Mitchelstown is believed to have been originally established and centred around a part of the town known as Brigown by Saint Fanahan in or around the 8th century. The town was subsequently re-designed and re-built by the Kingston family and today retains the basic layout constructed by them including several interesting stone buildings designed in a late Georgian style of architecture.
Scene: Upper Cork St
Date: 1910 (estimate)
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Read about Mitchelstown below
Mitchelstown (Irish: Baile Mhistéala) is a small country town in County Cork in the south-west of Ireland. Mitchelstown nestles in the valley to the south of the Galtee Mountains close to the Mitchelstown Caves and is roughly 25km from Cahir and roughly 36km from the Republic of Ireland's third city Limerick. The Gradog river runs by the town into the Funcheon river, which in turn is a tributary of the nearby Blackwater river.
In 1887, Irish Land League campaigners, including local man John Mandeville, helped organise a rent strike at the estate of Lady Kingston near Mitchelstown. On September 9, three estate tenants were shot dead and others wounded, by police at the town's courthouse where MP William O'Brien had been brought for trial for inciting non-payment of rent; this event became known as the Mitchelstown Massacre and is at least partly commemorated by a memorial to Mandeville unveiled in 1906 by O'Brien himself. In years to come the phrase 'Remember Mitchelstown' was subsequently much bandied about in the British House of Commons when Irish affairs were under discussion.
Mitchelstown is believed to have been originally established and centred around a part of the town known as Brigown by Saint Fanahan in or around the 8th century. The town was subsequently re-designed and re-built by the Kingston family and today retains the basic layout constructed by them including several interesting stone buildings designed in a late Georgian style of architecture. The layout established by the Earl of Kingston between 1775 and 1820 was one of the earliest planned town lay-outs in Ireland. Mitchelstown Castle itself was modelled after 1798 Windsor. Unfortunately during the Irish Civil War in 1922 the castle was vandalised and burnt to the ground ostensibly to prevent it from being used by the Irish Government and its Irish Free State Army.
Up to the 1980's Mitchelstown was the Headquarters for Mitchelstown Co-Operative Creameries, Ireland's then number one dairy processing business. This farmers 'Co-Op' was founded in 1919 under the inspirational leadership of local land-owner Chairman Con O'Brien of Killickane, Mitchelstown. He was Chairman of the 'Co-Op' for almost 50 years and then became Honorary Life President until his death in 1968. Between 1930 and 1985,a combination of strong farmer leadership, talented management, product innovation and a diligent workforce enabled Mitchelstown Co-Op Creameries to become the largest and most important Dairy Processing business in the island of Ireland. It became famous nationally for its processed cheese brands but was better known in overseas dairy industry circles for the high quality and large variety of its natural cheeses which were extensively exported around Europe and for which it earned many international prizes. In later years the site of Mitchelstown Castle was used to house an expansion of processing activities into milk powder, casein and chocolate crumb production.
In the 1930's the Co-Op promoted the introduction of intensive pig production in the Mitchelstown area as an other source of farm income. A noted agriculturalist, Sandy McGuckian from Masserene Park, Ballymena, County Antrim was engaged by the Co-Op to help train local people in modern intensive animal production methods. As a result, several of Ireland's largest Industrial Pig Production units are based in the Mitchelstown area to this day. McGuckians' sons (Alistair and Paddy) subsequently established Masstock International. Masstock became one of the pioneers of the establishment of a modern dairy industry in Saudi Arabia as a result of its minority shareholding (largely disposed of in 1991) in the Almarai Group, a joint venture with majority shareholder HH Prince Sultan Bin Mohamed Bin Saud Al Kabeer. The highly profitable Almarai Group was launched on the stock market in 2005 and is now the largest and best known vertically integrated dairy food business in the Middle East and also has the distinction of owning and operating the single largest herd of dairy cattle in the world.
In the 1980's Mitchelstown Co-Operative merged with Ballyclough Co-Operative (based in Mallow, County Cork) to create an enlarged Dairygold Co-Operative. However the Dairygold Co-Op entity seems to have found it difficult to retain the leading competitive once position held by Mitchelstown Creameries and at this point in time is no longer a premier national dairy food enterprise, having been overtaken by other Irish based international food corporations such as Glanbia Plc (Kilkenny) and Kerry Group Plc (Tralee). In a recent restructuring Dairygold Co-Op moved its headquarters out of Mitchelstown to the Cork city area breaking an important historical link first established over 87 years ago, in 1919.
The first manager of Mitchelstown Co-Operative Creameries, recruited by Chairman Con O'Brien, was a creamery manager called Eamonn Roche. Roche was a Dairy Science Diploma graduate of the Albert College in Dublin (now called Dublin City University - DCU) who had been active in the Irish War of Independence from Britain between 1916 - 1921. Roche was also a close personal friend of Eamonn De Valera who subsequently became leader of Fianna Fáil, Irish Prime Minister & later President of the Republic of Ireland.
Mitchelstown Music Festival
The Market square in Mitchelstown has seen many incarnations of the Mitchelstown Music Festival since its beginnings in the early 1990's. Originally an idea of local people over a few pints, it orinally started out as 'The Deer Festival' sponsored by a local businessman. The event was quickly titled 'The Beer Festival' locally and became a staple event on the calendar taking place yearly on the August bank Holiday weekend. The four day event saw numerous acts perform free gigs over the years including the likes of Boyzone, Samantha Mumba, Mary Black, Aslan, The Revs, The Proclaimers, Jerry Fish and many more.
After some strange line-up choices, notably Dannii Minogue in 2003 and Eamon and Coolio in 2004, the now all ticketed event fell into massive debt and the 2005 event was cancelled. With the bulk of the organising committee leaving the event, a new crew took over and in a short space of time, cleared the bulk of the debt and the festival was re-born. In 2006, the Mitchelstown Music & Arts Festival came into being and produced INDIE-PENDENCE. A free weekend of indie and alternative music mixing the best of up and coming Irish Talent and International acts. The 2006 event was a huge success with acts such as The Frank & Walters, The Chalets, The Sultans of Ping, Hybrasil, Lotus Lullaby, Roesy and many more taking to the stage. The event now looks to be going from strength to strength again and looks to have a bright future ahead of it.
Notable Mitchelstown people
Eamonn Roche's son, Kevin Roche (born 1922), was educated in Mitchelstown Christian Brothers School and in Rockwell College, County Tipperary and then graduated as an Architect from University College Dublin in 1945. In 1948, Roche emigrated to the USA and eventually became a founding partner in Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates and established himself as one of North America's most celebrated architects of the 20th. Century. Amongst many international honours, Roche was awarded Laureate of the 1982 Pritzker Prize. In 2005, Roche submitted a design for a new Irish National Conference Centre in Dublin commissioned by the Spencer Dock International Conference Centre Ltd., a consortium led by major Irish property company, Treasury Holdings Ltd. In a touch of irony, the Chief Executive of Treasury Holdings is John Ronan. Ronans grandfather, also Johnny Ronan, started his business life as a Pig Trader in the early 1920's in the townland of Anglesboro, County Limerick, three miles from Mitchelstown.
Well known Booker Prize winning novelist, William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown in the 1930's. His father was a bank clerk in the local Branch of the Bank of Ireland then located at the top of Baldwin Street just around one corner from where the aunt of Elizabeth Bowen lived in Kingston College and around another corner from King's Square where Kevin Roche was brought up.
Liam Hamilton (born 1928) the son of a local Garda was born in Church Street and was educated in Mitchelstown Christian Brothers School. Subsequently he qualified as a Barrister in the Kings Inns, Dublin, and after a long and successful advocacy career he became Chief Justice of Ireland.
Major General Jim Parker, a local farmer's son, was born in 1915 in Skeheen, Killickane and was educated in Mitchelstown Christian Brothers School. He subsequently had a distinguished military career as an army officer in the Irish Defence Forces rising to become Chief of Staff of the Irish Army in the 1970's.