MITCHELSTOWN “The Home of Good Food”
Baile Mhisteala “Saint Michaels Town”
The Norman family of FitzDavid de St. Michel founded Villa Michel (alias Michelstown) in the 13th century. They named the town in honour of their patron, Saint Michael the Archangel, who according to Christian tradition led heavenly forces into battle against the forces of Satan. The popularly acknowledged patron saint of the parish is Fanahan, a warrior-monk who founded a monastery at Brigown in the seventh century.
Set at the foothills of the Galtee Mountains, Mitchelstown, in County Cork, is within a mile of counties Limerick and Tipperary, and enjoys strong influences from each county. To its north are spectacular views of the Galtee mountains “Irelands highest inland range“ and the Mitchelstown Caves, one of the most impressive caves to be seen in Ireland and Europe.
Mitchelstown is the ideal base from which to explore a wealth of activities available within the three Counties region of Cork, Limerick and Tipperary at the confluence of which the town lies. The towns charming and picturesque 18-hole golf course is set at the foot of the Galtee Mountains. Pitch and Putt is on offer in part of the old grounds of the castle and at the lovely old village of Castlelyons.
The extensive local river network offers a wide choice of game and coarse fishing. Riding Tuition, Trail Riding and Pony Trekking are available at local equestrian centres. Mitchelstown lies in the valley between the Galtee and the Knockmealdown Mountains. Both offer spectacular scenery and can afford both the dedicated hill walker and the Sunday stroller a huge variety of walks. The drive along the Blackwater Valley and around by the Vee is one of the most beautiful drives in the country and lies at the towns doorstep.
Doneraile Forest Park and Ballyhoura Mountain Park both offer marked walks, nature trails and orienteering combined with plenty of fresh air and splendid scenery.
Mitchelstown (Brigown) graveyard has been digitally surveyed and is viewable if you follow this link: Mitchelstown (Brigown) Historic Graves, click here
The medieval town – a den of vagabonds, thieves and rioters – was rebuilt by Robert and Caroline, Viscount and Viscountess Kingsborough, in the late 1700’s. The new town had two main streets intersected by several smaller ones, to form a grid pattern. It also had two fine squares New Market Square and King Square, as well as several interesting public and private buildings. The design also utilised views of the Galtee Mountains from George Street and Cork Street, so that, taken as a whole, it may be regarded as one of the best planned towns in Ireland.
King Square formed the entrance to Mitchelstown Castle, which was rebuilt by George, Earl of Kingston, in 1823. The castle was the biggest and grandest neo-Gothic house in Ireland, and reflected the earls status as the principal gentleman of County Cork.
The Kingsboroughs also established new industries, such as silk manufacturing at Mulberry Lane, corn milling, linen weaving and brewing. Under a royal charter granted in 1618, weekly markets – first established in the town in the 14th century – were held every Thursday.
In the Land War of the 1880’s, John Mandeville heroically led the tenants of the Kingston estate in their campaign to win fair rents, fixity of tenure and the right to sell their interest in their holdings. Along with his close friend, William O’Brien, MP, Mandeville had urged tenants to resist eviction at public rallies in Mitchelstown during August 1887. Under newly enacted legislation, such behaviour was punishable by law. Consequently, both men were summoned for trial at the Market House in New Square on 9 September 1887. However, they did not appear in court and summonses were issued for their arrest.
After the court rose, over 8,000 supporters marched into this square. Armed police provoked a riot when they attempted to get a police note taker onto the speakers platform. In panic, the police were forced to retreat to their barracks in Upper Cork Street. From there, they opened fire on the crowd, killing three bystanders and wounding others. The places where John Casey, John Shinnick and Michael Lonergan fell are marked with limestone crosses.
The next day, in the House of Commons, opposition leader, William E Gladstone, coined the clarion call Remember Mitchelstown! He warned that under that watchword, the Tory governments misrule in Ireland would come to an end. The Chief Secretary, Arthur J Balfour (British Prime Minister 1902-1905), thereafter became known as “Bloody Balfour” in Ireland, where most people believed that his orders to police to suppress all National League gatherings, had caused the Mitchelstown Massacre.
In later times, Mitchelstown Gaelic Athletic Association adopted team colours of black and red in memory of the blood drawn by the blackthorn sticks used against the police in the riot.
Weeks later, Mandeville and OBrien were imprisoned in Tullamore Jail because of their Mitchelstown speeches. They were denied the political status which they sought and Mandeville, as the less prominent of the two, was very harshly treated by the prison authorities. After his release on Christmas Eve 1887, he said that he had come out of jail as unfettered as I went in, and the principles I hold I will continue to advocate until the last moments of my life.
His death (on 8 July 1888) caused public protests in England and Ireland, where many attributed his demise, at the age of 39, to his prison ordeal. Over 20,000 people took part in his funeral cortege from Mitchelstown to Kilbehenny graveyard.
In 1919, local farmers founded Mitchelstown Co-operative Agricultural Society as a store for selling farm supplies. It opened a creamery in 1925. Seven years later, Mitchelstown Creameries became the first Irish company to manufacture processed cheese. By 1940, it had become the major industry in the area and the biggest co-operative society in Ireland.
With its advertising slogan “Mitchelstown, the Home of Good Cheese”, the co-op dominated the Irish cheese market. It also became Irelands market leader in dairy and pork products with brand names such as “Galtee”, “Calvita” and “Dairygold”. Dairygold Co-op was formed in 1990, when Mitchelstown merged with Ballyclough Co-op. Since then, it has promoted Mitchelstown as “The Home of Good Food”.
Mitchelstown has many interesting 20th century sculptures. Timepiece in New Square, is a five-metre in diameter sundial, in which your shadow tells the time. The square also has a sculpture celebrating the works of William Trevor, the towns most celebrated writer. A sculpture of Fanahan, the local patron saint, sits outside the garda station. An Brathair Diarmaid O’Briain, a much respected Christian Brother, is commemorated in a sculpture at Brigown graveyard.