St Matthew’s Church, Aughadown

On Sunday 13 August 2023 a beautiful Service of the Word was held at St Matthew’s Church, Aughadown, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the church.

The Service was 150 years to the day from consecration of the church on 13 August 1873.

The Service was conducted by Reverend Stephen McCann, Rector of Ballydehob Union of Parishes, and presided over by Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.

One of those who contributed to the Service before a packed congregation was Deirdre Pemberton whose great grandfather John, together with his brother Thomas, were the builders of the church.

In the 2023 Skibbereen Historical Journal, Deirdre has written a beautiful account of her family’s connection with St Matthew’s and also a very interesting history of the church.

The Skibbereen Historical Journal is available in bookshops throughout west Cork and can also be purchased online at

Skibbereen Historical Journal, Vol. 19 2023

On Friday night, 7th July, Skibbereen & District Historical Society formally launched the Skibbereen Historical Journal, Vol. 19 2023. The launch was performed by the Society’s President and founder member, Gerald O’Brien. This was particularly fitting as this year marks the Society’s 21st anniversary and when it first met, back in 2002, the first talk was delivered by Gerald. On the night Gerald went through each of the sixteen articles in this year’s Journal in some detail, illuminating his speech with his great knowledge of history and all things Skibbereen.

The chairperson of the editorial committee, William Casey, also spoke. He thanked all those involved, particularly the contributors – without whom there would be no journal. He and the Society’s chairperson, Philip O’Regan, paid tribute to Jim Byrne the longtime chairperson of the editorial committee. It was also announced that the society has published a database, complied by James K. Collins, that accompanies his article on the Judicial Fixed Rents of 1881 to 1903. This can be accessed at

As with other years, the articles in this year’s Journal cover a variety of topics including:
The private creamery industry in West Carbery,
Ilen Rovers GAA Club 1973-2023,
St Matthew’s Church Aughadown – 150 Years of Service,
The History and Heritage of Mass Rocks – particularly those in West Cork,
Sweet Ilen: Part 2 – The Tidal Waterway,
Skibbereen Soldiers in Eritrea,
1923 – The Irish Free State in financial peril,
A tale of two Baltimores from 1958,
Judicial Fixed Rents from 1881 to 1903,
Ballydehob’s Three-Arched Bridge,
A story of crossroads dancing in Lisheen,
An analysis of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s poem ‘Jillen Andy’,
The story of an IRA volunteer who fought at Kilmichael,
An examination of public commemorations in Skibbereen for the period 1916-1923,
The plight of Irish emigrants who worked in the Glue industry in Massachusetts,
and, for the first time in a while, a poem entitled ‘Father of the Railways’.
For a full listing of the articles and their authors, visit our Journal Page.

This year’s Journal is selling for €12 and is available in local shops in Skibbereen and throughout West Cork. The Journal, and a selection of back issues, can also be purchased online at

Contributors and members of the Editorial Committee who were preset at the launch of the 2023 Journal.
Back row: Kieran Doyle, Conor Kelleher and Ted Cadogan.
Middle row: John O’Neill, Maura Cahalane, Deirdre Pemberton and Eugene McSweeney
Front row: Donal Corcoran, Mary McCarthy, Sandra Downey and William Casey

Skibbereen under siege in the early weeks of the Civil War

Although Skibbereen was one of the quieter areas of county Cork during the War of Independence and Civil War, the town did see a few weeks of intense activity in July and August 1922.

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, opinion in Skibbereen, like most other places, was divided. At the outbreak of the Civil War most of County Cork was under the control of anti-Treaty forces, but Skibbereen was an exception. The town and immediate hinterland were controlled by a small contingent of Free State troops under the command of Jerh MacCarthy of Dreeney, assisted by Tadhg O’Sullivan of ’98 Street.

On the night of 1 July 1922 anti-Treaty forces, under the command of Gibbs Ross and Tom Hales, entered Skibbereen and demanded the surrender of the Free State troops. What followed was a few days of intense exchanges between Free State and anti-Treaty Forces. While the siege was relatively short, fighting was intense and within a week the Free State garrison had evacuated the barracks and handed it over to the anti-Treaty forces.

In a particularly timely and relevant article in the latest issue of the Skibbereen & District Historical Society Journal, William Casey details the exchanges between Free State and anti-Treaty forces in Skibbereen and surrounding areas in July and August 1922. This is one of 12 articles featured in Vol 18 of the annual Skibbereen Journal. Included also are a number of other contributions which are particularly relevant to the centenary of the War of Independence and Civil War period.

This year’s Journal, and a selection of back issues, can also be purchased online at

Michael Collins at the Eldon Hotel, Skibbereen, on the morning of 22 August 1922

On the morning of Tuesday 22 August 1922, just hours before he was shot and killed at Béal an mBláth, Michael Collins held a meeting at the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen.

There was, and still is, much speculation about why Michael Collins came to west Cork at that particularly dangerous and volatile time.

The Civil War was still in its early period. Skibbereen was one of the few towns in Cork county which remained in control of the pro-Treat Forces but the town had been sporadically under siege by anti-Treaty forces for a few weeks.

Michael Collins climbing into the car as he leaves the Eldon Hotel, Skibbereen, on the morning of Tuesday 22 August 1922, just hours before he was shot and killed at Béal na mBláth.

That meeting in the Eldon Hotel on the morning of 22 August 1922 was attended by about 12 men. Among them was Cornelius Connolly who was Commandant of the 4th Battalion (Skibbereen) of the Third West Cork Brigade IRA during the War of Independence. In a memoir written many years later, Connolly wrote: ‘I know for a fact that Michael Collins expected the Civil War would not last long and from some remarks that he made to me he was very anxious to see Tom Hales and others of the anti-Treaty men and I think that is what brought him to the south that day’.

In 1922 the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen was owned by the Clancy family and was run by Joe Clancy. The family also owned the pub in Bauravilla but sold that some time after they purchased the Eldon Hotel. Joe Clancy was a supporter of the Republican movement and the Eldon was the venue for many of their meetings.

The Eldon Hotel opened in May 1885. It was built by Frederick Peel Eldon Potter, the proprietor and editor of the Skibbereen Eagle. ‘Eldon’ was a Potter family name and  that is how the hotel got its name. It originally had 12-bedrooms and the first manager was a Mrs Goodland, ‘who was a lady in every way specially qualified to discharge such a responsibility, having had long experience in the management of first-class hotels in the metropolis’.

A description of the hotel on its opening in May 1885 continued: ‘Next to the bar, the hotel had a commodious and admirably fitted up smoking and news room, a desideratum rarely found in provincial towns. Here a select and valuable lot of books may be traversed, in addition to the journals and periodicals of the day, visitors will have the appreciable advantage of having the latest telegrams laid before them’.

Collins was a friend of the Clancy family. An extraordinary cameo at the height of the War of Independence bears this out.

Sunday 21 November 1920, Bloody Sunday, was the worst day of the War of Independence. In the early morning of Sunday 21 November groups of Volunteers, members of Collins’s ‘Squad’, converged on different addresses in Dublin. Fifteen men were shot dead, eleven suspected British agents, two Auxiliaries and two civilians.

That afternoon, another fourteen people were killed when members of the Auxiliaries, RIC and Black and Tans opened fire at Croke Park where crowds had gathered to watch an intercounty football match between Tipperary and Dublin.

Later that evening another three men were killed, two IRA prisoners, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, and another man, Conor Clune, a Clare man who was visiting Dublin.

One can only imagine the tension in Dublin the following morning, Monday 22 November. Large numbers of British Army and Auxiliaries combed the streets of Dublin trying to round up those involved in the events of the previous morning.

Michael Collins, then top of Britain’s most wanted list, and Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin of Skibbereen attended a wedding reception at Rathgar, Dublin, that morning. Even more extraordinary is that the two men stood in for a group photograph of the wedding party.

Group pictured at the wedding reception of Mr Michael J. O’Brien and Lil Clancy, both from Skibbereen, at 16 Airfield Road, Rathgar, Dublin, on 22 November 1920, the morning after Bloody Sunday. Back, from left, Julia O’Donovan, née Barry, bride’s aunt; Michael Collins, Gearóid O’Sullivan, Mrs. P. O’Keeffe, wife of Paudeen O’Keeffe, MP for Cork and later governor of Mountjoy Jail, Sean Hyde, veterinary student and member of the active services unit on Bloody Sunday; Denis Lynch, chief distiller, DWD, Drumcondra; Alice Lynch, Jim Murray. Centre, Fr. Bonaventure, OFM, Cap., of Rochestown College, Cork; Sheila O’Donovan, bridesmaid, cousin of the bride; Elizabeth A. Clancy, Michael J. O’Brien, Mick Lynch, best man, Joe Clancy, brother of the bride; Pat Barry, uncle of bride. Front, Ted Clancy (Joe’s wife); Eileen O’Donovan, Sean O’Donovan, Oona O’Donovann and Tadhg O’Donovan.

Getting married that morning were two Skibbereen people, Lil Clancy of the Eldon Hotel, a sister of Joe Clancy, and Michael J. O’Brien of Curragh, Skibbereen. It seems extraordinary that Collins and Ó Súilleabháin would attend the wedding of their friends that morning.

One of the last photographs of Michael Collins was taken as he left the Eldon Hotel on the morning 22 August. He was photographed getting into his car outside the door of the hotel in Bridge Street, surrounded by a large crowed. Many local people are clearly identifiable in that famous photo.

On Wednesday evening 17 August, Skibbereen & District Historical Society unveiled a plaque at the Eldon Hotel to commemorate the significant event 100 years ago.

Members of Skibbereen & District Historical Society who unveiled a plaque at the Eldon Hotel to commemorate the visit there of Michael Collins on the morning of 22 August 1922, just hours before he was shot and killed at Béal na mBlath.
The plaque at the Eldon Hotel, Skibbereen, to commemorate the visit of Michael Collins there on the morning of 22 August 1922.

Sweet Ilen – the story of a river: Part 1 – Source to Tide

Just why so little has been written or recorded about the River Ilen is something we can’t answer.

Thankfully, Robert Harris has undertaken to correct this anomaly and has written the first of a two-part article on the River Ilen for the 2022 Skibbereen Historical Journal.

For such an important waterway in west Carbery, it is quite remarkable that so little has been written about the Ilen.

In 2020 and 2021 Robert published a series of articles on the Ilen River on the Roaringwater Journal,, the brilliant blog which he and Finola Finlay write.

In ‘Sweet Ilen – the story of a river: Part 1 – Source to Tide’ Robert has concentrated on the upper part of the river.

Robert writes of the topography and history of the Ilen and also refers to the geology of the area. In a wonderfully written and entertaining account, Robert has brought together pretty much all the information on the Ilen from a myriad of sources. We look forward with anticipation to Part 2!

The 2022 Skibbereen Historical Journal is selling for €12. As well as local shops, this year’s Journal, and a selection of back issues, can be purchased online at