Author Barry Keane delivered a talk, ‘Cork’s Revolutionary Dead’ to members of Skibbereen & District Historical Society, at the West Cork Hotel, on Thursday March 29, 2018.
Before a full house, Mr. Keane, gave a very interesting talk based on his latest book, ‘Cork’s Revolutionary Dead 1916-1923’. Mr. Keane, who is a history and geography teacher, has published a number of books, including his latest works, ‘Massacre in West Cork: The Dunmanway and Ballygroman Killings’, and ‘Cork’s Revolutionary Dead 1916-1923’, both of which were published by Mercier Press.
St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1902, saw one of the biggest public demonstrations ever in Skibbereen.
On that day, Maud Gonne visited the town and, according to the report in The Southern Star the visit of this “illustrious lady was marked by a reception which has been seldom, if ever, accorded to any person in that town.”
The purpose of her visit was to deliver lecture in the Town Hall at the invitation of the Skibbereen branch of the Young Ireland Society.
In February 1847, the British Relief Association sent ninety-six tons of food to Schull on the naval vessel Scourge. The ship’s commander, J. Cruford Caffin, was shocked by what he saw and reported that three-quarters of the people of Schull were reduced to skeletons. He was particularly struck by the physical decline and beggar status of adult males. Accompanied by Dr Robert Traill, Rector of Schull, he visited some impoverished Protestant families.
Commander Caffin’s distressing account was published and was widely read.
On March 14, 1847 Dr Robert Traill, Rector and Vicar of Schull, wrote the following letter to a contemporary in London. Dr Traill refers to the published account of Commander Caffin and gives further evidence of the awful conditions prevailing in Schull in the early months of 1847.
The death took place on February 20, 2018 of John O’Sullivan, Lisalohorig, Skibbereen.
In his 97th year, John was one of the oldest people in Skibbereen parish. He died full of years and contentment having lived a long and fulfilled life. Up to just a few weeks before his death John was still very active and fully engaged in the lives of his family, neighbours and friends.
John farmed at Lisalohorig all his life, as did his father before him, and his father before that. He had a deeply ingrained and inherent attachment to the land, faming and nature. John was a good farmer, with a great respect for the ground he nurtured and the produce of his labour.
Rev. Richard Boyle Townsend was Rector of Abbeystrewry parish and did extraordinary work to help relieve the poor and to highlight the plight and suffering in this area during the Great Irish Famine (1845-52).
On March 9, 1847 he wrote a letter stating that between 35 and 40 people were dying each day in Skibbereen, exclusive of those who died in the Workhouse and that in the previous week the death toll in the Workhouse was 65.
This is just one letter from a large volume of correspondence by Rev. R.B. Townsend. The letters were published in many newspapers in Ireland and Britain.
Rev. Townsend was regarded as an authentic and accurate commentator on Famine conditions in Ireland, and particularly in the Skibbereen Union.
Rev. Townsend died on May 7, 1850, aged 55 years. Having exhausted himself by his efforts in helping the starving masses, he succumbed to Famine Fever following a visit to the workhouse in Skibbereen. A plaque in Abbeystrewry Church, Skibbereen, is dedicated to his memory.
Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, will this year host a major exhibition of artwork from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA.
The exhibition, entitled ‘Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger,’ will be displayed in two locations only in Ireland in 2018. The exhibition will run at Dublin Castle from March to June and then at Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, from July to October.
Anne Plumptre (1760-1818), the English writer and translator, visited Skibbereen in 1815 and in her book ‘Narrative Of A Residence In Ireland During The Summer Of 1814 And That Of 1815 wrote:
“… I proceeded by the new-made road, indeed an excellent one, to Skibbereen. We passed along the head of Glandore Bay, which is really beautiful. It winds so much up from the sea that no outlet appears, so that it presents the idea of an enclosed lake. There are fine bold rocks in various parts, and directly at the head is some gentleman’s seat, though I could never learn his name. The home stands almost at the water’s edge with wooded slopes rising all round it; a little stream which runs into the bay skirts a part of the woods; over it is a most picturesque old bridge of one lofty arch, entirely overgrown with ivy. I can scarcely conceive altogether any thing more beautiful; it has much the character of the scenery about Rostrevor and the Bay of Carlingford. A little further on in the road to Skibbereen is an exceedingly pretty group of five or six small lakes all together, with rocks not lofty, but very picturesquely disposed about them.
“Skibbereen stands upon the river Ilen, which about five miles from thence runs into Baltimore Bay; it was anciently called Stapleton, but what occasioned the change in its name, or when it took place, does not appear. It is a town of some extent, and from the number of new houses recently started up, appears to be increasing in prosperity; there are however whole streets, and not very short ones, consisting entirely of the wretched mud cabins of the peasants. The lands about produce a good deal of flax, and manufactories of both linen and woollen are carried on; but the principal objects of commerce in the town are corn, butter, and salted fish, of which considerable quantities are exported. The quality of fish taken in Baltimore Bay is prodigious.”