Wexford (Irish: Loch Garman) is the county town of County Wexford in the Republic of Ireland. It is situated near the south-eastern tip of Ireland, close to Rosslare Europort. The town is connected to the capital Dublin via the N11 National Primary Route (European route E1), and the national rail network.
Wexford lies on the south side of Wexford Harbour, the estuary of the River Slaney. The town was founded by the Vikings in about 800 AD. They named it Waes Fjord, inlet of the mud flats, and the name has changed only slightly into its present form.
Wexford was not very successful as a port, because of the constantly changing sands of Wexford Harbour. In the early 20th Century, a new port was built, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south, at Rosslare Harbour, now known as Rosslare Europort. This is a deepwater harbour unaffected by tides and currents. All major shipping now uses this port and Wexford port is used only by small fishing boats.
The town of Wexford closely follows the quays, which run in a northwest to southeast dirrection. The main street runs more or less parallel to the river and is about a mile long from Redmond Square at the northwest end to Barrack Street at the southeast end. It starts as Selskar Street, runs into the square called the Bull Ring, then proceeds as Main Street. Almost all the shops in Wexford lie along this one line.
A modern bridge connects Wexford town with the northern part of the county. It is one of the longest bridges in Ireland.
In the early 20th century, Wexford was a poor town, with nothing whatsoever to offer a visitor. The fortune of the town started to change in 1950 with the institution of the Wexford Opera Festival . The organisers bought an old defunct theatre, the Theatre Royal , and started to produce operas. This was an unusual decision as Ireland does not have a strong opera tradition. At first, they staged only well-known works. Gradually, as times improved, they became more daring and eventually decided that they would always put on unknown operas. The festival became world renowned. Many young international singers started their careers singing in Wexford. The festival now runs for three weeks at the end of October. Three operas are performed in rotation, so that a visitor staying for any three successive nights can attend all three operas. The operas were normally accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland . A dispute with this orchestra in the last few years has led to a number of Eastern European orchestras being used instead: the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus and the Cracow Philharmonic Orchestra .
Along with the opera, a large number of other musical and artistic events take place in Wexford during the three weeks of the festival. The festival is much more than just opera. There are singing pubs, concerts, recitals and art exhibitions.
See also: List of towns in the Republic of Ireland
Last updated: 05-18-2005 18:21:56