Bantry (Irish: Beanntraí, meaning "(place of) Beann's people") is a town in the civil parish of Kilmocomoge in the barony of Bantry on the coast of West Cork, County Cork, Ireland. It lies at the head of Bantry Bay, a deep-water gulf extending for 30 km (19 mi) to the west. The Beara Peninsula is to the northwest, with Sheep's Head peninsula to the southwest.
Bantry from the southeast
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The focus of the town is a large square, formed partly by infilling of the shallow inner harbour. In former times, this accommodated regular cattle fairs; after modernising as an urban plaza, it now features a weekly market and occasional public functions. Two piers protect the harbour.
As with other areas on Ireland's south-west coast, Bantry claims an ancient connection to the sixth-century saint Breandán (Naomh Bréanainn) the Navigator. In Irish lore, Saint Breandán was the first person to discover America. To the west of the town is the graveyard marking the site of a 15th-century Franciscan friary, of which nothing remains.
In past centuries, Bantry was a base for major pilchard fisheries and was visited by fishing fleets from Spain, France and the Netherlands. It was still a very small town in 1689, when it was described by the Jacobite army officer and future author John Stevens as "a miserable poor place, hardly worth the name of a town", consisting of "seven or eight small houses, and some mean little cottages". Wolfe Tone Square in the town commemorates Theobald Wolfe Tone, a leader during the 1798 rebellion. In the lead up to the rebellion, Dublin-born Tone led the republican United Irishmen in what he had hoped would be a local re-run of the recent French Revolution; this was to be achieved with the help of French Republicans in overthrowing British rule. The ill-fated French invasion fleet, known as the French expedition to Ireland, arrived the area in 1796, but its purpose was frustrated by unfavourable winds. For his efforts in preparing the local defences against the French, Richard White, a local landowner, was created Baron Bantry in 1797 by a grateful British administration. A Viscountcy followed in 1800 and in 1816 he became the 1st Earl of Bantry. The mansion and gardens in the Bantry House demesne on the outskirts of the town testify to the family's status.
During the Irish War of Independence, the 5th Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army was active in Bantry, and some members remained so during the Civil War that followed. Action by British forces included the punitive firebombing of several buildings in the town. The names of those who died between 1920 and 1923 "In Defence of the Republic" are listed on the wall of the former court house in Wolfe Tone Square.
Sheltering the head of the bay is Whiddy Island, site of a large oil terminal, originally owned by Gulf Oil. On 8 January 1979 the oil tanker Betelgeuse exploded, killing all 42 crew members, as well as seven employees at the terminal. The jetty was seriously damaged, but the storage tanks were not affected. Nevertheless, 250 employees at the terminal, one of the largest employers in the region, lost their jobs. There was also significant environmental impact and the local fishing industry was affected. Local interests subsequently initiated mussel-farming in the sheltered waters between Whiddy and the town.
In 1986, Gulf Oil surrendered its lease on the site to the Irish government. State investment in the 1990s restored part of the terminal and the Irish Government arranged for oil to be stored there during the First Gulf War in case of disruption to oil supplies; it currently holds one third of the national strategic petroleum reserve. The facility passed from state ownership in 2001 with the proviso that it would remain operational for at least 15 years. It has since been owned and operated by US oil companies Tosco Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66 and Zenith Energy Partners. At the time of acquisition by Zenith Energy Partners, the facility employed 30 people and supported up to 100 contractors. It has a storage capacity of more than eight million barrels of crude oil and refined products. The terminal saw a 15% decrease in oil traffic during 2015, according to figures released by the Port of Cork which operates the Bantry Bay port.
Buildings of noteEdit
Bantry House is located west of the town and has been home to the White family since 1739 - sometime Earls of Bantry. It contains a number of historic artifacts and paintings and is surrounded by formal gardens.
Other landmarks include Bantry Market House, and the Catholic and Church of Ireland parish churches. The public library and Garda (police) station are examples of modern architecture in the town.
The town is a service centre for a large catchment area, including both the Beara and Sheep's Head peninsulas. Livestock fairs were held in the square in the past. It is no longer a major fishing port, mussel-farming having replaced the traditional trawling. Tourism has been a major part of the economy since the 19th century, exploiting the coastal scenery of the region, and the town contains a number of hotels and guesthouses. There are small-scale local industries, including pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and building materials. Bantry became a Fairtrade Town in 2006.
Bantry hosts two cultural events each summer - the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and the West Cork Literary Festival. These feature musicians and writers of international stature, with performances at various venues in the town.
Bantry held the Atlantic Challenge International Contest of Seamanship in July 2012, in which 15 nations competed.
The inner harbour contains a marina comprising 40 berths and associated facilities, opened in 2017.
In the early 20th century, there was a regular steamship service from Bantry to Castletowbere on the Beara Peninsula. The also serving Glengarriff and Adrigole. Improvements to the roads and land transport eventually made this uneconomic.
Bantry has its own small privately owned airfield called Bantry Aerodrome, though the nearest large international airport is Cork Airport. Cork Airport is served by direct Bus Éireann buses from Bantry in the summer tourist season.
- William Martin Murphy (1845–1919), was a Catholic businessman and MP at Westminster who lived in Bantry for many years. Born in Castetownbere, he gained notoriety during the 1913 Dublin lock-out.
- Tim Healy (1855–1931), was an Irish nationalist who later became a Home Rule MP in Westminster. He later became the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State.
- Derry O'Sullivan (b.1944), a Paris-based Irish-language poet who has written several poems about his native Bantry.
- John Sullivan (1830–1884), was a sailor and recipient of the Victoria Cross
- Graham Canty, Gaelic footballer who represented Bantry Blues and also captained the Cork senior team
- Francis O'Neill (1848–1936), Chicago police superintendent and collector of Irish traditional music was born just outside Bantry.
The local Gaelic Athletic Association are the Bantry Blues. The area also has a golf club (Bantry Bay Golf Club), a sailing club (Bantry Bay Sailing Club),a soccer club (Bantry Bay Rovers afc), rugby union and rowing clubs.
- Bantry Bay : Ireland in the days of Napoleon and Wolfe Tone. P. Brendan Bradley, 1931.
- Bantry in Olden Days: Richard S. Harrison (Published by Author)
- J. Kevin Hourihane, Town Growth in West Cork: Bantry 1600-1900 in JCHAS (1977), LXXXii, no 236, 83-97.
- Wild Gardens: The Lost Demesnes of Bantry Bay Nigel Everett, Hafod Press.
- An Irish Arcadia: The Historic Gardens of Bantry House Nigel Everett, Hafod Press 1999 ISBN 0-9535995-0-7
- Reminiscences and recipes of Bantry : A century in the life of a town, its people and their food Denis Cotter, (Editor), 1999.
- It might have been but yesterday : a Bantry anthology Denis Cotter (editor), 2000.
- What the doctor ordered, a third Bantry anthology, compiled by Denis Cotter, Pooky Paw Press Bantry, 2000.
- Speaking Volumes, Edith Newman Devlin, Blackstaff Press 2000 ISBN 0-85640-672-4, Bantry in early 1920s.
- The Memoirs of John M. Regan, a Catholic Officer in the RIC and RUC, 1909–48, Joost Augusteijn, editor, District Inspector, Bantry, 1919, ISBN 978-1-84682-069-4.
- Picturesque Bantry : a century in photographs, Denis Cotter. 2005.
- "Sapmap Area: Settlements: Bantry". Census 2016. CSO. 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
- W. O'Halloran (1916). Early Irish History and Antiquities and the History of West Cork. Sealy, Bryers and Walker – via libraryireland.com.
- Samuel Lewis (1837). Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. Lewis – via libraryireland.com.
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- "€105m cocaine seizure after boat capsizes is biggest ever". Irish Times. 3 July 2007. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Three men and woman charged after Bantry cocaine factory find are refused bail". Irish Examiner. 29 November 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "St. Finbarr's Roman Catholic Church, Chapel Street, Bantry". buildingsofireland.ie. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "St. Brendan The Navigator Church of Ireland Church, Wolfe Tone Square, Bantry". buildingsofireland.ie. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Building of the Month - September 2012 - Bantry Library". buildingsofireland.ie. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- Bantry & Castletownbere Catchment (PDF). Cork County Development Plan - West Cork (Report). Cork County Council. 1986. p. 109.
- "2018/19 Concert Series Announced". westcorkmusic.ie. West Cork Music. 17 September 2018. Archived from the original on 30 June 2019.
- "Atlantic Challenge International - Past Events". atlanticchallenge.org. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Bantry Harbour Marina Officially Opened, 40 Boats Visit New Irish Coastal Facility". afloat.ie. Afloat Magazine. 12 August 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Record B623 - Bantry Bay Steamship Company Ltd" (PDF). corkarchives.ie. Cork City and County Archives. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Cruise Liner Schedule". bantrybayport.com. Bantry Bay Port Company DAC. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Cruise Ships". visitbantry.ie. Bantry Development and Tourism Association. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Bantry Town station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
- "Century Ireland - Murphy, William Martin" (PDF). RTÉ. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- T.M. Healy at the Encyclopædia Britannica
- "An Irish Poet in Paris". tootlafrance.ie. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- "John Sullivan VC, CGM". VConline.org.uk. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- "History". BantryBlues.com. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- "History". francisoneill.ie. Francis O'Neill Memorial Committee. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "'Twinning must be better used to promote region'". Irish Examiner. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2019.