SKIBBEREEN, a market and post-town, partly in the parish of ABBEYSTROWRY, but chiefly in that of CREAGH, Eastern Division of the barony of WEST CARBERY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 42 miles (S. W.) from Cork, on the mail road to Bantry, and 167 ¼ (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 4429 inhabitants. In 1691, an engagement took place in the vicinity between the forces of James II. and Colonel Becher, who commanded about 500 of the militia, when the former were put to flight, with the loss of 60 men and a large number of cattle. Three years afterwards, a party of 40 rapparees came into the town and plundered the custom-house, which belonged to the port of Baltimore, and killed two revenue officers.

The town, from its situation in a wild, unenclosed part of the country, has frequently been the rendezvous of disaffected parties, but it has been much improved of late years, and is now a very flourishing place. It is situated on the southern bank of the river Ilen, and comprises seven streets; that part which extends into the parish of Abbeystrowry is called Bridgetown, and consists of three streets, one of which has been recently formed. The number of houses in the whole town is 1014, many of which, in the eastern part and in the parish of Creagh, are large and well built: the approaches have been much improved by the formation of new lines of road at each extremity.

This place had formerly a very considerable trade, arising from the manufacture of woollen cloth, linen, checks, and handkerchiefs, which has altogether declined: it is, however, very advantageously situated for trade in an extensive and improving district; the tide from the harbour of Baltimore flows up to the town, and the river is navigable for vessels of 200 tons' burden to Oldcourt, two miles below Skibbereen. In the town are capacious storehouses for corn, and a considerable quantity of flour is also exported from the mills of Mr. J. Clark, on the bank of the Ilen, a quarter of a mile from the town.

A porter brewery upon an extensive scale was established in 1809; it is the property of Daniel Mc Carthy, Esq., and is in full operation, many of the neighbouring towns being supplied from the establishment. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday, the former for the Bridgetown portion, and the latter, which is the principal market, for Staplestown.

Milk and fuel are also exposed daily in the market-place for sale. The supply of provisions is very abundant, particularly fish and poultry: pigs and sheep are also sold in great numbers. The marketplace being small, and the market-house old and inconvenient, the articles brought for sale on the regular market-days are exposed in the public streets and in a place called the square. Fairs are held on May 14th, July 10th, Aug. 2nd, Oct. 12th, and Dec. 11th and 23rd; and petty sessions on Wednesdays.

The sessions-house and bridewell is a large and handsome building in the Grecian style, occupying an elevated site near the entrance to the town from Cork. There is also an infantry barrack; and Skibbereen is the residence of the inspecting commander of the coast-guard stations of the district, of which it is the head, comprising those of Milkcove, Glandore, Castle-Townsend, Barlogue, Baltimore, Long Island, Crookhaven, Dunmanus, and Whitehorse, and extending from Sheep Head to Rosscarbery.

The parochial church of Abbeystrowry is situated in Bridgetown; it is a large edifice in the early English style, with a tower at the east end, erected in 1827, at an expense of £1200, towards which £900 was contributed by the late Board of First Fruits. The R. C. chapel, situated near the sessions-house, is a spacious and handsome edifice in the Grecian style, erected in 1826, at an expense of £3000: the interior is fitted up with great taste, and the altar, which is ornamented with a painting of the Crucifixion, is very chaste: it was built under the direction of the late Dr. Collins, R. C. Bishop of Ross, who resided here, and is the principal chapel of the union, to which Skibbereen gives name. There is also a Wesleyan Methodist chapel, a small but neat edifice. Parochial schools for boys and girls were erected near the church, in 1825, by the vicar; and an infants' school was built in 1835. There is also a Sunday school under the care of the Protestant clergyman. Near the R. C. chapel are large school-houses, built by the late Dr. Collins, which are supported by the National Board. A dispensary is maintained in the customary manner. There are numerous large and handsome houses near the town, the principal of which are noticed in the description of Abbeystrowry.

Search Topographical Dictionary of Ireland »