Youghal (YAWL; Irish: Eochaill, meaning "yew wood") is a seaside resort town in County Cork, Ireland. Sitting on the estuary of the River Blackwater, in the past it was militarily and economically important. Being built on the edge of a steep riverbank, the town has a distinctive long and narrow layout. As of the 2016 census the population was 7,963.

Since 2000 the town has experienced a strong decline in its former extensive industrial base, but there are plans for revitalisation taking advantage of the town's unique assets. As a historic walled seaport town on the coastline of East Cork, it has many historic buildings and monuments within its ancient town walls, and has been designated as an Irish Heritage Port by the Irish Tourist Board. It remains a popular tourist destination.


The name Youghal comes from the Irish Eochaill meaning "yew woods", which were once plentiful in the area. Older anglicisations of this name include Youghall, Yoghel and Yochil.

History and architecture

Youghal received its charter of incorporation in 1209, but the history of settlement on the site is much longer, with Viking settlements dating back to the 11th century, the Church of Coran in the town's western suburbs dating from the 5th century, and evidence of Neolithic habitation at nearby Newport.

Notable buildings in the town include Sir Walter Raleigh's home Myrtle Grove and the St Mary's Collegiate Church, thought to have been founded by St. Declan around 450. The church was rebuilt in Irish Romanesque style in about 750, and a great Norman nave was erected in about 1220. It is one of the few remaining medieval churches in Ireland to have remained in continuous use as a place of worship. The Vikings used Youghal as a base for their raids on monastic sites along the south coast of Ireland, and a stone in St Mary's Collegiate Church bears the ancient etched outline of a longboat. Since the 16th-century Plantation of Munster it has been the place of worship of the Church of Ireland congregation of Youghal and its surrounding areas.

As the centre of English power in south Munster, the town was badly damaged on 13 November 1579, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, when it was sacked by the forces of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, who massacred the garrison, hanged the English officials and looted the townspeople's homes. Even so, the downtown area of Youghal is among the best-preserved in Ireland. The revenge killings that followed this included that of a priest, Daniel O'Neilan, OSF, on 28 March 1580. He was fastened round the waist with a rope and thrown with weights tied to his feet from one of the town-gates at Youghal, finally fastened to a mill-wheel and torn to pieces.

The first record of the walls is a charter of 1275, granted by King Edward I, for their repair and extension.

Clock Gate Tower – In 1777, the town's Clock Gate Tower was built on the site of Trinity Castle, part of the town's fortifications. It was used as a prison during the rebellion of 1798. The military hanged suspects from a pole lashed from the lower windows to the corner of the first house on South Main Street (now Luigi's). Thomas Gallagher was one of those hanged for trying to seduce a soldier from allegiance to his regiment. Numerous forms of torture were conducted therein including thumb screws, pitch-cap, rack and flogging. A local priest, Peter O'Neill, was flogged 275 strokes with a cat-o'-nine-tails with pieces of tin knotted in, in an attempt to induce him to reveal the names of politically involved people heard in the confessional.

The Clock Gate served the town as gaol and public gallows until 1837 when it was considered "defective in several of the accommodations essential to the health of prisoners". It then became a family home until 1959 when the last family left.

Tynte's Castle – a late 15th-century urban tower house. It is almost the only fortified relic of the era now in Youghal. It was built by the Walsh family in 1602 and leased by the corporation to the Tynte family towards the end of the reign of King James I. It is shown in a map of Youghal dated 1663 as one of the defences of the town. The building was passed down through the Tynte family and is now the property of the McCarthy family.

The 17th-century almshouses were constructed by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork in 1602 for widows. Each tenant received two shillings a week, enough to sustain her. Around the same time (1612), Sir Richard Boyle built a hospital and a free school. For his efforts in colonising Munster, Sir Richard Boyle was granted the title and dignity Lord Boyle in 1616. When a poll tax of two shillings was introduced in 1697, those living by alms were exempt. St Mary's Collegiate Church in the town still contains many monuments, including the tomb of Richard Boyle himself.

Town Hall – A new Tholsel was erected in 1753 by the corporation, in lieu of that taken down in 1745. It contained an exchange, Council House, Custom House and Grand Jury room. It was situated outside the town walls beside the Water Gate. The town's Water Gate was built in the 13th century to provide access through the town walls to the docks. Also known as Cromwell's Arch, it was from here that Oliver Cromwell left Ireland in 1650, having overwintered in the town after his campaign in Ireland. The Mall itself was used as a fashionable promenade and kept in excellent order by the mayor. A military band played there on summer evenings and a play was held every Thursday evening in a little theatre therein. Respectable inhabitants met on the Mall for social interaction every evening after the engagements of the day. The town was frequented by the leading gentry of Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary. Youghal, in addition to its own yeomanry, was garrisoned by a regiment of German troops and the Wexford militia in 1797. Every precaution was taken for the safety of the town causing for hilly areas to be scrapped and made impassable. Gates were erected at both ends of the town and the town hall was converted into occasional prisons and guard rooms. The outlying gentry for the most part came into the town as a place of safety. The Mall House is now used as Youghal's Town Hall.

Youghal was the first town in Ireland or Britain to have a Jewish mayor when William Annyas was elected to that position in 1555; and the town's small but significant Huguenot settlement provided a number of mayors such as Richard Paradise (1683), Edward Gillett (1721) and Joseph Labatte (1752)

 In 1350, the monastery of St John the Evangelist was founded. It was an affiliated branch of the wealthy Benedictine Priory of St. John of Waterford. The main building is of amazing strength and appears to have been intended to combine a fortress with a religious retreat. Oliver Cromwell fixed his residence at the Priory of St. John's on the main street in winter 1649.

When Sir Walter Raleigh brought the first potatoes from Virginia to Ireland in 1585, he planted them at his home at Myrtle Grove, Youghal. For the following two years he was mayor of the town. Queen Elizabeth I granted him 42,000 acres (170 km2) of land in Youghal. He lived at Myrtle Grove, where he entertained the poet Spenser, who is said to have written part of the "Fairie Queen" there. In the gardens are four yew trees said to have been planted by Raleigh. Raleigh made his final trip from Cork to the West Indies in 1617.

Youghal Lighthouse – In 1202, the Geraldine proprietors of the town built a lighthouse on the cliff at the west side of the mouth's harbour. The original tower was seven-and-a half metres tall and three metres in diameter. They also richly endowed a nunnery called the Chapel of St. Annes under the condition that the nuns should see that the light was regularly maintained. The nuns did so until the reformation in the 1530s, when the lighthouse and the convent were confiscated. The beacon was discontinued in about 1542. The current lighthouse, made from granite imported from Scotland, was designed by George Halpin and work began on its construction in 1848. It was not until February 1852 that the harbour light was first displayed. The lantern is 78 feet (24 m) above sea level.

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