Bandon or Droichead na Banndan in Irish (meaning the bridge of the Bandon River), is just 20 miles west of Cork city, in the heartland of some of the richest and most beautiful farmland in the country. This town is of huge historical importance, having been established under Queen Elisabeth I as a garrison town to protect the new English plantations.
One of the town’s biggest assets is the Bandon River. Judges in the national Tidy Town’s competition once commented; “Bandon, more than any town in the region has an abundance of natural habitat. The majestic Bandon River is a haven for wildlife.” Stocking salmon, sea trout and brown trout, the river is hugely popular with anglers and the resident heron.
Bandon has seen a huge amount of development take place over the last few years, which has almost doubled the population, but it still manages to retain a tight community spirit. This spirit is shown through the Bandon Music Festival on the first weekend of June, which attracts some of Ireland’s most talented musicians, and the stunning Christmas light display.
Not just a Mecca for shopping, Bandon is also a business hub with some well known national and international companies based here. Bandon is also well known for its excellent eateries. Bandon Food Trail is a friendly network of food businesses in the area consisting of producers, cafes, restaurants, pubs, guesthouses and shops. All are committed to and motivated by providing top quality local food experiences.
Probably Bandon’s most famous son is Graham Norton, the BBC 1 chat show host, who attended Bandon Grammar School. His mother still resides here and he is a familiar face around the town.
They say ‘nobody can be all things to all people’ but in Bandon they certainly give it their best shot. Give Bandon a try – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
DIRECTIONS: Located on the N71, 31km west of Cork city.
SPECIAL AREAS OF CONSERVATION: Bandon River valley, Courtmacsherry Estuary & Bay.
Information courtesy of www.bandon.ie, Trevor Collins, Paddy O’Sullivan, Paddy Connolly, Bandon Food Trail and Maria McLaughlin.
VILLAGES NEARBY: Kilbrittain
Kilbrittain is the name of a village, townland and parish about 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Bandon.
In January 2009 an 18 metre fin whale was stranded and subsequently died on a beach in Kilbrittain, after becoming disorientated and lured by unusually high tides. Efforts were made by Courtmacsherry Lifeboat to get the whale back into the sea but a combination of its size and weight meant that attempts to save the whale’s life were unsuccessful. The autopsy of the whale was featured in a Channel 4 documentary ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’. The people of Kilbrittain organised to save its remains, which are now displayed in the village.
Kilbrittain is home to two beautifully restored castles.
Kilbrittain Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. The Castle is thought to date from 1035 where the original fortress may have been built by the O’Mahony Clan. Known to have been in the hands of the Norman family of de Courcey and possibly extended in the 13th Century, Kilbrittain Castle was the principal seat of MacCarthy Reagh family, Princes of Carbery, from the early 15th century. The castle was extensively restored and enlarged by the Stawell family in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was partially burned in 1920 and restored in 1969 by inventor Russell Winn. Kilbrittain Castle is now the home of the Cahill-O’Brien family.
Coolmain Castle was originally built by the de Courcey family in the early 15th century, but they lost it to the MacCarthy Reaghs, the Princes of Desmond, the following century. Over the years it passed through the hands of a number of families, including that of the Earls of Cork. In the middle of the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell acquired the property. In the early 1900s it was owned by a popular American novelist of the day, Don Byrne. The castle is now the property of descendents of Walt Disney.
Kilbrittain has several popular beaches. Coolmain is very popular with Windsurfers and Kitesurfers while Harbourview, which is on the opposite side of the bay from Coolmain, is popular with walkers and Kitebuggies. The ruin of a Coast Guard station, which burnt down in 1920, just ten years after it was built, overlooks Howestrand beach.
Annually in August, Kilbrittain Village hosts a Family Festival which draws large crowds.
In 1588 Queen Elizabeth of England took energetic steps to colonise the south of Ireland in an event that came to be known as the Plantation of Munster or as some nationalists would have it ʻthe biggest land grab in historyʼ. To achieve her aims the native Irish and old English of Norman stock were uprooted and dispossessed of lands they had owned for hundreds of years. The dispossessed did not tamely acquiesce to their expulsion.
The crown forces to achieve these goals fought a series of bloody wars. With victory in their grasp the Planters (Undertakers) set about colonising their newly acquired land with Protestant English settlers whose loyalty to the crown would be assured. A tantalising bait was dangled to lure the settlers to Irish shores; they were offered farms in Ireland of up to 12,000 acres for little more than a few pence rent annually. The new plantation stretched all the way from Waterford to Kerry and would have to be defended if it was to succeed. A need was identified to create a garrison town somewhere in between. A directive was issued to create that town on flat boggy ground on the banks of a river in West Cork. That town was to be called Bandon; it might well claim to have been born of blood and the sword.
The new settlers brought with them skills in spinning yarn, and weaving cloth to be sold back to England, Holland and Portugal. Smith, the historian, declared that by mid 1700ʼs, Bandon had become one the principal woollen manufacturing centres in Ireland, by 1790s Bandon had turned its attention to cotton making and established an enormous cotton mill a few miles outside the town; at its peak the cotton mills employed 600 people. Other settler trades included farming, tanning, felling timber to build houses and provide oak staves for the cooperage trade, also tanners, shoemakers, hatters, glove makers, millers, blacksmiths, nail-makers and charcoal burners who made fuel for the blacksmiths.
Bandon even had its own mint, which produced brass farthings in the 1650s – the coins were stamped on one side with the letters BB (Bandon Bridge, the old town name) the obverse side showed a castle within a beaded circle. However, dishonest braziers in the town set about making counterfeit farthings, which were indistinguishable from the original. This caused the existing currency to devalue rapidly; within a short time Bandon’s farthings lost most of their buying power, hence the expression ʻnot worth a brass farthingʼ. In a prayer at Christ Church Kilbrogan, the rector uttered the immortal words: “Lord preserve us from brass farthings, wooden shoes and popery.”
Due to the distribution of land to the undertakers, Bandon initially grew as two separate towns; the South side of the river was developed by Bandon’s founder, Phane Beecher, while Captain Newce developed the North. This caused some duplication as old Bandon had two churches, two market houses, and two sessions houses. However, the town was unified when Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork bought the two portions and set about walling the town ʻfor fear of ye wilde Irishʼ. The wall building started in 1613 and was complete in 1625; it encompassed 27 acres and had three portcullis gate entry points. Boyle increased the strength of the garrisons much to the annoyance of the inhabitants who were expected to billet the soldiers at their own expense.
The original plans of Bandonʼs Portcullis gates (castles) are preserved today at Trinity College manuscript room in Dublin — they bear an uncanny resemblance to St. Lawrenceʼs gate in Drogheda, which is still extant. However, the ravages of war and time have all but removed most traces of the old Bandon wall barring odd remnants, which can still be seen. By 1622 Bandon had an all-Protestant population of 250 and was growing rapidly. For hundreds of years being a Bandonian meant being Protestant and English.
While traces of the early town survive, thankfully the bitterness between the communities is no more. Different religious communities now reach out toward each other. A tolerant and united people are working together for the betterment of the town.
The years 1790 to 1815 saw Bandon undergo a Celtic tigerʼ phase.
Napoleons warmongering campaign in Europe created huge prosperity for Bandon. The armies of Europe had an insatiable demand for horses, leather, wheat, oats, salted beef, fish, lamb, butter, woollen and cotton goods to mention a few. During this time the beautiful Weir on the river was built to power the newly built Coolfadda corn grinding mills. Misfortune overtook Coolfadda Mills, which were reduced to rubble in a cataclysmic fire in the 1960s. However, the Weir has survived and now powers an attractive hydroelectric station on the river. The station is open to visitors and school tours by pre-arranged request.
A quaint fifteen-sided structure, the Shambles, on the North side of the town, was built in 1817 to market farm livestock, a gatehouse at the entry point collected tolls from farmers selling animals. The structure has undergone a wonderful restoration of late. At this time quay walls were built on the river and plans were drawn up to create a canal to Dunmanway. Most of the fine houses on Bandon’s main streets were built at that time. Various Breweries opened up as well as an enormous distillery to make the famed Allmans Whiskey. However, Napoleon’s defeat brought the glory years to a halt; as demand for produce vanished, recession followed. By mid 1850s, Bandon, like most other towns, suffered the full brunt of the famine.
Written by Paddy O’Sullivan.
Places of historical interest
Main Bridge: Built in 1773 and enlarged in 1838. The site of an earlier bridge lay to the West of the current bridge.
Milk and Vegetable Market: This was on the site of the Allin Gardens and was in use up to 1903. It was originally built in 1881.
Allin Institute: Originally donated by James Allin, a native of Youghal, for use as a Protestant recreation centre. It had three stories at one point but this was burned by the old IRA on June 23, 1921 in reprisal for some of its members being involved in the destruction of the Maid of Erin monument in the April of that year.
Ragged or Penny Bun School: Located in a building adjoining the Allin Institute closer to the river.
Old Post Office: This building was originally built as a branch of the Provincial Bank of Ireland in 1839. When the bank merged with the Munster and Leinster bank in 1974, it changed use to that of a private residence, but this was later bought by An Post in 1985 where it was reconstructed and opened as a new Post Office. Post Office services are now available at the Bandon Shopping Centre on South Main Street.
Sean Hales Monument: Erected by former comrades of Sean Hales. He was the O.C. Bandon Battalion of the old IRA 1918-21, a TD in South Cork1921-22 and Brig General in the New Free State Army 1922. Another memorial once stood at this site due to a dispute over a grave in Christchurch graveyard. This memorial was later re-erected on the original grave c1909. An outline of this memorial is carved into the top of the stone tablet on the eastern wall of the bridge.
Gap between Post Office and building west of it: The old town wall passed through this site and the gate known as Watergate was in the centre of the roadway. This gate did not have a castle or gatehouse similar to the other three town gates.
West Cork Heritage Centre: Also known as Christ Church. Built in 1610 on the site of Carews Old Fort. It is the oldest surviving post reformation church in Ireland. The present tower and steeple were erected in 1856. There were many splendid memorials in this Church. The oldest being that to Richard Croft, builder of a portion of the Town Wall and Burgess of the Corporation in 1613, who died in 1629. The church was deconsecrated in 1973 and some of its’ furnishings were moved to St Peters, as well as Crofts memorial.
Church Lane North: The original entrance to Christ Church and is the only spot to have remained constant since the town was founded.
The Shambles or Meat Market: Built by the Devonshires in 1818 to replace the North Market House (built in 1754 according to O’Donoghue’s Book). It had 22 stalls rented out to individual traders, a veterinary office and a market jury room. This fifteen-sided building is a rare find in Ireland today.
Maid of Erin: (Once on the main bridge) – The Bandon ’98 Centenary Memorial was erected on Bandon Bridge in 1901 on the foundation stone laid on December 26, 1989, which still remains on the bridge. The statue was pulled down in April 1921 and the shattered pieces were dumped in the river. A new figure of Italian marble on a column of Dublin granite was erected on the original plinth. The monument was dismantled and re-erected at its site in May 1986.
Hamilton High School: Houses built for the Duke of Devonshire as the nucleus of a square in 1810. Occupied as private dwellings and a portion of it by Bandon Grammar School from 1837 to 1957 when the school was moved to a new premises at Richmount. The school portion was bought by Sean Hamilton in 1958 and the other houses during the subsequent seven years to make up the present school campus.
Kingdom Hall: Built in 1835 as the Bandon Savings Bank and survived until 1890 when the building became the Masonic Hall of Lodge ’84 or Ancient Boyne. There was a clock on the apex of its roof.
The Courthouse: Built in 1806 for the Duke of Devonshire who then leased it to the County Grand Jury. It was reconstructed in 1840 and again in 1886. It was partly burned in 1922 and reconstructed in 1927. It was again refurbished in 1989.
The Town Hall: The Hall was built in 1862 and was officially opened by the Duke of Devonshire on 9th October 1863.
Coolfadda Mills / Brennans Mills: There was a mill on this site from the time the town was established. It was in turn a Grist Mill, Wool Mill, Cotton Mill, and Flour Mill. Messrs Allman & Dowden had a new mill built in the 1860’s. On the outbreak of WW1, a shortage of flour was anticipated by Joseph Brennan and he leased Coolfadda Mills. When America entered the war in 1917 there was a great demand for oatflakes to feed the troops and Brennan began to manufacture and continued to do so for 50 years up to the time the Mill was burned in 1968.
The Footbridge: The present bridge was constructed in 1908 by John Buckley. It replaced a timber bridge built in 1853.
Stores for Kelleher’s Agricultural Supplies: The slated section was once the Unitarian Presbyterian Church (1813 – 1908), and then became a bakery owned by different groups until 1971.
Kelleher’s Agricultural Supplies: This beautiful stone built store was once the goods store of the Cork and Bandon and successive Railway Companies.
County Council offices: Built in 1894 as the passenger station of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway replacing the station built in 1848.
Old Allmans Distillery: Established in 1825 by George Allman. The output varied from 200,000 gallons of whiskey by 1860 to 600,000 gallons in 1886. Power was provided by a giant 36ft in diameter waterwheel that was 8ft wide. There was also a steam engine. The company did a lot of its foreign trade through Kilmacsimon
Quay. The introduction of prohibition in the US had a terrible effect on the business.
War of Independence Memorial: A memorial dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in Ireland’s War of Independence.
Bandon District Hospital: Built in 1928 on the site of Bandon Workhouse, the hospital was built in 1841 to accommodate 900 persons and over the following four years had between 4,000 and 5,000 inmates.
Bandon Fire Station: Based on the site of the old West Cork Bottling Company. Prior to this, Preston’s Timber Yard was on this site. There also stood the Bandon Dispensary and Fever Hospital was on an elevated site at the rear of the station.
Munster Arms Hotel: General Michael Collins had his last meal here on the evening he was killed at Beal na mBlath on August 22, 1922. The western part of this was the Charitable Repository and Female School of Industry established in 1814 and continued up to 1881 when it became Ballymodan Girl’s National School.
Irishtown Bridge: Built in 1864 to replace a bridge built by a Mr John Lodden in 1636. Immediately west of this bridge was the East Gate of Bandonbridge. Adjoining this site was the site house in which George Bennett, Historian of Bandonbridge and Bandon Oregon was born.
Foundation Stone: The foundation stone of the 1898 memorial was laid on December 26, 1898. The Gaslamp standard on this site is one of the originals erected by the Gas Commission in 1835
Methodist Church (Wesleyan Church): Built in 1821 to replace a Meeting House. The inside of this church has remained the same since its creation and is of great architectural significance.
St Peter’s Church: Built on the site of a former church, this church was designed by John Welland of Dublin. The foundation stone was laid on March 9, 1847 and consecrated on August 30, 1849. The only surviving council book of the Old Bandon Corporation is preserved within the Church. The old town walls forms its western and southern boundaries and the remains of a flanker tower can be seen at the south western junction. A lot more interesting facts about St Peters is available on the bandon.ie website.
The Old Town Wall: At the rear of the Garda Station there stands some of the best preserved sections of the old Bandon Town Wall. North of the Garda Station is another section of the wall. It contains a tower by the river and a small section was crudely rebuilt in 1980. Across the river is what looks like a small island overgrown with trees and vegetation. This is the base of another tower.
McSwiney Quay: Built by the Duke of Devonshire in 1807. Along this roadway it was proposed to build a canal from Innishannon to Dunmanway. When the roadway was constructed, culverts were built to facilitate those who had established rights to water animals at the river. These openings can still be seen on the quay wall.
St Patrick’s Church: The foundation stone was laid on March 17, 1856 and was formerly opened on June 9, 1861. Some of the stained glass windows in the church were donated by families as memorials. The West Cork Railway Company had a right of way through a section of the church grounds. A new entrance and steps was created in 1883. The church bell was donated by James P Murphy, Brewer of Cork in 1895. A lot more interesting facts are available on the bandon.ie website.
Charlie Hurley GAA Park: Formerly the lawn and gardens of Clancool House and bought by Bandon Hurling and Football Club in 1953.
Kingston Buildings: Built in 1802 and leased as a Militia Barracks up to 1873. These buildings have also been used as houses, a barracks again, a Free State Army Billet, a technical school and again as private houses.
Sealey’s Brewery: This was operating in the 1780’s. An original arch still standing marks the entrance to the yard. The West Gate of Bandon stood here. The laneway between the houses on the northern side of the road was where the Town Wall passed through. The line of it can be traced up through Ballymodan graveyard.
Courtesy of www.bandon.ie —an edited version of the ‘Historical Walks Through Bandon’ by Mr Paddy Connolly.
Notable historical figures
George Bennett was born in Bandon in 1822 and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with degrees in Arts and Law. His history of Bandon, which was released for public sale in 1869, has been a great source of information for historians. He emigrated to Oregon in 1873 and founded a town, which he named Bandon.
Author Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, who wrote numerous Victorian era novels, lived in Bandon until her death of typhoid fever on January 24, 1897.
Dr James Murphy was born in Bandon in 1844. He devoted a large part of his career to the study of political history and economics. In 1919 he was invited to Buckingham Palace to give a talk to leading surgeons on a new method of amputation.
Eugene O’Keefe (1827–1913), a brewer and businessman, emigrated to Toronto in and established the O’Keefe Brewery, which would later be bought by the Carling Brewery. O’Keefe was a philanthropist to Catholic institutions.
Cornelius O’Sullivan, the ‘founder of the science of bio-chemistry, was born in Bandon in 1842 and in 1866 he was appointed assistant brewer and chemist to Bass & Co. He later became the head brewer in 1894. He died in 1907 and was buried in Ballymodan graveyard.
Sir George Strickland Kingston, who emigrated to Australia and became a prominent civil engineer, architect and politician, was born in Bandon in 1807.
Sir Richard Cox, Lord Chancellor Of Ireland was born in Bandon, 25 March 1650.
Joseph Brennan, (1887–1963), Chairman of the Currency Commission and Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland.
William J. Herlihy, born 1818, and his son Timothy J. Herlihyborn 1857, Dean of the Quartermasters of the Fall River Steamship Line.
Rev. James Long, an Anglican priest and orientalist, who published the first English translation of the play Nil Darpan.
Lloyd Jones (socialist), Cooperative Society activist, four times President of the Co-operative Congress, born Bandon 1811, died London 1886.
Robert Baldwin Sullivan, second mayor of Toronto (1834-1839).
The Book of Lismore
It is believed that the Book of Lismore, a Medieval Irish manuscript, was compiled in the 15th Century to commemorate the marriage of the Gaelic lord Finghin Mac Cárthaigh Riabhach, of Kilbrittain Castle, to Caitilín, daughter of the seventh earl of Desmond. The medieval manuscript contains 166 large vellum folios of material that a learned person of the time would have been expected to know. It later became known as Leabhar Mhic Cárthaigh Riabhaigh. Some of the book’s pages were copied at Timoleague Friary in 1629 by the scribe Mícheál Ó Cléirigh.
During a raid on Kilbrittain in 1642, the book was taken by Lewis, Lord Kinalmeaky, of Lismore, Co. Waterford who sent it back to his father at Lismore Castle. The book remained there until it was discovered behind a wall at the castle in 1814, during rebuilding works.
The Book of Lismore is written in Irish, but not the modern version spoken today. It is written on vellum, made from calfskin, an expensive material at the time of the book’s writing, in the 15th century. The Book of Lismore contains many important texts, including a cosmological work, the Ever-new Tongue; the most extensive account of the lives of the saints in an Irish-language medieval manuscript; an Irish translation of the travels of Marco Polo; and one of the greatest compositions of the Fenian Cycle, Acallam na Senórach, or The Conversation of the Old Men. The illustrated capitals are thought to have been added in the 19th century by Donnchadh Ó Floinn, an Irish-language scribe living on Shandon Street in Cork.
Be you a visitor, a resident or someone doing business in Bandon, the town has a lot to offer. Bandon is an excellent shopping town, boasting a very wide range of shops. It is well known thoughout Cork for the quality of its fashion and food outlets.
Get a different view of Bandon by walking the streets and meeting the people of the town. See Bandon Town Walks under the Walking section.
Bandon Farmers’ Market was set up in 2006 by a voluntary committee who shared a love of good food. The aim was to supply a wealth of local and artisan produce to the residents of Bandon and the surrounding area. Early every Saturday morning the car park of the Old Market Garden buzzes with the activity of stalls setting up and the first customers arriving. Browsers can choose from stalls selling fish, cheeses, breads, cakes, organic fruit and vegetables and sweet treats.
West Cork Heritage Centre
The West Cork Heritage Centre is housed in Christ Church on North Main Street. Some of the historic town walls of Bandon are incorporated in the layout of the Church.
The Church was built in 1610 on the site of a Danish Fort and was reputedly the first church built in Ireland for Protestant worship. Deconsecrated in 1973, the church is now the setting of a unique exhibition in which visitors are transported through time to experience Bandon as it was in times past.
The exhibition includes the old shop, schoolhouse, forge, kitchens and ship to shore apparatus. The old stocks and whipping posts that were used in Bandon are also on display.
Fishing & Angling
The Bandon River rises in the mountains north-west of Dunmanway, and reaches the sea at the estuary near Kinsale. The river provides good fishing for salmon, sea trout and brown trout.
Much of the salmon angling on the Bandon River is privately owned or controlled by groups of keen angling interests. Day permits are however available and local enquiries will provide up to date details. Phone 026 41222.
The Bandon River is also known as a sea trout fishery. Good runs of sea trout are usually found in the July and August periods. The sea trout angling is confined to the area from Innishannon upstream as far as Bandon.
Brown trout angling is available throughout the Bandon River system but average fish size is generally small. The best of the brown trout fishing is usually in the Bandon area.
Bandon Golf Club is a testing parkland course in a beautiful sylvan setting with natural hazards abounding. Set on the undulating slopes of the Bandon Valley the course meanders around the ruins of the stately old Castle Bernard. It was founded in 1909.