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Béal an Dá Chab
Main Street
Main Street
Ballydehob is located in Ireland
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 51°33′N 9°28′W / 51.550°N 9.467°W / 51.550; -9.467
CountyCounty Cork
BaronyCarbery West
 • Total4 km2 (2 sq mi)
 • Land3.61 km2 (1.39 sq mi)
10 m (33 ft)
Time zoneUTC+0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-1 (IST (WEST))

Ballydehob (Irish: Béal an Dá Chab, meaning "mouth of the two river fords")[2] is a coastal village in the southwest of County Cork, Ireland, located on the N71 national secondary road.


During the Bronze Age (2200-600 B.C.), copper was mined on Mount Gabriel, just west of the village.[3] About the same time, stone circles, wedge and boulder tombs were constructed in the area. The Celts arrived at some later time and in the early historic period various clans fought for dominance, until the eventual emergence of the McCarthys and O'Mahonys as the rulers of the region. A string of castles were built along the coastline. Kilcoe Castle was the McCarthy's most westerly stronghold and their only coastal foothold. It has since been renovated and rebuilt by its actor owner Jeremy Irons.[4]

In 1602, soldiers led by Sir George Carew, Lord President of Munster, descended on the area in a successful bid to break the power of the Gaelic chieftains. Their passage through West Cork was described in "Pacata Hibernia" by Thomas Stafford from the invaders point of view. The events were also captured, from a native Irish perspective, in "Historicae Catolicae Iberniae Compenium" by Philip O'Sullivan Beare.[5]

The 17th century saw an influx of settlers mainly from England, as well as a number of Protestants (Huguenots) also fleeing persecution in Catholic France. The Swantons from Norfolk emerged as one of the most prominent families in the locality, and by the late 18th century they had succeeded in changing the name of Ballydehob to Swanton's Town.[6] The last known use of the name Swanton's Town was in the census of 1821.[7]

In the 1820s, copper mining developed again in the region. The Cappagh mine was financed by Lord Audley; its 20-metre chimney survived until February 2002, when it was destroyed by a lightning strike. A feature of this mining era was the introduction to Ballydehob of a police constabulary and barracks, approximately 6 years before the first London police force. By the 1840s the population of the area had swelled to nearly 20,000. Then disaster struck when the potato crop failed and the Great Irish Famine resulted (1845-1849). This affected Ballydehob and the whole of West Cork in a most devastating way; thousands died and thousands more emigrated. Between 1841 and 1851 the population of the area fell by 42%, a decline which was much higher than the national average. As of the 2016 census, Ballydehob had a resident population of about 270.[1]

In the 1880s amid growing agitation over land reform, the Ballydehob branch of the Irish National Land League hosted a visit by Anna Parnell, sister of Charles Stewart Parnell, to address a public meeting on the subject. This was held in the field where St. Brigit's school now stands, and is commemorated by a plaque.[8]

In the 1960s Ballydehob saw an influx of artists, writers and craftspeople, and for a brief period a number of "hippy" communes were established in the area.[citation needed] One house was decorated with painted flowers, becoming well known as the "Flower House".[7]

In common with other areas of West Cork, Ballydehob is a tourist area, with a number of guest-houses and private holiday homes. The traditional village shops have largely been replaced by a range of eating-places.[citation needed]


Festivals in Ballydehob include the Ballydehob Traditional Music Weekend (an annual traditional music, song, and dance festival), the Ballydehob Jazz Festival, Ballydehob Country Music Festival, Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival, and West Cork Yoga Festival.[9]

The 'Gathering of the Boats', or Cruinniu na mBad, also takes place annually with families meeting the flotilla of working boats and other traditional sailing vessels at Ballydehob Quay.[10]

Ballydehob Old Time Threshing & Vintage Weekend celebrates the historic traditions of rural Ireland, and generally takes place over a weekend in October.[9]


12 Arch Bridge

On 6 September 1886 Ballydehob railway station opened[11] on the narrow gauge Schull and Skibbereen Railway with a large sports event held in Ballydehob to mark the occasion. At the time there was a 15 m.p.h. speed limit on the railway. The 12 arch bridge, which dominates the estuary of Ballydehob, was a major engineering achievement of the line. Mounting losses, coal shortages and the arrival of buses and motor cars eventually brought the closure of the line. The final train ran on 27 January 1947 and the station finally closed altogether on 1 June 1953.[11] Ballydehob was the main intermediate station on the railway.


One of the village's most well-known former inhabitants was the wrestler Danno O'Mahony. He won the NWA World Championship from Jim Londos in Boston on 30 June 1935, and was known as the "Irish Whip" in reference to his throwing technique. He was also a champion hammer thrower. He died in a traffic accident in 1950. One of the village's pubs, "The Irish Whip", is named after him. In the centre of the village is a bronze statue erected in his honour in 2000.[12]

Kay Summersby, who served as chauffeur and personal assistant for General Dwight D. Eisenhower while he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in London, was born at Insh Beg house (about 20km from Ballydehob) in 1908.[13]

Actor Jeremy Irons and his wife, actress Sinead Cusack, purchased the 13th century Kilcoe Castle near Ballydehob.[4]

Twin towns — Sister cities[edit]

Ballydehob is twinned with the town of Cléden-Cap-Sizun in France.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Census 2016 Sapmap Area - Settlements - Ballydehob". Census 2016. Central Statistics Office. 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Béal an Dá Chab / Ballydehob". Irish Placenames Commission. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  3. ^ John Jackson (1984). "The Age of Primitive Copper Mines on Mount Gabriel, West County Cork". The Journal of Irish Archaeology. 2: 41–50. JSTOR 30001581.
  4. ^ a b "Will of Irons - Inside Jeremy Irons West Cork castle". Independent News & Media. 22 November 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  5. ^ Alfred Webb (1878). A Compendium of Irish Biography. M.H. Gill & Son – via O'Sullivan Beare, Philip [..] was devoted to the composition in Latin of historical and polemical works [..] The work upon which his reputation rests is Historiae Catholicae Iberniae Compendium (Lisbon, 1621) [..which..] contains Topography, Pilgrimage to St. Patrick's Purgatory, the English in Ireland from the Anglo-Norman Invasion to 1588, and in Book iv. (the most important), a history of O'Neill's and O'Donnell's wars
  6. ^ "Stab All!". Roaringwater Journal. 23 July 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b "History - Overview". Ballydehob Community Council. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Political Firebrand Leaves Lasting Impression on Ballydehob". West Cork People. 5 September 2016.
  9. ^ a b "So Many Festivals". Ballydehob Community Council. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Gathering of the Boats, or Cruinniu na Mbad". Ballydehob Community Council. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Ballydehob station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-10.
  12. ^ "Danno O'Mahony: Ballydehob's world champion wrestler". Vol. 16 no. 5. History Ireland. September 2008.
  13. ^ "Kay Summersby". Inish Beg Estate. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Ballydehob's Breton Adventure Still Galvanizing a Community". Three Good Boys Publishing. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2018.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°33′N 9°28′W / 51.550°N 9.467°W / 51.550; -9.467