It appears to owe its origin to the erection of a castle, which, according to Sir Richard Cox, was built in the reign of John by the family of the Carews. This castle subsequently became the property of the McCartys, and was repaired and beautified by Teigue McCarty, who died here in 1565. It was taken in 1602, after a long siege, by Sir Charles Wilmot, just as he was about to draw off his forces to Cork, agreeably to the orders of the Lord-President, who was apprehensive that its owner Dermot McCarty, having made his escape from him, would attempt to cut off the retreat of the besieging army. On this occasion the garrison were compelled to abandon the fortress by the breaking out of an accidental fire, which raged so furiously as to threaten its destruction and the English forces rushing in, extinguished the flames, and leaving a garrison for its defence, marched directly to Cork. In 1650, the R. C.
Bishop of Ross assembled an army of 4000 foot and 300 horse from the western part of the county, to relieve Clonmel, at that time besieged by Cromwell; but on the approach of Lord Broghill with 2000 of the parliamentarian cavalry, the bishop set fire to the castle and concentrated his forces in the park, where being attacked by Lord Broghill they were defeated and their leader taken prisoner. Ireton, being soon afterwards made president of Munster, despatched a party of his forces from Kilkenny to this place, which burned both the castle and the town. In 1691, the garrison was severely pressed by a body of native troops in the service of Jas. II.; but on the approach of Major Kirk with 300 dragoons, they abandoned the siege and retreated with considerable loss.
Macroom till very lately was the joint property of the Earl of Bandon and Robert Hedges Eyre, Esq., and received comparatively but little improvement; but since it became the sole property of the latter gentleman, considerable progress has been made in improving its appearance and the condition of its inhabitants. The town is pleasantly situated in a healthy open vale surrounded by hills of moderate elevation, and enlivened and fertilised by the winding course of the river Sullane, over which is an old bridge of nine arches adjoining the castle; and about a mile below it, where the Sullane receives the waters of the Lany, is another stone bridge of nine arches, about a mile to the east of which it discharges itself into the river Lee. The approaches on every side are through a long line of cabins, of which those to the west of the old bridge have been rebuilt in a neat and comfortable style and roofed with slate. It consists of one principal street, nearly a mile in length, and towards the western extremity having a wider space, in which is the newly erected market-house, forming one side of a square, of which the opposite side is occupied by the hotel and the castle gateway: the inhabitants are supplied with water from springs and public pumps recently erected by subscription. Though troops are frequently stationed here, there is no bar- rack: the proprietor of the town has offered to Government a sufficient quantity of ground rent-free for the erection of a suitable building for the accommodation of the troops. There are no fixed sources of public amusement, but the town is frequently enlivened by the lovers of field sports and steeple chaces, for which the neighbourhood is celebrated. There are two flour-mills and two tanyards at present in operation; and there were formerly a distillery and saltworks, which have been discontinued. The principal trade is in corn, which is brought into the town daily by the farmers, and purchased on account of the Cork merchants; the quantity sold during the year 1835 exceeded 39,000 barrels. The market is on Saturday, and is abundantly supplied with butchers' meat, vegetables, and provisions at a moderate price; and from January till May there is a weekly market for pigs, many of which are slaughtered here and afterwards sent to Cork. From May till the end of the year, cattle fairs are held on the 12th of every month alternately in the town and at the village of Masseys-town, the property of Massey Hutchinson Massey, Esq., a little to the southwest.
Here is a chief constabulary police force, for whose accommodation a handsome barrack has been built. A manorial court for the recovery of debts not exceeding £2 is held every third week before the seneschal, the jurisdiction of which is very extensive, comprehending several parishes in addition to that of Macroom. The quarter sessions for the West Riding of the county are held here in December, and the petty sessions for this division of the barony of Muskerry are held on alternate Tuesdays. The court-house is a neat building of hewn limestone, ornamented with a cornice and pediment supported by two broad pilasters, between which is a handsome Venetian window, and connected with it is a bridewell.
The parish comprises 10,493½ statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; about four-fifths are under tillage, the remainder being rough mountain pasture and bog; the system of agriculture is in a state of progressive improvement; there is little waste land, except the rocky parts of the mountains, and the bog affords an ample supply of fuel. There are quarries of clay-slate, which is used for building. In the mountains of Muskerry-More, consisting principally of schistose rock, and forming a detached portion of the parish, are several thin strata of freestone of very white colour and good quality; and in a rivulet on the south side is a thin seam of coal, which dips very rapidly. The scenery is richly diversified and in many parts beautifully picturesque, and there are several gentlemen's seats in the parish. Of these, the principal is Macroom Castle, the residence of Robert Hedges Eyre, Esq., who has converted the ancient castle into an elegant modern mansion, in which the old towers have been so perfectly incorporated as to be scarcely distinguishable from the rest of the building. During the alterations, a 32-lb.
cannon ball was taken out of the walls. It is a spacious quadrangular structure with embattled parapets, and richly mantled with ivy on the side fronting the demesne, which is bounded on the north by the river Sullane, and extends over a beautifully wooded ridge to the south and west, including a spacious deer-park.
Mount Massey, the seat of M. H. Massey, Esq., occupies a conspicuous site above the northern bank of the Sullane, and is beautifully encircled with a grove of fir trees. Rockborough, the seat of T. Mitchel Browne, Esq., is pleasantly situated in a retired spot, about two miles to the west of the town, and is distinguished for the beauty and variety of its scenery, in which wood and water, barren rock, and verdant hill are pleasingly combined. Sandy Hill, the residence of Thos. S. Coppinger, Esq., is pleasantly situated, commanding a fine view of the castle and its wooded demesne. Cooleawer, the residence of W. G. Browne, Esq., is situated about a mile and a half to the south-east of the town, and is embosomed in a richly wooded demesne. Firville, the recently erected mansion of Philip Harding, Esq., is romantically situated at the extremity of a picturesque glen on the northern bank of the Sullane, near its confluence with the Lany; and Coolehane, the seat of Richard Ashe, Esq., also recently erected, is pleasantly situated on the same bank of the river, but at a greater distance from its confluence. Codrum House, the residence of Massey Warren, Esq., and Codrum, of Edw.
Ashe, Esq., are also in the parish. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Cloyne, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the tithes amount to £480, and there are six acres of glebe. The church, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £1000, in 1825, is a small modern edifice in the later English style, with an enriched porch, and is attached to the tower of the ancient structure; it is situated at the western extremity of the town, opposite to the castle and close adjoining the bridge. In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also part of the parish of Ahieragh: the chapel is a handsome edifice, with a square embattled tower strengthened with buttresses and crowned with pinnacles; and there is also a chapel at Ahieragh. About 400 children are taught in the parochial school, which is supported by R. H. Eyre, Esq., the incumbent, and other Protestant inhabitants; and in a school held in the chapel-yard, aided by the National Board. There are nine private schools, in which are about 380 children; and a dispensary. On the lands of Codrum, about half a mile to the west of the town, is a large stone of clay-slate inserted into a wall on the road side, with the following inscription still legible: D.E.O.C. 1686. H. F. FECIT., implying that Donald, Earl of Clancarty, caused it to be erected. On the same lands are the remains of an encampment, in which is a spacious subterranean cavern, the extent of which has not been ascertained; several pieces of iron and other metal, much corroded, and apparently portions of ancient military weapons, have frequently been found here; the entrance has been lately closed up, to prevent accidents to the cattle. There are two chalybeate springs, one on the lands of Ballyvirane, and the other, which has been recently discovered, on the lands of Cooleanne; the water is similar in its properties to that of Learnington; they are both much used and have been found efficacious in scrofulous and leprous diseases. Sir William Penn, a distinguished admiral, and father of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, in America, was born at Macroom castle.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
The transcription of the section for this parish from the National Gazetteer (1868), provided by Colin Hinson.
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