The Archaeological and Historical Heritage of Ballincollig, County Cork:to keep or not to keep?
Ballincollig village is famous for the 18th/19th century Royal Gunpowder Mills, and also for the nearby Carrigrohane Castle dating to the medieval period. Nevertheless, another lesser-known monument has recently brought the question of Ballincollig’s important and numerous heritage sites to the forefront of discussion among locals. In particular, a recent article in the Ballincollig Advertiser, highlights that the people of Ballincollig have had enough of the concrete blight, which is eroding Ireland’s green countryside. The site in question is Ballincollig Castle, which belonged to the Barretts and dates from the time of Edward III in the fourteenth century AD. An earlier Anglo-Norman (late twelfth/early thirteenth century) Motte and Bailey site could also exist here.
The latest proposed development of over two hundred houses and apartments is seeking planning permission for their construction alarmingly close to the rock outcrop on which the edifice of Ballincollig Castle stands. This fine example of a castle, albeit in ruins, is a major characteristic of the countryside around this growing suburban village near Cork City. The ruins of the castle include walls and towers for fortification. The Friends of Ballincollig Castle are raising their voices to the politicians and to the planning authority of Cork County Council to call a halt to this disfigurement of the historic landscape of Ballincollig.Since the opening of the Ballincollig By Pass as one drives from Cork City past Ballincollig, an awesome historic vista of Ballincollig Castle is evident, with green pasture leading from it to the main road. At sunset it makes a memorable view, recording the panorama as it may have been during medieval times. One can imagine the advancing soldiers trying to gain access to the castle during one of the many battles fought in medieval times in this area, or a medieval Rapunzel (Barrett) being wooed by a knight (one of the neighbouring McCarthy lads in ‘shining’ armour, who is instantly disliked by Dad, who disapproves of the latest style of meigeall). The promotion of historic sites should “enable people to experience directly the evidence for past societies and through this to better understand and appreciate their own past” (The Valetta Convention, to which Ireland is ratified).The proposed development would have a negative visual impact on the site, and on Ballincollig, in particular its newly exposed image of an historic vista on approaching the village. This view is an irreplaceable character that money cannot buy and it should not be altered. The locals are furious with the proposed construction as it has disregard for the historic site and for the desires of the community at large. The Friends of Ballincollig Castle are emphasizing that their village has numerous outstanding heritage sites, in particular archaeological. They believe that Ballincollig should be a Heritage Town, after all it did obtain its name from the historic Coll family (Baile an Chollaigh).
The Regional Park, which is a wonderful asset to the people of Ballincollig and the many others who come to the area for a stroll by the river, near the old canals of the Gunpowder Mills. The adjacent playing fields, once the grazing area for cavalry horses, has the atmosphere of being away from the city. Long may these areas be frequented by walkers and sports men and women.
The new Shopping Centre in the heart of the village of Ballincollig is embraced by the historic walls of the old Military Barracks. Visitors to the shopping centre might wonder at these massive limestone fortifications and associated buildings and hopefully they will reflect on the past when they do so.
An exciting archaeological excavation in the heart of Ballincollig is scheduled for Spring 2006 by the Cork County Council. In the knowledge that Cork County Council is promoting one of the country’s National Monuments at the edge of Ballincollig, by archaeologically excavating part of it this Spring, then perhaps the planning authority will reflect judiciously on the development around Ballincollig Castle. The site of the archaeological excavation is an enclosure of some kind, perhaps a ringfort, or ráth. It is located on the Link Road, adjacent to the Fire Station. At some time in the past this monument had been truncated presumably by ploughing. In recent times its presence became evident from associated crop marks, seen from the air. The ringfort was a common feature of the Early Medieval Period (generally ca. 600-800 AD) and was the defensive homestead of a local chieftain, prior to the building of Ballincollig Castle. This initiative by Cork County Council will add further significance and promotion to what is known about the earlier past of Ballincollig, and would further vindicate its status as a Heritage Town.
Among the numerous archaeological and historical sites that are situated in and within walking distance of Ballincollig:
Other ringforts and enclosures A number of prehistoric sites such as Fulachta Fiadh ( possible cooking places)
Medieval churches and graveyards
The Limestone caves which may have been inhabited in glacial times
The remains of the line of the Railway from Cork to Macroom
Different types of mills (including the Royal Gun Powder Mills)
These archaeological monuments are all protected by the National Monuments Legislation, but only a small proportion are known to the population of and around Ballincollig. These remnants of our past have great potential for touristic, cultural and community purposes as well as creating a unique ecosystem within an urban environment. They also give many people great pleasure and enjoyment, even if it is only to walk past them, or photograph them, or wonder about the forefathers (and mothers) of Ballincollig village, who made these sites possible.
It is our duty as the current inhabitants of the area of Ballincollig and County Cork, to protect and conserve these monuments and historic sites for our own benefit and for future generations. Check out the website: http://ballincollig.wordpress.com/ for further information and photographs of Ballincollig Heritage.
Margaret Jordan and Elizabeth O’Regan
Published in “The Corkman”, 9th February 2006
Published in “The Echo”, 10th February 2006