Medieval Ballincollig

A brief history of Medieval Ballincollig
by Paul MacCotter PhD.

The earliest records associate the Ballincollig area with the Uí Meicc Iair, a junior branch of the great Eóganacht federation which ruled Munster from the period of earliest record until the tenth century. The Uí Meicc Iair territory included the south bank of the Lee from Mahon west to Ovens and southwards to the hill-top ridge of the south Liberties. Later tradition recounts how Aed, king of Uí Meicc Iair, donated the land south of the Lee to Finbarr to build his first monastery in Cork. Whatever of this, there is some evidence to suggest that the Uí Meicc Iair were already an important dynasty in the Cork region by around AD 700. With the adoption of surnames in the tenth century the chief family of Uí Meicc Iair adopted the style Uí Selbaig and these contributed several abbots to the monastic city of Cork in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Anglo-Norman records mention the place-name Tolochshalwy (= the hill of the Uí Sealbhaigh) in a context which makes it certain that this was the name of the hilly district which includes Waterfall, Ballynora and Rochfordstown. The surname is rare but survives in the forms Shelly and Shallow.

The arrival of the Normans brings more in the way of records. They began to colonize the Lee valley after 1185, led by the de Cogan family. The Cogans built great fortresses at Carrigrohane and Dundrinan (now Castlemore near Crookstown) and populated the eastern half of the valley with knights and lesser followers. In the Ballincollig area two new towns were formed, at Carrigrohane and at Ovens. That at Carrigrohane must have lain between the castle and St. Peters church, the descendant of the town church here. The town at Ovens presumably lay along both banks of the Bride. This was the scene of much fighting during the 14th and 15th centuries and its castle has long disappeared. The church of Ovens lay where the deconsecrated Church or Ireland parish church of Athnehowen is now located. These towns are likely to have been destroyed during the second half of the 14th century by Bubonic Plague and MacCarthy raids.

The Normans divided the territory of ‘Umecciar’ into three manors with corresponding parishes, Carrigrohane, Kilnaglory and Inishkenny (Ballynora-Waterfall). Carrigrohane was a Cogan demesne manor and must have included lands to the east, where the place names Ballygaggin (the Model Farm Road within the city) and Inchigaggin commemorate the family. Kilnaglory went to the Burdon family who give their name to Ballyburdon, while Inishkenny was held by the Ridelsford or Rochford family (hence Rochfordstown or Castle White near the Viaduct). Within these manors other lands were held by Terrys (Old Abbey or Ballymacadane), a cadet Cogan family (Maglin), Talbots and Taylors (Carrigrohane) and, as we shall see, Coles at Ballincollig.

The Cole family were one of the major Norman knightly families of the Lee Valley. They held extensive lands in parcels from Farnanes and Rooves in to Currahaly and just west of Ovens at Currabeg and Srelane. They also held lands north of the Lee in several places, and give their name to Coolacullig (Coachford), Ballincolly (Dublin Hill) and Ballincollig. The Coles are likely to have arrived here as part of the first settlement. One Henry Cole was certainly established here during the 1220s. The senior family lived at Currabeg near Ovens. William Cole was the head of this family in 1304 when his various estates are listed. Among these was the three ploughlands of Carrignahathmel and 120 acres of woodland at Fithonallys. William was merely overlord of these lands however, for, in 1307, we find reference to Peter Cole as a tenant of William Cole in the one and a half ploughlands of ‘Clonerdoun in Maghmakeer’. Peter had sub-let these lands to one Alexander Russell. Then, in 1317, we have another reference to the lands of this Peter Cole, where they are listed as ‘one messuage (homestead) and five ploughlands at Carrignahathmel, Monany, Maghmake and Fithanalys’. From these various references it is clear that this five ploughland holding, giving a modern acreage of perhaps 2,000 acres, refers to the Cole lands at Ballincollig. This is proved by the references to Maghmakeer and Maghmake, which certainly represent the Irish ‘Magh Uí Meic Iair’: the agricultural plain of the Uí Meicc Iair. We know from the decretal letter of 1199 that this plain is that of Ballincollig itself, stretching from Carrigrohane westwards to Coolroe. While none of these component placenames of the district of Maghmakeer survive today, it is very probable that Carrignahathmel represents the rock upon which Ballincollig castle itself is built. In the Cork area ‘carraig’ often represents not just any kind of ‘rock’ but the typical type of limestone outcrop rising out of the flat plain, most of which were fortified. Examples such as Carrigrohane, Carrigtwohill, Carrigmore (Beaumont Quarry) and Carrigaline spring to mind. Ballincollig castle itself sits on one such outcrop, especially distinct when viewed from the bypass road.

Carrignahathmel is of uncertain derivation. A guess would be Carraig na hAthmhaola, ‘rock of sorrows’, but this is on a par with Joyce’s guess that Ballincollig derives from Baile an Chullaig, ‘baile of wild pigs’. We know from its history that the correct derivation is Baile an Chollaig, ‘baile of the Cole family’. In its earlier meaning baile gives ‘estate’, ‘property’, and bailte were almost always called from either the owners of the property or some descriptive detail of the property. Generally one does not get bailte named from animals, especially wild ones. Joyce, of course, knew nothing of the local history of the Ballincollig area. It is best to leave the wild pigs to the rugby club and keep them out of history. Another one of these old names, Fithonalys, derives from fidh, ‘woodland’. One can speculate that this place-name may refer to the large wood which must once have occupied the area of the present barracks and powdermills complex along the river, some of which remains to the present day.

A little is known of the subsequent history of the Cole family here. In 1368 the mainline were complaining of having been recently evicted from their lands at Currabeg and Srelane by the Barretts, while the Carrignahathmel branch appear to have been left undisturbed. A century later, in 1468, Sir Robert Coll (as the name had become), sold the lands of Ballincollig and Mealacollig to the Barrett chief. The deed of this sale (now lost) appears to be the first time the place-name Ballincollig occurs in writing, having by then replaced the older names. Mealacollig (Meall a’ Chollaig = Cole’s rise) remained the name for the townland of Greenfield until its Carlton landlords changed it in the 1750s. It is likely that the townlands of Inismore and Coolroe were also part of the original Cole estate here. The surname Coll, though rare, can still be found in Co. Cork.

The remaining medieval history of Ballincollig may be summarized as follows. The Barretts were a Norman family whose main holdings originally lay around Glandore, with a secondary estate at Grenagh north of Blarney. The Gaelic Resurgence drove them from their west Cork lands in the early 1300s, and they appear to have settled densely on their remaining lands at Grenagh. From this time on they appear to have formed a lineage (or numerous ‘clan’) and caused increasing trouble for their neighbours as they sought to expand their territory to cater for their large numbers. From the early 1320s onwards the Norman settlements in the Lee Valley became the subject of increasing MacCarthy attacks. Between then and the 1360s the frontier between the MacCarthys and the Cogans and their tenants see-sawed back and forth as the Cogans, with government help, made a number of efforts to drive the McCarthys, and their followers, the O’Callaghans, O’Riordans, McEgans, etc., back westwards. In this process the Barretts saw an opportunity and accordingly supported the McCarthys against their fellow Normans. Following the last major government campaign against the Irish, in 1363, which resulted in the Lee valley as far west as Aglish and Coachford being re-conquered, the Barretts prevented the Cogans and their tenants returning and instead occupied the lands themselves or rented them out to some of the McCarthy septs (such as the Clandonnell around Dripsey). Helped by a marriage of the son of the Barret chief, Richard Oge, to Peter de Cogan’s daughter, around this time the Barretts seized Carrigrohane Castle and made it their headquarters. Here they survived a major McCarthy siege in 1420, although at this time they lost much of their western lands to the McCarthys (Aglish and Kilcrea). In 1436, however, the Cogan heir, Robert of Carrigaline, sold his paper title to his Lee Valley lands to the Fitzgerald Earl of Desmond, who soon after evicted the Barretts from Carrigrohane and garrisoned the castle and its 1,500 acre demesne (the modern townland of Carrigrohane, which included much of eastern Ballincollig town).

As a result the Barretts needed a new castle, hence the purchase of Ballincollig in 1468. Archaeological evidence suggests that the present castle can be no earlier than this purchase, and so was built by the Barretts. Another early castle here was Clogh MacUlick, ‘the castle of the sons of Ulick’. This was an Irish form of William and was a popular name among the Barretts. Indeed, it seems that ‘MacUlic’ may well have been the Irish form adopted by these Cork Barretts after their early ancestor, William Barrett, who lived during the 13th century. Cloghmaculick remained the name of this castle until purchased from the Barretts around 1606 by Sir Dominick Sarsfield, who renamed it Sarsfield’s Grange. It is now the townland of Grange and no trace of the castle remains. Another Barrett castle south of the river Lee was at Inch, about a mile west of Iniscarra Dam. The ruins of this were demolished during the construction of the hydro-electrical scheme here in 1957. The clan also had three castles north of the river, at Garrycloyne, north of Blarney (demolished in 1937), at Cloghphilip near Cloghroe, and at Castlemore near Mourneabbey, whose picturesque ruins can still be seen from the Dublin train as it draws in to Mallow. The chiefs of the family appear to have resided in two castles located towards either end of the lordship: Ballincollig and Castlemore.

Ballincollig Casle

Ballincollig Castle

These castles mark the winding shape of the Barrett lands here. Although the Barretts lost their lands from Ovens westwards during the 16th century to the McCarthys (Ovens, Currahaly, Killumny, Srelane) they still possessed a powerful lordship by 1600. This was shaped like a giant ‘S’, stretching from Mourneabbey southwards, through Grenagh, eastern Donoughmore, taking in all of Iniscarra and Carrigrohane Beg, and crossing the Lee to include the Ballincollig area southwards to Barretts Hill near Killeady which marked its southern borders. This reminds us of the townlands of Ballyburdon and Knockburdon, which commemorate the Burdon family, another Norman line, who remained here until Cromwell took their lands. These lands were originally the knights’ fee of Kilnaglory. Within this Barrett lordship there became established many junior lines of the family, as was the Irish way. South of the river we find branches established at Maglin, Curraheen, Ballingully and Ballyshoneen. North of the river in Iniscarra there were Barrett landowners at Coolyduff (Bunacummer), Ballyshoneen, Currabeha, Courticullinane (now in Ballyanly) and Carrigrohane Beg, and, further north, at Garrycloyne and Pluckanes (near Donoughmore). Most of these families lost their lands under the Cromwellian confiscations of the 1650s. During the 1580s the chieftainship of the Barretts was disputed between two lines of cousins, and a settlement was reached giving the bulk of the land and the castle of Castlemore to one line and Ballincollig castle and some surrounding townlands to the other line. The Ballincollig line sold the castle and their lands to Walter Coppinger, a Cork merchant, in 1639 while the other chief line continued to hold their lands, mostly located around Grenagh and Castlemore, until they in turn lost their lands to the Williamite confiscations of 1692. Both lines provided several patriots in the wars of the 17th century.

The area of this Barrett lordship was formed into the barony of Barretts by the English as part of their new administrative system, and Ballincollig remained part of this barony until the local government reforms of 1837 when it was included in the enlarged barony of Muskerry East. Historically, Ballincollig was never part of Muskerry and the name more properly relates to the area west of Ovens.


41 Responses to Medieval Ballincollig

  1. Dr. David F. Mahoney says:

    Wonderful! I wish I knew about this site before I visited Ballincollig! Thank you!

  2. helen riekstins says:

    Really interesting and thank you! I am researching an ancector John Gillman of Curraheen which was nearby and wonder if you came accross him. He settled there around 1600 and is burried in Killegrohan church but l wish l knew where that was.
    Best wishes

  3. Laura Barrett-Oliver says:

    Hi Helen, I am researching a couple of relatives: A Dominick Barrett born 1773 in Cork and his older brother, Thomas, that migrated to America. How can I go about finding information. I do know that Dominick came to America when he was 17 years old. These two brothers managed to amass hundreds of acres of land. I did run across a papist list with a Thomas Barrett from 1755. Were father’s names often passed on to sons?


    • Don Moore says:


      While researching the “Barret” name, we ran across your comments from a article “A brief history of Medieval Ballincollig”. We have just started doing research and have connected with the Barett name from County Cork Ireland. You probably already have earlier information, e.g., that Dominic was married to Marthq (Faircloth) and they had a large family.

      We are continuing out search for more information concerning Dominic’s parents. If we can help in any way, please let us know.


      Don Moore

      • mike barrett says:

        Hi Don,

        Sent to Laura Barrett-Oliver –

        Hi Laura,

        There is considerable information about this Barrett clan – including photos = in the United States,which I will be glad to send you. Let me know where to send.

        We are researching the William and Patience Barrett family as well.

        Mike Barrett.

      • Laura Barrett-Oliver says:

        Hi Don, did we connect up after this? Any more news on Dominic’s parents?

        Thanks for all your help!


      • Jane Whittle says:

        What I have prior to Dominic is from the little book ” My Clan” stating that he came from County, Cork Ireland. The birth date of 1713 ? came from Laura and her father Richard
        Barrett noted above.

        1. Dominick Barrett ?1713 –D:May 15, 1840. I have stood by his grave. His wife Martha Faircloth gave him 11 children.
        Third born was:
        2. Benjamen Thomas Barrett B: March 30, 1810
        D: Nov. 22 1827, His Wife Jane Elenor Carelock gave him 13 children
        3. Benjamin Thomas Barrett jr. B: Sept. 5, 1861 Died: sept. 1927 His wife Fanny Lula
        Gordon gave him 10 children
        4. Fourth child was Levinia Elizabeth Barrett B: 11 April 1898 D: march 1989 . –she married James Benton Roberts Sr.B: Jan 31, 1881 died: 1972 they had 5 children

        5. 5th child : Amelia Jane Roberts — and here am I.

        Thank you all. It is exciting to be in this search togeather and I hope our success comes soon. It is a process but with many of us narrowing in on this line we should find this information on Dominick. Those of us looking for the line of Dominicks wife Martha Faircloth need help too.

    • mike barrett says:

      Hi Laura,

      There is considerable information about this Barrett clan – including photos = in the United States,which I will be glad to send you. Let me know where to send.

      We are researching the William and Patience Barrett family as well.

      Mike Barrett.

      • Cori Morris says:

        Wow! I am also a descendant of Dominick Barrett! I have tons of information on him, but little about how, when and why he came to America. If anyone know where to find that information, please let me know! All of the above information is truly fascinating! Cannot wait to share with my dad!



  4. Fred says:

    Hi Helen,

    I see your note re your ancestor John Gillman of Curaheen buried at Carrigrohane . I wonder did you ever get any further with your enquiries. I am descended from A john Gillman who lived at Millane , Dunmanaway, Co. Cork in late 1700’s. Love to hear any info you have of the origins of the Gillman family. My e-mail

  5. Jane Roberts,Yandow,Whittle says:

    Hello, Don,Laura,Mike all:

    Dominick Barrett:born 1773 in Co.Cork,Ireland. Is my grandfather four times removed.

    I am excited to know what ya’ll have found.The information
    that I have is:Dominick’s father was Thomas Barrett his mother was Jane Christian. Dominick’s son born 20,March 1810
    was named Benjamon Thomas Barrett. Grandson born 6 Sept.1861
    was also named Benjamon Thomas,wife Lula Gordon born 1868.
    I Welcome communication concerning the Barretts and the Gordons.


    My e-mail

  6. Richard Barrett says:

    Hello, Don,Laura,Mike Jane and all:

    I am a grandson.

    Dominick Barrett
    William Christian Barrett
    Lon Barrett
    Richard Burk Barrett
    Richard Merrill Barrett

    I have some of the information, a copy of “My Clan” and photos of the gravestones of Barretts in Mt.Pleasant Masonic, Farmers Academy, and the Barrett Cemetery at Mt.Vernon, Texas.
    We have our annual meeting at the Barrett Cemetery, 2nd Saturday, 9th of April. This is a wonderful site to find and it may add much information to our clan. Laura is my daughter and we are looking for information on Dominick’s parents and their ancestors.


  7. Richard Barrett says:

    Hello, Don,Laura,Mike Jane and all:
    I am a grandson.
    Dominick Barrett
    William Christian Barrett
    Lon Barrett
    Richard Burk Barrett
    Newell Austin Barrett
    Richard Merrill Barrett
    I have some of the information, a copy of “My Clan” and photos of the gravestones of Barretts in Mt.Pleasant Masonic, Farmers Academy, and the Barrett Cemetery at Winfield, Texas.
    We have our annual meeting at the Barrett Cemetery, 2nd Saturday, 9th of April. This is a wonderful site to find and it may add much information to our clan. Laura is my daughter and we are looking for information on Dominick’s parents and their ancestors.

    Two corrections above.
    Jane, I find a son of Dominick, Thomas but don’t show his son Benjamon Thomas.


    • Jane Whittle says:

      I am: Amelia “Jane” Roberts, Yandow, Whittle
      My mother is:
      Elizabeth Levinia Barrett B: April 11, 1889 Died: March 1998
      Married : James Benton Roberts Sr. B: January 31, 1881 : 5 children
      MATERNAL Grandfather:
      Benjamin Thomas Barrett jr. B: Sept 5, 1861 (10) children
      Married: Fanny Lula Gordon B:April 4, 1868, Died: 3 May 1945– Her mother was “Thetus Austin”.
      Great grandfather:
      B. Thomas Barrett Sr. B:March 20,1810 (13) children
      Married: Jane Eleanor Carelock
      G.G. grandfather:
      Dominick BARRETT, County Cork , Ireland
      Married: Martha Faircloth –from Montgomery Co. N.C. B: about 1779 Died: November 2, 1852
      Buried: Barrett cemetry in Anson county, N.C. ( I have a pic.)

  8. Richard Barrett says:

    Hello cousin Amelia Jane,
    Thanks for adding information. If you have a picture to do with Dominick I sure would like to see it. I have the picture of his gravestone at Anson. Do you have any information on ancestors prior to Dominick? I am semi-retired, living in McKinney, Texas

    • Cori Morris says:

      Alonzo Barrett! Wow. I am descended from William Christian Barrett Jr. (Whit). His daughter Sudie Barrett was my Grandmother. We also reside in Texas!

      • Richard Barrett says:

        Hi Cousin Cori,
        I am descended from WC Jr’s brother Lon. My email is and I am active with the Barrett Cemetery at Winfield, Texas. Let me know if I can help or if you have new information. It seems that Barrett history in Ireland goes back several centurys and that we are from a prominent family. Records in Ireland are few as they have been destroyed by fires and by orders of the British in the mid 1700’s so we will not find any verifiable records. Still, using our imagination takes us back to Normandy in the Twelfth Century ??? Good to meet you though. Richard

  9. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    Hello from the Barrett’s of Arkansas and Tennessee and Florida we are a part of the Barrett’s of Cork Co Ireland . Hello cousin’s

  10. Richard Merrill Barrett says:

    And Hello from the Barrett cousins of Texas. We came here in 1850 from Cork via Dominick Barrett, White Store, North Carolina.

    Birth: 1773
    County Cork, Ireland
    Death: May 15, 1840
    White Store Township
    Anson County
    North Carolina, USA

    • mike barrett says:

      Richard, do you have some evidence that Dominick from Anson Co. was born in County Cork. If so, I would be most interested? Thanks

    • Jane Roberts, Yandow, Whittle says:

      Contact to share ! Very interested in any information concerning Dominick Barrett ?1713 –D:May 15, 1840., and his wife Martha Faircloth. Also have you any (information) , any history concerning Benjamin Thomas Barrett Sr. B:March 20,1810 (13) children
      Married to Jane Eleanor Carelock Born: 21 December 1817 in N.C. and mother of his (13) children.

  11. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    Yep my Grt Grt Grt Grandfather was from Anson Co , Nc . I know that we where all related . I do remember my Grandfather saying we have cousins in Texas . My Grandfathers mother’s family was from Texas.

  12. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    We are related small world.

    • Richard Merrill Barrett says:

      Yes it is Homer. I am very glad to make your acquaintance. If I can be of help I can bring you up to date a bit.
      Dominick’s sons William Christian and Calvin came to Texas in 1850, stopped in Longview , Texas for a year and then established Barrett, Texas near Mt.Pleasant.
      Barrett, Texas name was changed to Winfield, Texas
      WC son: Alonso (Lon)
      Alonso son: Richard Burk Barrett
      Richard’s son Newell Austin Barrett
      NAB son: Richard Merrill Barrett
      That’s my line.
      There are some Barretts buried in Barrett Cemetery, Winfield.
      There are many Barretts buried in Farmers Academy, Mt. Pleasant
      My Grandfather Richard Burk Barrett is buried with his family in Masonic, Mt.Pleasant
      My Father/mother/son and mother’s family are in Shady Grove, Winnsboro, Texas
      I am 80 and still going good.

  13. Richard Merrill Barrett says:

    I have no hard evidence like a document. I think I read that all documents prior to 1850 have been destroyed by the Brits. Just a part of our lineage as described by Mary Lou Redfearn Medlin. My People, “the Dominick Barrett Clan”.

  14. Richard Merrill Barrett says:

    Dominicks Father has been stated by a cousin to be Thomas Barrett, County Cork, Ireland, When I dig around I find one in 1722. I don’t know where they got that info but when I inquire I get no answer. Maybe gone now?

    • Kenneth W. Barrett says:

      I have a slightly different twist on things. I am Kenneth W. Barrett, son of Ephriam M. Barrett, who was the son of Abner Barrett and Susan Brannon Barrett. Abner Barrett apparently was a slave and he and Susan were later married and are both buried in the Barrett Family Cemetery in Winfield, TX.along with several of their children who died in infancy. My grandfather Abner, who was deceased before I was born, never knew who his parents were. We believe, however, that he was born in North Carolina and transported to Winfield, TX with the Barretts who were his owners. We were told that he was treated well and that when slavery ended when he was 8 years old, he remained with the Barrett family and that is where we got the name. My dad and 3 of his brothers migrated to Oklahoma while one brother remained in Mt. Pleasant, TX. My parents eventually moved to California and I grew up in Berkeley. There are lots of us African American Barretts, but we know little of our ancestors or the history prior to my grandfather Abner and, for that matter, not much about him. This is all very fascinating!

      • Richard Barrett says:

        Yes it is fascinating Kenneth, and we should try to learn more and perhaps be able to meet someday. I live in McKinney, Texas but travel as a corporate jet pilot. You can send me your information in private if you wish.

  15. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    My uncle Milton Barrett turns 89 this Dec 14th My father Homer Dale Barrett SR birthday in July 15th turns 81 My other uncle Don Alexander Barrett is 78 . I am a JR my Birthday January 30th I am 56 . Grandfather Homer Ralph Barrett born 1900 in Hubbard TX My grand father had 4 brothers and I have there names and his father was Joseph Andrew Jackson Barrett . He had 3 sisters 4 brothers And my Great GRT GRT Grand father was Joseph Andrew Barrett and he had 4 brothers and 3 sisters and then there was and in NC there was John A Barrett and Thomas Barrett and then there where 6 brothers that came from Cork Co Ireland Nathan ,Alexander, Aubrey, William, and I am not sure on the other 2 brothers

  16. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    Dominick Barrett’s brothers names where Samuel and William Alexander.

  17. ballincollig says:

    Have you considered having a Barrett Gathering in Ballincollig?

    Moderator of the blog

  18. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    I wish but I am terminal with cancer trying to get everything done. How is everyone tied up with the ones from Elizabeth Barrett Browning there was 15 children from Edward Moulton Barrett side and he dis=owned everyone because of blood problems. Hersey Barrett his tomb is there.

  19. Homer Dale Barrett Jr says:

    Richard I wish my son and was interested of knowing who he is and where he is and by whom he belongs to. I know my grandsons are to young .

  20. Fred Rountree says:

    Mentioning the Barrett family from Cork my wife’s Aunt by marriage was Muriel Barrett born in Boxtown which is somewhere near Kilbrittain, Co Cork

  21. Sherry LaPrade says:

    I am a descendent of Dominick Barrett and Martha Faircloth of Anson County NC. I have found information that Martha was the daughter of an indian chief. Can anyone verify that?

    • Richard Barrett says:

      Sorry but you now have as much information as I do. I have also seen the comment but have no further information.

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