Durrus and District History 1700-1900

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Durrus is an area of West Cork in Ireland. For earlier history, see Durrus and District History. For later history, see Durrus and District History Modern.


Indictment of Priests 1714[edit]

On 9 April 1714, Fr. Humphrey O'Sullivan P.P. Durrus, Fr. Daniel McCarthy, P.P. Schull, Fr. Teige McCarthy P.P. Caheragh, Fr. George Gould, P.P. Bantry were indicted at the general assizes and gaol delivery at Cork

Irish Famine of 1740-41[edit]

In March 1741 Thomas Prior founder of the RDS said that Sir Thomas Cox of Dunmanway related that due to a failure of the potato crop 500 people had died in his area. Around 350,000 people died including one fifth of Munster's population. It was referred to as Bliain an Air, the year of the slaughter. This famine may have been even more severe than the great famine of 1847 in terms of mortality from starvation and disease.

Richard Pococke (1704 - 1765)[edit]

Richard Pococke, Bishop of Ossory, travelled in the South West and in 1758 wrote the following in respect of the Beara area, that this would have a reference to the other peninsulas:

"they keep their sheep and black cattle. They can legally send no fish to France but salmon, all the rest goes to Spain"
"They make huts to keep their cattle in the mountains in Summer, and live on new churn milk".
"Girls married at the age of thirteen and boys at sixteen"
"People here live to a great age, notwithstanding they drink drams immoderately, living on fish and potatoes, and the sea air makes this custom less pernicious but them smallpox is very mortal among them, supposed to be owing to the first died. A sort of scurvy also, which sometimes come near to a leprosie, is frequent among them. They have great notions of fairies in all these parts, which take the place of witches in other places. All workmen, though only making a ditch or thrashing, do all sorts of handicraft in a private house or fields, had the shameful custom these parts more than any other, of holding a string or something across the way and begging money."

Late 18th and early 19th century subsistence agriculture[edit]

In O'Flanagan and Buttimer's work, Cork History and Society they single out the insular peninsular world of Schull-Kilcrohane-Beara as showing a pattern of densely populated clustered settlements with population densities of South East Asian proportions. This was possible due to complex partnership arrangements in the organisation of land use and work rhythms and the use of the spade for cultivation due to a surplus of labour. Joint farming was integral and marine resources of seaweed and marine coral sand was extensively used. In Dunmanus Bay this came from Carbery Island among other places. Seasonal migration to the better farmlands of East Cork and Munster also added to income. In South Kilkenny, Amhloaimh O Suilleabhain (Humphrey O'Sullivan) said that a "spailpina bochta" could earn 8d. a day and the sickle men "lucht corain "15d. Added to this widespread sub-division, early marriages, the availability of wasteland, smallpox inoculation and the presence of a cottier textile industry and the contribution of fishing allowed a massive population expansion. Land was let by the 'gneeve' i.e. the grass of one cow or one twelfth of a ploughland. The contribution of the wife by keeping poultry and spinning was important. Between 1766 and 1821 the number of households in the Durrus area increased by 60/69%, the population rose significantly.

From the land appropriations of the 1650s and 1660s, to the Rising of 1798 and the Napoleonic Wars there was a long period of peace and prosperity. The gradual introduction of those with expertise and the new technology to improve farming practices, contributed to a prosperity, which engendered rapid population expansion. During this period, South Munster was transformed into a major agricultural area, centred on the Port of Cork. Cork City underwent a phenomenal expansion, with rapid population growth with hinterland immigration and from abroad. Central to its growth was the provisioning of the Royal Navy for what was termed "wet goods" (dairy products, salted and cured meats). Dry goods for the Royal Navy were provided from East Anglia. Important in securing Royal Navy contracts were London based families with Cork connections, such as the Southwells (also of Kinsale), and descendants of the Boyle/Shannon families, who were influential in official circles at the time. The benefits reached into the furthest peninsulas, old tradition has it that people travelled from Kilcrohane to Cork with butter, and from as far as Dursey in the Beara Peninsula, to Cork with pigs. A considerable amount of the trade would have been sea-borne, in small wooden vessels, to Cork.

General Charles Vallancey Survey Report 1778[edit]

He was sent to Ireland to assist in a military survey, remained and became an authority on Irish antiquities. He wrote a report on the West Cork area which should also hold true for Durrus at the period, ‘there was only one road between Cork and Bantry; you may now proceed by eight carriage roads beside several horse tracks branching off from these great roads, from Bantry the country is mountainous and from the high road has the appearance of being barren and very thinly populated; yet the valleys abound with, corn and potatoes and the mountains are covered with black cattle in 1760, twenty years ago it was so thinly inhabited an army of 10,000 men could not possible have found subsistence between Bantry and Bandon. The face of the country now wears a different aspect: the sides of the hill are under the plough, the verges of the bogs are reclaimed and the southern coast from Skibbereen to Bandon is one continued garden of grain and potatoes except the barren pinnacles of some hills and the boggy hollows between which are preserved for fuel’ (Original in British Library)


Cholera 1832[edit]

It struck Cork in April 1832 and in the city nearly 500 died in the fever hospital, Skibbereen was deserted, the wife of the Protestant Curate of Schull Rev. O'Neill was dead within ten hours. There was a further outbreak in early 1849, casualties usually were half of those affected, 82 died in Bantry.

Anti-Tithe Meeting Mount Gabriel, April 1832.[edit]

In the pre-reformation period tithes were a voluntary offering to the clergy in thanks for their work. It was divided in three, one third was for to provide education for all the poor and youth in the parish, one third to provide for the needs of the impoverished and the balance for the upkeep of the church. This was written By Dáibhí de Barra in an account of a tithe affray at Rossmore Strand, Carrightohill. After the Reformation the tithes went to the Protestant clergy and it was also levied on crops not on grassland.

A monster meeting was held at the base of Mount Gabriel to protest against tithes attended by tithe payers from Schull, Kilmoe and Durrus. Many Protestants and Methodists attended. The men of Durrus were under the command of Richard O’Donovan of Tullagh accompanied by the Parish Priest Fr. Quinn and his curate Fr. Kelleher. Later Frs. Quinn and Kelleher were prosecuted for urging their flock not to pay tithes,

In the context of resolving the ongoing agitation in relation to tithes in 1827, a new valuation system was undertaken, with the intention of extending the tithe to pastures as well as tillage, to try to ensure a more equitable system. The land was classified as arable, pasture, mountain or bogland. The rate levied on arable land was 7¾%, and 2½% on bog and mountain.

Poor Inquiry 1833[edit]

It was advised by Fr. Kelleher, Curate of Durrus, that ‘the lands are let to the highest bidder; the competition is very great, the tenant holds no tenure in almost every case, but his landlord’s will or caprice and that neither landlord or tenant look beyond the gain of the hour the face of the country testifies’

Literacy 1841[edit]

The percentage of males who could read and write in the 1841 Census for Durrus was between 15 and 19%.

Monster Meeting Curragh Hill, Skibbereen 1842[edit]

Daniel O'Connell presided at a monster meeting in July 1842 attended by an enormous crowd from all districts of West Cork. Prior to the meeting he lodged with Fr. Doheney P.P. Dunmanway and travelled with him by coach and four, as they approached Skibbereen they were feted by a procession made up of bakers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors and weavers preceded by a band. The Liberator's carriage was followed by those of gentlemen and clergy. He started the address sin Irish and then switched to English. He spent the night with the administrator Fr. Fitzpatrick and was presented with £500 repeal rent. It is regarded as the largest crowd ever to gather in West Cork. In the memoirs of T.D.Sullivan (one of the Home Rule MPs from Bantry/Durrus Cross), he describes the temperance bands going from Bantry to the Monster Meetings in Skibbereen during his youth.


There were 'minor' famines in 1817 and 1822. There was a very wet and cold summer and autumn in 1816, a typhus epidemic broke out and up to 65,000 died countrywide from fever. In 1822 reports of distress commenced in April. Among the relief measures was the efforts of the City of London Tavern a grouping of business and banking people in London and they sent the Rev. John Jagoe (Schull) a cargo of meal for Schull and Durrus. Relief was carried out on a cross community basis. The ratio of the population receiving rations in Durrus Parish was between 60 and 70 percent. The Vicar, William Moore Crosthwaite received 20 barrels of meal from the Quaker Boston Relief Committee. His health suffered and caused his eventual death in 1855. The Rev Allen Evanson received £25 for 20 bags of rice from the Friends Central Relief Committee on 12 April 1847. Both O'Donovan and the Evansons seek grants under the Land Improvement Act of 1848 on 2 February. In February 1848 there were 191 from Durrus in the Bantry Workhouse. Pre famine the population was in 1841, 3731 and in 1851? this dropped to 2003, the number of houses went from 595 to 324.

BANTRY UNION REPORT from Dr. Stephens' to the Board of Health on the 'BantryWorkhouse 20 February 1847


I have the honour to state for the information of the Central Board of Health, that pursuant to their orders I visited the Bantry Workhouse yesterday, and made enquiry into the character of the sickness prevalent in it, also as to the ages of the patients who died in the week ended the 6th instant, the duration of their stay in the workhouse previous to death, the state of the house as to ventilation and the diet and drink for the sick, together with the number of cubic feet allowed to each inmate in the sick and healthy wards.

With reference to the workhouse, I find it clean and orderly; the wards are spacious, and not having the number of beds they are capable of accommodating without inconvenience, the air of the house generally good, with the exception of the male infirm ward, in which the air was most impure from want of ventilation, as also the male dormitories for boys from six to ten years of age, whose habits are filthy; the same to be said of the female day-room, which is also a nursery for children and their mothers; the air of this room was most impure, the women being very inattentive to the habits of decency, which the matron, who is herself most orderly, finds it very difficult to make them observe.


The enclosed paper contains the ages of patients, their stay in the house, and the number of cubic feet allowed to each lunatic.

Language would fail to give an adequate idea of the state of the Fever Hospital; such an appalling, awful, and heart-sickening condition as it presented I never witnessed, or could think possible to exist in a civilised or Christian community. As I entered the house, the stench that proceeded from it, and prevailed through it, was most dreadful and noisome; but oh, what scenes presented themselves to patients lying on straw, naked, and in their excrements, as light covering thrown over them; in two beds, living beings beside the dead, in the same bed with them, and dead since the night before. I saw a woman who had been delivered but four days, almost expiring, with her wretched infant nearly suffocated; I administered at once wine, and had warmth applied, as there had been no medical attendant appointed during the illness of Dr. Tisdall, one of the medical men of the town, I was told had been there two days before; no medicine, no drink, in dirt, no fire, the unhappy beings who were able to express their wants crying out for drink, water, water, asked for, but no one to give it to them; others crying out for something to eat, as they said they were starved; many imploring to be taken out of it as they were not sick, but weak; thirty soon were found fit to be removed. The prevailing disease is dysentery, rendered highly contagious from the fetid state of the several wards. The wards are saturated with wet and ordure, the walls -marked with the same. No nurses in the house except one of the paupers, totally unfit for the duties, every person being afraid to enter what was considered a pest-house; it is useless to enlarge or dwell further upon this revolting subject. I directed the clerk of the union to bring to the board room any guardian or guardians he could find; three came, and in the presence of the chaplains of the house, and the master and matron, I laid before them the state of things I had just witnessed, with feelings I will not attempt to describe, and stated to them what should be done to arrest the frightful evil so widely spreading. In the yard, filthy beds and bedding were heaped up and allowed to remain there; the same state of things in the infirmary, where dysentery was almost universal.

The supply of water for the workhouse being carried by women: the want of it at present was great, from the great increase of washing. It is said to be not good; it is impregnated with iron, and much disliked

Having done all that was possible for me to do here I purpose to proceed to Cork, to attend the meeting of the Board of Guardians there on Monday, after which I shall proceed to Mitchelstown, where I hope to be on Tuesday to comply with the wishes of the Central Board of Health.

I have, &c.

(Signed) R. Stephens

A sworn enquiry was held and the physician was called on to resign and the master and matron dismissed.

Improvement in agricultural conditions 1851-1859.[edit]

The price of butter on the Cork Market rose by 45% from 1851 and 1859 and store cattle by 50%. Guano a natural fertilizer from Peru was used together with mangolds turnips and improved grass varieties on the more progressive farms. Around this time the Royal Dublin Society was sending Inspectors around the area to teach best practice. Coral sand and seaweed were used to improve the soil. In Bantry Bay boats were engaged in coral sand, it would take three hours to load a boat and the cargo would fetch 8s. There were also twenty boats involved in the collection of seaweed, with a crew of two men and two boys earning 6-7s in the season. There was reorganisation of scattered land holdings. This tied in with the Bandon Estate taking over the Evanson holdings in Durrus. It is not clear if this was because of lease expiry or purchase. The Bandon Estate invested heavily, rebuilt the village in its present form in the 1850s and carried out land improvements. The records of the Dohertys, managers of the Estate would suggest a commercial and competent management, however the nature of the land and the poor condition of many of the tenants may have militated against the success of this. In 1860 a memorial was presented in Bantry to establish a branch of the National Bank, it was pointed out that there was a lack of coins and notes restricting commerce. Eventually in March 1865 the Munster and Leinster Bank established a branch in Bantry. There was a further period of distress in 1860. There were very large imports of Indian meal to Bantry in the 1860s as it had become a staple part of the diet.

Lord Bandon[edit]

The Bernards of Bandon became the Earls of Bandon in 1800. Sometime in the 1840/50s they came into possession of estates in Durrus, comprising townlands around the village and west to Ahakista. Lord Bandon is reputed to have built the folly at Drumnea, Kilcrohane as relief work 1n 1847. May Roberts, Brahalish in the 1890s remembers Lord Bandon arriving in the area in a four-wheeled car drawn by a pair of fine grey horses with Timmy Burke, the coachman on top. The Philips family were local agents.

Brahalish Bracelet[edit]

In 1843 the present road from Durrus to Kilcrohane was being built a gold bracelet was discovered at the Red Cliff at Brahalish. The ‘Archaeological Journal’s Cork correspondent Edward Hoare reported that it had been sent to the British Museum. It is dated at 500 BC.

Griffith Valuation 1847-1849[edit]

As a consequence of the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act of 1838 a requirement for a new system of valuation to ensure the tax to be known as "Rates" would be assessed, on a consistent basis. It became known as the Griffith Valuation(the primary valuation of tenants) was commenced in West Corkin 1847-1849. Richard Griffith was the Director of the Valuation, he had previously been responsible for the building of the road from Skibbereen to Crookhaven, and the improvement of the road from Dunmanway to Bantry. Most of the detailed survey work in the area was done by Thomas Cox and J.H.Colthurst. In their valuations they had regard to the availability of sea manure i.e. sea sand and sea weed. Sea sand had been used in the area for 300 years before the survey. Sea Sand would be taken up to 10–15 miles inland and seaweed 2 to 3 miles (4.8 km). In Durrus four of the nine townlands had rights to seaweed, and a respect of sea sand 18/- was the cost of a large boat load of sand containing about 16 one-horse cart loads. Land was valued at a premium of 12.5% to 20% and sometimes higher if it had access to a shore supply of manure, Dromreagh "it is 1 ½ miles from the shore". It might be noted that the (coral) sand of Bantry Bay is an algal growth as opposed to shell sand. A tenement was defined as holding land or a building, or both together, and it was valued at 1850 prices, having regard to the fertility of the soil, and lands and buildings were valued separately. The division of a tenement into sub-tenements was indicated by the use of letters, and holdings in common were bracketed together. It is still the case that certain lands are held in common, for example in Coomkeen some of the rough land in held in shares of one seveenth accruing to the farms there or in Classadoo. This is officially reflected in the Land Registry Folio. Joe O’Driscoll b.1924 remembers old people minding cattle in Dunbeacon on the undivided part of larger fields. This may indicate a survival of the rundale system of land ownership. A House List accompanied the Survey, indicating the dimensions of each particular building.

The Survey did not, however, record the presence of cottiers, or those who did not have a legal interest in the land which they occupied.

(Griffith Valuation Lessors/Landlords)[edit]


• Rev. A. Evanson, 534 acres (2.16 km2), 16 houses offices • John Shannon, 248 acres (1.00 km2) 4 houses offices and land • Richard Williamson, house • Charles King, house • William Dukellow, house


• Rev Alleyn Evanson, Houses, lands, offices, court house, constabulry barracks, national school house, R.C. chapel and yard, • John Mahony, house and garden • Rev. James Freke, Church and grave yard • John Moss, house • John Conner, house • Avisia Dukelow, house • William Legoe (Jagoe?), house • John Sullivan, house • Denis Donovan, house


• Rev A. Evanson, land mountain, houses, offices, • Timothy Dawley, house • Thomas Dukelow • Jeremiah Sullivan, house and garden • Daniel Crowley, house (unoccupied) • Eccleaiastical Commissioners, house offices, garelodge and land • Rev. James Freke, house, officed, school house, house


• John Hyde, herd's house offices and land • John Hyde and Benjamin H. Jogoe, house offices and land • Benjamin Swanton, house and office • John Swanton


• Richard L. Blair, In Fee, house offices, bog, mountain and land • John Skuse, house • +++++ check end of page • Jeremiah Murphy, house


• Rev. A. Evanson, house, offices and land • Denis Burke (South), house • Charles Dukelow, house • Timothy Dillon, house • Daniel Sullivan, house


• Rev. Alleyn Evanson, land, house offices • Thomas Deane, house • James Dukelow (Peter), house • Patrick Sulliva, house


• Rev. Alleyn Evanson, land • Charles Dukeow (Richd.), house • Charles Dukelow (Charles), house • William Ward, house


• Check end of page • Thomas Kingston, house • Richard T. Evanson, house offices, mountain and land • John B.Gumbleton, land


• Rev Alleyn Evanson, land mountain, land houses and offices • Timothy Hoolihan, house • Peter Spillane, house • Earl Of Bandon, house (Tenant Rev. Allen Evanson) • William Smith, house • End of page check


• John B. Gumbleton, land, waste • Richard T. Evanson


• Robert D.Beamish, houses, office, mountain and land • James Donovan, unoccupied house • Owen Carthy, unoccupied house


• Reps. Arthur Hutchinson, house, offices and land • Daniel Harrington, house • Patrick Sheady, houses • Margaret Sullivan, houses and office • Timothy Driscoll, house


• John B. Gumbleton, house offices gate house and lodge • Richard T. Evanson, stores, garden, Methodist meeting house (Exempt), office and land


• End of page check • Rev. A. Evanson, landhouse, offices and gardens • John Atteridge, house • Thomas Baker, houses


Rev. Alleyn Evanson, land offices and garden

Tullig (Also Kilcrohane)[edit]

• Richard O'Donovan, houses and offices • Michael O'Driscoll, house • John B. Gumbleton, houses offices and land • Owen McCarthy, house and garden

Visit of Prince of Wales to Bantry 14 April 1858[edit]

The Prince of Wales Albert Edward, on a tour from Cork to Killarney passed from Skibberen to Bantry where he boarded the Royal yacht at Bantry pier for Glengarriff.

Land Agitation 1880s[edit]

Much of the land in Durrus was owned by the Bandon Estate and was managed by the Doherty Family (their estate papers are in the Cork Archive Institute but are uncatalogued). In July 1882 R.W. Doherty Jnr. complained that tenants 'but principally those of Durrus near Bantry had paid no rent since 1880, his father had said in September 1881 'The Land Leagues are destroying the country and a lot of Protestants have joined them ... the Protestants at Durrus would pay no rent unless allowed 25% off. More like savages then human beings'.

Land improvement/ Land Acts[edit]

In the period after the famine the larger farms were run on more commercial lines and firms such as Warners in Bantry supplied an increasing range of machinery. This included furze cutting machines mangle grinders which had their logo and a range of horse drawn machinery. George Vickery, Ballycomane was a prizewinner in the Carbery Show, Skibbereen in 1896 and 1897.

Distress 1890-1891[edit]

There was a failure of the potato crop in 1889 which caused widespread distress in 1890. A public meeting was held in November 1890 headed by Fr. Kearney and the Rev. John Pratt and suggested the extension of the railway line from Durrus road to Dunmanus Bay.


Tim O'Donovan, O'Donovan's Cove, Carrickbui, Bantry. (Cork County Directory 1862)


Fr. Theobald Mathew addressed a meeting in 1842, Cork Examiner 13 July 1842. This was the first large temperance meeting in the area and attracted great crowds. The Skibbereen Temperance Band arrived playing 'Rory O' Moore', on the platform in the yard, on the platform were Fr. Quinn (Durrus), Fr. James Doheny (Dunmanway), Fr James Barry (Schull) and many Catholic and Protestant gentlemen. Fr. Mathew condemned excessive drinking stating that in the parish of Muintir Bhaire, £50 a week was being spent on drink. Lord Bandon 22 February 1864 to advance flax growing Wedding at the Parish Church of Schull, Rev John Triphook assisted by the Rev James Freke, Durrus Glebe, Hamilton O’Donovan Blair, 4th eldest son of the late Richard Lewis Blair, of Blair’s Cove and Margaret eldest daughter of William Bennett, Schull, wedding 2 February 1865, Cork Examiner 7 February 1865 Prince Louis of Battenberg, future Kaiser arrives in Bantry Bay 1892, when Kaiser he was in Bantry and was welcomed by the Prince of Wales in 1912.


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