Kanturk (Co. Cork / Northwest)
Kanturk (Ceann Toirc – “Boar’s Head”, also the town’s emblem, commemorating the legend that the last Irish wild boar was killed here) (pop. 2000) has always been considered the primary town in the Barony of Duhallow, which some say derives its name from the confluence here of the Rivers Alua /Allow and Dalua / Dallow, tributaries of the River Lee. These rivers occasionally cause severe flooding.
Kanturk Town Park, one of several pleasant riverside areas for strolling. (Photo by Tom Daly at www.kanturk.ie)
Kanturk is an attractive C18th market town, developed by the descendants of John Perceval (1629 – 1665), who acquired the land after the 1641 Rebellion, and was created Baronet of Kanturk in 1661; his grandson John Perceval (1683 – 1748), 1st Earl of Egmont, served as first President of the British North American colony of Georgia. The family dominated the area for two centuries, and is commemorated in place names such as Egmont Place, Earl St. and Perceval St.
Henry Perceval, 5th Earl of Egmont, was a rake, a spendthrift and a drunk, “often to be found in a wild state in a low place known as Smith’s Hotel drinking with bums and hostlers”. He squandered his income as it came into his hands and then borrowed heavily from his land agent, Sir Edward Tierney, to whom he left all his estates in England and Ireland on his death in 1841.The latter, a Limerick solicitor who had inherited his baronetcy from his brother Mathew, a doctor who saved the life of the Prince Regent from serious illness in 1820, died in 1856, leaving all to his son-in-law, Rev Sir Lionel Darrell, but John, 6th Earl of Egmont, successfully challenged Earl Henry’s will in 1863. He sold the land to the tenants under the Ashbourne Act in 1895, thus ending the Perceval connection with County Cork after three hundred years.
The church of the Immaculate Conception (RC), Kanturk’s principal landmark, was constructed in 1867 with subscriptions by local parishioners and exiles working in goldmines in Klondyke, Australia and South Africa, who danated gold nuggets.
St. Peter’s church, built for local Church of Ireland congregants in 1853 to replace an earlier edifice nearby, was converted in 1977 into a Museum, open on Sunday afternoons.
Barretts pub is one of the most handsome of the town’s many bars.
Kanturk Castle (1609), known locally as the Old Court, was built c. 1600 by Dermot MacOwen MacDonagh MacCarthy, Lord of Duhallow and head of the MacDonagh-MacCarthy branch of the MacCarthy clan. On learning that he was building “a regular fortress” and “a house much too large for a subject“, the Privy Council in London ordered that the work be discontinued. Some say that troops, others say that MacCarthy himself, in a rage, threw all the blue glass roof slates into the river at a point known ever since as Bluepool; at all events, the castle was never completed. A historian has described the castle as “the finest ever erected by an Irish Chieftain“. Until recently it was owned by the UK’s National Trust but let on a 1000 years lease to An Taisce, which acquired the freehold in 1998.
Garraveasoge, near Kanturk Golf Club, is where scores of victims of the Great Famine were buried in 1847 in a common grave marked with a small Celtic Cross.
Kanturk Rural Farm Museum in Meelahera illustrates rural Ireland’s development over the last 150 years, with old type farm buildings, a soup kitchen from the time of the Great Famine, a rural post office, a carpenter’s shop, a forge, traditional horse drawn equipment and a working circular vintage railway. Ancient stones with religious and cultural associations are also on display along a heritage and nature trail and dotted around the secluded park and gardens.
Notable people from the area include Thady Quill, historical rake, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, suffragette, and Michael O’Leary, obnoxious chief executive of Ryanair.
Kanturk is within easy reach of Newmarket on ByRoute 5.
Banteer (Co. Cork / West)
Banteer, a small village and district on the River Glen close to its junction with the River Blackwater, is a place of some historical significance.
The local railway station (1853) serves an extensive hinterland.
The Glen Theatre, a cultural centre for the Duhallow Region, is housed in a former National School built in 1840. The centre, used extensively for poetry, comedy and live traditional, rock, folk etc. music events, is owned, developed and run by the local community.
The Battle of Knocknaclashy
Knocknaclashy was the site of the last battle of the Confederate War, also one of the last of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, at which a pro-Royalist force led by Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry was routed by a smaller but more disciplined English Parliamentarian army under Roger Boyle, Baron Broghill (later Earl of Orrery).
Intending to relieve the defenders of Limerick, beseiged by Cromwell’s army under the command of Henry Ireton, MacCarthy set out from Ross Castle in Killarney in July 1651 with 3000 infantry and some cavalry. He rallied his men by spreading rumours of a prophecy that the Irish would win a great battle over the English. However, they were intercepted by Boyle at Knocknaclashy near Banteer. Although outnumbered, the Parliamentarians were better trained and supplied and had more cavalry, a big advantage in open country.
The two sides exchanged a volley of musketry at close range and then closed hand to hand. The Irish cavalry were scattered in the first charge, leaving their infantry alone. However, the infantrymen, mostly armed with pikes, bravely charged their adversaries. Broghill’s men were almost outflanked by the Irish pikemen, but recovered the advantage by charging the flank of the Irish line. Boyle reported that his horsemen broke into the Irish pike squares at the “angles” (corners) by riding up, firing their pistols, reloading and repeating the process until there was a large enough gap in the formation for the English cavalry to break in with their swords. In this way, they turned the flank of the Irish line and put them to flight.
Hundreds of Irish soldiers were ridden down by the Parliamentary cavalry in the subsequent pursuit. Boyle related that his men found Catholic “charms” sown into the clothing of the Irish dead, which promised that the wearer would be invulnerable to weapons. He ordered the killing of all prisoners except “men of good quality” (i.e. of high social rank) who could be ransomed.
The Parliamentarians lost only 26 dead and 130 wounded. The surviving Irish, including Viscount Muskerry, retreated in disorder to Ross Castle, where they surrendered in 1652.
Clonmeen Castle, built in 1590 on a rock overlooking the River Blackwater, was for some years the principal seat of the local O’Callaghan clan, who in 1642 entertained the Papal Nuncio Cardinal Rinunicci here on his way to Kilkenny. The castle was destroyed by Parliamentarian troops following the Battle of Knocknaclashy. Only two ruined corner towers remain.
Dromaneen Castle (1610), another O’Callaghan stronghold further east along the riverbank, occupied by Crown soldiers until 1690, is in better shape. According to legend there is a gold hoard buried somewhere beneath it.
Banteer is connected by road to Ballydesmond and Rathmore (Co. Kerry) on ByRoute 5.
Nad & Lyre (Co. Cork / West)
Nad / Nadd (Nead an Fholair – “the Eagle’s Nest”) lies in a valley at the confluence of the Rivers Nadd and Glen, “the epicentre of the Boggeragh Mountains” according to a locally authored internet entry, which claims that the village is “famed” for its grotto and its Eagle Monument and is also proud of its new bus-stop and recently refurbished letter-box. The weather, apparently, is “generally dodgy“.
A Celtic Cross commemorates a tragedy within barely living memory. In March 1921 the informer Dan Shields betrayed the position of an IRA column in Nadd, and three IRA men were killed in the subsequent British ambush. Some say members of this column were responsible for intimidation of ex-RIC men.
Nadd Pub, established in 1810, is one of the few bars with genuine old-fashioned charm left in Ireland. It hosts traditional musicians every Monday night and on other occasions as they may arise, while serving good food seven days a week. On cold days the staff light aromatic turf fires.
The hills surrounding the village are a habitat of the Irish red grouse, although numbers have decreased in recent years. The Glen River rises about three miles south of the village and is famous for its trout. There are many quiet country roads and lanes, hills, boglands and forests in the area, making for lovely walks. From the hills there is a panoramic view of the old Barony of Duhallow.
Lyre (An Ladhar), which some locals claim is the third highest village in Ireland, is usually mentioned in the same breath as Nad.
Nad is linked by the exceptionally scenic R579 to Cork City.
Kilcorney (pop. 35), a tiny rural community in the Boggeragh Mountains, has since 1910 hosted the Féis Chill Cóirne, an important annual festival of traditional music, singing, recitation and step dancing, usually held on the last weekend in May.
Rathcool / Rathcoole, a village scenically located between Rathcoole Woods and the Aubane River in the Blackwater River Valley, has grown in recent years due to an influx of long-distance commuters.