VALENCIA ISLAND

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

VALENCIA, or KILMORE, an island and a parish, in the barony of IVERAGH, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 27 miles (S. W.) from Milltown, and 184 ¾ (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 2614 inhabitants. The island, which is five miles in length and of an average breadth of two miles, and contains 6418 statute acres, lies in a direction from south-west to north-east along the coast of Kerry, from which it is separated on the north, east and south-east by Lough Key and Valentia harbour; the Atlantic washes it on the other sides. The harbour, which is formed by the strait or channel between the island and the mainland, may be entered both from the north and south; it is well sheltered, has deep water, and vessels passing through are exposed to little danger from shoals or sunken rocks: to the north of it is Beg-innis island, which see.

Oliver Cromwell caused forts to be erected at each end of Valentia to guard the passage and prevent it from being used as a place of shelter and concealment by hostile privateers; the remains of these are still to be seen. In 1710, the Irish House of Commons passed a vote for the construction of a fort on the island, in consequence of its exposure to the attacks of pirates: a signal tower has been since built on Bray Head, at its southern point. The entrances to the island are by ferries; the principal one is on the northern side, where the road on the mainland from Cahirciveen terminates at Renard Point; the other, on the south, is near Portmagee.

The number of houses is 480, mostly scattered through the country and of a single story high; but within these few years a village called the Foot has been formed at its north-eastern end, where there are a good inn and a dispensary, and petty sessions are held on the first Tuesday in the month. Storehouses for merchandise have been erected there. Near the village is a quay, built under the directions of the late Fishery Board, at which vessels of 200 tons can lie; there is also a small quay on the opposite shore of the mainland at Renard Point. This part of the harbour has been laid down as the point from which vessels will weigh for New York, in case the proposed rail-road across Ireland from Dublin to Renard Point be carried into effect. The exports consist of corn, butter, and slates; the imports, which are chiefly from Liverpool, of iron, coal and timber.

This island, from its great fertility, was looked upon as the granary of the south-west of Ireland, previously to the facilities that have been lately afforded for the transmission of agricultural produce through the interior by the construction of well-planned and well-constructed roads. The population is engaged in agriculture, the fisheries, and the quarries; at present it appears that the demand for labour is so great that the women are employed not only in the out-door labours of tillage, but in some of the occupations of the quarries.

The lands are let according to a measurement called gneeves, which are similar to carucates or plough-lands; there are upwards of 300 small holdings in the island, varying in extent from half a gneeve to three, with a proportion of mountain and bog to each. The soil in general is light; the system of agriculture is improving; the want of lime for manure, of which there is none in the island, is supplied by sea-weed and sand; the collection of this and the spreading of it on the potato gardens are parts of the employment of the women.

About 400 persons are exclusively occupied in the fisheries, in which 100 seine boats and 150 yawls are engaged. The slate quarry on the Knight of Kerry's estate at Doghilli, on the western shore, is profitably worked and gives constant employment to 150 men: the slate, which is of very fine quality, is now mostly cut into flags of considerable dimensions, which are chiefly exported to London, where they are in great demand for flooring cellars and warehouses: the women assist in shipping the slates. The property of the island chiefly belongs to the Rt. Hon. Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry; H. A. Herbert, of Muckross, Esq.; and to the Corporation of Trinity College, Dublin. Glanleem is the beautiful seat of the Knight of Kerry; Coarhubeg, of Captain Spotswood; and Ballymanagh is the occasional residence of Miles Mahony. Esq., of Cullina. The Rev. Mr. Day, the present incumbent, is erecting a private residence near The Foot.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and in the patronage of the Crown: the tithes amount to £150 British. The glebe-house, built in 1815 by a gift of £400 and a loan of £300 from the late Board of First Fruits, is now in a dilapidated state: the glebe at Kilmore comprises 56 statute acres. The church, situated at the north-eastern extremity of the island, is a small plain building, with a square tower, erected in 1815.

In the R. C. divisions the island constitutes a separate parish: the chapel is nearly in its centre. The parochial school, held at the coast-guard station, is chiefly supported by the incumbent and the Knight of Kerry 5 a school is also held in the chapel: about 250 children are educated in both these. The ruins of the old church are to be seen in the burial-ground, which is still used as a place of interment by the Catholic inhabitants.

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