The name Larne derives from Latharna which was a small fuedal territory that reached from the lough up the coast to Glenarm, it was ruled by Lathar who was granted the land by his father, the high king of Ireland. The site has been a well known and important landing place, harbour and sheltered since man first settled here after the last ice age.
The evidence for early settlement remains in the landscape around Larne and Islandmagee and it was this evidence that led ancient mariners to nam it Port Saxa (port of the Standing Stones). More recent archeology at the Curran which is a raised beach revealed thousands of flint artefacts from the mesolithic period. More evidence of it being known far and wide is it being mentioned and marked on a map by the Greek astrologer and geographer Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD.
The Vikings who raided and settled many parts of Ireland around 900AD also knew of Larne and used it on many occassions, they gave the lough the early name of ‘Wulsrichefiord’ which after their departure from Ireland changed to Olderfleet.
The ruins of Olderfleet Castle which is also referenced as Curran Castle stands at Curran Point ovelooking the short stretch of water to Islandmagee. The site probably developed from a fortification built by the Vikings. The first stone castle was built here by the Bissett family who were granted rights by Henry III in the mid 1200s. The Bissetts had the lease of Islandmagee, later the lands came into the ownership of the McDonnels through marriage. The tower we see today at Oldefleet dates to 1500s.
Edward the Bruce landed here in 1315 with 6,000 troops having been invited over to take possession of the kingship of Ireland and was welcomed by the Bissets at Curran Castle (Olderfleet). In 1621, the castle and lands were granted to Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy of Ireland who was an instrumental player in the expansion and development of Belfast during the Plantation of Ulster. A ferry service that still operates across the narrow water is documented in the grants to Chichester (1610) Chichester also was prior to his promotion the Governor of Carrickfergus, he is interred along with his wife and child in St Nicholas Church in Carrickfergus. His brother, another governor of Carrickfergus, who was killed during a confrontation with the McDonnells is aso interred there,
The port of Larne as a commercial business really developed from the mid 1800s when it was bought by James Chaine who invested significantly into its modernisation. By 1875 he had establiished a regular ferry service to the mainland and a regular trans Atlantic service between Glasgow, Larne and New York, this ran until 1889.
James Chaine died at the age of 44 years from pneumonia, to remember him the people of Larne raised funds through public subscription and built the wonderful Chaine Memorial Tower which stands at the entrance to the harbour.
Close by is another memorial to one of the worst shipping tragedies of recent times in the United Kingdom. This occurred on 31st January 1953 when the Princess Victoria, a roll on, roll off car ferry built in 1947 sank during horrendous seas with the loss of 133 people. The ship had put to sea during a gale warning, though none could have predicted the conditions, the winds in parts of Ireland, Scotland and England reached 100mph.
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