In the early days of July one hundred years ago, Skibbereen town was pretty much under siege!

It was the early stages of the Civil War (1922–23) and for Skibbereen the most active period of the conflict was in July and August 1922 when the war was in its initial phase.

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.

Among them is a splendid and compelling account of the life of Thomas Healy (1895–1957) by Liz Cassidy and Bernard Cassidy. Thomas Healy was born in Skibbereen in 1895. His father Joseph Healy was a solicitor and opened his own law practice in Skibbereen in 1881. Joseph Healy became a prominent figure in various Nationalist organisation in west Cork and was a passionate advocate for low rents, Home Rule and farmers’ rights.

Thomas Healy followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a solicitor and also a very prominent Nationalist figure in west Cork. He was a close friend and a confidant of Michael Collins and, in writing this article, Liz was able to draw on a private collection of letters from Collins to her grandfather, among many other sources, private and public. The Healy family also had a long association with the Southern Star and Thomas was a director of the company for many years and served a period as managing director.

In his beautifully written article about the River Ilen, Robert Harris has done us all a great service. For such a prominent feature of the landscape in the greater Skibbereen area, it is quite astonishing that so little has been written about the Ilen. In part one of what is a two-part series, Robert has addressed this anomaly with a wide-ranging and extensive look at the river and its history.

Margaret Murphy has written on the heroic life of Kate McCarthy (Sister Marie Laurence) from Drominidy North, Drimoleague. Sr Marie Laurence led an extraordinary life. During World War II she became a member of the French Resistance and was honoured by both France and Britain for her heroic work.

The story of Patrick John Hurley of Windmill (1888–1918) is a delightful vignette by Julianna Minihan. Patrick John Hurley was born in 1888, son of Denis and Honora Hurley of Windmill, Skibbereen. Patrick John was a soldier in the First World War and died in action in Italy in 1918. Like so many millions of others, Patrick John was an almost completely anonymous casualty of war. Now, Julianna has restored his name, his place, and his dignity, thanks to her diligent research and her perceptive writing of his story.

 If there is one feature in this current Journal that will gain universal approval, it is Amanda Clarke’s piece about holy wells in County Cork, with particular reference to Skibbereen and the Mizen peninsula. It is fantastically informative and beautifully illustrated article and a pleasure to read.

Contributions by Oscar Hernanz Elvira, Donal Corcoran, Maura Cahalane Joe Gibbons and Philip O’Regan are also included in Vol 18 of the Skibbereen Journal which maintains the very high standard it has set since its first publication in 2005.

The latest issue of the Skibbereen & District Historical Society Journal has just been published. Volume 18 of the annual Journal and it maintains the very high standard it has set since its first publication in 2005. The 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 https://biblio.ie/bookstore/coolim-books-skibbereen/shj/39607814

Skibbereen Historical Journal, Vol 18 2022

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