Fishguard is a coastal town in north Pembrokeshire, overlooking Cardigan Bay. Its name in Welsh, Abergwaun, reflects its position at the mouth of the Gwaun river; its name in English derives from the Old Norse Fiskigarðr – ‘fish catching enclosure’ – and reveals the town’s long history as a trading port. Goods such as limestone, coal, slate, wool and foodstuffs all passed through its harbour.
The prosperity of the port attracted the attention of raiders: in 1779 the privateer Black Prince captured a local ship, demanding £1000 ransom. When the townspeople refused to pay up, the privateer’s crew bombarded Fishguard, damaging local houses and St Mary’s Church (which was subsequently renovated and is home to some fine stained glass windows). Castle Point Old Fort was built in response to this episode: it was from here that the Welsh fired cannon at French forces in the ‘Last Invasion of Britain’ in February 1797. Led by the Irish-American William Tate, the French ‘Légion Noire’ landed at Carregwastad Point on 22 February. They were about 1400 strong, but badly organized, and surrendered unconditionally on Goodwick Sands after three days.
Two hundred years later these events were commemorated in a 100-foot long tapestry created by the community, now displayed in the Town Hall. As the old port declined in the nineteenth century, the arrival of the railway in 1906 brought transatlantic liners to nearby Goodwick (Gwdig), where a new harbour was built and from where Stena Line now runs its passenger service to Rosslare. Fishguard was also home to the Welsh writer D.J. Williams (1885-1970), and the picturesque quayside at Lower Town famously featured in the films Moby Dick (1956) and Under Milk Wood (1972).
Read stories about Fishguard, Goodwick and their coastal surrounds here.