Description of Cove and Cork

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (34) | Start of Chapter

The county of Cork is the largest county in Ireland, and once had four walled towns:—Cork, Youghal, Kinsale, and Bandon. It has an extensive sea-coast, and ten good harbors. It is everywhere well watered, and was once supplied with all kinds of game and cattle, wool, and woolen and linen yarn. It, like all Ireland, has been sifted and shaken, divided among septs and kings, and is now resting under the gracious shadow of the Queen Victoria. The population numbered in the year 1841 about 107,682. The beautiful River Lee, where vessels from the Cove of Cork enter, flows through the city, giving from the hill top and side to the neat trellised cottages that hang there a cheerful aspect of life and commerce which few towns can claim. A sail from Cove Harbor up the Lee, to the city, cannot be surpassed in beauty, on a pleasant evening. The Venetian boatman might here find material enough to add a new stanza to his Gondolier song; and if angels retain any wish for the sin-scathed scenery of earth, they might strike here their golden harps, and sing anew the sweet song

"Peace on earth, and good will to men."

The whole distance is so variedly enchanting that the overcharged eye, as it drops its lingering curtain upon one fairy spot, pauses, in doubt whether its next opening can greet beauties like the last. Cove, now a town containing a population of about 7000, is built upon the sloping side of a hill, in Terraces; and at the foot of the hill is a line of houses called the Beach and Crescent.

This beautiful town, now named Queenstown, in honor of the landing of Victoria, in the summer of 1849, when Her Majesty placed her foot for the first time on that green isle, and honored that spot with its first impression, was, half a century ago, but a miserable fishing hamlet, the remains of which are most hideously and squalidly looking out, on the north side, called "Old Cove." However squalid the old houses may look, there are more redeeming qualities here than any town in Ireland. It is snugly sheltered from winds by the hill; and this hill is so continually washed with fresh showers from the buckets of heaven, that it needs no police regulations to keep the declivity in a condition for the most delicate foot and olfactory nerves to walk without difficulty or offense. Then the broad old river spreading out beneath its foot, presenting a harbor of six miles in length and three in breadth, dotted with four islands, Spike, Hawlbouline, Rocky, and Coney, with two rivers, Ballinacurra and Awnbree, beside many pretty streamlets emptying into it. The harbor is backed by hills of the greenest and richest, and ornamented with five Martello towers, so called from a tower in the Bay of Martello, in the island of Corsica. As nearly all the present names of places in Ireland had an Irish root, and this root has a signification, a knowledge of these, places the history in many cases in a clear and useful light. The village and glen of Monkston stretched along, with the church and old castle, with spire and towers overlooking the whole, first meet the view; then a mile further, Passage, a village extending nearly a mile, with a quay and bathing houses, and taken as a whole is interesting, as a busy thoroughfare. Blackrock Castle soon catches the eye, and its situation and happy construction can hardly be improved by imagination. It looks out upon Lake Mahon and the picturesque islands which dot it; and further on upon the right is Mount Patrick, where stands the tower dedicated to Theobald Mathew; and before reaching Cork, embosomed in trees, is the seat of Mr. Penrose, called Woodhill, and possesses the undying honor of the spot where the daughter of Curran was married to Captain Henry Sturgeon. It is long since Moore sung in sweet strains the never-to-be-forgotten melody of

"She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,

And lovers are round her sighing;

But coldly she turns from their gaze and weeps,

For her heart in his grave is lying.

"O! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest,

When they promise a glorious morrow,

They'll shine o'er her sleep like a smile from the West,

From her own lov'd island of sorrow."