Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Modern history of Durrus and District

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Modern history of Durrus and District

Durrus is an area of West Cork, Ireland.


World War I 1914–1918

The Irish Parliamentary Party and Carson urged support for the war and encouraged men to join up. Many who had emigrated to Great Britain, the United States, Canada or Australia joined the defence forces at those locations. The Easter Rebellion in 1916 and the subsequent executions, together with the threat of conscription in 1917, along with rising casualties reduced support for the war. It was a prosperous period with high prices for cattle and agricultural produce. Bere Island was the base of the British Atlantic fleet and was the operating base for a flotilla of small boats and trawlers engaged in anti-U-Boat activities. It also had a kite balloon station used for anti-U-Boat activities on a 67-acre (270,000 m2) site. Balloons went up during the day suspending a wicker basket carrying an observer with a telescope to look for enemy craft. Bere Island hosted a military hospital opened in 1915. It was also a training camp. In July 1915 approximately 1,500 of the Fourth Connaught Rangers trained there but only 300 returned alive and many were wounded.

After the US entered the war in 1917 the US Navy based some craft in Castletown. The US Navy's Air Wing established a seaplane base on the eastern end of Whiddy Island that became operational on 25 September 1918 when the first two planes arrived. They controlled an area around Fastnet. One of the planes crashed on 22 October 1918, killing one. The base had an operational radio station receiving messages from as far as the US and Russia. Five planes were based in Whiddy. The station closed in January 1919.

The Troubles

The memoirs of Willie Kingston, Solicitor, Skibbereen (1885–1965), provide an interesting insight into the period of The Troubles from a Protestant. He was born a Methodist and qualified as a solicitor working in his cousin Jasper Wolfe's office. He sympathised with the objectives of Sinn Féin, but abhorred the brutalities committed by both sides. He described his shock at the killings of William Connell and Matt Sweetman by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 19 February 1921. He wrote that at the end of 1920, when it became apparent that the troubles would continue a wave of emigration included some of his own friends. He described the period after the truce, when in April 1922 a wave of killings by Irregulars included Solicitor Francis Fitzmaurice in Dunmanway whom he had considered joining in practice. Others were shot around this time and rumours spread of a general massacre of Protestants. He decided to "clear off to Dublin" on 29 April 1922. He described the train from Cork to Dublin as filled with frightened Protestants. In the course of the journey, an explosion hit the tunnel in Cork, shots were fired at Limerick Junction and he saw a man with a revolver.

In an attack by 5th Battalion, Cork No. 3 Brigade led by Ted O'Sullivan, on Durrus Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barracks, Constable Donovan injured his right hand and eventually lost it. O'Farrell claimed one RIC man was killed. Bantry Courthouse Burned 25 June 1920. Bantry RIC Barracks burnt 1920 (now part of Bantry Bay Hotel).

An ambush on RIC on Bog Road, Clonee killed Constable Brett on 21 June 1920. He had been in the RIC for 30 years, the last 8 in Bantry. He was cycling with Constable Cleary, Sergeant Driscoll and Constables Cuniffe and Quinn. When they arrived at Clonee Wood on the road to Durrus from Bantry, they were raked by gunfire. Between 20 and 30 assailants were involved. The inquest in Bantry was presided over by Coroner Neville and the jurors called were John Sweeney, Marine Street, vintner, William B Roycroft, Bridge Street, auctioneer, James Downey, Main Street, shoemaker, Florence Connolly, Main Street, publican, Richard Swanton, William Street, flour merchant, George Symes, Blackrock Terrace, shop manager, Charles O'Donovan JP, Main Street, Draper, Edward Brooks, Marino Street, Shop Assistant, David Mahony, Gurtha, Farmer, Michael O'Driscoll, Gearhies, Shopkeeper, James J McCarthy, Wolfe Tone Square, hotel keeper, Arthur O'Connor, Blackrock Road, artisan. When the names were called out, only Roycroft, Swanton and Symes answered. The others were fined twenty shillings. It was said at the inquest that "no policeman that ever came to Bantry was more popular, and, deservedly so".

Bigg's Mill burned at the Quay in Bantry on 25 July. G. W. Biggs wrote a letter to a newspaper stating that this was not the work of Sinn Féin. The barytes mine was raided with explosives. Vickeries Hotel burnt in May 1921. Two bridges were blown up at the creamery and Dunbeacon Road.

In April 1921, Wolfe, Kingston and Miss Brown motored to Durrus where Wolfe had a case at Petty Sessions. Kingston had been in Bantry earlier where he saw two men coming towards him, one saying to the other "that's him". He thought it was a case of mistaken identity. Later he met Jasper at the hotel. The group added cattle dealer (Bawnie) TT McCarthy earlier and drove to Durrus. Leaving Durrus for Caheragh, McCarthy was in front with Jasper.

A workers hut and equipment at Durrus Road Railway Station were destroyed by fire.

Economic war

The 1932-38 Anglo-Irish Trade War, known as the Economic War was a time of hardship for farmers as cattle could not be exported and it was necessary to kill the calves and sell their skins for only twelve shillings. Bullocks sold for as little as £2 and 12 dozen eggs for 24 pence. There were no buyers for butter.


After World War II began their produce was in demand. Prices remained mostly stable. The rationing of tea and other items, entailed sacrifices but not hardship. Compulsory tillage affected a percentage of tilled land. The only cars in the Parish at the outbreak of war, belonged to the Priest, the Minister, Dinny John L O'Sullivan and Barry. The train took four hours to reach Cork. Coal was unavailable. The train stopped at each station to take on timber and turf.

The Luftwaffe flew weather reconnaissance aircraft over the area and used the lighthouse at Dursey Island as a landmark. The keepers got used to a Junkers plane that used to fly from Merignac near Bordeaux.

A German plane was hit by the Royal Navy's SS Major C and crashed into Cashelane Hill, Dunbeacon on 5 February 1941, killing five of its crew while one was taken prisoner. A German plane crash-landed on Mount Gabriel on 3 March 1942 killing all aboard. They were interred in Bentry Abbey. On 23 July 1943 another aircraft crashed on the island killing its crew of four. The National Library's Photographic Archive includes photographs taken by the Luftwaffe's aerial photographic wing of military barracks, the airport, railway stations and Dublin city centre.

Many natives of the district emigrated to England, a number serving in the armed forces, while others worked in hospitals and factories.


Emigration continued amid widespread poverty and stagnation, apart from a brief uplift in the late 1940s. As John Crowley and the then chairman of Drinagh Co-Op drove west passing ruined houses, the chairman remarked that it was only a matter of time before no one was left on the Peninsula. Political excitement was provided by a new political party Clann na Poblachta. Bottled gas, yellow for Kosangas and silver and red for Calor gas became available for cooking and lighting using a silk mantle. Some continued to use paraffin and Tilley lamps. In the late 1950s rural electrification brought electricity. Some residnets distrusted electricity and insisted that poles and meters be removed.

The Land Project aimed to increase farm productivity by reclamation, drainage and better animal husbandry. Lorries carrying lime, sea sand, pipes and machinery supplied reclamation assisted by grants. Tractors appeared and older cattle breeds were replaced over with black Anglias became common.


In the early 1960s, old cowhalachts (old houses/ruins) began to be rebuilt. Englishwoman Mrs. Burton redeveloped the cottage at Ahagouna Bridge, Tom Mahony's house, the O'Sullivan house both in Coomkeen and The Old Mill. In the mid-1960s, Gulf Oil built an oil storage complex on Whiddy Island. The complex started a boom, attracting workers to settle in the district. Local people acquired skills in construction and worked on major projects such as Pfizer's in Cork and Alcan Aluminium in Limerick. The first supertanker Universe Ireland arrived at Whiddy in October 1968. The tankers were serviced by four tugs, Bantry Bay, Dingle Bay, Brandon Bay, Tralee Bay. The terminal closed on 8 January 1979 when the Betelgeuse exploded, killing fifty people.

Tourism catered to English visitors in bed and breakfast inns and premises such as Ballyrooster House. The renewal of the troubles in Northern Ireland and competition from Spain crimped the industry.


Rossmore slate quarry was owned by a Liverpool Company in 1865 with exports to England, Scotland and France. The quarry ceased operations in 1917. The remains of the powder store and tool shed are still visible. Friendly Cove Slate Quarry opened in the 1870s by Mr. Morris. Scart Barytes Mine supplied Harris paint factory in 1886. ore was exported in loads of 200–300 tons for porcelain manufacture. Rooska and Killeveenogue Silver and Lead Mine produced 65 tons of lead and 70 ounces of silver between 1849 and 1852, but ran out of capital. A quarry owned by Timothy McCarthy operated in 1912.

Dereenalomane Barytes Mine was originally worked as a copper mine Traill and Thomas in 1840, producing 19 tons of copper, before shifting to barium sulphate, a heavy white mineral, (used for paint, papermaking, etc.) Josiah Wedgwood used it for making pottery. Geologist T. D. Triphook, was involved in 1854 when it was known as the Bandon Barytes Mines. From 1860 the mine was managed by Charles Thomas, a Cornish Mining Captain, followed by George Ellis in the 1870s. From 1820 to 1920 intermittently when 2,500 tons were raised in 1851 compared to only 800 tons in three other centres in the former United Kingdom. The material was washed, dried, crushed and milled. It was packed into bags and sent to an island jetty in Dunmanus Bay by a 1.23 miles (1.98 km) aerial ropeway. In 1917 a major fire caused extensive damage including the underground workings. Although repairs were carried out the mine never reached its former output. Mining historian Grenville AJ Cole regarded it as the first in Ireland and one of the earliest in the world. The companies listed as having worked the mine were, Marty Dennis and Co., British Barytes Co., Durrus Barytes Co., Mount Gabriel Barytes and Umber Co., Irish Barytes and Umber Co., Dereenlomane, Barytes Mines Ltd., Dunmanus Barytes Mines Ltd.


The Moynihan family operated a water mill fed by a sluice from the Durrus River, starting at the Creamery and continuing to the Mill. It had extensive use during the Second World War. Moynihan was the headmaster in the school. In the 19th century there was also a scutch mill listed in Griffiths Valuations.

Markets and fairs

In 1912, butter markets operated on Wednesdays and Fridays near the present creamery. The main market was in Bantry with fair day the first Friday each month. The pig fair was held on a Thursday. In the early 20th century, Bantry celebrated the fourth largest fair in Ireland. The railway ran as many as eight carriages to carry cattle and pigs to Cork. The annual horse fair was Ballibui in August in Dunmanway. When the marts started, especially Bandon and Skibbereen (started by Cork Co-Operative Marts in 1958) it sounded the death knell of the cattle fair. Durrus Fair held near Creamery and was revived in 1937 after 20 years.

Dairy and creamery

In Gaelic Ireland, a person's wealth was measured by the size of his cattle herd. A wealthy man was reckoned to be "fear mile bo", a man of a thousand cows. The Brehon laws emphasized cattle ownership. The diet before the introduction of the potato had a major dairy-product component.

Around 1630, the practice of packing butter for export in wooden firkins (56 lb.) was introduced to Ireland. By 1730, Cork merchants were distributing firkins to small farmers in Munster, ensuring that the butter would be returned in good quality containers.

By the mid-18th century, a thriving trade sent butter to the Cork market, but the round trip by horse-drawn cart from Skibbereen could take eight days. In the 1730s, Cork merchants came to Bantry every summer, primarily in connection with the pilchard trade, but also to export butter. In addition, farmers and car men faced the hazards of highwaymen. Many did not use carts. This was evidenced by Sir John Carr in 1805, who wrote "peasants with horses carrying barrels of butter to Cork secured as usual with ropes of hay" and Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1806, who said "numerous troops of pack horses conveying casks of salt butter from the interior to Cork".

Patrick and Andrew Gallwey of Bantry wrote in 1737 that the small cows in the district would have produced from half to two-thirds of a hundredweight of butter per annum. In the post-famine era, with consolidation of holdings and the collapse of grain prices with the passing of the Corn Laws, dairying assumed greater importance. The merchants would receive butter in amounts of 20 or 30 lb (14 kg) and salt and make it up to 56 lb (25 kg),the measure of a firkin, they would pay the same as applied in the Cork Butter Market.

The railway reduced the time to take butter to market by 75%. William Warner of Bantry, owned creameries at Killarney, Enniskeane and Ballinacarriga and developed butter aimed at the export market. In partnership with James Manders, who later left the partnership he started a factory at William Street, by 1886 its production was £6,000 in the summer and employed a hundred men including fifty coopers. Before the Land Acts that transferred ownership to tenants in the early-20th century, it was common for land to be worked by a combination of owner and dairyman. In one such case, the Sullivan dairy family at Moulivard and elsewhere agreed in 1897 to work lands at Rusheenisca.

By agreement of 13 January 1897 between Robert Phillips, Church House, Clowes, Worcestershire, England, and John Sullivan of Durrus, the owner agreed to give the milk and produce of 27 in-calf cows and any cows that the owner may buy, to make up the above number and calves, on or above 15 May 1898 for the Dairy Year of 1898. The dairyman was given liberty to graze six sheep, to grow potatoes for his own use and he was equipped with dairy utensils and a half tonne of bran. He was to be permitted to sow last year's tillage to oats and wheat for his own use, with the straw to be the owner's property. In return, the dairyman was to pay Phillips £6.15.0d. for each cow and the owner was to allow Sullivan £6.0s.0d. for properly protecting the hay. The dairyman was to pay the sum of £100 0s.0d., with the balance to be secured by a promissory note. Should the dairyman decide not to renew the dairy agreement for the year 1898, he was to be allowed such root crops.

A major influence in establishing the creamery in 1933 was Canon McManaway. It was largely built by cross-community voluntary labour. Work started in 1933 and it opened in the spring of 1934. Farmers gave a week at a time with horse and cart. Gravel was sourced from the strand and rock was quarried east of Ballycommane Road. It was necessary to register 1,000 cows and guarantee £1,000 over three years. McManaway was also involved in starting the creamery at Kilcrohane and Dunmanway and worked closely with Fr. McSweeney.

This creamery was opened before those at Caheragh, Kealkil and Bantry and apart from Durrus farmers, other suppliers from those areas delivered their milk on floats carrying 15 or more churns. Butter was sold to Jeremiah O'Sulivan's stores for 4d/lb and was packed in 56 lb (25 kg) boxes. It went by horse and cart to Durrus Road Station and then to Cork. The creamery operated as a general store where farmers could make purchases against their cheques. It purchased chickens and turkeys and supplied meal and other farm supplies.

Sea urchin fishery 1960s to 1980s

A thriving sea urchin fishery operated in Dunmanus Bay, in the area bounded by Mannion's Island Ahakista and the ruined Dunmanus Castle. The waters are shallow and this encouraged urchin growth. The fishery was operated by Paudie McSwiney, John, Patrick and Joe Arthur of Kenmare Saw Mills and John and Dermot Murphy of Bantry. The boatmen were Joe and Mick Flynn of Gearameen Durrus. The Lucey family of Waterville and a French Company operating out of Crookhaven were also in the business. At different stages four or five boats operated. The urchins were picked from the seabed by divers. John Arthur said that they would often spend four hours in the water. The urchins were sold on the French market live and were shipped through Cork Airport. The fishery was effectively wiped out with the sudden onset of red tide in the early eighties and by overharvesting, preventing regeneration. Kenmare Bay suffered a similar fate and urchin "fishing" is now unheard of in these bays.


Among those involved in the scallops were Frank Arundel of Ahakista, Jim Flynn of Gearhmeen, Jack Connolly, Gearhmeen, Mossy Cremin, John and Jimmy O Mahony (Durrus) and Con Coughlan, Patsy Flynn, and Mattie Coughlan were all well-known fishermen during the 50s and 60s. In wartime, the catch was exported to the UK while an ever-increasing demand for seafood at home supported them in later years.

The tradition stretched into the new century with Teddy and Frankie Arundel, Frank and Gerard Coughlan, Tommy Arundel and Tony Mc Loughlin all involved.

Summer is spent on lobster, prawns and crayfish. Paddy Barry was involved in boats during the 60s.


Winkles have been harvested along the shores of Dunmanus Bay for many years, and in the past were purchased for the French market by a company operating from Crookhaven who stored them in ponds awaiting transportation. They were collected on a regular basis by truck.

Petty Sessions Court

The Courthouse is still in the village between O'Sullivans and the Sheep's Head public houses. These courts were set up in the early 19th century. Before that magistrates administered justice according to their whim. Fr. Collins Administrator of Skibbereen, giving evidence to select committees of the House of Lords and Commons in 1824 referred to 'presents' being given to the Magistrates of corn, cattle money and having their turf cut. The Government pressured the Magistrates to hold the Petty Sessions in public with three or four sittings in March 1822. This was formalised under the Petty Sessions Act of 1827. The petty session's nearest modern equivalent is the District Court except that the Petty Sessions operated with the involvement of local prominent people with no legal qualifications. Under the Peace Preservation Act 1814 the resident magistrates appointed were generally strangers and therefore presumedly immune to pressures applied to local magistrates.


It is believed a thatched church on the site of the Old Mill, now Cois Abhann was built around 1750. Mass Rocks church, one in Coomkeen in the lands of Timmy Whelly and one at Kealties. A church at Kealties was a thatched structure erected c.1780. The old Durrus Church at Moulivard was in use mid-17th century, but according to Brady was in ruins by 1699. Tradition located a church at Coolculachta. After the 1798 Rebellion and the arrival of the French Armada in Bantry the church was forced to close. The former church at Chapel Rock (on the site of the present National School) was built by Fr. Quinn in 1820 and was a slated structure. Fr. Richard Quinn arrived in the parish from Onoyne, in Co. Tipperary in 1818. In 1820 he started the parish register of births, marriages and deaths.

The church was replaced when the Church of the Sacred Heart was built in 1901. This was built on a site of 1-acre (4,000 m2) by way of lease to Fr. O'Leary from the Earl of Bandon for 990 years at a rent of 10 shillings per annum. The first sod was cut by Dan Keohane and John Sullivan, Clonee. The contractor was Daniel O'Donovan, Bantry and the stone was provided from a quarry at Fahies, Clashadoo owned by the Shannon family and drawn to the site by Patrick Crowley of Ahagouna. The cost of the church was £2,900 and the Architect was Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy from the South Mall, Cork A mural tablet to the Blair family of Blairscove and outside a Celtic Cross is a memorial to the Tobin family in Irish and English.

The Stations are an old tradition going back to Penal times. In each townland families in turn rotated to have mass in the house where the parish dues were taken. It was and is a time of great preparation with help from neighbours in the preparations. A wax candle blessed on Candlemas Day 2 February was used. Stations used to start at 9 a.m. but are now generally in the evenings.

Church of Ireland

Brady mentions a church and chancel in Durrus in 1615 and the Rector Thomas Barnam says in 1639 that it was in good condition unlike the one in Kilcrohane. The Cork Directory of 1875 mentions a ruined church near Durrus Court. On 27 November 1792 by order of the Lord Lieutenant in Council the parishes of Kilcrohan, Durrus and Kilmacomoge were divided and the new parish of Durrus and Kilcrohan were created. St. James, Church of Ireland, built 1792, at a cost of £461 10s. 9.25d. The aisle was rebuilt following collapse. A south aisle was added in 1867 design by William Atkins.

The Rectory (Glebe) was built by the Rev. Edward Jones Alcock in 1831, following Glebe at Cappanahola. Licensed places of Worship in Glenlough and Rooska (1852–1866) were in schoolhouses. In 1935 the entrance was widened, railings were erected and gates were added. This work was done by Dick Gay and Eddie Brooks and paid for by a former parishioner Mr. Hosford, resident in England. In 1940 the Vestry Room was built. In 1949 gas lighting was installed followed by electricity in the early 1960s. In 1989 extensive renovations were carried out. A parochial hall was built partly by voluntary labour at the Rectory and opened on 22 August 1951. The new Rectory was completed in 1965. The parishes of Durrus and Kilcrohane seem to have been separated between 1634 and 1639, but reunited by 1663.

Some of the services and sermons were conducted in Irish c. 1850 when the Rev. Crosthwaite's services were attended by thirty converts and several poor Protestants who traveled six to ten miles to attend the Parish Church. Rooska Church was built 1866 to a design of William Atkins. This Church closed in January 1988.


The Methodist church was built in 1827 as Four Mile Water Church Hall in village. The last church on the Dunbeacon Road, it was built c. 1930 and closed in the early 1950s. Durrus was part of the Skibereen circuit that included the Berehaven Mines, Fivemile Water, Durrus and Drimoleague, with a Minister resident in Bantry. Methodist families included two Brooks and Kingstons in Dromreagh, Vickeries in Ballycomane and Rooska and Millars in Coolcolacta.


While the National school system was begun in 1831, formal education had begun long before. The Commission of Public Instruction, Ireland, produced a report in 1835 covering local education provision. The details for "Durruskilcrohane":

A girls' school was kept by Eliza Daly with an annual grant from the British and Irish Ladies School Society of £12. It had 83 students, with an average daily attendance of 55. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, scripture and Church catechism.

A day school was led by James Kingston with an annual grant from the Association for Discontinuing Vice of £8. Housing was rent free and an acre of ground came from the vicar. 30 students with average daily attendance of 22. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, scriptures and Church catechism to the Protestants.

A coeduational day school was kept by Samuel Hatfield. Subscriptions from the vicar and others and the payment by the children were 1s. 6d.a quarter. 29 boys and 16 girls were enrolled. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, scripture and Church catechism. It was established 9 June 1834.

A coeducational day school was operated by Timothy Daly with an annual grant from the London Hibernian Society of 1s. per quarter for each child, and payments by the children of 1s per quarter. It was established in 1832. 91 boys and 11 girls were enrolled with average daily attendance of 65. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic and scripture.

A National School was run by John McCarthy, using annual grant from the Board of £8, and payment of 6d. a quarter by the children. Enrolled were 61 males 39 females with daily attendance of 55. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic and the Roman Catholic Catechism.

A girls school was led by Margaret Forbes with annual grant from the London Ladies Society of £12. 14 males and 72 females were enrolled with average daily attendance of 35. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework and scripture.

A Hedge school was kept by Thomas Toomey. Tuition was 1s. 6d. to 3s. a quarter.Enrolled were 58 boys and 10 girls with summer attendance of 40. Instruction consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic and Roman Catholic Catechism.

A Sunday school with books from the Sunday School Society enrolled 25 boys and 55 girls. Average attendance was 40. The school taught scripture to the children.

Catholic Four Mile Water

An application to register the female school was made in 1853, 1860 and 1865. The latter succeeded but the school was struck off in 1880 and restored later. The male school applied in 1868 and 1883. In 1868, a 17-year-old assistant teacher, John Leary was present. The monitor, John Canty resigned in September 1868. The principal was Denis Leary who taught 3rd. class. 97 pupils enrolled with an average attendance of 63.3–64.8. The manager was Fr. O'Flynn PP. The 1875 student body include 131 boys and 161 girls.


In 1875 it had 136 pupils. One teacher was Mary Sullivan.

Church of Ireland schools

These schools remained outside the National School system until later in the 19th century and were supported by the Church Education Society In the 1840s the Rev. Crosthwaithe received support for schools from the Coast and Islands Society which continued until near the end of the century.

Aughagoheen Church of Ireland

Rev. William O'Grady on a "Bantry Club" letterhead wrote seeking the entry of Aughagoheen into the National System. It had been under the Church Education Society (founded 1839) whose involvement would finish upon recognition. The patrons were O'Grady and EE Leigh White Esq. He proposed to provide privies and that George Patison aged 18.5 would be the teacher and live in a parish house provided. An inspection disclosed school hours of 10 am to 2:30 pm with religion 2–2:30. The school enrolled 16 pupils: nine males and six females. Annie Stephens later applied to teach. She had been a monitor at Carrigbui up to third class and was in sole charge for ten months (this may have been Durrus C of I school). She would be eligible to substitute and was to go for training later. The file indicated that the school was unable to supplement the teacher's salary. O'Grady proposed to later pay £10 in addition to the state salary. Stephens was prepared to work without a local subvention. The appointment went instead to Susanna Perrott, aged 20. From 1 September 1902, she had trained at the Church of Ireland College at Kildare Street. The school was expected to have 29-plus pupils, including two from Scart Catholic School which at that time had attendance averaging between 24.9 and 38.4. After recognition the roll was 17 boys and six girls and the attendance ranged between 10.0 and 18.5. Rebecca Kingston resigned as teacher from 10 March 1910 and it was suggested that the school close and that the students would go to Bantry at a conveyance cost of £63 per annum. O'Grady appealed this on hardship grounds, pointing out that many of the children had to come up side roads. The Inspector conducted an enquiry looking at the distances the children had to travel and suggested that the school stay open. The family names of the children were Swanton (three families), Love, Foley, Jago, Sullivan, Shannon and Deane. Florence M. Clarke resigned on 28 August 1914 replaced by Ella Newman (she had been a junior literary mistress in Bantry from 8 August 1911). Newman had trained at St. Mary's Shandon and passed the relevant exam and was given provisional recognition from 22 October 1915.

Church of Ireland Durrus

The original school at Clashadoo was built c.1780. In 1875 60 pupils were enrolled. It was replaced by the school at Ahagouna in 1937 after a diphtheria epidemic killing several children. This school cost £1,600. A second teacher was employed. This school in turn is to be replaced by a new school under construction only in 2006 on an adjoining site acquired from John McCarthy. Schools also operated at Rooska and Dunbeacon. In 1947–50 school transport was provided by Lottie Dukelow by pony and trap. Earlier Bert Dukelow provided transport with a horse and trap for the children on the south side of the bay.

Rooska School

Rev. Pratt applied for recognition as a National School in 1898. The old school was built around 1822/1823 when Captain White gave a permanent lease. The school was inspected on 9 February 1898. He reported the building in fair condition, one room, no privies, stone and mortar and drew attention to needed improvements. Other nearby schools were Gurtalasa, Four Mile Water, Durrus, Bantry, Whiddy, Rusnacaharagh and Morragh (Methodist Durrus). Normally a school would have to be more than three miles (5 km) from another school but in this case the application was approved from 1 January 1898 in the exceptional circumstance of a mountain range preventing children from attending. The school had been supported by the Island and Coast Society £20, The Church Education Society £7, The Diocesan Board £5 and the Manager £3. The roll was 12 boys and 6 girls.

Cashelane Church of Ireland School

Rev. R. H. Carroll the Manager of Altar Rectory, Toormore, applied for a grant to build a school. The mixed school would have 30 children. In 1902 the average attendance was 10.7–11. The nearby Catholic School at Dunbeacon had an average attendance of 54.8–68.3, and included 11 Established Church children and had an assistant teacher. Ms. Trinder, who had qualified from the Church of Ireland College in 1894 and had taught at Kilcoe/Corrovally was appointed. The new manager was Rev. A. J. Brady as the school was now in his parish. In October 1906 the attendance was 10 boys and 10 girls.


The Methodist school at Morragh applied to become a National School in 1882 and 1883. The site was leased from Richard Tonson Evans 1 May 1862 by way of a "lease of three lives" (a lease that continues as long as all three of the leaseholders survive.) In 1907 the school merged with the Church of Ireland school in Durrus. Only 4 of the 30 pupils were Methodist.

Church Society schools

Schools at Knockroe, Gearhies and Gortalassa employed Irish-speaking teachers including Seamus O'Suilleabhain of the Ui Shuilleabhain Fachdnaidh at Bonane near Kenmare. It is believed that the Irish Society was active in this regard.

Secondary school

The Mercy Order started a school for girls in 1863, initially on a National School Curriculum. The curriculum later expanded to include bookkeeping, agriculture, horticulture, mechanical drawing, dressmaking and cookery. Art, craft and design vocal, choral and instrumental music and song were included. Children were prepared for civil service exams and trained as monitors who would teach in the National Schools. The Intermediate Course started in 1911 and in 1927 a Secondary "top" was attached to the National School. In 1878 the two schools became distinct and the convent school was the only one in the area to provide full-time second level education. In the absence of transport the secondary school was of limited use to children in outlying areas such as Durrus.

Lace School

The Sisters of Mercy in Bantry started Conventual Industries, a development of training and employment and restarted the dormant lace-making industry in 1902, which lasted into the 1950s.


  • James Swanton, (c.1760–1828) joined Berwick's Irish regiment in 1780 and was greatgrandfather of Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953)
  • Sir Francis L. O'Callaghan, (1839–1909), son of James O'Callaghan, JP was educated Queen's College, Cork in Engineering. He was a consultant to the Government of India for State Railways, supervised construction of Railway bridge over River Indus and the railway through the Bolan Pass.
  • Robert Swanton from Ballydehob, United Irishman, lawyer in New York. He chaired a meeting of "the Friends of Ireland in New York" in 1825, possibly the first attempt to mobilise the Irish in America. He became a judge of the Marine Court in New York, returning home in 1836 and died in Ballydehob in 1841. His grave inscription in Skibbereen states "Do ghradhaigh se na Gaedhil agus an Gaeilge", "he loved the Irish people and the Irish language".
  • Thomas Swanton, Crannliath, Ballydehob, merchant, landlord and Gaelic scholar. He tried to use the language in public. In 1848 he distributed posters in Irish advertising the new fair. He was a member of learned societies in Dublin.
  • Capt Francis O'Neill 1848–1936, Tralibane, Collector of Irish Music Chicago
  • Diarmuid O h-Eigeartaigh 1856–1934, author of Tadhg Ciallmhar (1934) folklore of the 18th century.
  • Patrick Joseph Sullivan, born Kilcrohane, Republican US Senator for Wyoming, 1929–1930.
  • Robert Dawson Evans, 1843–1909, born in St. John, New Brunswick, Boston industrialist and arts patron. He was a son of Captain John Evans—a native of Brahalish who emigrated to British North America, with five siblings and parents, Richard and Elizabeth (Shannon) Evans, in 1831.
  • Patterns

    In the 18th and early 19th century "patterns" at holy wells or at Gougan Barra were very popular. In theory these were religious, but in practice they were a form of recreation. In 1813, folklorist Thomas Crofton Croker (1798–1854) attended a pattern at Gougan Barra on St.John's Eve. Large crowds gathered along the lakeshore and in and around the chapels. Penitents inside were on their knees, some with arms uplifted praying aloud others counting rosary beads or using a small pebble or cutting notches on a stick to indicate the number of prayers to be repeated. A rusty piece of iron was passed from one pilgrim to the next and placed on the head three times, accompanied by a prayer.

    A man belonging to a mendicant order scratched the wall of the well with a piece of slate, following the imprint of the cross. The pieces of slate were sold to pilgrims afterwards as relics. Inside the door of the well seven or eight people were in the water exhibiting their sores. Outside little bottles of glass water were sold and applied to an infected part. Women waited with naked infants to dip them into the well waters.

    Tented merchants sold whiskey, porter and bread. In most tents a piper played and young people danced, the women choosing the partner. Twenty or thirty people were in each tent, drinking heavily and singing rebellious songs that were greeted with howls of approval. By evening most were drunk, cudgels were brandished amid general mayhem. Attendees unleased a confused uproar of prayers and oaths of sanctity and blasphemy sounded in the same instant of the ear. The Bishop of Cork, Dr. John Murphy banned the Gougan pattern in 1818. The Protestant clergyman Caesar Otway (1780–1842) visited in 1827 and counted 936 Paters, Aves and Credos.


    In the post-famine era dejection led to mass emigration. By the 1870s extant works offer many references to races, weight throwing and events in Kilcrohane and Ahakista. It was common for people to cross Dunmanus Bay for events on the other side or to meet half way in Carbery Island.

    GAA history

    Skibbereen was popular in the 1880s. However, the near total failure of the potato crop in 1890 led to panic, shrinking the number of clubs from 38 to 2. Rules were loose and matches sometimes developed into a melee. In the 1930s, the playing field was in Clashadoo opposite the former schoolhouse. Teams would often travel to matches in the back of Jackie Cronin's lorry. Players from the area included Robert O'Sullivan (he is a brother of Danny O'Sullivan publican and later joined the Gardaí) he played minor football for Cork in the 1960s.

    The GAA in the parish went through many changes. The only record of a trophy was a West Cork Junior 2 title in 1932 with a team captained by Bill Kennedy (died 2004) from Dunmanus. The parish waited 60 years for a repeat. The parish were represented by a side called Western Stars in the 1960s.

    Tim Cronin and Sean O'Suilleabhain organised a new club in the early 1970s called Muintir Bhaire. The most notable event came in the mid-1970s when they reached a West Cork Junior Final. Emigration led to the near demise of the club during the 1980s. Joe O Driscoll restarted the team leading to winning games @ Fe 12 & 14. The club sank and then rose again with the arrival of Frank Arundel and Tom Coughlan with West Cork titles Fe 21 (C)96 & Fe 21 (B)in 98.

    At the turn of the 21st century the West Cork Junior (B) cup came to the Parish under Sean Tobin. In 2003 the first-ever Cork County title came to the Parish. The Club were promoted to Junior 1 in 04 and reached the West Cork final in 07. They won the West Cork Junior League in 2009, defeating Kilmacabea in the final.


    The introduction of flax in the mid-18th century followed by the introduction of weaving families from the north of Ireland may have introduced bowling to West Cork. With the improvement in the roads in the late 19th century it begins to register in the folklore with names such as Skuse of Brahalish and Barrett of Colomane mentioned.


    The games of 45 and 110 were once very popular.


    In the 1850s, when Francis O'Neill (Irish Music collector) was a child, many musicians played in his parents' house. In Durrus, Nell Burke Coomkeen, played the melodian in her younger days. In the 1930s the Station Heights in Dunbeacon was a centre for dancing and music in particular the Daly house. Music was supplied by the two Mahony Brothers. A wooden platform on Dunbeacon crossroads for dancing was in use over the weekend and put away on Sunday night.

    In the early 1960s or the late 1950s, Eugene Wiseman formed a five-piece dance band that became very popular known as "The Roving Serenaders". Pete Sullivan, Bill Cotter, Mary Minehane and Michael Cotter on vocals were the mainstays. Wiseman created another band called "The Fastnet Five" performing all over the County.


    Bantry had a Regatta in 1833.


    Before the extension of the railway from Drimoleague to Bantry, a coach service was provided from Bandon to Bantry. Travel time by train and coach from Cork to Bantry was approximately 6½ hours. The fare was 4s.


    A steamer service operated between Cork and Dingle, between the late 1850s and 1905. The Clyde Shipping Company took over this service in 1876, calling at Bantry to pick up pig and millstuffs.


    As early as 1836, consulting engineer Charles Vignoles put forward a scheme to the Railway Commission for a trunk line from Dublin to Cork, including a branch running from Blarney through Macroom and Glengarriff to Castletownebere. The report, however, made no mention of the line to service West Cork. A Company proposed a line from Cork to Bandon in 1845 and in 1846, which included a projected line to Bantry. Work commenced in November 1879, opening for business in 1881. In the line's heyday in the early 20th century, four services traveled each day to and from Cork.

    The line became an important link in the "Prince of Wales Route" from Cork to Killarney via Bantry and Glengarriff. In 1902 the company opened a circular route from Bantry to Dunmanus Bay. Inclusive fares were 13s.6d. First Class, 12s.0d. Second Class, and 10s.0d Third Class, to include luncheon at Ahakista Hotel and tea at Bantry. To encourage tourism, the Local Development Syndicate (which had acquired the coaching business of Vickery of Bantry) agreed to do the coach and provide refreshments at 7s.0d a head. The Company agreed to provide a special train to Bantry and back and to contribute half the cost of the refreshments.

    The line suffered significantly during the Troubles and Civil War. In an ambush on the train at Upton on 15 February 1921, six were killed, and two days later Scart Bridge was blown up, stopping service west of Drimoleague. On 7 August 1922, (the Civil War had started in June 1922) Chetwynd Viaduct was severely damaged by explosives. Service to Bantry resumed only in April 1923. Signal Cabins and Staff Instruments were destroyed by fire at Durrus Road Station.

    With the introduction of a diesel locomotive in 1954, passenger numbers increased from 20 to between 80 and 130. However, a policy of closing rail lines, and the loss of the Bandon section along with financial losses Stg.£91,000, which together with the prevailing mood at the time, ended the entire West Cork system. The last train went from Bantry to Cork on Good Friday, 31 March 1961.


    The phone service began with a manual exchange in the Post Office. A subscriber trunk dialling system came circa 1981.

    In 1979 the Betelgeuse exploded at the jetty at Whiddy Oil Terminal, killing over 40 people. A postal strike ran from January until the end of June. It stopped postal service and closed down phone service in those parts of the country still on manual exchanges, including Durrus.


    Modern history of Durrus and District Wikipedia

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