Bantry from the southeast
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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 also nearby, on the peninsula south of Bantry Bay.
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. Bantry is in the Cork South-West (Dáil Éireann) constituency, which has three seats.
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.
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. 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 (see 1798 rebellion). The ill-fated French invasion fleet arrived in Bantry Bay and Berehaven Harbour 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 note
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. It is no longer a major fishing port, mussel-farming having replaced the traditional trawling. Tourism is now a major part of the economy, exploiting the coastal scenery of the region, and the town contains a number of hotels and guesthouses. Bantry made headline news in 2007 when a major cocaine-smuggling conspiracy was foiled on the nearby coast.
Bantry became a Fairtrade Town in 2006.
Bantry hosts two significant 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.
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 wealthy Catholic businessman and MP at Westminster who lived for in Bantry for many years. Born in Castetownbere, he gained notoriety during the Dublin Strike and Lockout in 1913.
- Tim Healy (1855–1931), was an Irish nationalist who later became a Home Rule MP in Westminster and led a faction of the party after it split in 1891. He became the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State.
- Jack McAuliffe (1866–1937), was a noted 19th century lightweight boxing champion and sportsman born in Bantry.
- 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), Irish-born American police officer and collector of Irish traditional music
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 is twinned with:
- List of towns and villages in Ireland
- Market Houses in Ireland
- List of Cork Archaeological sites including Bantry area.
- Durrus and District History, contains references to Bantry and Bantry Bay
- Cork County (Parliament of Ireland constituency)
- 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.
- Atlantic Challenge International Contest of Seamanship
- "Bantry Town station" (PDF). Railscot - Irish Railways. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- "Century Ireland - Murphy, William Martin" (PDF). RTÉ. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
- T.M. Healy at 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.
- BantryHouse.com - Bantry House website
- Bantry.ie - Bantry Development and Tourism Association
- Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society