Ireland may not have magnificent ruins such as the Colosseum or the Pyramids, but we have, scattered through the country, traces of civilisation dating back 2,500 years before Rome. In County Meath at Newgrange, dating from the Stone Age, there is a 5,000 year old passage-tomb which is regarded as the worlds first solar observatory. Throughout Ireland, the Western outpost of the Celt people, there are many remains, small perhaps, but authentic of the ordinary people, which give some idea of the life and customs of our Celtic forefathers.

At a place called Bealic, near Macroom, there is a stone formation called a Dolmen. It was used to put the bones of the dead after the body was cremated. These stones were placed some 4,500 years ago - and there are many such stone alignments and circular mounds called Lis in Gaelic ["fairy forts"] Homesteads were functioning up to 1,000 years ago, and within these circles lived families. These peasant people gathered occasionally in a place of strategic position. One such meeting place at a ford on the River Sullane was the Sloping Plain - Magh Chromtha - Macroom.

A major battle took place near Macroom in the year 987 A.D. Brian Boru's brother, Mahon was on the run when he was overtaken and killed by a Danish chieftain named Molloy at Lahern in Aghina parish. A year later Brian Boru engaged Molloy in the Battle of Macroom at a point where the Lee and Sullane meet. The battle lasted all day and ther were hundreds of casualties. Molloy was slain by Murrogh, Brian's son and Brian Boru was declared King of Munster. This was the first major battle between the Irish and the Danes (Vikings) which ended 16 years later in the Battle of Clontarf, in 1014 with a tremendous victory for the Irish.


One square tower, a few walls, and an arched gateway are all that remain of Macroom's most historic building. It was built in the 13th century by the Carew family. Later it became the property of the Mac Carthys. Teigh Mac Carthy repaired it before he died there in 1565. The stragetic position of Macroom has led to many battles and conflicts in the area and the castle buildings were frequently destroyed by fire. By 1642 the castle and surrounds were in excellect condition and Cardinal Rinnucini was a guest of Lord and Lady Muskerry McCarthy.

In 1650 there was a major battle between Cromwell's forces led by Lord Borghill and those loyal to King Charles under the command of Bishop Mac Egan. The forces of Cromwell were victorious, resulting in the Bishop being captured and hanged in nearby Carrigadrohid and Macroom Castle being handed over in 1656 to Admiral Sir William Penn, father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. [1644-1718].

In 1660 the Castle was again restored to the McCarthys when King Charles II regained the throne in England. In the Williamite Wars of the 1690's the Castle was confiscated from the McCarthy's and sold by auction to the Hollow Sword Blade Company of London. During the 18th century it was owned by the Bernards of Bandin, The Hedges Eyre of Mount Hedges, Macroom and finally by 1800, it came by marriage into the White family of Bantry. The spacious Town Square dates from the 1750's.

The last owner was Olive White who married Arthur Guinness of Dublin (the same family famous worldwide today for their Black Stout beverage).

The castle was burned again during the Civil War [1922-23]. The anti-treaty forces, including Erskine Childers and the famous writer Frank O'Connor, had retreated from Cork City to Macroom. Being pursued they burned the castle before retreating westwards to the mountain districts.

After the Civil War the castle grounds were bought by a group of Macroom businessmen to be held in trust for the people of the town. By 1966 the Casstle was in a dangerous state and after a serious accident nearly occured, most of the Castle Keep was demolished. The basic structure was preserved, and the grounds laid out for Bishop McEgan College a sports field and a golf links. Recently the entrance has been renovated and two 18th century naval cannons, found in the grounds, placed on each side of the gateway. Many riverside walks have been upgraded throughout the Castle Demesne which today is one of the largest urban parks in the world.






 

Carrigaphooka Castle (The Rock of the Fairies)
is situated about two miles west of Macroom, just off the Macroom-Killarney Road. It's a four storey tower, built about 1436 by the Mac Carthy family. It rests on a good example of a glacial "roche mountonne", an ice smoothed mound or sandstone. There is an excellent view of the Sullane Valley from the top of the castle.

 

Carrignacurra Castle (The Rock of the Weir) built 12 miles from Macroom near Inchigeela Village it is largely surrounded by trees and is on a most pituresque part of the River Lee. This was an O'Leary castle who answered the call of the McCarthy's in support James II in 1698. After the war all lands were confiscated and sold to the Hollow Sword Blade Company. It was then bought by the Master's family who resided there until the beginning of the 19th century. It was last owned by Justice Pyne in 1846.

Today the surrounding land is now farmed and the castle is still in reasonable condition. Two stone arched floors remain, but all timber floors are long gone. The windows are of the narrow lancet type, with the addition of a few loopholes for defence.


 

Carrigastya (The Rock of the Stairs) is about two miles north of Macroom, a little off the Millstreet road. It was a famine graveyard where bodies were buried in mass, as well as in individual graves. The bodies were carted from the Poor House in Macroom; or from the banks of the Sullane, where those who were too weak, or ashamed to go to the Poor House, went to die. Fr. O'Leary in "My Own Story" ["Mo Sceal Fein"], relates the plight of a couple who discovered in the Poor House that their two children had died. They stole away to Carrigastya in their sorrow. They knew that the two children were down in the hole with the hundreds of other bodies.

About 40 years ago, a cement cross, surounded by palm trees was erected, The last internment took place in 1937.

 

 


T
he first train from Cork to Macroom ran on the 12th May, 1866. From then until 1879 the Macroom trains operated from Albert Quay Station, which was the Cork/Bandon Railway terminus, the use of which cost the Macroom Company 2,000 per year. Due to quarrels between the two companies the Cork/Macroom Company opened their own station at Capwell, Cork, in 1879.

In 1890 there were five services each way on week days and two on Sundays. The running time was about sixty-five minutes. The traveller could purchase a through-ticket in Cork and when he arrived in Macroom a horse-drawn coach took him to Gougane Barra, Glengarriff and Bantry. From 1911 onwards motor coaches met the train. The traveller could return to Cork from Bantry by train. Return tickets from Macroom to Cork on a Sunday excursion were only 6d. each, or 2.1/2 new pence!!

On Easter Sunday, April 24th 1916, a company of Irish Volunteers travelled from Cork to Crookstown by train. They marched from there to Macroom where they heard of Roger Casement's arrest. The line was closed during the Civil War. In 1925 it became amalgamated with the Great Southern Railway. Trains operated again from Albert Quay.

All services declined gradually over the years until November 10th 1953, when the last train was signalled out of Macroom by Tommy Linehan. By.the end of 1955 lifting of the tracks had been completed. The terminus still referred to as "the Railway", is now the bus depot.


 


This beautiful garment was worn by ladies of all ages in the 19th and early part of the 20th Century. It is a full, sleeveless garment reaching to the ankles, opened down the front and fastened under the chin with a hook-and-eye or ribbons. It has a large hood which was usually lined with silk or satin. The hood was beautifully designed to surround the lady's face and presented a very elegant appearance. In the early part of the last century the colour varied from red to blue or grey. Unfortunately they are rarely seen now, though a few are kept as a reminder of the old days, and maybe brought out now and then for a special event. A fine selection of the cloaks can be seen in the Museum on Castle Street, Macroom. It was a very practical garment which enabled a busy housewife to dress in a second if she was hurrying to the church or to the shops.

In the 18th century it was usually either red, grey or blue. Towards the end of the 19th century it was worn mostly by older women and black became popular. This quaint and charming garment was in general use in the 19th century; it is about the last item of folk dress which survives. Some years ago a few old women in towns like Macroom, Bandon and Kinsale still wore it.


 

Geraldine O'Grady, Rose of Trallee
21jear old Geraldine O'Grady from Macroom, won the Rose of Trallee in 1999.
At this time she attended UCC and took a year out to travel before returning to UCC to do a Master in History. She would like to pursue a career in the media.
Her father, Patrick, a member of the Garda Siochana, is from Limerick and her mother is from Cavan and she has two sisters.




Rose of Trallee
Geraldine O'Grady

Malachy Duggan
In 1799 Macroom's most infamous and hated character lived in Carrigthomas about four miles north of the town, a member of the United Irishmen. In April 1799 Malachy, his son and his cousin and 11 other men raided Codrum House, about a mile west of the town, presumably for money and arms. The owner, a retired Colonel Robert Hutchinson awoke and recognised one of the raiders as his servant. A struggle ensued and Hutchinson was shot dead. The raiders panicked and fled. Being sought after, a 300 reward and a pardon for the informer was offered. Malachy had been arrested on suspicion and he and his son informed on their comrades. Three escaped to America, one was transported, and the rest were hanged. They were brought from Cork to Macroom and hanged in pairs in the square. Their heads were cut off and stuck on spikes on top of the Bridewell [now MacGregor's furniture store].

Michael O'Leary, V.C.
Michael O'Leary was born at the Gearagh, between Macroom and Inchigeela in 1890. Having spent some time in the Canadian Mountain Police he joined the Irish Guards at the start of the Great Way in 1914. It was at Cuinchy, on February 1st 1915 that Lance-Corporal O'Leary, orderly to Lieutenant Innes, won his V.C. On the evening of Friday February 19th 1915 the London Evening newspapers carried the following headlines: "How Michael O'Leary won the V.C". - "How Michael O'Leary V.C., Kills Eight Germans and Takes Two Barricades" - "The Wonderful Story of Michael O'Leary." The Victoria Cross, a plain bronze cross with the simple motto "For Valour" was, and is, one of the most coveted military decorations in the world.

The Coldstream Guards had lost a trench to the Germans and couldn't recapture it. The Irish Guards were ordered to take it. The No.4 company were driven back, their leader and another Lieutenant being shot. No.1 company, which was O'Leary's formed the next storming party. Before advancing they knelt in silent prayer for a minute with their chaplin Fr. Gwynn. The area in front of them was very flat and the only cover available were occasional stacks of bricks, or a railway embankment. O'Leary, who was off duty and need not have involved himself at all, slipped away towards a railway cutting. He raced along the cutting and reascended on top of the embankment, where he found himself in direct line with the first German barricade - with five shots he killed the five German defenders. He then emerged at a second barricade where a German machine-gunner was about to shoot at O'Leary's comrades who were advancing towards the barricade. O'Leary shot him and two other Germans. Five others surrended. O'Leary was promoted full sergeant on the field by his company commander.

He was received enthusiastically in London and drove through the street in his war-stained uniform with T.P.O'Connor to speak in Hyde Park on July 10th 1915. He received the V.C. and was promoted to Lieutenant. He then became a recruiting sergeant, especially in recruiting Irishmen. While many might consider he was fighting with the wrong army, in the wrong war, he was nevertheless a very brave, resourceful and capable soldieer who deserved the honours bestowed upon him. George Bernard Shaw based his play "O'Flaherty V.C.", on O'Leary.

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