Cork County

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

CORK (County of), a maritime county of the province of MUNSTER, and the largest in Ireland, bounded on the east by the counties of Tipperary and Waterford, on the north by that of Limerick, on the west by that of Kerry, and on the south-west, south, and south-east by St. George's Channel: it extends from 51° 12' to 52° 13' (N. Lat.), and from 9° 45' to 10° 3' (W. Lon.); and comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 1,725,100 statute acres, of which 1,024,340 are cultivated, and 700,760 are occupied by mountains, bogs, &c. The population, in 1821, was 629,786, and in 1831, 700,359, of which latter number, 407,935 were in the East, and 292,424 in the West, Riding.

The earliest inhabitants of the south-western part of this extensive territory are designated by Ptolemy Uterni or Uterini, and by other writers Iberni, Iberi, and Juerni. They occupied most of the southern part of the country subsequently called Desmond: their name and situation prove them to have been of Spanish Iberian origin, and the former, as well as that of the tribes from which they sprung, and the designation Ibernia or Hibernia, applied to the whole island even by Ptolemy, was derived from the western situation of the country which they inhabited. From Ptolemy's map it appears that the most eastern maritime part of the county in the south of Cork was, in the same age, inhabited by a people whom he called Vodiae or Vodii, but who are unnoticed both by Sir James Ware and Dr. Charles O'Conor.

The Coriondi, whose name still bears some affinity to the Irish appellation of this tract, were, according to Smith, the inhabitants of the middle and northern parts, particularly near the present city of Cork, and are said to have sprung from the Coritani, a British tribe occupying a tract in the eastern part of England. The ancient divisions of the country prior to the English settlements, were intricate, and at present can with difficulty be ascertained. The whole formed the southern and most important part of the petty kingdom of Cork or Desmond, which comprised also the western portion of the present county of Waterford, and all Kerry.

Desmond, signifying "South Munster," was more properly the name of only the south-western part of the principality, which was divided into three portions, of which the whole of that called Ivelagh or Evaugh, including the country between Bantry and Baltimore, and also that called Bear, lying between Bantry and the Kenmare river, are included in the modern county of Cork. Bear still partly retains its ancient name, being divided into the baronies of Bear and Bantry; but Evaugh is included in the barony of West Carbery, which, with East Carbery, Kinalmeaky, and Ibawn or Ibane and Barryroe, anciently formed an extensive territory, deriving its name from its chieftain, Carbry Riada, and in which are said to have been settled four of the eight families of royal extraction in Munster, the head of one of which was McCarty Reagh, sometimes styled prince of Carbery. Kerrycurrihy was anciently called Muskerry Ilane, and comprised also the barony of Imokilly, on the north side of Cork harbour: the only maritime territory remaining unnoticed, viz. Kinnalea, was formerly called Insovenagh.

Besides Kerrycurrihy and Imokilly, the entire central part of the county, between the rivers Lee and Blackwater, formed a portion of the ancient territory of Muskerry, which name the western portion of it still retains. The north-western extremity of the county, forming the present barony of Duhallow, is in some old writings called Alla and Dubh Alla; and its chief, who, to a very late period, enjoyed almost regal authority, was sometimes styled prince of Duhallow. The remainder, to the north of the Blackwater, formed, before the English conquests, a principality of the O'Keefes, called Fearmuigh.

Henry II., about the year 1177, granted to Robert Fitz-Stephen and Milo de Cogan the whole kingdom of Cork, except the city and the cantred belonging to the Ostmen settled there, which he retained in his own hands; but they were unable to take possession of more than seven cantreds lying nearest the city, receiving tribute from the other twenty-four. They introduced other Anglo-Norman families and their retainers; and the military colony thus established was never completely uprooted. Cork was one of the districts erected into a county by King John, and the English power was gradually extended by the divisions arising from female inheritance and inferior grants; large tracts of country were successively held by the Carews, De Courcys, and other families, of whom the former, who were styled Marquesses of Cork, built the castle of Donemark, in the western part of the county, and others in Imokilly, for protection against the natives.

The chief men of this family, with many other English settled here, removed into England on the breaking out of the civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster; while De Courcy, who remained, besides divesting himself of some of his possessions, which he gave in marriage with his daughters, lost a considerable portion by the superior power of the natives. The English were thus greatly reduced both in numbers and power, and were subsequently further weakened by the usurping measures of the Earls of Desmond, to whom Robert Fitz-Geoffry Cogan granted all his lands in Ireland, including one-half of Cork; but the whole was forfeited by the attainder of the last Earl, in 1582. This induced the settlement of new colonies of the English; for although a considerable portion was regranted to the Fitz-Geralds and other resident families, the rest of the forfeitures was divided in seigniories and granted by letters patent to several English gentlemen, who were called undertakers, from being bound to perform the conditions mentioned in the articles for the plantation of this province with English, who were consequently settled here in great numbers, especially by Sir Richard Boyle, afterwards created Earl of Cork.

In the Spanish invasion of 1600, this county was wholly the scene of operations, particularly in the vicinity of Kinsale. During the civil war which broke out in 1641, the bands of trained English contributed much to the maintenance of British interests here, which, however, were greatly weakened by these commotions, until in a great measure renewed towards the period of the Restoration by the settlement of republican officers, soldiers, and adventurers; and the Protestant inhabitants of English descent again proved their strength by the most active and important services in 1691.

« Corcomroe | Index | Cork Baronies And Towns »