GREAT ISLAND

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

GREAT ISLAND, or BARRYMORE ISLAND, in the harbour of CORK, barony of BARRYMORE, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER; containing, with the post-town of Cove, (which is described under its own head), 11,089 inhabitants. It was anciently called Ard-Neimheidh, and is one of the first places mentioned in Irish history whose locality can be fixed with precision. A battle was fought here in 125 between Aengus, king of Ireland, and Niadh Nuaget, a tributary prince, in which the latter recovered the crown of Munster; and in the 12th century the island maintained its independence against the English for some time after they had acquired possession of Cork and the adjacent country. In 1329 it was the property of Lord Philip Hodnet, who resided at Clonmel, where he was besieged by the Barrys and Roches, and all his adherents put to death. The Barrys having obtained possession, it was called Barrymore Island. During the war of 1641, a party of Lord Castlehaven's troops coming here to plunder, were attacked by Major Power with 30 horse and two companies of foot, and about 500 of them were slain. In 1666 it was described by the Earl of Orrery as very fertile, and a place of such consequence as, were he an enemy about to invade Ireland, to be the first he would endeavour to secure. Most of the islands and headlands in its neighbourhood have since been strongly fortified.

It extends five miles from east to west, and two from north to south, comprising 221 gneeves, or 13,149 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £9758 per ann., and is most advantageously situated. To the south is the magnificent harbour of Cove; on the west is the deep channel, half a mile wide, which separates it from the mainland at Passage; on the north it is bounded by the noble estuary of the Lee, and on the east by a shallow channel which separates it from Foaty Island, over which is a lofty bridge, from the extremity of which branch two roads, one leading by way of Passage to Cove, the other crossing the island to the same port. The shores are generally bold, and the interior has a pleasing variety of hill and dale, watered by several small streams that flow into the Eastern Channel. It is composed of clay-slate covered with a light productive soil, but intermingled with fragments of the substratum: two-thirds are under tillage, and the remainder in pasture or included in demesnes.

Two ferries afford communication between the island and the mainland, the western ferry to Passage, the eastern to Midleton. There is also a communication by land from Belvelly, where a stone bridge and causeway connect it with Foaty island, whence is another causeway communicating with the mainland; a direct communication is thus opened by land with Cork. The beauty of its situation and salubrity of the climate have induced many genteel families to settle here. Among the principal seats are Marino, the residence of T. G. French, Esq.; Ballymore House, of J. H. Bennett, Esq.; Cuskinny, of Savage T. W. French, Esq.; Eastgrove, of J. Bagwell, Esq.; Ballymore, of R. B. Shaw, Esq.; Ashgrove, of R. Frankland, Esq.; Ballymore Cottage, of W. J. Coppinger, Esq.; Belgrove, of the Rev. G. Gumbleton; Whitepoint House, of H. H. O'Brien, Esq.; Spy Hill, of the Rev. T. L. Coghlan; the Retreat, of Mrs. O'Grady; Merton, of R. Morrison, Esq.; East Hill, of Capt. Stubbs; Bellevue, of Dr. Crotty, R. C. Bishop of Cloyne; and Ballynoe House, of A. Hargreave, Esq. Besides these are many lodges and cottages ornée for the accommodation of visitors during the bathing season.

The island is divided into the Eastern and Western parishes, which together form the union of Clonmel, or Cove, in the diocese of Cloyne, and in the patronage of the Bishop. The Eastern parish, called also Templerobin, includes, in addition to the eastern part of Great Island, part of Foaty, and the whole of Hawlbowling, Spike, and Rocky islands (each of which is described under its own head); it is a rectory and vicarage, and the tithes amount to £323. The Western parish, called Clonmel, besides the western part of the island, includes the remaining portion of Foaty island; it is a vicarage, and was anciently called Templelyra, from having belonged to the Knights Templars; the entire tithes amount to £276. 18. 5 ½, of which two-thirds are payable to the lessee of the economy estate of the cathedral of Cloyne, and one-third to the vicar: the tithes of the benefice amount to £415. 7. 8. A third parish was erected in 1762, by the Rev. Downes Conron, the incumbent, on a dispute between him and the Dean and Chapter of Cloyne relative to tithes; but a compromise was effected and the incumbent has to pay £100 annually to the economy estate. There is no tradition of Kilgarvan as a parish, and it is mentioned only in one of the county records; but 20 acres of arable land in Kilgarvan, with their tithes, &c., were granted by patent to Sir Richard Boyle, Knt., in 1605.

The glebe-house is about to be rebuilt; there is a glebe of 18 acres belonging to the incumbent, and one of 30 acres belonging to the economy estate. The church, which is in Cove, is a large and handsome edifice. In the R. C. divisions the island forms the district of Cove, and has a chapel in that town, and one at Funnah. There is also a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. There are four public schools, in which about 380, and eleven private schools in which about 370, children are educated: also a Sunday school, supported by the curates: most of them are in or near Cove. The most interesting relics of antiquity are the remains of Belvelly castle, built by one of the Hodnets, formerly a potent family, and of Templerobin and Clonmel churches; within the walls of the latter are interred Tobin, the author of the "Honeymoon" and other dramatic productions; and the Rev. C. Wolfe, who wrote the ballad "Not a drum was heard," on the death of General Sir John Moore.

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