Before the coming of ‘Free Secondary Education’, in the mid 1960s secondary education in Irish towns was patchy or non existent. Ireland’s prosperity of recent times can be attributed to that decision as the development of human capital. In Skibbereen Catholics were provided for by a Girls Convent and to some extent by the De La Salle Brothers. In the 1991 booklet on the 100th anniversary of the Church of Ireland Church at Abbeystrewry there is a portrait by Trevor Royrcoft of Tom Hosford, who ran a secondary school for boys and girls of all religions in Skibbereen. Thomas Hosford MA appears in Guy’s Directory of 1914 as having a Church Of Ireland, Intermediate and Collegiate School. In the census of 1901 and 1911 he is born either in 1874 or 1878 a member of a large farming family and he took his MA in Trinity College Dublin. It is clear from the article that many benefited from his selfless devotion to his pupils. A school, similar in some respects operated in Bantry in the 1940s 50s and early 60s. A similar one operated from the Model School in Dunmanway.
1764-1840Fr. Coombes a noted Cork historian wrote the following in respect of Robert Swanton.
The Swanton Memorial
An Historical Memorial in Skibbereen
by James Coombes
From the Swanton Family History Worldwide by Louise May Swanton
Two forgotten Ballydehob patriots are linked in a memorial in the old Protestant cemetery in Skibbereen. On the obelisk which surmounts the memorial there is a draped urn with the single word ROBERT inscribed on it. One of the four panels had the following inscription:
Sacred to the Memory of
Counsellor at Law
One of the Judges of the Marine
Court of the City of New York
Who departed this life
On the 15th of February 1840
He was a humble Christian and faithful
Friend and Benefactor
Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted,
Forgiving one another even as God
for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Do ghradhaigh se na Gaedhil agus an Ghaeilge
Another panel commemorates three children of Thomas Swanton, Maria (d. 21 July 1852, aged 11 years 5 months); Ellen (d. 1 April 1856, aged 17 years 9 months); Annie (. 21 Nov. 1857, aged 17 years 9 months). It also contains the inscriptions: “Omnibus inservientes sed servi unius Domini” and “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”
A third panel commemorates Sarah wife of Nathaniel Evanson, IV July 1830 aged 33. Sarah was almost certainly a sister of Thomas Swanton, who was a nephew of Robert Swanton.
Robert Swanton was born about the year 1764. Richard Deasy of Clonakilty wrote of him in 1845 that he had been a ‘most active agent of the United Irishmen’ and that he had ‘organised the country into a military preparation with sergeants and officers’.
Shortly before the rising of 1798 Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the Sheares brothers and other leaders were arrested. Swanton fled to America. According to one account, he had also been arrested and had escaped from jail. The late Thomas Roycroft of Skibbereen kept alive the tradition that he had been hidden in a butter barrel, smuggled out to sea in a rowing boat, and that he had boarded a ship six miles from the coast.
He soon made his mark in his adopted country, and in the 1820’s, was a leading figure in the ‘Friends of Ireland in New York’. He was the author of ‘A Manifesto to the People of Ireland’ issued by the ‘Friends’. Among his colleagues in this society were Dr. William Power and his brother Father John Power, vicar general of New York, and one of the most eminent priests in America. They were sons of Andrew and Elizabeth Power (1), who lived in the house now (1981) occupied by Mr. Joe Connolly of Deelish Skibbereen. They were nephews of Father John Power, the saintly pastor of Kilmacabea. Further research would probably unearth more details of Robert Swanton’s American career. For the moment, we must be satisfied with the obituary published by the New York Evening Post on 4 April 1840.
“It is with heartfelt regret that we announce the death of Robert Swanton, for many years judge of the Marine Court of this city. He died on the 15th of February last in the County of Cork, Ireland, which place he revisited about four years ago after an absence of more than 36 years. The loss of this inestimable man cannot fail to be severely felt by the poor and oppressed to whom he was an undeviating protector and friend.
Possessed of considerable wealth but disdaining the vanities and luxuries for which wealth is so eagerly sought, he freely contributed to the relief of the indigenous and to promoting the interest of numerous relatives and friends. He was no less alive to the political and moral welfare of his fellow creatures. He was an unswerving and ardent advocate of the rights of man.
In the great effort undertaken at the end of the last century by a magnanimous and self-devoted band of patriots to rescue their native land from the grasp of the oppressor, he nearly sacrificed his life, was driven from his home, to become a friendless and destitute exile. But in the cherished land of his adoption, his sound sense, his intelligence, his integrity and his devotion to popular rights were soon appreciated and earned the esteem and love of a numerous circle of friends.
Neither prosperity nor advancing age dampened the ardor of his philanthropy. We have no doubt that after he had passed the alloted span of man’s existence here, he was willing to sacrifice all for the social regeneration of man as when, 44 years ago, he placed his name on the roll of the “United Irishmen”.
The Truth Teller (2) said of him “To the above just tribute to the memory of a good man – ‘the noblest work of God’ – we add that the following extract of a letter from him, for examination of which we are indebted to one of his distinguished friends, dated Cork 30th November last, showing that in his 80th year he was still the same unchanged, unchangeable and uncompromising Democrat which marked his previous course.
The octogenarian asked an old friend in New York “What are the prospects of my esteemed fellow citizen, Martin Van Buren? Electioneering rumor is busy even here. Well have you tacked British to the self-styled Whigs of the present day”. In allusion to the name the opposition have taken he continues, “You and I have often been amused with names, but never gulled by them. I know that American Democracy will — the people will — be true to themselves and Martin Van Buren will be our next President. I hope to be with you in time to give my feeble support to the good old cause”. The prophetic voice of Robert Swanton is now a voice from the grave: “appreciate, believe, act.”
This petition written in French is held at the UK National Archives in Kew. It refers among other places to Donemark, Bantry, Co. Cork and is one of the earliest written references to that part of the country.
The Normans would have found the fertile Drumlin belt around Bantry attractive.
A View of the Bay of Bantry upon the S.W. part of Ireland 38.b
Date:  c.1700
Geographic coverage: -9.700000, 51.633331
Relation: King George III Topographical Collection. Collect Britain
Description: View of Bantry Bay in Ireland. Richard Pococke (1704-1765) an Irish traveller, wrote the following words about Bantry Bay, when he journey there in 1758, ‘The bay as far as we could see it, lock’d in by the land, appear’d like a long lake, with beautiful Islands in it, fine small bays which they call coves and well cultivated heads of land making into it, and within them, small hills under corn, and all bounded by very high rocky mountains, at a proper distance, altogether making the most pleasing and with that the most awful sight that can be imagined. At the bottom of the South east Cove of this bay of Bantre, the town of Bantre is situated, which tho’ small is the best on the coast to the west of Kingsale.’
Magistrate, Nathaniel Evanson, 1675, probably Castledonovan.
Gearhameen, originally McCarthy Castle then Durrus Court c 1740:
Ardgoeena from c 1740 still there in ownership of Gallagher family,remnants of probable stable still extant main wall of old house collapsed some years ago. Well behind stables.:
Friendly Cove/Murreagh probably from c1790:
There were two large crypts at the sea ward side of St. James Church of the Evansons until a cemetery clearance in the 1930s. The family in England had paid for their maintenance from the late 19th century and when after WW2 they discovered the loss of the tombs with all their detail they were most upset.
Branches of the family were sugar planters and slave owners in Barbados. They expanded into Bandon and Cork where Charles was Mayor. It is difficult to distinguish whether at time the were based in both Bandon and Durrus the house name ‘Brookfield’ may be either Durrus Court or a Bandon House.
Evansons named in 1837/8 enquiry into fictious votes Cork City
Evanson, the Rev. Alleyn Four-mile Water yes
Evanson, Nathaniel Four-mile Water no
Evanson, Charles Four-mile Water no
Evanson, Abraham M. Four-mile Water no
Evanson,William B. Four-mile Water yes
Evanson, Richard Tonson Ardoguma yes
Evanson, Nathaniel Friendly Cove
Evanson, Nathaniel jun. Four-mile Water no