Passage West

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Passage West
An Pasáiste Thiar
Cork Street, Passage West
Cork Street, Passage West
Passage West is located in Ireland
Passage West
Passage West
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 51°52′17″N 8°20′07″W / 51.8713°N 8.3352°W / 51.8713; -8.3352Coordinates: 51°52′17″N 8°20′07″W / 51.8713°N 8.3352°W / 51.8713; -8.3352
Country Ireland
Province Munster
County County Cork
Elevation 5 m (16 ft)
Population (2006)[1]
 • Urban 4,818
 • Environs 385
Irish Grid Reference W767687

Passage West (informally called "Passage") (Irish: An Pasáiste Thiar) is a port town in County Cork, Ireland, situated on the west bank of Cork Harbour, some 10 km south east of Cork city. The town has many services, amenities and social outlets. Passage West was designated a conservation area in the 2003 Cork County Development Plan.


The buildings in the town centre are mainly late 18th and early 19th century, while the architecture of nearby Glenbrook and Monkstown is mainly from the later Victorian period. In 1690, at the time of the landing of the Duke of Marlborough with his army to lay siege to Cork, Passage was described as an insignificant fishing village.

Its development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep safe anchorage. The advancement of Cork's commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage. Owing to the shallowness of the channel above the town, vessels of over 150 tons were unable to proceed to Cork, and were compelled to discharge their cargoes here. These were either unloaded onto lighters and brought up the river to Cork or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork then was via Church Hill through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farmyard at Oldcourt, and on to Douglas and Cork.

In 1836 a new quay was built where the vessels could berth and land their passengers and freight. It was no uncommon sight to see between 70 and 80 vessels anchored in the harbour. Sir John Arnott was chiefly responsible for the building of the Granaries, intended for the storing of the freight from the vessels. They cost £32,000 to build when labour was half a crown (2 shillings and sixpence; one eighth of a pound) a day. The freight from one ship only was received there before the channel was dredged. Later, when boats put into the dockyard for repairs the cargo was stored there until they were ready for sea. The town then possessed three hotels and two dozen public houses. The dredging of the channel largely ended the importance of Passage as a port.

The ferry between Passage and Carrigaloe greatly promoted the trade of the town. Until the opening of the Cork to Cobh Railway the traffic on this ferry was considerable. Between 200 and 300 covered-in cars (jingles) brought passengers from Cork to Passage ferry daily. In the first half of the 19th century, Cobh was the principal seaside resort in Munster, which richly benefited the Ferry. During the first twenty days of August 1836, over 20,000 people crossed on the ferry. This gave considerable employment. The boats were apparently large flat-bottomed ones worked by a system of cables and pulleys, and capable of taking very heavy cargoes. This ferry dated back to the reign of James I or even earlier. In his reign it was leased to a Patrick Terry for a yearly rent of 35 shillings. The fare was one penny for a person, a cow, a horse, or six sheep, swine or goats. The opening of a railway line to Cobh (then known as Queenstown) caused the demise of the Passage ferry; however in the early 1990s a car ferry service was opened between nearby Glenbrook and Carrigaloe on the Great Island.

In the 19th century, Passage West became a popular bathing resort for the citizens of Cork, and the houses at Glenbrook and Toureen were in great demand during the summer. Fr. T.R. England, P.P. records in the Parish Register that Passage and more particularly Monkstown had many visitors during the summer season. According to a census taken by him in 1831 the population of Passage was 1,457, of whom 1,136 were Catholics. There were two hydropathic establishments in Glenbrook. The Victoria Baths was opened about 1808 and was very prosperous for a while. It closed owing to lack of support soon after the extension of the railway to Monkstown. Judging by its ruins it was a pretentious building. The other baths were situated almost directly opposite the Victoria Baths and were run in conjunction with St. Ann's Hydro, a large hydropathic facility near Blarney. In front of the Glen was a large pier, which was very much frequented until the railway was extended to Monkstown. It was then practically abandoned and became so unsafe that it was removed.

The opening of Passage railway station on the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway in June 1850 was very much in the town's favour, as many visitors came to the town, which was for some time the railway terminus. The railway was extended to Monkstown in August 1902 and two years later to Crosshaven. From that time Passage was no longer popular as a tourist resort, Crosshaven taking its place. The railway was closed in 1932. Passage railway station opened on 8 June 1850 and finally closed on 12 September 1932.[2] In November 2007, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the closure of the railway, a historical walking and cycle trail was created. This was part funded by the Irish Heritage Council and Cork County Council. It consists of a series plaques with historical photographs and explanatory text.

The greatest of the Passage industries were the two dockyards. Hennessy's yard was situated in what is now Fr O'Flynn Park. The precise date of its opening is unknown. This yard had the distinction of launching in 1815 the City of Cork, which was the first steamship built in Ireland. The closing date of this dockyard is unrecorded. The other and bigger dockyard was the Royal Victoria Dockyard, which was laid down by Messrs. Henry and William Brown in 1832 and cost £150,000 to build and equip. It received its name from Queen Victoria on her first visit to Cork in 1849.

It changed ownership several times. During World War I it did a wonderful business under Oliver Piper, and employed over 1,000. He sold it to Messrs. Furness and Whity & Co. Ltd., who had another dockyard in Rushbrooke. In 1925 most of the workers were paid off owing to a slump in the shipbuilding trade, and it completely closed down in 1931. Many of the workers emigrated to the English Naval Yards and to America. The Rushbrooke Dockyard was re-opened in 1940 and gave employment to many men who previously worked in the Royal Victoria Yard. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic to America was under the command of Lt. Richard Roberts, R.N., a native of Passage West. The paddle shaft of The Sirius can be seen today, and forms part of a memorial to Captain Roberts and his achievement. It is erected near the site of the now demolished baths on the road to Monkstown just beyond the Cross River Ferry.

In Wendele's "History of Cork" published in 1839, Passage is described as consisting of two old irregular streets extending in a kind of forked direction. From 1763 two fairs were held there yearly, one on the first of May, and the other on the 25th of July. The fairs were held in the vicinity of Fair Hill, from, which the latter received its name. On Saturday a weekly market was held in a house on the site of the C.Y.M.S. Hall. In 1752, in the Market House, John Wesley - the founder of Methodism - addressed the people of Passage whom he described afterward, as "as dull a congregation as I have seen. They would have been rude only they were afraid." The old Courthouse, which is now fast becoming a ruin was a Wesleyan Chapel and was built some time after his visit here.

In the past several cottages existed of which very little trace can be found at present. Cottages in Horsehead were knocked down to make way for the building of Rockenham House and Lecarrow. There was a row of cottages at the back of Toureen Terrace, all of which have practically disappeared during the past twenty years. Traces of the cottages, which extended from Leemount Lodge almost to Killmurry Graveyard, can be seen on the road wall. Beyond the entrance to the graveyard as one approached the summit of the hill there were some more cottages. Between the Catholic and Protestant Churches on Church Hill was a large number of little houses. A number of houses on the Main Street were cleared for the laying down of the railway and for the building of the Convent School. In what is now Dock Street were several houses which were cleared for the building of the Dock Offices. On Beach Road, which was the main road, was a row of cottages the last of which was recently pulled down. There were a few cottages in the Copse, and there were far more houses in the Glen at Glenbrook than at present. According to Shaw Mason's "Survey of the South of Ireland" Irish was the language spoken in 1809 by the inhabitants of these humble dwellings.

Toureen House was the former Custom's House and Toureen Terrace was known as Mariner's Row, as most of the houses were occupied by seafaring captains. Dock Cottages and Terrace and Marina View were built to accommodate the Dockyard workers.

The Council Building Scheme at Rockenham was completed in 1940 and was primarily intended as a slum clearance for the old houses in the town that had not been fit for habitation. St. Mary's Cottages were occupied at the end of 1936 and St. Joseph's early in 1940. Passage together with Monkstown was first constituted a Local Authority with Town Commissioners in July 1920. A year later it became an Urban District with an Urban Council. Owing to abuses a Public Inquiry was held in 1938 and the Urban Council dissolved. The area: was then placed under a Manager, and in 1942 It was deurbanised and put under a Manager with Town Commissioners.

Passage West was directly affected by the events of the Irish Civil War 1922-23. Passage West saw a large scale landing of Free State (pro-treaty) troops on 2 August 1922 as part of a wider offensive. These 1,500 men, well equipped with artillery and armour supplied by the British, went on to capture Cork city from the badly armed republican troops who were holding it.

Many of the local homes took in the soldiers and fed them. It is said that Captain Jeremiah Collins, who was well known in Cork circles for aiding the cause, not only welcomed them into his home, but to mark the victorious landing, he raised the flag in front of his house "Carrigmahon" which overlooked the water. Today, that same flagpole which was prominent in the grounds of Carrigmahon so many years ago, stands at the Glenbrook Hotel, by the waters edge.

Irish political leader Charles Stuart Parnell once made a speech from a building in the centre of the town. John Wesley, Methodist founder, also preached in the town.

Recent development[edit]

Passage West suffered from relatively high unemployment for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but recent re-development, along with the sweeping harbour views the area offers, has resulted in the town becoming a popular place to live. There has been a substantial amount of new housing development in the last seven or eight years - especially in the townlands of Pembroke and Rockenham on the northern edge of the town.

In 2006 Howard Holdings, one of Ireland's largest property development companies acquired the former Royal Victoria Dockyard site from Haulbowline Industries, a stevedoring business owned and managed by the Hill family (David, Orlando and Roger Hill). In December 2007 they held a public display of plans for the redevelopment of the site. At the time they indicated that this development would proceed immediately subject to planning approval. However the project has since stalled due to the collapse of Ireland's property boom and Howard Holdings is, as of May 2011, in danger of collapse due to heavy debts and its association with the bailed out Anglo Irish Bank[3]

Local government[edit]

Prior to 2014 Passage West was governed by a town council. The council had nine members and covered the town of Passage West itself as well as the neighbouring village of Monkstown. The last mayor of Passage West was Councillor John Daly of Fine Gael. Following the introduction of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 all town councils in Ireland were abolished. Cork County Council assumed direct control of the former town council's functions in May 2014.

Sports clubs[edit]

The Passage West Celtic Supporters Club was formed in 1997 and is based in the Ferry Arms pub. It currently has 30 adult and 32 juvenile members and is often described as the heart and soul of its parent club the Cork No.1 C.S.C. In 2001 the club formed a friendship with the Lee Walker CSC Lochee, Scotland, which results in frequent visits to each other. Founding members such as chairman Barry Fitzgerald and President Christy Burke as well as Brendan Murphy, John O' Connor, Shane O'Sullivan and Finbarr Burke are still actively involved with the club.

The town is home to Passage West GAA, whose grounds are located in the Maulbaun area of the town.

Passage Soccer Club play their games at their pitch on Cork Road, on the northern entrance to the town.

Passage West Rowing Club is one of the oldest rowing clubs in the harbour and has been very successful in recent years, winning 4 Gold, 6 Silver and a Bronze medal at the recent All-Ireland's Finals.


Passage West is twinned with the French town of Chasseneuil-du-Poitou. The twinning charter was signed by the then Mayor of Passage West, Mr. Jim Murphy, and the then Mayor of Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, Mr. Pierre Giret, at the Town Hall in Passage West in 1997. Annual exchange visits for both members of the Town Council and local residents are organised.

See also[edit]


Cork Weekly Examiner, Thursday, April 23, 1981 "Carrigmahon estate and the "last pirate."

  1. ^ "Census 2006 – Volume 1 – Population Classified by Area" (PDF). Central Statistics Office Census 2006 Reports. Central Statistics Office Ireland. April 2007. Retrieved 2011-06-05. 
  2. ^ "Passage station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  3. ^ "Collapse threatens Irish companies of Howard Holdings". The Irish Times. 5 May 2011. 

External links[edit]