Macroom, County Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter III-2 | Start of chapter

Macroom is a considerable market-town, lying nearly midway between Cork and Killarney. It is placed on a neck of land formed by the junction of the river Lee with the Sullane: the latter, though a fine river and every way equal to the Lee except in the length of its course, bride-like resigns its name as soon as they become united. There is little to interest the antiquarian or tourist in Macroom; the town consists of a long straggling street, and contains no public buildings worthy of notice. The surrounding country is diversified in its character: large tracts of bog lie in close proximity to it; but the bold mountain range which stretches to the north makes an agreeable variety in the features of what would otherwise be a very monotonous landscape.

The Castle of Macroom, now the property of E. Hedges Eyre, Esq., adjoins the town. It is a huge baronial structure: tradition assigns its foundation to King John, but of this there are some strong doubts. The probability is, that it was built by the family of the O'Flyns, from whom it derives the Irish name Caslean-i-Fhlionn, "O'Flyn's Castle." This ancient family once held extensive possessions in the baronies of Carbery and Muskerry, to the latter of which they gave the name of "O'Flyn's pleasant country."

Near to Millstreet is the Hill of Knockaclashy, an object of some interest to the historian and tourist, as the scene of a celebrated battle between the English Parliamentary forces, under Roger Lord Broghill, and the Irish, commanded by Lord Muskerry, which was fought on the 26th of July, 1651.

The belief which the peasantry in many parts of Ireland still entertain of the efficacy of charms, in preserving them from spiritual and bodily danger, is unbounded. To enumerate the different kinds of protective talismans which knavery has invented to impose on the credulity of the superstitious, would fill a volume: every parish once had its "fairy doctor," as he or she was called, whose business it was to prepare charms and counter-charms for all manner of uses: to preserve cattle from murrain, and children from the good people—to bring back lost affection or stolen butter—to keep a household from "plague, pestilence, and famine"—or to guard the cows from being sucked by an old woman under the form of a hare. Scapulars—pieces of brown cloth, in which were stitched certain verses from the Gospel of St. John, written on paper or parchment—still continue to be a favourite preservative against all perils by flood and field to the wearer. Education amongst the people is, however, gradually overthrowing these absurd superstitions, and before many years it is probable that they will be only remembered as the idle fancies of an ignorant age.

From Macroom I again turned westward out of my direct route to Cork, for the purpose of visiting the Lakes Allua and Gougaune Barra, near to which the river Lee takes its rise, in a country of such peculiarly romantic beauty as well entitles it to a visit from every traveller possessing the least taste for nature in the rude grandeur of her solitary retreats. The road, which at first is not very interesting and rather circuitous, runs through the valley of Garra and the rugged tract called "O'Leary's Country;" but as I approached the village of Inchageela it assumed a wilder and more striking aspect, being everywhere broken up into craggy hills, clothed with heath, furze, and numerous other shrubs and plants that flourish in these rocky regions. Emerging from a deep glen, I came in view of the village, which is only an irregular assemblage of poor habitations, and of the ancient Castle of Carrignacurra,—formerly a place of some strength, belonging to the O'Leary's, but now reduced to a single lofty tower, whose moss-covered walls, surrounded by thriving plantations, afford an agreeable relief to the eye amidst the wild and cheerless scenery in which it stands.