1902 Encyclopedia > Cork (county), Ireland

Cork (county), Ireland




CORK, a maritime county in the south-west of Ireland, province of Munster, bounded on the S. by the Atlantic, E. by Waterford and Tipperary, N. by Limerick, and W. by Kerry. It is the largest county in Ireland, and contains an area of 1,849,686 acres, or 2890 square miles. The outline of the county is irregular; its sea margin is for the most part bold and rocky, and is intersected by the Bays of Bantry, Dunmanus, and Roaring Water. The southern part of the coast projects several headlands into the ocean, and its south-eastern side is indented by Cork Harbour, and Ballycotton and Youghal Bays.
The surface of the country is undulating. It consists of low rounded ridges, with corresponding valleys, running east and west, except in the western portion of the county, which is more mountainous. Those valleys are drained by the Blackwater, the Lee, and the Bandon River. The most elevated part of the county is in connection with the Boghra Mountains, the highest of which, Cahorbanaghor, .reaches 2239 feet. North of the Blackwater the county is comparatively level, being a portion of the great plain which occupies a large part of the centre of Ireland. Of the principal rivers the Blackwater has its source in the county of Limerick. The Lee originates in Goughanbarra Lake, and the Bandon River rises in the Cullinagh Lake. There are also some smaller streams which flow directly into the sea, the more important of these being in the southwest portion of the county. No lakes of any magnitude occur, the largest being Inchigeelagh, which is an expansion of the River Lee between Macroom and its source. Of the total area 14,308 acres are covered with water. The scenery of the western parts of the county is bold and rugged. In the central and eastern parts, especially in the valleys, it is green and sheltered, and in some spots well wooded.
Geology and Minerals.—With reference to the geology of the county, the hills are principally composed of Old Red Sandstone, which is the lowest formation that occurs. In the western and mountainous districts these rocks consist of purple and green-coloured sandstones and grits— " Glengarriff grits"—which are several thousand feet thick. In the central and eastern districts the same rocks occur in the form of brownish purple sandstone and shales—_ " brounstones." The veins are highly contorted, and form anticlinal axes, and they exhibit change in various degrees. They are locally extensively used as building stones, and are usually split along their cleavage planes. These Old Red Sandstones have afforded no traces of fossils in this county. Upon the " brounstones," the highest member of the Old Red Sandstones, the "Yellow Sandstones "occur. They have a thickness of about 800 feet, and afford fossil plants, shells, and crustaceans. To the Yellow Sandstone succeeds the base of the Carboniferous group. These consist of black slaty rock—" Carboniferous slabs." In the eastern parts of the county these strata rise about 900 feet thick; westwards they increase greatly, being at the Old Head of Kinsale about 6500 feet in thickness. They have at their base grey gritty beds of varying thickness—the " Coomhola grits." Both members of the series are fossiliferous, and the Carboniferous slates have been extensively worked in many localities for roofing. They are, however, much inferior to the Bangor slates.
The principal valleys in the county of Cork, except in the case of the Bandon River, are in their lower parts occupied by Carboniferous limestone, overlying the Carboni-ferous slate and occurring at synclinal troughs. The lime-stones are commonly light grey in colour and of great thick-ness. For the most part they are very pure carbonate of lime, thick-bedded and compact. Some are used as marbles, but their most extensive application is as building stones, which are durable and of good colour. In the neighbour-hood of the city of Cork (Little Island), near the centre of the synclinal trough, a brecciated red limestone is worked, being polished as a marble. It is known as " Red Cork Marble." In some localities near the city of Cork the limestone is dolomitic, and is extensively quarried for the manufacture of magnesia. Some portions of the limestones are very fossiliferous. Near Mallow it is thin-bedded and contains nodules of schist. Succeeding the limestone, which represents the scar limestone and Yoredale series of England, are shales and flags, equivalents of the millstone grits, on which lie the coal measures south of Kanturk. The coal is anthracitic, very irregular in thickness, and highly inclined. The strata are much contorted and crushed, the coal frequently occurring in " pockets." Several seams are known, some of which are worked. These coals have only a local sale, being used principally for lime-burning.
In the south-west part of the county igneous rocks are partially developed. Copper pyrites was formerly exten-sively mined in the south-west of the county, especially at
Berehaven or Allihies,—the rocks more prolific in copper being the Yellow Sandstone series. Little is now being done at those or other copper mines in the county.
Lead also occurs in small veins, but not in sufficient quantity to be worked. Near Glandore manganese, mostly in the form of psilomelane, has been largely worked, but is now abandoned.
Clay which is used for brick-making occurs near Youghal, where there are extensive potteries. Bricks are also made from the silty clay deposited by the River Lee on small islands in the Douglas Channel.
Climate.—The climate is moist and warm, the pre-vailing winds being from the west and south-west. The rain-fall in the city is about 40 inches per annum,—that of the whole county being somewhat higher, about 44 inches. The mean average annual temperature is about 52° Fahr. The snow-fall during the winter is usually slight, and snow rarely remains long on the ground except in sheltered places. The thermal spring of Mallow was formerly in considerable repute ; it is situated in a basin on the banks of the Black-water, rising from the base of a limestone hill. It has been long celebrated for the cure of pulmonary, chlorotic, stomach, and urinary complaints, in the cure of which its waters are said to be very efficacious. The temperature of the water, 72" Fahr., is nearly invariable. The climate of Mallow is soft and agreeable. The chief places for sea-bathing are Blackrock, Passage, Monkstown, and Queens-town in the vicinity of Cork; Kinsale, Ballycotton, and Youghal are also much frequented by invalids during the summer months.
Fisheries.—The Kinsale fishery, now established about fifteen years, promises to be the most remunerative of the industrial resources of the south of Ireland. The mackerel-fishery in 1875 commenced as usual about the middle of March, and lasted to the second week in June, at which time over £185,000 worth of fish was caught and purchased from the fishermen. In 1876 there were engaged in the trade 383 boats from Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Howth, Arklow, and Kinsale, the proportion from the last-named place numbering 60. There were also twenty-two hulks in the harbour used as icehouses, on the deck of which the fish was packed for the English markets. Eight Norwegian barks laden with ice arrived. These, with eleven steamers especially chartered for the fish trade, fifteen Jersey trading cutters for conveying fish, and three Cork tugs, comprised the staff of the local trade. The fishing boats are supplied with trains of nets, 2^ miles in length and 8 feet in depth. They start early in the morning for the fishing grounds, and at sunset let down the nets. They are floated with small pieces of cork, and the bottom of the nets is sunk by heavy ropes. They are allowed to drift all night, and the mackerel are caught by running their heads into the meshes of the net. They are purchased by the fish-buyers, packed in boxes containing 120 each, and immediately forwarded per steamer to Bristol, Milford, and Holyhead, for Birming-ham, London, Manchester, and Liverpool. The fishery extends from Cape Clear nearly to Cork Harbour. Hake, cod, and haddock, which were formerly taken in great abund-ance here, seem to have in a great measure left the coast.
Agriculture.—The soils of the county exhibit no great variety. They may be reduced in number to four :_—the calcareous in the limestone districts ; the deep mellow loams found in districts remote from limestone, and generally occurring in the less elevated parts of the grey and red sandstone districts ; the light shallow soils, and the moorland or peat soils, the usual substratum of which is coarse retentive clay.
In a district of such extent and variety of surface, the state of agriculture must be liable to much variation. The more populous parts near the sea, and in the vicinity of the great lines of communication, exhibit very favourable specimens of agricultural improvement.
No advancement has recently been made in the extent of land placed under tillage, and the principal crops raised are oats, potatoes, and turnips. In 1876 the total area under tillage amounted to 430,541 acres, of which 157,365 were under corn crops, 127,206 under green crops, and 145,370 grass under rotation. The corn and green crops were thus distributed in the two years 1873 and 1876 respectively
Acreage. Oats. Wheat. Barley, <fec. Potatoes. Tnrnips.
1873 115,990 19,133 25,470 68,338 40,476
1876 117,330 18,043 21,990 71,958 39,528
Dairies are extensive, and the character of the Cork butter stands high in the English and foreign markets. Cork possesses the largest number of live stock of any county in Ireland, except in sheep and asses, in the former of which it is exceeded by Galway, and in the latter by Tipperary. The numbers of live stock in the years 1873 and 1876 were as follows :—
HM*i]esni Asscs Cattle. Sheep. Pigs. Goats. Poultry. 1873...54l,044 8168 372,412 342,697 136,661 23,526 971,821 1876...53,425 9312 365,729 322,349 170,048 25,102 1,135,951
The total value of the land, exclusive of the city of Cork, according to the return of 1875, was ¿£1,059,994, and the average value per acre lis. 7-|d.—that of all Munster being lis. 2|d. The county in the same year was divided among 5889 separate proprietors, of whom 3091 possessed less than one acre, being a much larger proportion of small owners than in the rest of Munster. The average size of the properties amounted to 309J acres—that of all Munster being 374. Eighteen proprietors owned upwards of 10,000 acres each, and held a total of one-fifth of the whole county. The principal proprietors were the earl of Bantry, 69,500 acres ; duke of Devonshire, 32,550; Sir George C. Colthurst (Ardrum), 31,260 ; Countess of Kingston (Mitchelstown), 24,421 ; earl of Kenmare, 22,700; earl of Cork and Orrery, 20,165; Sir H. W. Becher (BaUygiblin), 18,933 ; earl of Egmont (Lohort Castle), 16,766 ; B. H. E. White (Glen-garriff), 16,175; and Lord Fermoy, 15,543. Of waste ground there was estimated to be 15,350 acres.
Administration.—The county is divided into east and west ridings (the county of the city is in the east riding); it is subdivided into 33 baronies, containing 251 parishes, which form the diocese of Cork, Cloyne, Boss, and part of Ardfert. Since the disestablishment of the Irish Church, that body has under the diocesan scheme reduced the number of parishes by amalgamation to ninety-five.
The Cork military district has barracks at Cork (head-quarters), Kinsale, Fermoy, Ballincollig, Queenstown, Spike Island, Camden and Carlisle Forts at the entrance to the harbour (lately fortified with all the improvements of modern science), Bandon, Youghal, and Buttevant. The constabulary force of the county consists of 674 men in the east and west ridings, two inspectors, and seventeen sub-inspectors ; the officers have their headquarters at Cork and Bandon. The poor law unions are Bandon, Bantry, Castletown, Clonakilty, Cork, Dunmanway, Fermoy, Kanturk, Kinsale, Macroom, Mallow, Midleton, Millstreet, Mitchelstown, Skibbereen, Skull, and Youghal.
Popidation.—The number of inhabitants in this county has greatly decreased within the last thirty years. At the last census (1871) there was a population of 517,076 persons (males, 256,062 ; females, 261,014), in 1861 it was 544,818 and in 1851, 649,308, showing a decrease between 1851 and 1871 of about 20 per cent., while that of all Munster was 25 per cent. The estimated population of the county for 1875 was 507,016. The principal towns are Cork, population 102,526; Queenstown, 10,340; Fer-moy, 7388; Kinsale, 7050 ; Bandon, 6131 ; Youghal, 6081; Mallow, 4165 ; Skibbereen, 3695 ; and Midleton, 3603.
During the five years ending 1875, the average number of emigrants per annum amounted to 7110, and the total number from 1851 was 301,573, the largest proportion of any Irish county. Of late years, however, the exodus has considerably abated.
The prevailing religion of the inhabitants is the Roman Catholic. In 1871 there were 517,076 Catholics to 49,455 Protestants (40,493 Episcopalians, and 8962 of various denominations)—the proportion of Protestants to the whole population amounting to little more than 9 J per cent., while that of all Munster was 6t.
The number of persons in 1871 of five years and upwards who could read and write was 219,074; 49,091 could read but could not write, and 183,114 could neither read nor write ; 11,628 were returned as able to speak Erse only.
Representation.—Previous to the Union the county re-turned twenty-six members to the Irish Parliament. At that time, however, the representation was reduced to eight—two for the county, two for Cork city, and one each for the boroughs of Mallow, Bandon, Youghal, and Kinsale.
History.—According to Ptolemy, the districts now known by the names of the county of Cork and Desmond were anciently inha-bited by the Coriondi, Udiai or Vodii, Velabori, and Uterni, which Dr Smith considers to be a corruption of the name Iberi. Before the arrival of Strongbow Cork was a kingdom of itself, governed by the MacCarthys ; but in 1172 Dermod MacCarthy, who had sworn fealty to Henry II., threw off his allegiance, and attacked the English under Raymond le Gros, thereby forfeiting the crown. What formed his kingdom was granted by Henry II. to Robert Fitz-stephen and Milo de Cogan, with the exceptions of the city of Cork and the adjoining cantred belonging to the Ostmen of the same city, which were retained by the king. It was made shire ground by King John in 1210, who appointed sheriffs and other local officers for its government. For many years, however, the royal writs were of little efficacy in many parts of it, as the great families still virtually commanded the allegiance of the inhabitants.
Fitzstephen's share of the grant descended through the female line to the Barrys and Roches, whilst that of De Cogan became vested in Maurice Fitzgerald, growing into an extent of territory and consequent power far exceeding any ever possessed by the MacCarthys. Whilst making a show of attachment to the English, the Fitzgeralds intrigued with the foreign Roman Catholic powers (who projected the conquest of Ireland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth), and ultimately broke out into open rebellion. After being utterly defeated, Gerald, the fifteenth and last earl of Desmond, when a fugitive in the wilds of Kerry, was slain by an obscure individual named Kelly. Against this earl of Desmond au act of attainder was passed in 1583, and the Fitzgeralds of Desmond, after having maintained their power and possessions for upwards of 300 years, were reduced to utter ruin ; their strong castles were seized, and their vast estates, to the extent of no less than 574,628 acres, confiscated by the Crown. These were again transferred to English settlers, called undertakers or planters, who were bound not to convey any part of the lands to the native Irish, or to intermarry with or maintain any of them. Sir Walter Raleigh obtained 40,000 acres, which afterwards passed to the family of Boyle, earl of Cork; Arthur Robins, 18,000 ; Hugh Worth, 12,000 ; Fane Beeeher, 12,000 ; Arthur Hyde, 12,000 ; Sir Warham St Leger, 6000 ; Sir Thomas Norris, 6000 ; Hugh Cuffe, 6000 ; Thomas Say, 5800 ; Sir Richard Beacon, 1600 ; and Edmund Spenser, the poet, 3028. This attempt to set aside or extirpate the native population failed. The Irish outbade the English settlers, and were therefore, at least for a time, found to be more profitable tenants, so that ultimately they re-occupied nearly all the lands as tenants under the English undertakers. In 1602 a large portion of the estates of Sir Walter Raleigh and Fane Beeeher were purchased by the earl of Cork, who had them colonized with English settlers ; and by founding or rebuilding the towns of Bandon, Clonakilty, Baltimore, Youghal, and afterwards those of Midleton, Castlemartyr, Charleville, and Doneraile, which were incorporated and made parliamentary boroughs, the family of Boyle became possessed of nearly the entire political power of the county. In 1641 and the following years the sons of the earl of Cork, more especially Lord Broghill, rendered good service to the Parliamentary cause, and obtained considerable military renown. The course of events led to the forfeiture of the estates of Lords Muskerry and Roche, and after-wards of those ofthe earl of Clancarty, Viscount Kenmare, Sir Richard JNTagle, and others, to the extent of 250,000 acres. Since that period no events of equal importance have occurred in this county.
Antiquities.—The earlier antiquities of the county are rude monuments of the Pagan era, such as stone circles, druids' altars, '' raths " or circular mounds of earth, and stone pillars. There are two so-called druids' altars, the most perfect at Castlemary near Cloyne, and certain pillar stones scattered through the county, with straight marks cut on the edges called Ogham inscriptions, the interpretation of which is still a subject of much controversy-
The remains of the old ecclesiastical buildings are in a very ruinous condition, being used as burial-places by the county people. The principal is Kilcrea, founded by Cormack M'Carthy about 1465, some of the tombs of whose descendants are still in the chancel; the steeple is still nearly perfect, and chapter-house, cloister, dormitory, and kitchen can be seen. Timoleague, situated on a romantic spot on a rising ground at the extremeend of Courtmacsherry Bay, contains some tombs of interest, and is still in fair condition. Buttevant Abbey contains some tombs of the Barrys and other distinguished families. All these were the property of the Franciscans. There aretwo round towers in the county, one in a fine state of preservation opposite Cloyne Cathedral, the other at Kinneigh. From the chapter seal of Ross, which is dated 1661, and seems to have been a copy of a much earlier one, there is a good representation of a round tower and stone roofed church, with St Faclman, to whom the church is dedicated, standing by, with a book in one hand and a cross in the other. Of Mourne Abbey, near Mallow, once a preceptory of the Knights Templars, and Tracton Abbey, which once sent a prior to Parliament, the very ruins have perished.


Of the castles, Lohort, built in the reign of king John, is by far the oldest, and in its architectural features the most interesting; it is still quite perfect and kept in excellent repair by the owner, the earl of Egmont. Blarney Castle, built by Cormack M'Carthy about 1449, has a world-wide reputation, to which Millikin's song, "The Groves of Blarney," in no small degree contributed ; it is also bound up with the civil history of the county and the war of the great rebellion. Castles Mahon and Macroom have been incorporated into the residences of the earls of Bandon and Bantry. The walls of Mallow Castle attest its former strength and extent, as also the castle of Kilbolane. The castles of Kilcrea and Dripsy are still in good condition. (R.C.)









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