Dillon’s Corner is back!

A new bakery, restaurant and deli has opened in Skibbereen in one of the most prominent business premises in the town.

The new business at 68 Bridge Street, that iconic site that stands on the corner of Bridge Street and Mardyke Street, will be welcomed by local people and visitors to Skibbereen. The beautifully appointed building has been given a comprehensive make-over and, thankfully, Dillon’s Corner has been given back to the town.

The beautifully revamped ‘Dillon’s Corner’ at 68 Bridge Street, one of the most prominent business locations in Skibbereen.

People of a certain age will remember the original Dillon’s shop and public house which was run for so many years by sisters Gretta Dillon and Nora Grimes. In the early decades of the twentieth century Dillon’s general grocery store was particularly noted for specialising in different kinds of tea.

An advert for Dillon’s Delicious Teas in February 1905.

For over a century Dillon’s was a notable landmark in Skibbereen and was for many years run by Thomas and Kate Dillon. Thomas and Kate McCarthy were both from old Skibbereen families. Kate’s father Cornelius McCarthy was Town Clerk of Skibbereen for many years.

Kate mostly ran the public house and shop as Thomas was a commercial traveller and was well known throughout West Cork. He was a prominent member of a number of Nationalist organisations and was a founder member of the Skibbereen GAA Club in November 1887.

Thomas died in October 1918 and was survived by Kate and five daughters, one of whom, Gretta, joined her mother running the business. When Kate died in December 1948 Gretta continued in the business for another thirty years and in later years was joined by her sister Nora Grimes. Nora married James Grimes in September 1931. James, a native of Kells, county Meath, joined the editorial staff of the Southern Star in Skibbereen in 1929. He died tragically young in February 1936 and Nora went to England for a number of years before returning to Skibbereen where she joined Gretta in running the shop and public house. Nora died in February 1999 and was the last of the Dillon family in Skibbereen.

Work begins on the demolition of the ‘old’ Dillons in October 1983.

Following the retirement of Gretta and Nora from the business in the early 1980s, 68 Bridge Street was purchased by Brendan and Eithne McCarthy in 1983. Eithne and Brendan were to open a bar and restaurant having run the Carbery Restaurant in Bridge Street for a number of years. However, the transition for Eithne and Brendan was far from smooth. The state of deterioration of the old building was much greater than originally believed and, somewhat controversially, the building was demolished and cleared away in less than twenty-four hours in October 1983.

There ’tis, Gone! In the space of twenty-four hours the old building was demolished.

However, after a bit more angst than had been anticipated, Brendan and Eithne opened their new bar and restaurant on 16 March 1984.

The ‘new’ bar and restaurant which was opened by Brendan and Eithne McCarthy on 16 March 1984.

In latter years, the premises has changed hands several times. Brian and Margaret Foley ran a thriving bar business there for some years. Two local men, Killian O’Driscoll and Aidan Murphy, then leased the bar for a time. They restored the original Dillon’s name to business, but that was short-lived. In March 2000 David Egan purchased 68 Bridge Street and for six and a half years ran a very successful bar and restaurant under the name of The Tzar. David closed the business in August 2006.

Since then, several different tenants have operated at 68 Bridge Street. Carmel Summers ran the Good Things Café and subsequently the Perry sisters, Tessa, Kez and Jo, from Baltimore, ran a restaurant there. However, in June 2019 they decided not to renew the lease on the property.

The gold leaf signage is the work of signwriter Declan Newman.

The revamped Dillon’s Corner is a huge addition to Skibbereen. The substantial street frontage is strikingly beautiful. The magnificent gold leaf signage is of course the work of signwriter Declan Newman, a true craftsman, whose work has enhanced many business premises all over West Cork.

It is good to have Dillon’s Corner back as a landmark in Skibbereen and we hope it will play an important role in the commercial, social and cultural life of the area for many years!

P. O’R.

The beautifully appointed ‘Dillon’s Corner’ at the corner of Bridge Street and Mardyke Street.

Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time

Flooding has been a perennial problem in Skibbereen for
centuries, most likely from the time a settlement grew up on the banks of the
Ilen River in the 1600s.

The Bath Chronicle of 31 August 1769 reported that:
‘We hear from the Barony of Carbery, in Ireland, that many bridges have been carried
away, roads broke up, many ditches thrown down, the towns of Bridgetown and
Skibbereen laid under water, and his Majesty’s stores and collector’s apartments
very much damaged, by the heavy rain that fell on the 11t instant’.

Cathal O’Donovan, right, author of the article ‘Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time’. Cathal was elected secretary of the Skibbereen Floods Committee at their inaugural meeting in February 1982 and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Skibbereen Floods Committee. At left is Gerald O’Brien, President of Skibbereen & District Historical Society.


In the mid-19th century, the Board of Guardians in Skibbereen proposed the widening and deepening of the riverbed to ‘save the town from the floods and inundations to which it is every year subject’. But while the problem of flooding persisted and got progressively worse, the talking continued, and little was done to ease the situation.

Flooding Photo 2
On Wednesday 6 August 1986 Skibbereen suffered what was described by many locals as its worst flood ever. Boats travelled up and down Main Street throughout the day!


The issue of solving the flooding problem in
Skibbereen seemed to have been consigned to the hallowed hall of Irish
aspirations, much like the draining of the Shannon and other projects. That was
until a new committee was formed in Skibbereen in February 1982. Skibbereen
Floods Committee members quickly realised that for any significant flood relief
scheme they were talking about a thirty-to-forty-year timescale, and they were
in this for the long haul.

It was also evident from preliminary studies that any
satisfactory solution would have to comprise three critical infrastructural developments
– a sewage system, relief road and a flood relief scheme. This would be a
massive task!

Skibb Flooding CE January 21 1969
January 1969, a crowd gathers at the end of Townshend Street to witness the damage from yet another flood of Skibbereen town. Note the boat in the middle of the street!


At the inaugural meeting of Skibbereen Floods
Committee on 25 February 1982, Cathal O’Donovan was elected secretary. Cathal
has been intimately involved with every aspect of the work of the committee for
the past forty years. Nobody knows more about how the enormous three-stranded infrastructural
developments were brought to completion in 2020.

Cathal is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Skibbereen
Floods Committee and in the Skibbereen Historical Journal 2021, he has written
a comprehensive account of the work carried out over the past forty years which
has culminated with the centuries old flooding problem in Skibbereen finally
being solved!

Flooding Photo 4
The late Haulie McCarty at the junction of Townshend Street and Ninety-Eight Street on the occasion of one of the many floods of that part of the town.


‘Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time’ is one of
fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics of local and national
interest in Skibbereen Historical Journal, Vol. 17, 2021, which
is now
available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it
maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is
selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414

The story of the Murrahin Amber Necklace

In the 2021 Skibbereen Historical Journal, Eugene McSweeney of Ballydehob tells the story of an artefact known as the Murrahin Amber Necklace.

It is an incredible account of a set of amber beads which originated in the Baltic coast and how they came to end up in a bog in Murrahin North. There were three different types of beads in the find, the oldest most likely dating back to the late Bronze Age, 100BC–600BC.

The Murrahin Amber Necklace. (Image by Lisa Moloney, courtesy of the Cork Public Museum).

Amber is the fossilised resin of ancient pine trees and since it often takes on a golden hue it has been valued as a precious gem since Neolithic times. It has been used in the making of jewellery, works of art and decorative ornaments.

The beads were discovered about 1920 when they dropped out of a sod of turf which was being broken for the fire by Henry Sweetnam of Murrahin North, in the parish of Kilcoe, just west of Skibbereen town. Henry gave the beads to his mother, Mrs T. Sweetnam. They remained in her possession for about thirty years when Mr Bernard O’Regan of Sea View House, Aughadown, Skibbereen, acquired them and he presented them to the Cork Public Museum.

The late Bernard O’Regan of Seaview House, Aughadown, Skibbereen.

Bernard O’Regan was one of the best-known antiquarians in West Cork; he had a deep interest in and knowledge of the history, archaeology, ornithology, and botany of this region. Bernard was a lifelong member of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.

This is a fascinating story beautifully written by Eugene. He records in the most compelling way the chance discovery of the beads, how they were preserved so well by the Sweetnam family and how Bernard O’Regan understood the significance of the find and had the prudence to donate them to the Cork Public Museum.

Unfortunately, the Murrahin Amber Necklace is not on public display at the museum. Wouldn’t it be something if it could be acquired on loan and put on display somewhere in west Carbery? Maybe, just maybe, Eugene’s article will be the catalyst for such a move.

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414

John Murphy, West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen: A tribute

The death took place on 30 July 2021 of John Murphy, Ilen Street and formerly of the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen.

John Murphy (1928-2021).

John died full of years after a long and active life. His connection with Skibbereen goes back several generations and his singular knowledge of the area and its people was without equal. Though a very public figure as owner and manager of the West Cork Hotel for much of his life, and while he enjoyed the company of people, John was in many respects a very private person. However, the writer of this modest tribute has on many occasions been grateful to John for his patience and unfailing generosity with his time in answering many queries about aspects of the history of Skibbereen and its people.

John and Betty Murphy will of course be forever associated with the West Cork Hotel which they ran from 1959 until they retired from the business in the mid-1990s. John was predeceased by his wife Betty (née O’Driscoll) who died on 10 June 2018.

Great Grandfather

John’s great-grandfather, Patrick Murphy, and his great-grandmother, an O’Donovan from Drominidy, both emigrated to America during the Famine. They married in New York in 1853 before returning some years later to Ireland and to Skibbereen. Patrick brought a shop in North Street and later brought a premises in Main Street where he ran a pub and a meal and flour business.

John Murphy and Annie Fitzgerald who build the West Cork Hotel which opened in 1902. John and Annie were grandparents of John Murphy.

Patrick Murphy died in July 1910 and Mrs Murphy died three years later in 1913. Patrick and Mrs Murphy were survived by one son, John, and this was the man who built the West Cork Hotel which opened in 1902.

John Murphy began his working life as a law clerk and later worked as a carpenter. He was a very progressive man and built a number of houses in Cork Road and at Market Street. John married Annie Fitzgerald of the Abbey, Skibbereen, on 8 September 1887.

An advert in the ‘Skibbereen Eagle’ of 27 September 1902 announcing the opening of the new West Cork Hotel.

By the turn of the twentieth century Skibbereen had become a very progressive market and business town, and Ilen Street was an ideal site for a new hotel, it being situated close to the railway station which then played such an important role in the commercial and social life of the town.

This splendid photograph from the Lawrence Collection shows the original West Cork Hotel building with the railway running behind it.

The original hotel had eleven bedrooms and early on the proprietors converted a downstairs billiard room into three bedrooms to bring the total up to fourteen. It was Annie Murphy who ran the hotel for many years. John and Annie Murphy had six children, three boys and three girls, Dan, John, Pat, May, Eileen and Katie.

Their eldest son Dan and his wife Lizzie took over the running of the hotel when his mother Annie’s health forced her to reduce her involvement in the business. Annie died on 27 September 1937.

John and Betty Murphy.

Dan married Lizzie Ross of Glandart, Bantry, on 28 April 1927. It was Lizzie who mostly managed the hotel and she took over the business completely when Dan died tragically young on 1 August 1939. Dan pre-deceased his father by some sixteen months; John died on 13 November 1940.

Dan and Lizzie had two sons, John and Pat. John married Betty O’Driscoll from Carrigillihy, Union Hall, on 17 September 1959 and the couple took over the running of the West Cork Hotel. From the beginning, it was a real team effort. For thirty-five years John and Betty dedicated themselves to making the West Cork Hotel one of the best-known establishments in the south of Ireland.

John Murphy (1928-2021).

The West Cork Hotel became an institution under John and Betty’s guidance. It was a tourist attraction, appealing to people from all over to come and enjoy the excellent hospitality and service. It was one of the most popular wedding venues in West Cork and over three decades John and Betty worked extraordinarily hard to make every visitor welcome. They treated everyone with the same respect and they, in turn, were greatly admired and respected for their enormous commitment to their guests.

In 1978, in conjunction with the Skibbereen Welcome Home Week, the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club ran a ‘Lord Mayor of Skibbereen’ contest which proved to be a very successful fundraising event. The seven candidates Timmie Salter, Charlie Davis, Ronnie Carthy, John Young, Michael Harte, Oliver Fahy and Robert Swanton, had a ‘press conference’ to launch their respective campaigns in the West Cork Hotel and pictured here is John Murphy welcoming candidate Timmie Salter to the event.

John and Betty added seven bedrooms in 1960. Then when the railway closed in 1961, they bought more land behind the existing hotel and in 1965 they added a substantial extension. They added the function room and an extra seven bedrooms. In 1972 they carried out a further expansion to bring it up to a forty-one bedroom hotel. John and Betty retired in the mid-1990s and the management of the hotel was taken over by their son John, the fourth generation of the family to run the business.

Recognised in the Bridgestone Guide as one of the best one hundred places to stay in Ireland, John McKenna wrote that: ‘People find the West Cork to be a home away from home, a place of relaxation where things are done properly according to ageless standards of service. It demands that rare epithet, venerable, to describe its charms’.

John decided to pursue other business interests and in 2005 the West Cork Hotel was purchased by the Looney family who have continued the fine tradition of the hotel.

John Murphy is survived by his children John and Liz, sisters in law Elmar Nolan and Noreen Lucey, relatives, and a large circle of friends.

P. O’R.

Three Burials in Aughadown Graveyard, February 1921

In February 1921 three burials took place in the old graveyard in Aughadown, four miles west of Skibbereen town. Those interred were Patrick O’Driscoll of Mohonagh, William Connell and Mathew Sweetnam, both of Lissanoohig.

The deaths of these three neighbours were not normal. Each man had died a violent death, the casualties of the ongoing War of Independence, which was then in its most intense phase.

In the 2021 Skibbereen Historical Journal William Casey tells story of these three men, neighbours but from different backgrounds.

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414


Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414

Skibbereen Historical Journal 2021

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. For that, we must thank our contributors who have written some superb articles.

We are delighted to welcome some new writers this year. Other authors are very well known to you.

Unfortunately, we will not be having a public launch of any kind because of current restrictions. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414

Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE

The death took place on 26 August 2020 of Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

Monsignor O’Brien died peacefully at Marymount University Hospice, Cork, where he had been in care for a number of weeks.

Monsignor Leonard 1 DSC_0146
The late Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

Leonard O’Brien was born at Curragh, Skibbereen, in March 1938. He attended primary school at the Boys’ School at Market Street and received his secondary education at St Fachtna’s De La Salle, Skibbereen.

Leonard studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he was ordained Sub Deacon on 15 June 1962. He was raised to the priesthood by Most Rev. Dr Lucey, Bishop of Cork and Ross, at Our Lady Crowned Church, Mayfield, Cork, on 8 June 1963.

Following his ordination, Fr Leonard served for one year on temporary mission in the diocese of Savannah, Georgia. He later served for eight years on the South American mission in Peru.

DSC_0146 New Altar
On Saturday 21 May 2005 the new altar was re-dedicated and the redeveloped sanctuary area was blessed following extensive renovations and modifications at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen. Monsignor Leonard O’Brien delivered a beautiful homily that evening in which he included a history of the building. Pictured on the altar for the concelebrated Mass were, from left, Rev. Fr Martin O’Driscoll, Rev. Fr Cristoir McDonald, Very Rev. Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, Most Rev. Dr John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross, Very Rev. Fr Jim O’Donovan, and Rev. Fr Kevin O’Regan.

As a priest for the diocese of Cork and Ross, Fr Leonard served as curate in Carrigfada and Clogagh, as chaplain in Clonakilty and Blackrock. He served as Administrator of the Cathedral Parish and as parish priest in Ballincollig, before being appointed parish priest of Clonakilty in June 2003 where he served until his retirement in 2012. Fr Leonard was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese and Papal Prelate with title of Monsignor on the 5 September 2003.

Monsignor O’Brien was a man of exceptional intellect, with a cultured and accomplished mind. In 2009 he wrote a history of the thirty-nine years of the Cork and Ross mission to South America. Children of the Sun: The Cork Mission to South America was published by Veritas. It is a beautiful account of the mission, founded in Cork in the 1960s by Bishop Lucey, and tells the story of the Irish missionaries who dedicated themselves to addressing the needs of the indigenous people in parts of Peru, the Andes, and later Ecuador.

Len O'Brien 2 August 23 2002
Pictured at the launch of And Time Stood Still Vol 1, published by St Fachtna’s De La Salle PPU, on 23 August 2002, were Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, Bernie Daly, cathaoirleach of Skibbereen Town Council, and Liam O’Regan, editor, Southern Star.

Monsignor O’Brien always kept close contacts with his family and many friends in Skibbereen and he was particularly interested in the welfare of his alma mater, St Fachtna’s De La Salle. In 2005 he served as President of St Fachtna’s De La Salle Past Pupils’ Union.

Monsignor O’Brien is survived by his sister Anna (O’Donovan) and brother Gerald, both of Skibbereen, and nieces and nephews Margaret, Michael, Josephine, Brian, Romie and Claire.

Skibbereen & District Historical Society would like to offer its sincerest sympathy to founder member and Society President, Mr. Gerald O’Brien, on the death of his brother, Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

PPU 2005 DSC_8929
In 2005 Monsignor Leonard O’Brien served as President of the St Fachtna’s De La Salle, Skibbereen, Past Pupils’ Union. At the annual School Awards Night in April that year, Monsignor O’Brien presented Anthony Davis and Niall Cahalane with ‘Distinguished Past Pupils’ awards.

A Skibbereen cameo during the War of Independence

On Friday evening, 17 December 1920, District Inspector Philip O’Sullivan, an RIC man, left his place of work at Dublin Castle. He walked the short distance to Henry Street where he was to meet his fiancée. The couple met at 615pm and had just commenced walking when they were approached by two men and O’Sullivan was shot dead.

Philip O’Sullivan was the only son of Florence O’Sullivan, from Townshend Street, Skibbereen, one of two brothers who founded the Southern Star newspaper in 1889.

The shooting of Philip O’Sullivan, from such a well-known and respected Skibbereen family, was the subject of a bitter debate between members of Skibbereen District Council.

The main protagonists were Patrick Sheehy and James Duggan.

James Duggan was a prominent business man in Skibbereen. He was a pioneer of the Sinn Féin movement in West Cork, a close friend of Michael Collins, and he was a director of the Southern Star company.

Patrick Sheehy was a solicitor and was editor of the rival Skibbereen Eagle for a number of years, and a member of one of the most politically active families in Skibbereen.

This disagreement was notable in that it represented in microcosm the terrible bitterness and rancour that divided communities all over Ireland at that time.

There was also a much broader element to this argument, about the role of the RIC and how it was perceived in the rapidly changing landscape in Ireland.

This article by Philip O’Regan is just one of fifteen articles on a broad and diverse range of topics in the 2020 Skibbereen Historical Journal.

Stories of the Revolution: 1916–1923

The ‘Stories of the Revolution: 1916-1923’ is a project run by Skibbereen Heritage Centre, with the support of Cork County Council, which invites primary school children to collect stories relating to the 1916–1923 period from their own area.

The concept is based on the highly-successful 1937 Schools’ Folklore Commission project which is still being referenced today.

TK July 2020 PHI_0006 RED
Terri Kearney, manager of Skibbereen Heritage Centre, who is coordinating the ‘Stories of the Revolution: 1916-1923’ project.

This is a magnificent project which involves fourth, fifth and sixth class primary school children recording stories from their own families or their own local areas. Many of these stories come from within their own families. And these stories are not confined to Ireland. The period 1916–1923 was a very volatile time all over Europe and some fantastic stories have been collected from children whose family background are from Poland, German and other countries.

image one

While many of these stories have been part of family history for a few generations, this may well be the first time that they are written down and so preserved for posterity.

The Stories of the Revolution will form a very valuable archive which will be stored at Cork City and County Archives and Skibbereen Heritage Centre’s website will host a digital archive which will be available on completion of the project.

The project started in Skibbereen in 2016 and has extended over the subsequent years to schools in the Skibbereen, Leap, Union hall, Aughadown, Bandon, Innishannon, Timoleague, Dunmanway, Kilmichael, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Union Hall, Ballydehob and Schull areas.

To date, 818 children have participated, and the hope is to expand this project into other areas of West Cork over the coming years.

image seven

Terri Kearney, manager of Skibbereen Heritage Centre, who is co-ordinating this project, has written a beautiful piece for the 2020 Skibbereen Historical Journal, giving a sample of some of the stories collected.

Even from this brief snapshot of the project, we get a great idea of the value of the stories recorded. What makes them very special is that they are written by the children themselves, mostly in their own handwriting and in their own vernacular.

image four

The Journal is available in bookshops throughout West Cork. We ask you, where possible, to shop local and to support your local bookshop. The 2020 Journal, and back issues, are also on sale online. To celebrate the 2020 launch, for the months of July and August only, we are reducing postage for online purchases to €2 for sales to Ireland and the UK and €4 for sales to anywhere else in the world. To visit our online store, click here.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we are unable to post books to Australia or New Zealand at the moment.