Bandon’s hidden Protestant history revealed in new book

Did you know that Bandon once had seven Orange lodges?

Bandon’s hidden Protestant history revealed in new book

Or that if present-day residents of the West Cork town went back in time 70 years, all the street names would be different? Streets in the historic town, formerly a Protestant stronghold dating from the 1580s, were renamed in the decades following the War of Independence.

Protestant street names, some hundreds of years old, were effectively written out of history, according to author and schoolteacher Kieran Doyle, who has just published a book on Bandon.

The street known to generations of Bandon residents as Connolly St began life as Boyle St, named after Lord Richard Boyle, one of the town’s more colourful founders.

The town was ‘born’ a Protestant town and received its charter in 1613, says Mr Doyle, who explains that Boyle, also the first earl of Cork, was enormously proud of the town walls, built in the 1620s, and often boasted about their strength.

While the walls were a protective measure, they also emphasised an explicit demarcation between the local Catholic and Protestant communities. “There was a strong demarcation between the two cultures. The Protestants were within the wall and the Catholics were outside it,” explains Mr Doyle.

Not far from Boyle St, Devonshire St, also originally named for a wealthy aristocratic Protestant landlord, was later renamed Allen Square, after William Philip Allen, a nationalist, a Fenian and one of the Manchester Martyrs.

What’s now known as St Patrick’s Place was formerly Cavendish Quay, while MacSwiney Quay used to be Burlington Quay. Bandon was founded by Protestants in the 1580s after the area was taken over by English planters.

The town was characterised by a Protestant culture and ethics and in 1834 Bandon had more Orange lodges than Cork City, which boasted just six.

Mr Doyle, who teaches English and local history in Clonakilty Community College, warned that while we are commemorating Irish pride and culture in 2016, we forget the cultures that existed in towns like Bandon before the 1900s.

“After the War of Independence there was a whiting-out of other cultures which meant that anything that was not Catholic or nationalist was effectively written out of history,” he added, citing the across-the-board changing of street names which took place during the 1940s as an example of this.

Mr Doyle’s book, which took three years to research and write, examines 400 years of Bandon’s history.

Behind the Wall: The Rose and Fall of Protestant Power and Culture in Bandon, by Kieran Doyle, is priced at €12, and is published by Inspire.

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