The county is colloquially referred to as “The Rebel County”. This name has 15th Century origins, however from the 20th century the name has been more commonly attributed to the prominent role Cork played in the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) when it was the scene of considerable fighting; in addition, it was an anti-treaty stronghold during the Irish Civil War (1922–23). Much of what is now county Cork was once part of the Kingdom of Deas Mumhan (South Munster), anglicised as “Desmond”, ruled by the MacCarthy Mór dynasty. After the Norman Invasion in the 12th century, the McCarthy clan were pushed westward into what is now West Cork and County Kerry. Dunlough Castle, standing just north of Mizen Head, is one of the oldest castles in Ireland (A.D. 1207). The north and east of Cork were taken by the Hiberno-Norman FitzGerald dynasty, who became the Earls of Desmond. Cork City was given an English Royal Charter in 1318 and for many centuries was an outpost for Old English culture. The Fitzgerald Desmond dynasty was destroyed in the Desmond Rebellions of 1569–1573 and 1579–83. Much of county Cork was devastated in the fighting, particularly in the Second Desmond Rebellion. In the aftermath, much of Cork was colonised by English settlers in the Plantation of Munster.
In 1491 Cork played a part in the English Wars of the Roses when Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English throne, landed in the city and tried to recruit support for a plot to overthrow Henry VII of England. The mayor of Cork and several important citizens went with Warbeck to England but when the rebellion collapsed they were all captured and executed. Cork’s nickname of the ‘rebel city’ originates in these events.
In 1601 the decisive Battle of Kinsale took place in County Cork, which was to lead to English domination of Ireland for centuries. Kinsale had been the scene of a landing of Spanish troops to help Irish rebels in the Nine Years’ War (1594–1603). When this force was defeated, the rebel hopes for victory in the war were all but ended. County Cork was officially created by a division of the older County Desmond in 1606.
In the 19th century, Cork was a centre for the Fenians and for the constitutional nationalism of the Irish Parliamentary Party, from 1910 that of the All-for-Ireland Party. The county was a hotbed of guerrilla activity during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). Three Cork Brigades of the Irish Republican Army operated in the county and another in the city. Prominent actions included the Kilmichael Ambush in November 1920 and the Crossbarry Ambush in March 1921. The activity of IRA flying columns, such as the one under Tom Barry in west Cork, was popularised in the Ken Loach film The Wind That Shakes The Barley. On December 11, 1920 Cork City centre was gutted by fires started by the Black and Tans in reprisal for IRA attacks. Over 300 buildings were destroyed, many other towns and villages around the county suffered a similar fate including Fermoy.
During the Irish Civil War (1922–23), most of the IRA units in Cork sided against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. From July to August 1922 they held the city and county as part of the so called Munster Republic. However, Cork was taken by troops of the Irish Free State in August 1922 in the Irish Free State offensive, that included both overland and seaborne attacks. For the remainder of the war, the county saw sporadic guerrilla fighting until the Anti-Treaty side called a ceasefire and dumped their arms in May 1923. Michael Collins, a key figure in the War of Independence, was born near Clonakilty and assassinated during the civil war in Béal na Bláth, both in west Cork.
Kerry (Irish: Ciarraí or more anciently Ciarraighe) means the “people of Ciar” which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish “Ciar” meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective describing a dark complexion. The suffix raighe, meaning people/tribe, is found in various -ry place names in Ireland, such as Osry – Osraighe Deer-People/Tribe. The county’s nickname is the Kingdom.
Lordship of Ireland
On August 27, 1329, by Letters Patent, Maurice FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Desmond was confirmed in the feudal seniority of the entire county palatine of Kerry, to him and his heirs male, to hold of the Crown by the service of one knight’s fee. In the 15th century, the majority of the area now known as County Kerry was still part of the County Desmond, the west Munster seat of the Earl of Desmond, a branch of the Hiberno-Norman FitzGerald dynasty, known as the Geraldines.
Kingdom of Ireland
In 1580, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, one of the most infamous massacres of the Sixteenth century, the Siege of Smerwick, took place at Dún an Óir near Ard na Caithne (Smerwick) at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The 600-strong Italian, Spanish and Irish papal invasion force of James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald was besieged by the English forces and massacred.
In 1588 when the fleet of the Spanish Armada in Ireland were returning to Spain during stormy weather, many of their ships sought shelter at the Blasket Islands and some were wrecked.
During the Nine Years War, Kerry was again the scene of conflict, as the O’Sullivan Beare clan joined the rebellion. In 1602, their castle at Dunboy was besieged and taken by English troops. Donal O’Sullivan Beare, in an effort to escape English retribution and to reach his allies in Ulster, marched all the clan’s members and dependents to the north of Ireland. Due to harassment by hostile forces and the freezing weather, very few of the 1,000 O’Sullivans who set out reached their destination.
In the aftermath of the War, much of the native owned land in Kerry was confiscated and given to English settlers or ‘planters’. The head of the MacCarthy Mor family, Florence MacCarthy was imprisoned in London and his lands were divided between his relatives and colonists from England, such as the Browne family.
In the 1640s, Kerry was engulfed by the Irish Rebellion of 1641, an attempt by Irish Catholics to take power in the Protestant Kingdom of Ireland. The rebellion in Kerry was led by Donagh McCarthy, 1st Viscount Muskerry. McCarthy held the county during the subsequent Irish Confederate Wars and his forces were some of the last to surrender to the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1652. The last stronghold to fall was Ross Castle, near Killarney.
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC. The arrival of the Celts around 400 BC brought about the division of the county into petty kingdoms or túatha.
From the 4th to the 12th century, the ancient kingdom of the Uí Fidgenti was approximately co-extensive with what is now County Limerick, with some of the easternmost part the domain of the Eóganacht Áine. Having finally lost an over two-century-long conflict with the neighboring O’Briens of Dál gCais, most of the rulers fled for County Kerry and soon after that County Cork. Their lands were almost immediately occupied by the FitzGeralds and other Norman families, who permanently prevented their return. The ancestors of both Michael Collins and the famous O’Connells of Derrynane were among these princes of the Uí Fidgenti. The Norse-Irish O’Donovans, descendants of the notorious Donnubán mac Cathail, were the leading family at the time and were responsible for the conflict.
The precise ethnic affiliation of the Uí Fidgenti is lost to history and all that is known for sure is that they were cousins of the equally shadowy Uí Liatháin of early British fame. Officially both are said to be related to the Eóganachta but a variety of evidence suggests associations with the Dáirine and Corcu Loígde, and thus distantly the infamous Ulaid of ancient Ulster. In any case, it is supposed the Uí Fidgenti still make a substantial contribution to the population of the central and western regions of County Limerick. Their capital was Dún Eochair, the great earthworks of which still remain and can be found close to the modern town of Bruree, on the River Maigue. Catherine Coll, the mother of Éamon de Valera, was a native of Bruree and this is where he was taken by her brother to be raised.
Christianity came to Limerick in the 5th Century, and resulted in the establishment of important monasteries in Limerick, at Ardpatrick, Mungret and Kileedy. From this golden age in Ireland of learning and art (5th – 9th Centuries) comes one of Ireland’s greatest artefacts, The Ardagh Chalice, a masterpiece of metalwork, which was found in a west Limerick fort in 1868.
The arrival of the Vikings in the 9th century brought about the establishment of the city on an island on the River Shannon in 922. The death of Domnall Mór Ua Briain, King of Munster in 1194 resulted in the invading Normans taking control of Limerick, and in 1210, the County of Limerick was formally established. Over time, the Normans became “more Irish than the Irish themselves” as the saying goes. The Tudors in England wanted to curb the power of these Gaelicised Norman Rulers and centralise all power in their hands, so they established colonies of English in the county. This caused the leading Limerick Normans, The Geraldines, to revolt against English Rule in 1569. This sparked a savage war in Munster known as the Desmond Rebellions, during which the province was laid to waste, and the confiscation of the vast estates of the Geraldines.
The county was to be further ravaged by war over the next century. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Limerick city was taken in a siege by Catholic general Garret Barry in 1642. The county was not fought over for most of the Irish Confederate Wars, of 1641-53, being safely behind the front lines of the Catholic Confederate Ireland. However it became a battleground during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649-53. The invasion of the forces of Oliver Cromwell in the 1650s included a twelve month siege of the city by Cromwell’s New Model Army led by Henry Ireton. The city finally surrendered in October 1651. One of Cromwell’s generals, Hardress Waller was granted lands at Castletown near Kilcornan in County Limerick. During the Williamite War in Ireland (1689–1691) the city was to endure two further sieges, one in 1690 and another in 1691. It was during the 1690 siege that the infamous destruction of the Williamite guns at Ballyneety, near Pallasgreen was carried out by General Patrick Sarsfield. The Catholic Irish, comprising the vast majority of the population, had eagerly supported the Jacobite cause, however, the second siege of Limerick resulted in a defeat to the Williamites. Sarsfield managed to force the Williamites to sign the Treaty of Limerick, the terms of which were satisfactory to the Irish. However the Treaty was subsequently dishonoured by the English and the city became known as the City of the Broken Treaty.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw a long period of persecution against the Catholic majority, many of who lived in poverty. In spite of this oppression, however, the famous Maigue Poets strove to keep alive their ancient Gaelic Poetry in towns like Croom and Bruree. The Great Famine of the 1840s set in motion mass emigration and a huge decline in Irish as a spoken language in the county. This began to change around the beginning of the 20th century, as changes in law from the British Government enabled the farmers of the county to purchase lands they had previously only held as tenants, paying high rent to absentee landlords.
Limerick saw much fighting during the War of Independence of 1919 to 1921 particularly in the east of the county. The subsequent Irish Civil War saw bitter fighting between the newly established Irish Free State soldiers and IRA “Irregulars”, especially in the city (See Irish Free State offensive).
Although the area of Dublin Bay has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times, the writings of Ptolemy (the Egyptian astronomer and cartographer) in about 140 AD provide possibly the earliest reference to a settlement there. He called the settlement Eblana Civitas.
The name Dublin comes from the Irish name Dubhlinn or Duibhlinn, meaning “black pool”. This is made up of the elements dubh (black) and linn (pool). In most Irish dialects, dubh is pronounced. The original pronunciation is preserved in the names for the city in other languages such as Old English Difelin, Old Norse Dyflin, modern Icelandic Dyflinn and modern Manx Divlyn. Duibhlinn is the name of a few other places in Ireland, whose names have been anglicized as Devlin, Divlin and Difflin. Historically, in the Gaelic script, bh was written with a dot over the b, rendering Duḃlinn or Duiḃlinn. Those without knowledge of Irish omitted the dot, spelling the name as Dublin.
Baile Átha Cliath, meaning “town of the hurdled ford”, is the common name for the city in modern Irish. Áth Cliath is a place name referring to a fording point of the River Liffey near Father Mathew Bridge. Baile Átha Cliath was an early Christian monastery which is believed to have been in the area of Aungier Street, currently occupied by Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.
Father Mathew Bridge is understood to be near the ancient “Ford of the Hurdles” (Baile Átha Cliath), the original crossing point on the River Liffey.
The subsequent Scandinavian settlement was on the River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey in an area now known as Wood Quay. The Dubhlinn was a small lake used to moor ships and was connected to the Liffey by the Poddle. This lake was covered during the early 18th century as the city grew. The Dubhlinn was situated where the Castle Garden is now located, opposite the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle. Táin Bó Cuailgne (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”) refers to Dublind rissa ratter Áth Cliath, meaning “Dublin, which is called Ath Cliath”.
Dublin was established as a Viking settlement in the 9th century and, despite a number of rebellions by the native Irish, it remained largely under Viking control until the Norman invasion of Ireland was launched from Wales in 1169. The King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, enlisted the help of Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke, to conquer Dublin. Following Mac Murrough’s death, Strongbow declared himself King of Leinster after gaining control of the city. In response to Strongbow’s successful invasion, King Henry II of England reaffirmed his sovereignty by mounting a larger invasion in 1171 and pronouncing himself Lord of Ireland. Around this time, the county of the City of Dublin was establshed along with certain liberties adjacent to the city proper. This continued down to 1840 when the Barony of Dublin City was separated from the Barony of Dublin. Since 2001, both baronies have been redesignated the City of Dublin.
Dublin Castle, which became the centre of Norman power in Ireland, was founded in 1204 as a major defensive work on the orders of King John of England. Following the appointment of the first Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1229, the city expanded and had a population of 8,000 by the end of the 13th century. Dublin prospered as a trade centre, despite an attempt by King Robert I of Scotland to capture the city in 1317. It remained a relatively small walled medieval town during the 14th century and was under constant threat from the surrounding native clans. In 1348, the Black Death, a lethal plague which had ravaged Europe, took hold in Dublin and killed thousands over the following decade.
Dublin was incorporated into the English Crown as The Pale, which was a narrow strip of English settlement along the eastern seaboard. The Tudor conquest of Ireland in the 16th century spelt a new era for Dublin, with the city enjoying a renewed prominence as the centre of administrative rule in Ireland. Determined to make Dublin a Protestant city, Queen Elizabeth I of England established Trinity College in 1592 as a solely Protestant university and ordered that the Catholic St. Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals be converted to Protestant.
The city had a population of 21,000 in 1640 before a plague in 1649–51 wiped out almost half of the city’s inhabitants. However, the city prospered again soon after as a result of the wool and linen trade with England, reaching a population of over 50,000 in 1700.
As the city continued to prosper during the 18th century, Georgian Dublin became, for a short period, the second largest city of the British Empire and the fifth largest city in Europe, with the population exceeding 130,000. The vast majority of Dublin’s most notable architecture dates from this period, such as the Four Courts and the Custom House. Temple Bar and Grafton Street are two of the few remaining areas that were not affected by the wave of Georgian reconstruction and maintained their medieval character.
Dublin grew even more dramatically during the 18th century, with the construction of many famous districts and buildings, such as Merrion Square, Parliament House and the Royal Exchange. The Wide Streets Commission was established in 1757 at the request of Dublin Corporation to govern architectural standards on the layout of streets, bridges and buildings. In 1759, the founding of the Guinness brewery resulted in a considerable economic gain for the city. For much of the time since its foundation, the brewery was Dublin’s largest employer.
Dublin suffered a period of political and economic decline during the 19th century following the Act of Union of 1800, under which the seat of government was transferred to the Westminster Parliament in London. The city played no major role in the Industrial Revolution, but remained the centre of administration and a transport hub for most of the island. Ireland had no significant sources of coal, the fuel of the time, and Dublin was not a centre of ship manufacturing, the other main driver of industrial development in Britain and Ireland. Belfast developed faster than Dublin during this period on a mixture of international trade, factory-based linen cloth production and shipbuilding.
The Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence, and the subsequent Irish Civil War resulted in a significant amount of physical destruction in central Dublin. The Government of the Irish Free State rebuilt the city centre and located the new parliament, the Oireachtas, in Leinster House. Since the beginning of Norman rule in the 12th century, the city has functioned as the capital in varying geopolitical entities: Lordship of Ireland (1171–1541), Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1800), island as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922), and the Irish Republic (1919–1922). Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, it became the capital of the Irish Free State (1922–1949) and now is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. One of the memorials to commemorate that time is the Garden of Remembrance.
Since 1997, the landscape of Dublin has changed immensely. The city was at the forefront of Ireland’s rapid economic expansion during the Celtic Tiger period, with enormous private sector and state development of housing, transport and business.