Ballycotton and Youghal, County Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-14 | Start of chapter

Sailing eastward from Cork harbour, the first opening that presents itself to our notice is Ballycotton Bay; bleak, low, unsheltered, and almost devoid of scenic beauty, but abounding with fish of excellent quality. We next arrive at Youghal Harbour; the bold outline of the beetling cliffs, jutting out in dark defiance of the ocean swell, is extremely fine; and the effect is heightened by the beacon-towers with which the heights are crowned. These are so placed, that a train of signal-lights can be illuminated almost instantaneously along the whole range of the northern coast. They consist, in addition to the low-built residences, of an officer and a few soldiers, of a lofty tower, surmounted by a tall staff, on which a flag by day, and coloured lamps by night, may be raised in case of alarm. Each was also provided during the late war with a large pile of furze, for the purpose of being set fire to, in case of the appearance of an enemy's fleet.

Youghall Abbey

Youghall Abbey (The Residence of Sir Walter Raleigh)

Youghal is a place of little maritime trade; as a harbour it is chiefly resorted to by fishing-boats. The Nymph Bank, an immense shoal lying some leagues out at sea, and extending as far eastward as Waterford Harbour, feeds an inexhaustible stock of fish of every kind, both round and flat; yet, strange to say, little advantage is taken of it by the fishermen of the coast, although great numbers of them go yearly from the counties of Waterford and Wexford to Newfoundland, on the other side of the Atlantic, to procure a livelihood by the capture of the very same kinds of fish that are sporting about, untouched and unthought of, almost within view of their native cottages and home. Why is this so? Not from want of enterprise or industry: Newfoundland proves this; yet there must be reasons for it. These might be analysed, but my purpose at present is to explore, not to speculate. Rounding a bluff promontory, called Helvoeck Head, we enter Dungarvan Bay, which, though open and safe, is shallow, and therefore useless to vessels of large burthen.

Thirty or forty years ago, Dublin derived its principal supply of potatoes from this port; the coasting craft in which they were carried also brought large quantities of heath brooms. Hence it became a standing joke with the waggish crews of these traders, when they were hailed by the revenue officer at Ringsend, on their entering the river Liffey, and asked what cargo they had on board, to answer, "Fruit and timber." Dungarvan was a place of some note during the civil wars, and the remains of the ancient walls may yet be traced. The castle, of which vestiges are still visible, is situated in the centre of the town, and is used for military purposes. Dungarvan is much frequented during the summer months by sea-bathers; but, like all the small towns on the coast, it draws its chief support from its fishing resources. There are at present upwards of two hundred boats, and from one thousand four hundred to one thousand six hundred persons engaged in the trade, which would, under proper regulations and encouragement, become a means of great wealth to the poor inhabitants of the maritime counties of the south and west of Ireland.

Continuing our course along this iron-bound coast, a succession of magnificent scenes, formed by a number of deep bays, separated from each other by headlands projecting boldly into the ocean, present themselves to the eye of the spectator. Some of these havens, however beautiful to the eye, are carefully avoided by experienced mariners. Of this description is Tramore Bay, lying about four miles west of the harbour of Waterford, which has become notorious from the immense number of shipwrecks that have occurred in it. The bay is extremely shallow, and at low-water a level sandy beach, nearly three miles in length, is left completely exposed. A vast ridge of sand, which has been accumulated by the action of the wind and waves at high-water-mark, forms a semicircular boundary to the bay on the land side. Behind this sandy belt is another great extent of land, rendered waste and profitless by the constant inroads of the sea through a narrow inlet, called Rineshark, at the eastern extremity of the bay. The rapidity with which the flood-tide rushes into this inlet, and spreads over the adjacent flat sands, operating jointly with the heavy sea, renders it almost impossible for a ship, when caught in the bay, to extricate itself by working to windward; and the ground is so foul and rocky, that the cables of vessels anchoring outside are frequently cut, and the ships lost.