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Find out about Early History in Beara!
Look at how Castletownbere has changed!
What were the Allihies Copper Mines?
A (short) history of dunboy Castle







Early History

History is an extremely important subject because it tells you all about the past. If you know about your past then you have a much better understanding of the present.

Beara has a lot of very interesting historical sites. The images down below are all examples of historical sites that date back to the time of the first settlers in Ireland. That's over 4000 years ago!!

Take a good look at all these pictures because they can tell you an awful lot about our early ancestors. If you want to see more of these pictures, head over to the Gallery and follow the link to the Beara Historical Society's Website!


Derrintaggert Stone Circle
The Hag of Beara
The Celts


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Castletownbere through the Ages

Castletownbere is the biggest town in the Beara Peninsula and it is the main fishing port of the area. The 'modern' town was first established in the late 1700's or perhaps the early 1800's. It was mainly a fishing town but a farmer's market to sell cattle and produce was held there once a week.

The Castletownbere area got its name from the very powerful Irish family - the O'Sullivan Bere Clan. This family owned the majority of the Beara Peninsula during the 15th and 16th centuries. However, records show that this family was very popular with the local peasants as they often handed out free food at least twice a month. This was very unusual as landlord families like the O' Sullivan Beres were not meant to be nice to their tenants. Unfortunately, the O' Sullivan Bere Family, who were the original owners of Dunboy Castle, were forced to leave their home by the English Army who overthrew them after a long and bloody battle in 1603.

Castletownbere has changed a lot over the years - just look at the pictures below!


The Old Cametrignane Hotel The New Cametrignane Hotel
Cametrignane Hotel in the year 1842 and in the year 2007
The Old Wooden Pier of Castletwonbere The Refurbished Stone Pier

The Old and New piers -

1965 and 2005

An old picture of the main street of Castletownbere The current main street of Castletownbere

These pictures show Castletownbere's main street in 1910 and 2006.

Can you spot the differences?

The original Murphy's SuperValu The Current Murphy's SuperValu

This is Murphy's stores in 1929 and in 2009.

If you look very carefully at the two pictures, you will see that some of the features next door to the store remain the same (the windows and the paint job!)

Castletownbere in 1920 Castletownbere in 2010 Castletownbere: 1920 and 2010.


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Allihies Copper Mines

In the 1800s Allihies was, perhaps, one of the busiest villages in Ireland. Why?

Allihies had one of the largest deposits of copper in the country at this time. Metals like copper, silver and gold are called minerals and they are found in rocks or underground. When these metals are removed from the rocks, we say that they have been mined. On its own, copper is a very weak metal. However, when it is mixed with tin it becomes a different, and much stronger, metal called bronze.

Therefore, any place with tin or copper was a very busy palce indeed - such as Allihies in the Beara Peninsula. Between 1812 and 1884 over 290,000 tonnes of copper were mined in Allihies. The copper mines were a very important industry for the area as, at one point, over 1800 people were employed by the mines. These mines were owned by many different business men, including John Puxley and his sons. The Puxley also owned Dunboy Castle in Castletownbere as well.

Working in the mines was sometimes a very dangerous job because the air quality was very poor underground. It was espescially dangerous to be a miner when new mines were being dug with dynamite and gunpowder. Many of the miners died from rockfalls when too much of these explosive materials were used. The biggest mine was An Míneach Mór, which was also called the Mountain Mine. This mine house was first built in 1830 and it is still intact today, as you can see from the pictures below.

After the copper was mined in Allihies it was transported by horse and trap to Castletownbere. From there it was taken by boat to Cornwall in England. There were tin deposits in Cornwall and it was here that bronze was made by mixing Allihies Copper with Cornwall Tin.

By 1884 however, there was less and less copper to mine and the Puxleys made some very poor business decisions. As a result, the mines closed down. Many of the miners then emigrated to the copper mines in Butte Montana in the USA.


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Dunboy Castle

Two miles outside Castletownbere, there are some very impressive ruins. These are the ruins of Dunboy Castle.

Dunboy Castle (Caisleáin Dún Baoi) was built in the early 1500s. It was the home of the great Irish Chieftain - O' Sullivan Bere. It is from this family that Castletownbere gets its name. O' Sullivan Bere and his family were said to be very popular rulers of the local Irish peasants as they were meant to be very fair and kind.

At this time, however, Ireland was in turmoil. The British were slowly taking over the country by slowly getting rid of the original Irish chieftains and then taking their land. The Irish chieftains tried to stop the British at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, but they failed.

O' Sullivan Bere was one of the chieftains who oraganised the Battle of Kinsale. As a result, the British decided to eliminate him. Queen Elizabeth sent one of her best generals, Sir George Carew, to Castletownbere to get rid of O' Sullivan Bere and his troops in 1602. O' Sullivan Bere had 143 men defending his castle. Carew attacked the Castle with 5000 men. Amazingly, the 143 men managed to defend their castle for almost 11 days. However, the castle was soon over-run when Carew started to use cannons. Most of the O' Sullivan Bere clan, including O' Sullivan Bere himself, were killed. The British were in control of the Beara Peninsula from that point on, and they maintained a heavy naval presence until 1943.

In the late 1700s, the Puxley family came to Beara. The Puxley family were in charge of the Allihies Copper Mines and they were very wealthy. They bought the site that had the ruins of Dunboy castle and decided to build a mansion next to the ruins. However, they never fully finished the mansion as they became bankrupt and they had to leave the country. The site was then given back to the people of Beara.

However, in 1921 this mansion was burned down in the Irish War of Independence by the IRA who saw it as a symbol of British rule in Ireland.

In 2007, there were plans to turn the Castle ruins and Puxley's burned mansion into a luxery hotel. However, the company that was building this luxury hotel also became bankrupt in 2009.





Many people believe that Dunboy Castle is cursed. It has had terrible luck since it has first been built. Some people believe that the old druids from the O' Sullivan Bere clan cursed it when they were run out of it by Carew. Others believe that the Puxley family's terrible luck has permanently cursed the place.

However, others say that Dunboy was cursed long before any of this happened.

Legend says that when the castle was first being built, the workers decided to stop and play a game of chess, or fichelle as it was known in the 1500s. Apparently, the Devil came up from Hell to play the game with the workers. The Devil is said to have disguised himself as a fellow worker and played chess with all the men. The Devil won all the games - and all the men's souls.

The Devil decided to keep these souls for himself and was meant to have put them in a leather satchel. However, when he returned to Hell he is said to have forgotten the satchel. He vowed to return to Dunboy to collect these souls one day.

The souls in the satchel are said to wait for the Devil to return for them. But until then, they are said to guard the grounds of Dunboy to ensure that no-one else will be in danger from the Devil when he returns for them and that is why the grounds of Dunboy seem plagues with a curse - for everyone's own protection.




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