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The following is a description of the county taken from Thom's Directory of Ireland for the year 1931.

County of Cork:

Cork, a maritime county is in the Province of Munster, the largest in Ireland, is bounded on the north by Limerick, on the east by Tipperary & Waterford, on the south by the Atlantic ocean and on the west by Kerry. Length from Dursey island in the south west to Kilbeheny near Mitchellstown is 98 miles: greatest length from Crow Head to Youghal is 102 miles; breadth from the boundary at Mullaghareirk Mountains is the south west to Robert’s Head south of Cork harbour is 54 miles. For County Court and Constabulary purposes the county is divided into East and West ridings, but its affairs are administered as a whole by one county council.

The name of the county is derived from that of the city, being a shortened form of the Gaelic word Corcagh which signifies a marsh. The present county clearly corresponds with the ancient sub kingdom of Desmond or south Munster. Corka Laigdhe (pronounced Corkalee) the old territory of the O’Driscolls comprised all the district from Courtmacsherry Bay to Bantry Bay, and the peninsula between Roaring Water Bay and Dunmanus Bay was the ancient Iveagh, the territory of the O’Mahoney’s. On the point of Dursey island are three sea rocks called in English, the Bull, the Cow and the Calf; they are celebrated in legendary history as the place where Donn one of the Milesian
brothers perished in a storm with the crew of his ship. Several of the old territories are represented in name and position by baronies. Thus the old district of Beanntraighe is the Barony of Bantry; Cairbre the Baronies of Carbery; Muscraighe the Baronies of Muskerry; Duthaighe-Eada the Barony of Duhallow; Feara-Muighe the Barony of Fermoy called in later ages, the Roche' s country.

In the Barony of Duhallow, there was at Dromagh, 3 miles south-west of Kanturk an extensive coal field; Copper ore was found in various places, the chief mines being those of Allhies near Castletown, Berehaven, and the Cappagh mine on the west coast of Roaring Water bay near Skibbereen. North of Bantry Bay are the Caha mountains on the boundary of Cork and Kerry; the Miskish extending thence to the western point of the peninsula. Their most remarkable summits are Hungry Hill (2,251), near Berehaven; and Sugarloaf (1,187) west of Glengariff. East of these are mountains encircling the Pass of Keimaneigh, and the lake of Gougane Barra. The highest point is Shey Hill (1,797) at the head of Owvane Valley. North of these lies another range running east and west, beginning on the west with the Derrynasaggart Mountains (2,133) on the boundary between Cork and Kerry midway between Macroom and Killarney; east of these are the Boggeragh Mountains, culminating in Missheramoe (2,118) rising over Millstreet; further east are the Nagles Mountains terminating near Fermoy. This whole range from the west end of Derrynasaggart Mountains to Fermoy is over 40 miles in length. The Boggeragh and the Nagles Mountains define on the south the valley of the Blackwater, which has on the north the Ballyhoura range extending into Limerick. East of these are the Kilworth Mountains. Near Newmarket on the borders of Cork and Kerry is Taur (1,329) and north of it Mullaghareirk Mountains (1,341) forming part of the boundary between Cork and Limerick. Mount Gabriel (1,339) over Skull rises quite detached in the middle of a great plain.

The Headlands beginning on the east are Knockadoon, south of Youghal; Power Head and Robert’s Head at the entrance to Cork Harbour; the Old Head of  Kinsale west of Kinsale Harbour; Seven Heads east of Clonakilty Bay, and Galley Head on its west; Toe Head west of Castlehaven; Cape Clear on the south of the island with the same name; Mizen Head is the most southerly point of the Irish mainland; Muntervary or Sheep Head is the extreme point of the peninsula between the Bays of Bantry and Dunmanus; Dursey, west of Dursey island; and Crow Head on the adjacent mainland. Cod’s Head and Kilcatherine mark Coulagh Bay on the Kenmare river estuary.

The Islands taking the opposite direction are Dursey at the end of the Bear peninsula; Bear island in Bantry Bay opposite Castletown; and further inland near Bantry town is Whiddy. Cape Clear island is at the extreme south and on its south-west is the Fastnet Rock. Sherkin is between Cape Clear and the mainland with other small islands in the neighbourhood. Cork Harbour contains Great Island, Little Island and Foaty; Haulbbowline and Spike Island, formerly a Convict Station.

The Bays and Harbours are Youghal Harbour separating the counties of Cork and Waterford, where the Blackwater enters the sea; Ballycotton Bay; Cork Harbour, at the mouth of the lee; Kinsale Harbour at the mouth of the Bandon, and Courtmacsherry at the mouth of the Arigideen; next are the Bays of Clonakilty and Rosscarbery, Glandore Harbour and Castlehaven. Baltimore and Roaring Water Bays are near Cape Clear. Dunmanus and Bantry Bays are on the west; off the latter are Bearhaven and Glengariff Harbour. Kenmare Bay belongs jointly to Cork and Kerry; on the Cork side are Ballydonegan and Coulagh Bays, and Ardgroom Harbour belongs jointly to Cork and Kerry.

The chief rivers are the Blackwater and the Lee, the Bandon and their tributaries. The Blackwater rises at Knockanefune Hill near Kingwilliamstown in Kerry. It runs east and then south, forming for 11 miles the boundary between Cork and Kerry; then flowing east for over 50 miles it forms, for a couple of miles, the boundary between Cork and Waterford; then flowing through Waterford past Cappoquin, it enters the sea at Youghal. The chief tributaries of the Blackwater in Co. Cork are the Bride, the Tourig, the Glen, the Allow, the Dalna, the Awbeg (Spenser’s Mulla), the Funshion and the Araglin. The Lee rises in Gougane Barra lake, and in its course forms Inchigeela Lake, and eventually below Cork City forms Lough Mahon and enters the sea between Poewr Head and Robert’s head. The tributaries of the Lee are the Gullane and Laney; the Martin and its tributary the Blarney River;; the Glashaboy; and the Owenacurra. Another Bride river enters the Lee seven miles above Cork.

The Bandon rises at Owen Hill west of Dunmanway, and flowing by Dunmanway, Bandon and Inishannon enters Kinsale harbour. Its tributaries are the Caha, another Blackwater and the Brinny.
Other rivers in the county are the Adrigeen which enters Courtmacsharry Bay, and the Ilen river into Baltimore Bay; the Coomhola,the Owvane, and the Ealagh flow into Bantry Bay; and the Four Mile Water into Dunmanus Bay. The only Lakes calling for notice are those formed as already mentioned in the course of the River Lee.

Comparitive Statistics (1821-1926)

Census Period Population Increase/Decrease
1821     730,    444     N/A
1831     810,    732     + 80,288
1841     854,    118     +43,386
1851     649,    308     -204,810
1861     544    ,818     -104,490
1871     517,    076     -27,742
1881     495,    607     -21,469
1891     438,    432     -57,175
1901     404.    611     -33,821
1911     392,    104     -12,507
1926     365,    747     -26,357

The number of families in the county was 74,878, the average number in each family being 4.6. The number of inhabited houses was 63,245, showing an average of 4.9 people to each house. The Special Inmates of Public Institutions are omitted from the above. There were in the county 37,445 occupiers or Heads of families who were in occupation of less than 5 rooms, being 50.1% of the total for the county. Of these, 1,301 (1.9%) occupied one room; 7,729 (10.4%), two rooms; 10,649 (14%), three rooms and 17,766 (23.7%), four rooms. There were 639 tenements in the county in which the room had only one occupant; 546 cases where the room had 2-4 occupants; 101 cases of 5-7 occupants and 15 cases where the room had more than 7 occupants including one case where ten persons occupied the same room, including one case where ten persons occupied one room.

Of the population in 1926, 89.2% were born in the county, 8.6% in other counties in the Republic, 0.2% in N. Ireland, 1.5% in Great Britain, and 0.5% were born abroad.

Religious Persuasion: (1821-1926) % of population
No. of people:

Religion Number 1926 1911 1901 1891 1881 1871
RC 271,072 94.34 91.45 91.32 91.3 91.7 91.5
COI 13,791 4.86   7.29   7.31   7.4   7.2   7.1
Presbyter 468 0.13   0.33 0.33 0.4 0.4 0.3
Methodists  1,221 4 0.2  0.65 0.68 0.7 0.5 0.5
All others 705 0.25 0.28 0.36 0.2 0.2 0.6

In 1911 there were in the county 259,477 persons aged 9 years and upwards; of these 230,564 (88.9%) could read & write; 4,489 (1.7%) could read only and 24,424 (9.4%) were illiterate. As this census was the first where the starting point for age had been raised from 5 years to 9 years, no comparison could be made with the corresponding figures in any previous census. However, the report states that the percentage of those of 5 years and up who were unable to read and write was 20% in 1891, 14.2% in 1901 and 11.3% in 1911.

Years:            1911         1901          1891           1881           1871             1861
Irish only          557           065          2,270          5,571        11,532          16,478
Irish & Eng. 76,648     96,91  4     110,246      156,785     135,437         178,979

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Last updated 1 April 2004