History of Clonakilty
and surrounding Districts
(by JOHN T. COLLINS)
CLONAKILTY is situated in one of the
tuatha or tribe lands of the Corca Luighe. This was a pre-Milesian race and the
name Luighe was common among their early chiefs.
One of those, Lughaidh Mac Con was Monarch of Ireland. He is supposed to have been interred in Corran-hill in the parish of Desertserges from which a magnificent view embraces the southern coast from the Old Head of Kinsale westward. A cairn which marked the spot was opened in the early part of the last century and the urn contained in it is now in a Belfast Museum.
According to the Book of Ballymote, Corca Luighe extended from Beann Finn westward to Tragumina and Lough Ine and from Beal Atha Buidhe to Tragh Claen at the rock.
It is very unsafe to dogmatise on Irish place-names but it is likely that Beann Finn stands for Mounteen Hill near Ballina¬scarthy on the summit of which there is a tumulus called Suidhe Finn. Another name may represent the fort of Ballyboy on the Bandon river and Tragh Claen may be where Cleena's rock is situated near the Galley Head.
Each tuath of Corca Luighe was governed by a taoiseach and beneath him were the hereditary leaders. Tuatha O Fitcheallaigh and O Dunghalaigh merged in Clonakilty.
O'Fehilly and O'Dunlea were the taoiseacha. Oglaigh or Leaders are represented by names which still survive, i.e. Duggan, Keady, Eady, Anglin, Kennedy, Cagney, Hennessy, Leary, Dineen, Cronin, Hayes or O'Hea, Murray, Dulea, Coffey, Cowhig,Cullinane, Downey, Lahiffe, Shinnick, Deady, and Muintir Oh Illigh or Hill. The O'Driscolls were the ruling race.
These races had been gradually pushed south of the Bandon river by the Eoghanachta of which the ruling families were the O'Mahonys and O'Donoghues. Other names have descended in the form of Spillane, O'Neill, Long, Flynn, Keating, Ring, Canty, Mehigan, Dillon, Healy, Slattery, Coghlan, Cahalane, Canniffe, Heenigan, Flahive, Hurley, Wholey, Kearney, etc.
Buaig and Munig of the Corca Luighe with Aghna and Feichin of the Eoghanachta survive only as leas-ainmeacha or affixes to other names. It is likely that both races had merged before the Anglo-Norman Invasion.
The many "lioses" and raths which stud the district are survivals of this period. The great fort at Tawnies near Clonakilty being an outstanding example. The little ruined church of Templebrian (not far distant) dates from an early Christian period. It is surrounded by a circular caiseal and nearby is a "stone circle." Many early churches such as Teampul Fachtna near Rosscarbery were built near pre-Christian places of veneration. So were Templeomalus, Templequinlan, Temple-Ventrie, etc.
The place-names Tullymurrihy, Ballymodan, Dundeady, Dunworley, Ballyvireen all take their names from Corca Luighe Chiefs while the barony of Ibaune represents the Ui Badhamhna.
Now came the Anglo-Normans. The Arundels erected a castle near Ring and for many centuries Lords Arundel of the Strand drew revenue from lands and fishing rights. The Barrys erected a castle within an ancient rath and styled it Rathbarry. The Hodnetts erected a mansion and from one of their lords who became gaelicised named it Courtmacsherry. The red-haired Barrys conquered Lislee and named it Barryroe. The De Courceys having conquered Kinsale district crossed the Bandon river westward as far as Ballincoursey.
The Anglo-Normans also drove the O'Sullivans out of Tipperary and the O'Donovans, Collinses and Connollys out of West Limerick, and they retreating southward further circuni-scribed the Corca Luighe. The McCarthys had arrived from Cashel a century previously and aided by the O'Connors of Connacht had dominated the Cork district. They too retreated westward into Kerry where they rallied after a few generations. In 1232, Donal Got McCarthy led an army into the Bandon river district, near Dunmanway, and defeated the Corca Luighe represented by the Coffeys and the Eoghanachta as represented by the O'Mahonys, His son Fineen defeated an Anglo-Irish army at Callan near Kenmare in 1261 but was slain later while besieging the De Courcey Castle of Ringrone. Intermittent conflicts continued. John De Courcey and his brother Patrick were slain at Inchidony by an army led by Donal Maol Mc¬Carthy in 1295. Through the ensuing centuries the De Courceys were swept eastward to the Old Head district and eventually their castle at Kilbrittain became the chief stronghold of the McCarthy Reaghs. The Anglo-Norman settlers Arundels, Barrys, Hodnetts, Roches existed as best they could as their English kinsmen were unable to assist them. They inter¬married with O'Mahonys, McCarthys, O'Heas, Hurleys, Crowleys, etc. and so became partly gaelicised.
From Enniskeane to Arundel harbour was a long strip of McCarthy territory which served as a wedge separating the Red Barry's country from their kinsmen of the Rath. It was called Tuath na Coillte and included Knockskagh, Fourcuil, Grancore, Skartagh, Tawnies, Templebryan, Kilgarriffe, Miles, Lisbarnane and Youghals.
It is likely that the name represented "the country of the woods" as some of the townland names have to do with woods or shrubberies. Fineen McOwen MeDermody McCarthy, the ruling chief, was slain in 1598. David Lord Barry obtained an enquiry which found that Fineen was slain as a rebel and his lands were forfeited. David was granted a lease of these lands and later exchanged them with Richard first earl of Cork and the latter became possessed of Tuath na Coillte.
At a place where the little Feale river meets the tide there must have existed a river crossing. The word Cloghan may have been applied to the stepping stones at the ford or to buildings which stood there which were of a better type than the Cloichini at the other side of the river. However this may be, when the Earl of Cork sought a charter for the new town, he named the place Cloghnakilty. Other forms used were Cloghannakiltee and Cloghnagoilty. In 1613 the charter was granted. The town was to extend one mile outward from an old chapel and the liberties to embrace lands within a three mile limit. The government of the town comprised a sovereign or provost burgesses and commonalty with the Earl of Cork as patron. Justice was administered by a Recorder appointed by the earl and the burgesses were entitled to send two members to the Irish Parliament.
In 1642 the great Insurrection which had broken out in Ulster extended to West Cork. The alien element in Clonakilty either sought refuge in Bandon or remained as prisoners in the Market House guarded by the Irish who now occupied the town. Others went to Rathbarry Castle which they put into a state of defence. They were attacked by O'Donovans, Hurleys, Hartes, O'Heas, Collinses and Barrys. They were relieved in October 1642 by an English force under Lord Forbes which had landed at Kinsale, aided by the Bandon garrison. On going and returning they were attacked along the country between Clonakilty and Rathbarry. They are said to have driven the Irish to Inchidony Island where many were drowned.
During the ensuing seven years the country to the west of Bandon was in Irish hands but when Cromwell came in 1649 the scene changed. Then claims for compensation for war-damage poured in, and the lands of those who had not shown constant good affection to the English were declared forfeited.
They included Hartes of Carrigroe, O'Heas of Ahamilla, Arundels of Ring, O'Cullanes of Darrara, Roches of Kilgarriffe, Crowleys of Kilnagross, O'Donovans of Reenroe, Hurleys of Kilbree, etc. all described as Irish Papists. The second Earl of Cork obtained a great deal of this land to compensate him for his father's losses. So did Sir William Penn, Major Allen, Francis Beamish, John Freke, Lieut. Col. Honner and many others. They in turn divided their newly acquired estates amongst reputable middle-men such as Jermyns, Beechers, Hungerfords, Town sends, etc., and a new aristocracy arose around Clonakilty who set about reviving the town.
They were proceeding happily until that unaccountable people, the Irish, rose again. In theory they were supporting their lawful king James II, but they stood for the Irish and not the English interest. In 1688 the Earl of Tyrconnell Lord Lieutenant, revoked the Earl of Cork's charter and substituted another under which Catholics were allowed to participate in the government of the town. Daniel McCarthy Reagh became Provost and in the Patriot Parliament of 1689 the borough of Cloghnakilty was represented by Daniel Fionn McCarthy and Owen McCarthy.
The battle of Aughrim and the capture of Cork and Limerick by those who stood for the English interest put an end to this interlude. The old charter was resumed and Frekes, Beechers, Hungerfords, Townsends, Gookins, Jermyns, etc. ruled the town for another century and a half under the patronage of the Earls of Shannon (descended from the first Earl of Cork). They ruled it well from their point of view and did their utmost to encourage its industrial development.
If they had used their power over land and life, ruthlessly, the native Irish could not have survived. But they were tolerant and the balmy air of the South softened their original harshness so the descendants of the Corca Luighe and Eoghanacht have survived and after the lapse of close on eight centuries are no longer a subject race in Clonakilty district.
Clonakilty District Past & Present - A Tourist guide to the area - [P. 80-83 Clonakilty and District Past and Present] The guide was published by the Southern Star Ltd for the Clonakilty C.Y.M.S.
My thanks to Henry McFadden for providing this information.