Skibbereen

Skibbereen

Skibbereen (An Sciobairín in Irish), is a town in West Cork, Ireland. It is considered to be the "capital" of West Cork (just as Clonakilty is considered to be the "beach centre" of West Cork). The name, which often shortened to "Skibb", means "little boat harbour". The river Ilen which runs through the town reaches the sea at Baltimore. 

Tourism Four kilometres from the town is the beautiful Lough Hyne and Knockonagh Forest walk. This enchanting lough is Europe's largest salt-water lake and boasts an amazing array of unusual marine life. Despite numerous studies, scientists have still to unearth the mystery surrounding the fact that the lough is always some 3°C warmer than the sea to which is it connected, and contains marine life ususally only found in the Mediterranean. 

History Prior to 1600 most of the land belonged to the native McCarthy tribe - today McCarthy remains the town's most common surname. At the height of the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849) in 1847 the body of an unnamed boy, taken for lifeless, was placed in a coffin in the Town Square and conveyed for burial to the Abbey Cemetery. As he was lowered into the pit, the youth regained consciousness and walked unaided from the grave. It is probable that some 8,000-10,000 Famine victims are buried in the Famine Burial Pits of Abbeystrewery Cemetery. Skibbereen is also the name of a song about the Famine, and the impact it and the British Government had on the people of Ireland. The song, known as Dear Old Skibbereen, takes the form of a conversation between a father and a son, in which the son asks his father why fled the land he loved so well. The father relates to his son how the famine ruined his farm in Skibbereen, and killed his wife. Unable to pay taxes. In the final verse the son swears he will return to Skibbereen to take vengeance on the government that he holds accountable. Recently Sinead O'Connor covered the song. Lyrics "...the landlord and the bailiff came to drive us all away. They set the roof on fire with their cursed English spleen, And that's another reason why I left old Skibbereen." During the Famine the Cork Examiner reported "Skibbereen- In the parish of Kilmoe, fourteen died on Sunday; three of these were buried in coffins, eleven were buried without other covering than the rags they wore when alive. And one gentleman, a good and charitable man, speaking of this case, says 'The distress is so appalling, that we must throw away all feelings of delicacy;' and another says 'I would rather give 1s. to a starving man than 4s. 6d. for a coffin.' One hundred and forty have died in the Skibbereen Workhouse in one month; eight have died in one day! And Mr. M'Carthy Downing states that 'they came into the house merely and solely for the purpose of getting a coffin.' The Rev. Mr. Clancy visits a farm, and there, in one house, 'he administered the last rites of religion to six person.' On a subsequent occasion, he 'prepared for death a father and a daughter lying in the same bed.' Dr. Donovan solemnly assures a public meeting that the people are 'dropping in dozens about them.' Mr. Marmion says that work on the public road is even more destructive than fever; for the unfed wretches have not energy enough to keep their blood in circulation, and they drop down from the united effects of cold and hunger--never to rise again."

The Skibbereen Eagle, a newspaper founded in 1857, became famous by declaring it was "keeping an eye on the Czar of Russia" over his expansionist designs on China. This newspaper was superseded by the Cork County Southern Star, founded in 1889, its first editor DD Sheehan, and included amongst its shareholders one Michael Collins.

History (as described in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837).
" SKIBBEREEN, a market and post-town, partly in the parish of ABBEYSTROWRY, but chiefly in that of CREAGH, Eastern Division of the barony of WEST CARBERY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 42 miles (S. W.) from Cork, on the mail road to Bantry, and 167 1/4 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 4429 inhabitants. In 1691, an engagement took place in the vicinity between the forces of Jas. II. and Col. Becher, who commanded about 500 of the militia, when the former were put to flight, with the loss of 60 men and a large number of cattle. Three years afterwards, a party of 40 rapparees came into the town and plundered the custom-house, which belonged to the port of Baltimore, and killed two revenue officers. The town, from its situation in a wild, unenclosed part of the country, has frequently been the rendezvous of disaffected parties, but it has been much improved of late years, and is now a very flourishing place. It is situated on the southern bank of the river Ilen, and comprises seven streets; that part which extends into the parish of Abbeystrowry is called Bridgetown, and consists of three streets, one of which has been recently formed. The number of houses in the whole town is 1014, many of which, in the eastern part and in the parish of Creagh, are large and well built: the approaches have been much improved by the formation of new lines of road at each extremity. 

This place had formerly a very considerable trade, arising from the manufacture of woollen cloth, linen, checks, and handkerchiefs, which has altogether declined: it is, however, very advantageously situated for trade in an extensive and improving district; the tide from the harbour of Baltimore flows up to the town, and the river is navigable for vessels of 200 tons' burden to Oldcourt, two miles below Skibbereen. In the town are capacious storehouses for corn, and a considerable quantity of flour is also exported from the mills of Mr. .J. Clark, on the bank of the Ilen, a quarter of a mile from the town. A porter brewery upon an extensive scale was established in 1809; it is the property of Daniel Mc Carthy, Esq., and is in full operation, many of the neighbouring towns being supplied from the establishment. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday, the former for the Bridgetown portion, and the latter, which is the principal market, for Staplestown. Milk and fuel are also exposed daily in the market-place for sale. The supply of provisions is very abundant, particularly fish and poultry: pigs and sheep are also sold in great numbers. The marketplace being small, and the market-house old and inconvenient, the articles brought for sale on the regular market-days are exposed in the public streets and in a place called the square. Fairs are held on May 14th, July 10th, Aug. 2nd, Oct. 12th, and Dec. 11th and 23rd; and petty sessions on Wednesdays. The sessions-house and bridewell is a large and handsome building in the Grecian style, occupying an elevated site near the entrance to the town from Cork. There is also an infantry barrack; and Skibbereen is the residence of the inspecting commander of the coast-guard stations of the district, of which it is the head, comprising those of Milkcove, Glandore, Castle-Townsend, Barlogue, Baltimore, Long Island, Crookhaven, Dunmanus, and Whitehorse, and extending from Sheep Head to Rosscarbery.

The parochial church of Abbeystrowry is situated in Bridgetown; it is a large edifice in the early English style, with a tower at the east end, erected in 1827, at an expense of £1200, towards which £900 was contributed by the late Board of First Fruits. The R. C. chapel, situated near the sessions-house, is a spacious and handsome edifice in the Grecian style, erected in 1826, at an expense of £3000: the interior is fitted up with great taste, and the altar, which is ornamented with a painting of the Crucifixion, is very chaste: it was built under the direction of the late Dr. Collins, R. C. Bishop of Ross, who resided here, and is the principal chapel of the union, to which Skibbereen gives name. There is also a Wesleyan Methodist chapel, a small but neat edifice. Parochial schools for boys and girls were erected near the church, in 1825, by the vicar; and an infants' school was built in 1835. There is also a Sunday school under the care of the Protestant clergyman. Near the R. C. chapel are large school-houses, built by the late Dr. Collins, which are supported by the National Board. A dispensary is maintained in the customary manner. There are numerous large and handsome houses near the town, the principal of which are noticed in the description of Abbeystrowry."

Images of Skibbereen


Map of Cork West Cork showing the location of Skibbereen.


Bridge Street, Skibbereen circa 1900.


Skibbereen circa 1900.

County Cork (Contae Chorcaí in Irish) is the most southwesterly and the largest of the modern counties of Ireland. The county is often referred to as the "Rebel County" because it has often taken a position in major conflicts different to that of most of Ireland. The county's tourist attractions include the Blarney Stone and Cobh (formerly Queenstown) which was the Titanic's last port of call. The remote west of the county, known as West Cork, is a popular destination for tourists, who visit the small villages and islands including Sherkin, Clear, and Dursey and on the mainland Mizen Head which is the "southwesternmost point in Ireland".

Skibbereen is located in the West Cork proper, which is a popular tourist area with every town having numerous Hotels, Guesthouses (also known as Bed and Breakfasts or B&Bs) and Holiday Homes (also known as Self Catering). Many tourists base themselves in Skibbereen and travel to other West Cork towns and villages such as Bantry, Schull, and Clonakilty.

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