Bantry

Bantry, Beantraighe, is derived from Beann, one of the sons of Conor MacNessa, King of Ulster in the first century. He settled here, and the town and bay retain his name.

The trade of this town was formerly considerable. The manufacture of coarse linen and cotton gave employment to several hundreds of persons, and the sales exceeded £4,000 per annum. Several cargoes of butter were sent to Portugal in the 18th century. In 1835 10,000 barrels of wheat and 3,000 barrels of oats were shipped to the English markets. A pilchard fishery flourished for many years, but probably owing to over fishing the fish were destroyed, and there are none at present.

In 1460 Dermot O'Sullivan founded a priory for Franciscans in the vicinity. The place is still called Ardnabraher, or Friar's Hill, though every trace of the building has disappeared. The burial ground attached is, however, used. During the famine years many who died of starvation were buried coffinless here, and Mr. T. M. Healy, M.P., has caused a beautiful Celtic Cross to be erected to their memory.

Bantry is a good business and prosperous town; its population, which is over 3,000, is increasing yearly. Some of its merchants carry on business extensively and can compare favourably with those living in larger towns. There is a woollen manufacture which is famed for the excellence of its goods, also steam saw mills and a building yard which are very busy and supply the country far and wide with all sorts of building materials. There are large flour mills where food stuffs are prepared and forwarded throughout the district.

The Catholic Church was built about the middle of the last century by Rev. F. Barry, P.P., at a cost of nearly £3,000. It is an oblong building about 120 feet by 50, lit by seven round-headed windows at each side and covered by a richly stuccoed trussed table ceiling. The Protestant Episcopal Church and the Methodist Community have also edifices in the town. The Sisters of Mercy have a beautiful convent and schools built on a hill to the west of the town. They impart secular and religious instruction, give a training in domestic economy, carry on some industries, teach music, drawing, and such subjects as are taught in the higher schools.

The scenery is very fine, of great variety, and presenting a succession of beautiful pictures. Many grand views of the Bay can be had from different places. A fine view is afforded by the fort behind Gurteen-roe House.

At Newtown-West, just above Bantry demesne, there is a curious stone of the monumental kind. It is seven feet high, one broad, and six inches in thickness. It was sculptured at both sides. The figures are of a religious character, and it seems to be of Christian origin. But it may have been originally one of those pagan pillar stones, and the figures may have been traced at a later date by Christian hands.

There is a rocking stone seven miles north of the town, the Irish name for which is cloch chriothur, the trembling stone. It is said there are only eight of these in Ireland. There are various theories as to their origin. The modern view is that during the glacial period one stone happened by mere accident to be placed on another. According to another view they are said to be the same as the moving or animated stones of the Phoenicians and as fabricated by Ouranus or Ibeanen. They were believed to be presided over by a demon or genius; auguries were drawn from their motions, and they were also used for purposes of ordeal.

The islands near Bantry are Whiddy, Hog, Horse, Coney, and Chapel islands. Whiddy is nearly three miles in length and one broad. It is all fertile, arable land, and consists of three small hills which run along the island. On the centre hill are the ruins of a castle of the O'Sullivans. It was taken by Sir George Carew after the fall of Dunboy, and destroyed by Ireton during the wars of the Commonwealth. There are also the ruins of a church in conjunction with a burial ground still used. Within the island are two small lakes, one fresh and the other salt water.

Travelling from Bantry to Glengariff the first object worthy of note is the waterfall of Dunamark, which rushes down some thirty or forty feet. One passes on by the lake of Reendonegan, which is about half a mile long. Upon the Ouvane are Ballylickey and Reendesert houses. Then the scenery becomes wilder and soon you get a view of the celebrated Priest's Leap. You travel on by crags and precipices, valleys, and rocky defiles succeeding each other with changing variety.

Glengariff Castle is the next place of note to be reached. The demesne consists of several hundred acres. To the late Colonel White this place owes its beauty and improvements. It was crag and moor before his time, but he reclaimed and planted it with exquisite taste, and formed it into meadows, glades, and lawns. The prevailing timber are the ash, alder, holly, birch. The arbutus and myrtle also flourish. The site of the mansion commands a beautiful view. Before it lies the charming Glengariff Bay, a glorious expanse of water, with its numerous islets, creeks, and headlands. In front lies a magnificent chain of mountains extending far away in the distance, of different shapes, presenting a pleasing variety. Goul or Slieve-na-Goil (the mountain of the wild people) stands forth majestically as if the lord of those many mountains, while Dhade or Hungry Hill towers above them all. (The natives speaking the Irish language always call this mountain Knock Dhade, which means Angry Hill. The word Angry by careless speakers, and probably by English settlers, was corrupted into Hungry.) It is 2,100 feet high.

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