Congratulations to Dursey Island in Co Cork and the island's famous cable car for being listed in National Geographic's "2024 Cool List," one of only two Irish destinations to feature.
In celebration, it might be interesting to reflect for a moment on the island's grizzly history. The Dursey Island Massacre in 1602 was a massacre of the members of the O'Sullivan clan in Cork. Their leader Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare was the last of the last of the Gaelic Lords in Ireland.
This is the story of Dursey Island Massacre...
It's the last hurrah of Celtic Ireland after a rebellion by Irish Lords against Queen Elizabeth of England in the country ends in defeat in the Battle of Kinsale in Co Cork 1601.
A combined force of Irish rebels and Spanish troops was comprehensively vanquished during the Battle of Kinsale on a field of battle that would become known in local folklore as the "field of slaughter."
What follows is recriminations from both the Irish and Spanish sides. Each blames the other for the disaster. Irish Lords, one by one, are forced to throw themselves at the mercy of Queen Elizabeth of England. Most are stripped of their wealth, lands, and power.
Not satisfied with the demise of Celtic Ireland, the Queen is keen to exact further revenge.
Some Irish refuse to bow to a foreign ruler, and instead vow to continue the fight. One such Lord by the name of Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare takes to the field of battle in a futile last stand.
As the O'Sullivan clan is hunted down in Cork, around 40 soldiers and 260 O'Sullivan civilians retreat to a little-known island called Dursey off the tip of Co Cork in southern Ireland. The island, situated in the wild Atlantic Ocean, is a bleak, desolate, and isolated spot. Here, the Celtic clan takes refuge in a small fort and prepares their defences.
When George Carew, the Queen's commander, receives word of this retreat, he immediately marches on the island. When he reaches the coast, he steals boats from locals, which he ladens with soldiers and cannon to sack the fort, and sets out for the short crossing in the stormy weather.
After Carew and his troops successfully land on the island, the battle commences, the defenders fight bravely with many men dying in battle. After the invaders issue a promise of safety, the remaining civilians and soldiers surrender.
Carew, the English commander, goes back on his word though and the captive Irish are hanged, run-through with swords, or tied up and thrown off the high cliffs on the island into the Atlantic Ocean below to perish on the rocks.
The last of the O'Sullivan clan on the mainland, around 1,000 Irish men, women, and children are forced to make a death march towards Co Leitrim around 300 miles to the North. Harried and attacked the whole way, only 35 reach the safety of friendly territory in Leitrim.
This is the story of Dursey Island and the dark tale of the Dursey Island Massacre. If you're lucky enough to visit, spare a thought for the members of the O'Sullivan clan who lost their lives in the most brutal ways imaginable on this tragic day in 1602.
*Dara Burke is a local storyteller and True. Cork. Rebel. When he's not helping guests experience the real 'Rebel City' on his Rebel City Tour of Cork, featuring local food, local drink, and exciting Rebel tales, he's creating guides of things to do in Cork. Join him on his exciting Cork walking tour to immerse yourself in real Cork culture and make the most of your time in the city.
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