General Charles Vallancey Survey Report  1778

He was sent to Ireland to assist in a military survey, remained and became an authority on Irish antiquities.Screenshot 2023-01-26 at 19.23.50
He fathered 44 children by three wives. He learnt Irish and became fluent in it.  Some of his theories are now regarded with a degree of scepticism.   He wrote a report on the West Cork area which should also hold true for Durrus at the period: ‘There was only one road between Cork and Bantry; you may now proceed by eight carriage roads beside several horse tracks branching off from these great roads, from Bantry the country is mountainous and from the high road has the appearance of being barren and very thinly populated; yet the valleys abound with, corn and potatoes and the mountains are covered with black cattle. In 1760, twenty years ago it was so thinly inhabited, an army of 10,000 men could not possibly have found subsistence between Bantry and Bandon.   The face of the country now wears a different aspect:  the sides of the hill are under the plough, the verges of the bogs are reclaimed and the southern coast from Skibbereen to Bandon, is one continued garden of grain and potatoes except the barren pinnacles of some hills and the boggy hollows between which are preserved for fuel’   This would suggest that the major population expansion may have dated from c 1775. Wakefield in 1809 estimated the number of houses on the Muintervara peninsula occupied by Catholics and Protestants at 600.  In the 1831 Census the population of Durrus East is 1,620.  In 1838 the population was 8,340 of whom around 800 were Protestant.

From Library Ireland

General Charles Vallancey

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Vallancey, Charles, General, an antiquary, was born in England in 1721. He entered the army at an early age, was attached to the Royal Engineers, became a Lieutenant-General in 1798, and a General in 1803. He came to Ireland before 1770 to assist in a military survey of the island, and made the country his adopted home. His attention was strongly drawn towards the history, philology, and antiquities of Ireland at a time when they were almost entirely ignored, and he published the following, among other works: Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, 6 vols., between 1770 and 1804; Essay on the Irish Language, 1772; Grammar of the Irish Language, 1773; Vindication of the Ancient Kingdom of Ireland, 1786; Antient History of Ireland proved from the Sanskrit Books, 1797; Prospectus of a Dictionary of the Aire Coti or Antient Irish, 1802. He was a member of many learned societies, was created an honorary LL.D., and became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1784.

During the Insurrection he furnished the Government with plans for the defence of Dublin. Queen’s-bridge, Dublin, was built from his designs. He died 8th August 1812, aged 91. There are portraits of him in the Royal Irish Academy and in the board-room of the Royal Dublin Society. In the light of modern research his theories and conclusions — a fanciful compound of crude deductions from imperfect knowledge — are shown to be without value, and such as would not now receive a moment’s attention. George Petrie says: “It is a difficult and rather unpleasant task to follow a writer so rambling in his reasonings and so obscure in his style; his hypotheses are of a visionary nature.” The Quarterly Review declares that: “General Vallancey, though a man of learning, wrote more nonsense than any man of his time, and has unfortunately been the occasion of much more than he wrote. The Edinburgh Review says: “To expose the continual error of his theory will not cure his inveterate disease. It can only excite hopes of preventing infection by showing that he has reduced that kind of writing to absurdity, and raised a warning monument to all antiquaries and philologians that may succeed him.”


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-’71.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-’72.

72. Castlereagh, Viscount: Memoirs and Correspondence, edited by the Marquis of Londonderry. 12 vols. London, 1848-’53.

146. Gentleman’s Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110335.