Flooding has been a perennial problem in Skibbereen for centuries, most likely from the time a settlement grew up on the banks of the Ilen River in the 1600s.

The Bath Chronicle of 31 August 1769 reported that: ‘We hear from the Barony of Carbery, in Ireland, that many bridges have been carried away, roads broke up, many ditches thrown down, the towns of Bridgetown and Skibbereen laid under water, and his Majesty’s stores and collector’s apartments very much damaged, by the heavy rain that fell on the 11t instant’.

Cathal O’Donovan, right, author of the article ‘Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time’. Cathal was elected secretary of the Skibbereen Floods Committee at their inaugural meeting in February 1982 and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Skibbereen Floods Committee. At left is Gerald O’Brien, President of Skibbereen & District Historical Society.

In the mid-19th century, the Board of Guardians in Skibbereen proposed the widening and deepening of the riverbed to ‘save the town from the floods and inundations to which it is every year subject’. But while the problem of flooding persisted and got progressively worse, the talking continued, and little was done to ease the situation.

Flooding Photo 2
On Wednesday 6 August 1986 Skibbereen suffered what was described by many locals as its worst flood ever. Boats travelled up and down Main Street throughout the day!

The issue of solving the flooding problem in Skibbereen seemed to have been consigned to the hallowed hall of Irish
aspirations, much like the draining of the Shannon and other projects. That was
until a new committee was formed in Skibbereen in February 1982. Skibbereen
Floods Committee members quickly realised that for any significant flood relief
scheme they were talking about a thirty-to-forty-year timescale, and they were
in this for the long haul.

It was also evident from preliminary studies that any satisfactory solution would have to comprise three critical infrastructural developments – a sewage system, relief road and a flood relief scheme. This would be a massive task!

Skibb Flooding CE January 21 1969
January 1969, a crowd gathers at the end of Townshend Street to witness the damage from yet another flood of Skibbereen town. Note the boat in the middle of the street!

At the inaugural meeting of Skibbereen Floods Committee on 25 February 1982, Cathal O’Donovan was elected secretary. Cathal has been intimately involved with every aspect of the work of the committee for
the past forty years. Nobody knows more about how the enormous three-stranded infrastructural
developments were brought to completion in 2020.

Cathal is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the Skibbereen Floods Committee and in the Skibbereen Historical Journal 2021, he has written a comprehensive account of the work carried out over the past forty years which has culminated with the centuries old flooding problem in Skibbereen finally
being solved!

Flooding Photo 4
The late Haulie McCarty at the junction of Townshend Street and Ninety-Eight Street on the occasion of one of the many floods of that part of the town.

‘Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time’ is one of fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics of local and national interest in Skibbereen Historical Journal, Vol. 17, 2021, which is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12. It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link  https://www.biblio.com/book/skibbereen-district-historical-society-journal-vol/d/1408087414

Skibbereen Flooding: a record in time

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