the origin of the name Harold’s Cross is that it is derived from the name given to a gallows, which had been placed where the current Harold’s Cross Park is situated. Harold’s Cross was an execution ground for the city of Dublin during the 18th century and earlier. In the 14th century the gallows there was maintained by the Archbishop.
Harold’s Cross stands on lands which formed, like those of Rathmines, part of the Manor of St. Sepulchre, and its name is said to have originated in a cross which marked the boundary of the lands of the Archbishop of Dublin, and warned the Harolds, the wild guardians of the border of the Pale near Whitechurch that they must not encroach Harold’s Cross. The De Meones family, who gave their name to Rathmines, also owned lands at Harold’s Cross in the fourteenth century.
Another explanation is that it is derived from a stone cross that marked the boundary of lands held by the Danish Viking Harold family of Rathfarnham in early medieval times, reputedly located at what is now the five-road Kenilworth junction on Harold’s Cross Road.
The memorial cross at Harold’s Cross was sculpted by local Sculptor/stonemason, Mr Joseph Courtney. His father, Patrick Courtney, was also a sculptor and worked on the internal altar and stone works of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist or “John’s Lane” in Thomas Street.
Harold’s Cross Green was a key meeting point for members of the Society of United Irishmen just before the 1798 Rebellion, rebels such as Thomas Cloney and Myles Byrne met the commander Robert Emmet to discuss tactics for the pending uprising.
Irish Nationalist leader, Robert Emmet, was captured near Harold’s Cross. He lived for a period in a house in Harold’s Cross so he could be near his sweetheart, Sarah Curran, of Rathfarnham. He led an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 and was captured, tried and executed. The Grand Canal bridge linking Harold’s Cross Road and Clanbrassil Street was named in his honour, where a plaque commemorates him (the bridge was formerly called Clanbrassil Bridge, and is known locally as Harold’s Cross Bridge).
Mount Argus Church is in the area and was the official home of Saint Charles of Mount Argus who was a well-known Passionist priest in 19th-century Ireland, he was mentioned as a miracle worker in the book Ulysses.
The father of Pádraig Pearse, James, was a stonemason for Mount Argus Church. The Pearse family had a long association with the Passionists and Mount Argus. Both Pádraig and Willie Pearse came for confessions on the day of the Easter Rising. Mrs Pearse and Pádraig himself also taught Irish language lessons in the community Scout hall next to the church. The 1916 Volunteers, who had a training ground in nearby Kimmage, are said to have paid a visit to Mount Argus Church to pray just before taking part in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Image | Memorial cross at Harold’s Cross Park, Dublin