Pleasant Bandon

John Johnson Marshall
Chapter XII (2) - Start of Chapter

Of all the towns in the County of Cork, the one that has become celebrated the world over through a rhyme attached to it is Bandon—formerly Bandon-Bridge, from the town having been founded at the great bridge over the river Bandon, Spenser’s “The pleasant Bandon crowned with many a wood.”

1689. In this year the town was held for King James, but the people having got timely notice that the Prince of Orange had ascended the throne, resolved not only to keep out the six companies that were being sent to reinforce the garrison but to turn out the Jacobite soldiers that were stationed in Bandon, the signal for which was to be the ringing of the Church bell at daybreak on Monday morning, which was accordingly done. It was owing to this event having taken place on a dark Monday morning that the inhabitants of Bandon have been called “Black Mondays,” and the neighbouring peasantry still stoutly affirm, that, ever since, a black cloud hangs over Bandon. The town is called “Southern Derry,” or “the Derry of the South,” from the people of Bandon having risen in the South as the people of Derry did some time previously in the north. It has the further link with the northern town that the contingent sent by Bandon to William’s assistance was attached to and fought side by side with the Londonderry men at the battle of the Boyne.

In Bandon the term “Old black bull” was applied to that rigid and uncompromising religious sect, the Presbyterians. Socially an “old black bull” was as playful as a kitten and as harmless as an old horse; but he was a man of very decided religious opinions. This is a variation of the term “black mouth” applied to Presbyterians in the north of Ireland.

Dean Swift spent some time during the year 1729 in Bandon, and whilst there had ample opportunities of learning many of the characteristics of those amongst whom for the time being he lived. It is to the information thus acquired that we are indebted for the motto by many so devoutly believed to be still in existence engraved over one of the gates of Bandon although no such inscription ever existed as:—

“A Jew, a Turk, or an Atheist

May live in this town, but no Papist.”

There is scarcely a corner of the earth that these lines have not reached and have been quoted as a specimen of the rank bigotry and intolerance supposed to prevail in Bandon in former days. It is not generally known that the original stanza contained fourteen lines as follows:—

“A Jew, a Turk, or an Atheist

May live in this town but no Papist,

He that wrote these lines did write them well

As the same is written on the gates of hell

For Friar Hayes, who made his exit of late

Of . . . some say. But no matter for that,

He died, and if what we’ve heard is aright

He came to hell’s gates in a mournful plight.

‘Who’s there?’ says the sentry on guard. Quoth the other,

‘A wretched poor priest, sir; a Catholic brother;

‘Halt! instantly halt! avaunt! and stand clear,

We admit no such fellow, for a wretch so uncivil,

Who on earth would eat God, would in hell eat the Devil.”

Bandon Protestantism was believed to be the ne plus ultra of orthodoxy and even the Roman Catholic inhabitants, whether from hearing so much about it, or being brought so much in contact with its professors, we know not, but certain it is they became absolutely tinged with it themselves, and used to institute comparisons in their own favour between them and the Protestants of neighbouring towns. “A Bandon Papist is better than a Cork or Kinsale Protestant any day,” is an aphorism the truth of which is so self-evident that it has never yet been called in question. (Bennett’s Hist. of Bandon).