Avondhu is a vaguely defined region of north County Cork that derives its name from Abbainn Dubh – the Blackwater River. It includes Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Buttevant; some versions stretch as far south as the northern environs of Cork City and parts of the Lee River Valley. (Photo – www.ireland-salmon-fishing.net)
Avondhu is a local newspaper serving northeastern County Cork and the adjoining parts of Counties Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
Avondhu Point-to-Point Races are run by the Avondhu Foxhounds every February. The course is situated at Knockanard, 3 miles from Fermoy, and is signposted on the day.
Kilworth (Co. Cork / Northeast)
Kilworth (Cill Úird) in the southern Kilworth Mountains became well known in the C19th and C20th due to its Army Camp, part of which is now destined to become a prison. (Photo by Seighean)
The Norman castle is currently off limits to the public for safety reasons.
St Martin’s church (RC), erected c.1800, has an unusually decorative façade and a vaguely Hispanic belfry, in contrast to the rather grim statue of the eponymous saint in the grounds.
Kilworth Arts Centre, housed in the former CoI church in the centre of the village, is an intimate theatre venue.
Moorepark, just outside Kilworth, formerly the estate of the Viscounts / Earls of Mount Cashell, is an important Teagasc agricultural research facility. The “Campus” investigates all aspects of dairy farming and attracts thousands of farmers to its annual Open Days.
Kilworth (Glansiskin) Forest on the River Douglas is an ideal setting for walking and mountain biking.
Kilworth Point to Point Races are held by the local hunt every March.
Kilworth is linked to Mitchelstown on ByRoute 4 by rural back roads through the Kilworth Mountains.
Fermoy (Co. Cork / Northeast)
Fermoy (Mainistir Fhear Maí – “Monastery of the Welcome Plain / Men of the Plain”) (pop. 6000) is an attractive town situated in the beautiful Blackwater River Valley. There are several good pubs and eateries in the town, and many historic sites, places of archaeological interest, fine castles, country houses and gardens in the area.
The Blackwater River is Fermoy ‘s blessing and curse: a major tourist draw, ideal for angling (in season, salmon can be seen leaping up the two-hunded-year-old weir, while trout and other fish can be caught all year round), rowing and riverside strolls, it is also prone to severe flooding. (Photo by Iff12)
The Irish name of the town refers to a C12th Cistercian abbey founded on a river ford, around which the town grew.
After King Henry VIII‘s 1540 Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey and its lands had several owners, including Sir Richard Grenville; Sir Lionel Cranfield (later Earl of Middlesex and Lord Treasurer of England); Sir Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, ; his grandson Charles Boyle; William Cockerille and his widow, Barbara Cockerille, who left the lands to her nephew, William Forward.
A description of the village c.1780 depicts “…one of the meanest of the County, as with the exception of a single house of two storeys which served the purpose of a “carmans” inn, it consisted of only two wretched mud wall huts, long since levelled …. Except for the beauty of its situation of which nature has been peculiarly lavish, the place did not offer a single circumstance to arrest the eye of the traveller who drove through it without observation and scarcely remembered he had not met with such a spot on the road“.
John Anderson, a Scottish entrepreneur who had made his fortune by establishing the Mail Coach system between Cork and Dublin, bought the estate from the Forward family in 1791 and proceeded to plan and lay out an elegant market town. He also built Fermoy House, a splendid Palladian mansion on the northern bank of the river, now vanished.
The failed 1796 French invasion attempt at Killala in County Mayo caused great concern in London, and the Government sought land on which military bases could be established. Fermoy was an ideal location, and John Anderson offered the land free. In 1797 the first troops began to arrive.
In the C19th and early C20th, Fermoy was home to the largest military base in Ireland. The Duke of Wellington visited the barracks in early 1815, and a large contingent of troops left Fermoy later that year to fight Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Waterloo, commemorated by a lane running down to the river.
Part of the Barracks was converted into a Workhouse in 1842, and the Military Hospital was pressed into civilian use in 1847. The Great Famine saw much suffering in Fermoy, when relief work included lowering the street level (giving the town its characteristically high pavements), and many men joined the Army to avoid starvation.
Soldiers stationed here included the young Alfred Hitchcock (1917 – 1918). Several fine monuments erected by the garrison still stand in Fermoy, notably the moving WWI Memorial.
In 1919, soldiers of the East Kent Regiment and members of the Royal Flying Corps looted and then burnt the main shops of the town, after one soldier had been killed and his companions “relieved of their weapons” on their way to church the day before by the local IRA. This was the first of the notorious British “Reprisals” during the War of Independence. Another sacking took place when General Lucas was captured whle fishing on the river, and further repressive actions followed, including curfews and, in 1921, a house-to-house roundup of all males in the town for identification.
John Anderson is commemorated by a large bronze plaque outside the park gates at Brian Boru Square (formerly King’s Square). Although Scottish, he was probably not related to the carpenter immortalised in Robert Burns’ poem John Anderson, my Jo. His Australian descendants have honoured his legacy with a fine wine (“Fermoy Estate“).
Fermoy`s Town Park, a magnificent facility for a community of this size, has been enhanced in recent years by additional planting of trees and shrubs. A Leisure Centre with a modern swimming pool is located within the grounds.
Christ church (CoI), consecrated in 1809, was funded by John Anderson, designed by Abraham Hargrave the Elder and built on land donated by the Baylor family, whose descendants worship here to this day. The broach spire and transepts in the Hiberno-Romanesque style were added in the late C19th. (Photo by donalol)
Fermoy’s Presbyterian church was erected in 1834, and is still in active use.
St Patrick’s church (RC ), a commanding edifice designed by the Pain brothers in 1836, had its tower / spire and other details added in 1867 by EW Pugin and GC Ashlin. This was Cloyne diocese’s pro-Cathedral for many years.
Fermoy Bridge across the Blackwater River dates from 1865. (The first timber structure, built in 1626, was swept away in 1628 following “an extraordinary flood“, and it was not until 1687 that a replacement was erected, described as “a large stone bridge of thirteen arches“).
Pearse Square (formerly Queen’s Square). (Photo – www.archiseek.com)
Kent Street is named (like Cork City’s railway station) for Thomas Kent / Tomas Ceannt, one of four Nationalist brothers who lived in nearby Bawnard House. Following the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, police rounding up likely sympathisers surrounded the family residence in the early hours of 2nd May 1916 and called on the occupants to surrender. In the ensuing gun battle RIC Head Constable William Rowe was killed and David Kent was severely injured, while Richard Kent was mortally wounded in an escape attempt. Thomas and William Kent were both court-martialled for murder; William was acquitted, but Thomas was sentenced to death and shot by firing squad at Cork Detention Barracks on 9 May 1916. He is buried in Collins Barracks, Cork, while Head Constable Rowe is interred in Fermoy’s Castlehyde churchyard cemetery.
The Grand Hotel on Ashe Quay is described as “an old style hotel with brass, mahoganey, high ceilings and character“. This is the starting point for an interesting walk around the town.
Virginia House is an attractive three-storey Georgian townhouse, distinctively covered with a carpet of Virginia Creeper which changes colours from a brilliant green in summer to a burnt orange in September and to a deep red in October. Centrally located and overlooking the town park, the premises is now a friendly family run B&B.
Fermoy Rowing Club’s two Regattas, usually held annually in early May and early September, attract over a thousand visitors each day. The club celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2009.
The Barnane riverside walk is considered to be one of the town’s most attractive amenities.
The Glenabo Woods and reservoir provide particularly scenic strolls, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife observation.
Castle Hyde / Castlehyde House was built in 1745 by ancestors of Douglas Hyde, and is now owned by Riverdance maestro Michael Flatley. The dancer was financially involved in the nearby Castlehyde Hotel, which closed suddely amidst some acrimony in 2005. (Photo – www.michaelflatleyireland.com/castlehyde.htm)
Castlehyde church (CoI), built in 1809 and now derelict, has some ornate architectural details. Photos here.
Castlehyde Stud Farm was the home of Dawn Run (1978 – 1986), the most succesful mare in the history of National Hunt (steeplechase) racing.
Clondulane (pop. 250), originally a camp for mill workers, is a rapidly growing village just outside Fermoy on the Blackwater River.
Careysville House is an elegant Georgian country house owned by the Duke of Devonshire, offering Guesthouse accomodation and exclusive angling facilities during the salmon fishing season (with lunch served in an old cricket pavilion beside the river), and available for “self-catering” hire at other times of year. The current edifice was built for on the site of Careysville / Ballymacpatrick Castle, besieged in 1642 by David Barry, 1st Earl of Barrymore, who had the 51-man garrison executed. (Photo – www.irelandflyfishing.com)
Fermoy is close to Coole & Castlelyons on ByRoute 2, and is linked to Mitchelstown on ByRoute 4 by a scenic stretch of the N8.