In the 19th century and up to the 1940s a common method of travelling from the Bear Peninsula to Bantry was by steamers operated by the Bantry Bay Steamship Company. Their schedules ties in wiht the Cork to Bandon railway. When the ports were returned to Ireland by the British in 1937 the naval base on Bere Island closed. This represented a high revenue loss to the company. Over time the road from Bantry to Castletownbere once dubbed the ‘Burma Trail’ was improved. However even with huge improvements around 15 km remains in a pretty poor state.

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IN the 19th century the Somers Payne family wee associated with the Company.


1910, 1920 Dr. Patrick Joseph Cullinane, M.B, BC.H., B.A. NUI 1910 Doctor 1910 interim Registrar of Births Post mortem of deaths War of Independence Diarmuid Kingston, RIC in West Cork during War of Independence, 2013. Bantry Bay Steamship Company Annual Report 1941, Among directors Dr. P. J. Cullinane.  Steamship Princess Beara . Magistrate: Dr. Patrick J. Cullinane M.D,. 1914, The Square, house Sunville (large early 19th century house) Bantry, listed 1916. The dynasty starts with Kate O’Sullivan marrying a Robert Swanton, their daughter was Anne Swanton who marries a Jeremiah Cullinane who was born in 1795. It was he who moved to Skibbereen and really founded Fields and managed it from 1829. They had the family that developed the drapery in Bantry. Bantry Bay Steamship Company Annual Report 1941, Among directors Dr. P. J. Cullinane.  Steamship Princess Beara After his death an auction of his effects in the 1960s included the set of Shakespearean B & W prints at his auction early in the 1960s They were purchased by the Vickery family and hung in their hotel  front lounge until its closure in 2006.

Thomas Brennan is probably of the prominent Bandon business family of who was the first Secretary of the Department of Finance. Joseph Brennan (18 November 1887 – 19 March 1976) was an Irish economist and senior Irish civil servant who served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland from 1943 to 1953. ” “Brennan was born in Bandon, County Cork. In 1909, he entered Christ Church, Cambridge, where he studied Mathematics and then switched to classics. In successive years he obtained a first in Latin and Greek. In 1911, he entered the Civil Service and was assigned to the Board of Customs and Excise and a year later transferred to the finance division of the Chief Secretary’s office in Dublin Castle. During the July 1921 Truce he was introduced to Michael Collins and later became a financial advisor to the team negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty.” “In April 1922, he became the Irish Free State’s first Comptroller and Auditor General and in April of the following year he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Finance, a post he held until his retirement from the Civil Service in 1927.[1] Later that year he was appointed Chairman of the Currency Commission. In 1925, his lengthy note on the Free State’s financial position was helpful in concluding the Irish Boundary Commission negotiations.[2]” “When the Currency Commission was dissolved in 1943, he became the first Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland. From 1928 until his retirement in 1953 his signature appeared on all Irish Banknotes.[3] In 1938, Joseph Brennan was conferred with an Honorary LLD by the National University of Ireland. He died in 1976.”

Pier at Adrigole, Princess of Beara


CB&SCR is Cork Bandon and South Coast Railway.

Tadhg Ó Murchadha T.D., I am availing of your permission, Sir, to raise, briefly, the subject of the following question that I addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce on Wednesday last:— “To ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he is aware that the Bantry Bay steamship service, from Bantry to Berehaven, is about to be suspended, following the initiation of a road transport service by Córas Iompair Éireann; that this change will have the effect of cutting off Bere Island from securing supplies directly from Bantry and other trading centres, with consequent hardship to the residents of the island; and whether he will arrange for the retention of the steamship service to Berehaven, calling at Bere Island.” The Minister’s reply is in the following terms:— “I am aware that the Bantry Bay Steamship Company have suspended their weekly sailings and that Córas Iompair Eireann, in response to a demand for direct road transport, are providing a daily lorry service between Bantry and Castletownbere. “The traffic formerly consigned to Bere Island by the steamer service amounted to about 25 tons per month, and I understand that there are small boats available which are capable of dealing with this traffic. In the circumstances, I see no reason to intervene in the matter.” The Minister has had a fairly hard day and I will be as brief as I possibly can. I propose, therefore, to confine the presentation of this case to three main aspects. May I give the House some information about the history of the Bantry Bay Steamship Company that is concerned? The company was originally founded in November, 1883, and since then they have provided a service to this isolated part of the constituency of West Cork, consisting of transport of passengers, goods, live stock, etc. They provided a steamer for that service weekly. I want to give the House some particulars of the traffic carried. Bere Island has figured in this matter because I hope to convince the Minister that the peculiar position that Bere Island will now find itself in is a serious matter for the inhabitants and one that should have his attention as Minister supervising the question of transport changes and similar matters. In the year 1936 there were 500 tons of traffic carried to Bere Island, in 1937, 488 tons; in 1938 485 tons; in 1946, 365 tons. As commodities were rationed and consequently smaller parcels of the various commodities only could be sent, the reduction in the traffic is quite understandable. In the same periods the traffic to Castletownbere was represented by the following figures: In 1936, 3,274 tons; in 1937, 3,200 tons; in 1938, 3,436 tons; in 1946, 3,035 tons. I am also in possession of certain figures with regard to transport of passengers which I do not consider entirely vital to the presentation of this case and I shall not therefore trouble the House by giving the figures. Bere Island is in an extremely unfortunate position as a result of this change. May I quote from a letter which I received from one of the traders there:— “I wish to let you know that after 43 years of hard work to build up a business I find that there will be no alternative for me in a short time but to close it down. This is due to the initiation of a road transport service by Córas Iompair Éireann”. He goes on to say:— “The manager of Córas Iompair Éireann wrote to me to have arrangements made with a trader in Castletownbere to store my goods which would be dumped there by their lorries. I could not do that easily. There are no means now of getting goods into this island and I would also have to pay the trader for storing the goods in Castletownbere”. The suggestion of the Minister that various small boats owned by local people would be capable of handling this traffic seems quite unsatisfactory to the people of the island and to represent a position that cannot be at all satisfactory to the people concerned. When this boat that plied between Bantry and Castletownbere was laid up each year for the annual overhaul required by Board of Trade regulations, the goods coming to Castletownbere could be conveyed to Bere Island by means of military tender. The military tender, which was the main means of communication between the island and Castletownbere, has now gone, because Bere Island, one of the ports which figured so largely in our discussions in recent years, including our election speeches, has been completely abandoned. The entire military personnel in Bere Island has been removed, and I understand that the only military remaining there is a maintenance party consisting of four men. The military tender, therefore, is not available, and there is no means by which goods can be conveyed to the island, except in whatever way it can be done by small row-boats which may be available to residents and some of the merchants living on the island. This man says that it seems to him that a position is rapidly developing in which the island will be completely isolated, and he does not see much point in being compelled to pay taxes in a quarter of the country in which no services are available to the people. The Minister will appreciate the fact that in regard to certain goods, such as paraffin, sugar and commodities of that kind which are on demand as soon as they are available, and, in fact, some days before they are available, it is necessary that there should be some service by which they could be made available speedily. I suggest that the position of these people in Bere Island —some 300 or 400 people live on the island—will be extremely difficult. For one thing, they will have to face higher costs for the goods they receive, and, for another, the service will be irregular, unsatisfactory, inadequate and, I am afraid, infrequent, because it seems that, at certain parts of the year, it would not be possible for small row-boats to convey goods to the island because the passage is not quite easy. I do not think the arrangement would be at all satisfactory. So much for the position of the people there. Let me come now to the position of the employees of this company —not a great number, but, still, all of them bread-winners and the supports of households—who are concerned with this change. There was a crew of seven or eight on the boat and a number of other people were directly employed by the Bantry Bay Steamship Company. I understand that every single one is now out of employment. Furthermore, I am informed that it is very questionable whether, under any existing legislation, they have any pension rights, or any rights to get alternative employment, and though the number of people is not very large, a great deal of hardship is involved for the people concerned, a number of whom have spent the best years of their lives in the service of this company. May I suggest that that aspect of the case, at least, ought to have the earnest and special consideration of the Minister who does not wish, I am sure, to add to the number of people who are deprived of employment and who may be compelled to exist by some other means in the absence of that employment? I suggest further to the Minister that a transport service by road to Castletownbere is a very uncertain undertaking, from the point of view of giving service to the people. The distance from Bantry to Castletownbere is 33 miles and the road is rather perilous and difficult. That is well known to most road-users and I think it a great pity that some alternative cannot be found to putting this old-established company, which, in a modest way, gave a certain amount of employment and which, in a general way, gave good service to the people concerned, completely out of business. May I suggest that he may be able to devise some means by which a restricted road service could be permitted, together with this service for the period for which it is available to the people, that is, one run per week and that, in addition, he should examine the question of whether the alternative service provided is capable of carrying the same amount of traffic and the same bulk of traffic as was carried by the other service? It seems to be rather difficult to understand that live stock can be carried as easily by a road service as they were carried by the service which now goes out of commission, the steamship service. I have been informed, though I cannot personally vouch for it, that on the occasion of the last fair in Castletown, a number of cattle could not be removed by lorries and had to be driven by easy stages along the road between Castletownbere and Bantry. The Minister will have the advantage of certain arguments in this matter— that the people will be getting a daily service and a more up to date service. I feel that, while that may look all right on the surface, it is not at all clear that the service will be either up to date or satisfactory, having regard to the peculiar geographical position of the area concerned and to the adjacent island of Bere which will be in a position of special difficulty. I urge the Minister, not in any spirit of controversy or any spirit of Party advantage, to examine the matter further to see whether there is any possibility of meeting what I believe to be a fairly strong local view that it it a most unfortunate act which deprives them of this service. Seán F. Lemass Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass) The circumstances of this case are easy enough to understand, but it is not quite so easy to devise a remedy for the particular problems which may arise for individuals, by reason of the change which has taken place. In the past, goods were brought by ship from Bantry to various points along the Castletownbere peninsula. The Bantry Bay Steamship Company provided this weekly service by steamer which called at Glengarriff, Adrigole, Castletownbere and Bere Island. Early in this year, Córas Iompair Éireann provided a lorry service and the popularity of that lorry service resulted in a very substantial fall in the amount of goods available for transportation by steamer. It could be said, therefore, that the immediate cause of the steamship company’s difficulties is the operation of a lorry service by Córas Iompair Éireann, but that would be a very inaccurate description of the problem, because Córas Iompair Éireann provided the lorry service when it became clear to it that the goods were going to be moved by lorry anyhow, that the traders concerned with the movement of the goods would provide their own lorry service, if a service by Córas Iompair Éireann were not provided for them, and, consequently, although the decline of the company’s business can be traced to the beginning of the service by Córas Iompair Éireann, it is obvious that it would have lost the business anyhow, if not to the lorries of Córas Iompair Éireann, to lorries operated by private traders. I think there can be no doubt that the lorry service is immensely popular in the area. It began as a tri-weekly service, but so great was the demand for it that it is now operated three times daily. There is a lorry service three times a day from Bantry to Castletownbere, and the advantage of a daily service at lower cost is obviously greatly appreciated by the residents in the peninsula area. There is a problem in relation to Bere Island. The steamer service was of exceptional advantage to the residents on the island, and the manner by which goods can reach the island or be transported from the island now involves the use of this lorry service from Bantry to Castletownbere, and the movement of the goods over the mile of sea between Castletownbere and the island. In that regard, I understand that some small boats are available. Córas Iompair Eireann accept the obligation to provide an alternative service, but they would like to be assured that such a service is needed and that local opinion would prefer the service to be provided by it rather than by the local business people who might find provision of such a service a remunerative occupation to engage in. There are some boats there now and these boats would be adequate to move the inward traffic. There is a problem, and there is likely to be a problem, concerning the movement of cattle from the island, by reason of the unsuitability of the facilities for discharging cattle at Castletownbere, in relation to which I intend to have some further inquiries made. Personally, I cannot see what I can do. It is not practicable to restore the old position merely by persuading Córas Iompair Eireann to withdraw its service of lorries. I feel certain that the withdrawal of the lorries would be unpopular in the locality. In any event, it would not settle the problem. It seems obvious that it would merely mean that goods would travel on the lorries of private traders rather than on the lorries of the Transport Company. The reason for the withdrawal of the steamer service was the fact that there was no business for it. On July 5, the company wrote to my Department that while the usual traffic offered was close on 100 tons weekly, since the lorry services began in June, the traffic offering was on June 6, 25 tons; June 13, 35 tons; June 20, six tons. At that stage, the company decided to suspend the service. On the facts of the case, it appears to me that there is a better transport service being provided at lower cost. It is not merely a cheaper service, but a better service than the area enjoyed through the steamship company. Inquiries I have made indicate that the service is popular, and that there is no local demand for its withdrawal. On the contrary the demand has resulted in its expansion. The problem of the islands and the provision of boats for the transportation of goods to the islands will be considered by Córas Iompair Éireann, if that is desirable. If the local service is capable of handling the business Córas Iompair Éireann would prefer that. They do not deny that they have obligations to provide a service if it is not provided by other people. As regards the crew, Córas Iompair Eireann informed me that they would consider sympathetically other alternative employment for the men concerned. The captain of the ship has already been employed by the company, but they explained that it is not very easy to find employment suitable for the men in the locality. They cannot, therefore, say definitely that they will be able to provide employment for all the men concerned, but they are prepared to consider their applications as sympathetically as possible, and to make every effort to get them into some suitable employment in the locality. Personally I do not see that there is anything I can do about it. Some years ago there was a number of these coastal services from Sligo to Ballina, and Limerick to Westport, all of which have ended. They could not compete with road transport. While the Bantry Bay Steamer Company lasted longer, it looks as if the time has come when the business it formerly obtained has passed to the roads. In some cases it might be necessary, for reasons of public safety, for the State to take special measures to ensure that coastal shipping services are maintained, and following some disasters on the west coast, a committee was set up to examine the law and the obligations of the Government in regard to shipping services to islands off our coast. That committee has not reported. They dealt primarily with shipping to Tory Island, and to other islands where there is a much more definite problem involved than in the case of Bere Island. It is only one mile from the mainland, and there is no reason to expect exceptional danger in making the passage as in other cases. It seems to me that the problem of the transportation of goods to Bere Island is a matter for organisation in Castletownbere with some sort of store accommodation for goods. I think it would be better, from every point of view, that services between Castletownbere and Bere Island should be provided locally. Córas Iompair Éireann state that if they are not provided they will see what they can do. Personally, I do not see that anything else can be done. The Dáil adjourned at 7.47 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 23rd July, 1946. Industrial Relations

Mary Hawkes from Keel, Upton, Co Cork on the left and her sister Teresa on the extreme right