Hidden Histories

As seen today, Fermoy, County Cork owes its existence to John Anderson, an ambitious Scotsman who settled in Ireland as a merchant in the early 1780s. Before the end of the decade, he had established a national mail-coach service and Fermoy, with its bridge over the river Blackwater, became a stop on the route between Cork and Dublin. Then in 1791 he bought the town from the Boyle family and began to develop it with such success that in less than 20 years Fermoy’s population had grown from a few hundred to 4,300. One of the reasons for this is that in 1797 the British government decided to establish a major military base here, with Anderson providing the sites for two large barracks on the north side of the river. The first of these, the east, was constructed 1801-6, its western equivalent begun in 1809; the buildings, dominated by large central squares, accommodated thousands of troops and were designed by local architect Abraham Hargrave. Following the departure of British troops in 1922, the barracks were burnt and all the buildings demolished. Today only parts of the outer walls and the arched gateways survive: the grounds to the east are now used by the GAA and that to the west by the local rugby club.

2 comments on “Hidden Histories

  1. Stephen Barker says:

    Are the holes in the wall, flanking the gateway in the first photo for soldiers to fire through? I have looked up the population figures for the town and see that there was a decline in the population following the withdrawal of the Army and the demolition of the barracks. The low point being the 1950s. The current population is about the same as in 1900. I assume the troops were included in the census figures. At least the barracks are not standing in a ruinous state and the site has a useful role as a sports facilities.

  2. Bob F says:

    A Cork expression used to describe something lopsided is “All to one side like the town of Fermoy”. Apt, given its layout.

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