On a tour of West Cork, one of our most enjoyable days of the trip was spent in Clonakilty.
Clonakilty is a bustling town about 1 hours drive from Cork city.
It is known for its pudding, but we were there for a Michael Collins tour with Tim Crowley from the Michael Collins Centre.
Along with seeing some of the rugged West Cork countryside we also got to visit Michael Collin’s birthplace at Woodfield, while also tracing his steps on that fateful day he was killed in 1922.
Michael Collins early life
Michael Collins was born in this building at Woodfield in West Cork on the 16th October in 1890, he was the 8th child of Michael Senior and Mary Anne Collins, and he lived here with his brothers and sisters. Michael’s family built a new larger farmhouse next to this cottage and moved into the new house at Christmas 1900, these buildings pictured below, then became the outhouses and sheds.
Michael’s family home
During the War of Independence in 1921, the larger farmhouse was burnt down by the Essex Regiment, a British Auxiliary unit. Neighbours of the Collins family who were ploughing in a nearby field also had their farming tools and a horse harness thrown into the house before it was set alight. Any neighbours who sheltered the Collins family were also threatened that their own homes would be burnt down.
A brief history of Michael Collins
Collins attended national school in Clonakilty and emigrated just before his 16th birthday to London. He worked for nine years in England with the Civil Service and other financial companies. He returned to Dublin in January 1916 to take part in the Easter Rising and fought in the General Post Office. He was interned at Frongoch in Wales from May until December 1916.
When he returned to Ireland, he set up an intelligence network along with an arms smuggling operation. He fought in the War of Independence, became a TD in the first Irish government and went on to lead the Irish delegation at the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks in London in 1921. He fought on the pro-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War and was the commander of the new free state Irish army.
As part of the guided tour, we also visited Sams Cross, Four All’s Pub and of course the Béal na mBláth ambush site. (Click here to read more about the ambush and who fired the fatal shot).
We planned to visit some of these places ourselves but we are glad we decided to do the tour as Tim’s local knowledge, and enthusiasm for Irish history shone through.
In Clonakilty itself there’s a Michael Collins statue located in Emmet Square, Collins lived here for a time with his Aunt.
A new visitor centre dedicated to Michael Collins has opened, called the Michael Collins House and it is located on Emmet Square. This wasn’t open when we visited, but we hope to go back for a visit.
During our stay in Clonakilty, which we visited during our road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way trail, we stayed in a local B&B and visited De Barras pub in Clonakilty, which is worth a visit, as its a quintessential old Irish style pub with regular live Irish music.
Check out our blog post on the Slievenamon car and its connection to a key event in Irish history.