Passage West, Co. Cork: Proud Tradition Of Seafaring

Historic Towns & Villages Category:

 

Passage West, Co. Cork, The Main Shipping Port Of Cork In 18th Century Ireland

 

Our Town – Our Place

Passage West, Co. Cork (An Pasáiste Thiar) is a port town situated on the west bank of Cork Harbour. It is some 10km from Cork city centre, close to all city services of shopping and amenities.

The town was designated a conservation area in the 2003 Cork County Development Plan. The G.A.A. club has been at the helm of sport in the region for 130 years and that proud tradition has been maintained and expanded in recent years as the club acquired new land to facilitate even greater expansion for the promotion and preservation of gaelic games in the community.

 

Soccer is also well catered for in the community and the local club have a magnificent complex at Rockeham Park, on the Cork city side of the town. Through the 20th century Passage had a vibrant harrier club also and rowing on the local waterside was a hugely popular sport also.

 

Passage West today is one of Cork city's principal residential dormitory towns. The town suffered from relatively high unemployment for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but recent re-development, along with the sweeping harbour views the area offers, has ensured that the town is now one of Cork's most desirable residential locations.

A substantial amount of new housing development took place in the celtic tiger years - especially on the northern edge of the town.

The towns development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep sea anchorage. The advancement of Cork's commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Owing to the shallowness of the Lee channel above the town right through to upriver Blackrock, vessels over 150 tons were unable to proceed upriver to Cork and were obliged to discharge their cargoes at Passage.

These cargoes were either unloaded on to lighters and brought up the river to Cork, or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork at that time was via Church Hill, through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farm-yard at Oldcourt, Rochestown and then on to Douglas and Cork.

 

In 1836 a new quay was built at Passage West Docks where the vessels could berth and land their passengers and freight. It was no uncommon sight to see between 70 and 80 vessels anchored in the local harbour. The eventual dredging of the Lee channel put an end to a great extent to the importance of Passage as a port.

 

The 19th century ferry between Passage and Carrigaloe also enhanced the trade of the town. Until the opening of the Cork to Cobh Railway, the traffic on this cross river ferry was very substantial.

Between 200 and 300 covered-in-cars (jingles) brought passengers from Cork to Passage by ferry daily. In the first half of the 19th century, Cobh was the principal sea-side resort in Munster and that richly enhanced the Ferry.

 

During the first twenty days of August 1836 over twenty thousand people crossed over on the ferry and this gave considerable employment. The boats were apparently large flat-bottomed ones worked by a system of cables and pulleys, and capable of taking very heavy cargoes. This ferry dated back to the reign of James 1 or even earlier.

 

The ferry fares fixed were:

- a person, a cow, a horse, 6 sheep, swine or goats - one penny.

The eventual opening of a railway line to Cobh (then known as Queenstown) caused the demise of the Passage ferry. However in the early 1990’s a car ferry service was opened between nearby Glenbrook and Carrigaloe and still continues in the 21st century.

 

Also in the 19th century, Passage West became a popular bathing resort for the citizens of Cork and the houses at Glenbrook and Toureen were in great demand during the Summer. According to a census taken in 1831 the population of Passage was 1,457 of whom 1,136 were Catholics.

 

Passage West boasted two hydropathic establishments in downriver Glenbrook.

The Victoria Baths was opened in 1808 and was very popular for many years. However it closed owing to lack of support soon after the extension of the railway to Monkstown and judging by its ruins it was a fine building. The other Baths was situated almost directly opposite the Victoria baths.

 

The opening of the Cork to Passage rail-line in June 1850 was very much in the town's favour as many visitors came to Passage to relax by the seaside. The railway was extended to Monkstown in August 1902 and in 1904 it was extended to Crosshaven.

 

From 1904 onwards Passage was no longer popular as a tourist resort and Crosshaven took over this mantle. Passage railway station finally closed on 12th September 1932 and despite the passing of many decades since closure, local residents maintain it was a shortsighted decision. In 2017 it now takes morning traffic heading out for Cork city from Passage West over one hour to reach their destination and during the lifetime of the railway in the 20th century, the same journey to Cork city took just twenty minutes.

 

One of the mainstay Passage industries in the 20th century were the local Dockyards. Hennessy's yard was situated in what is now Fr O'Flynn Park and the precise date of its opening is unknown.

This yard had the great distinction of launching in 1815 the "City of Cork" ship which was the first steamship built in Ireland.

The closing date of this dockyard is a matter for conjecture. The other and larger dockyard was the Royal Victoria Dockyard, which was laid down by Messrs. Henry and William Brown in 1832 and cost £150,000 to build and equip. It received its name from Queen Victoria on her first visit to Cork in 1849.

The Hill family of Monkstown later acquired the former The Royal Victoria Dockyard in the early 20th century as a ship breaking industry and this business thrived for several decades until its closure at the turn of the 20th century.

A property development company acquired the former dockyard in the Celtic Tiger era with intentions to construct modern apartments and a seaside hotel but this plan was abandoned when the early 21st century recession set fire to these ambitious plans.

 

As a harbour and seafaring town the lure of the sea called many Passage persons to a life of travelling the world’s oceans and emigration was always a constant factor for Passage families. The vast majority of residents now work outside the town as industry and commercial trade is in short supply in Passage. When the Celtic Tiger collapsed the curse of emigration again come to the fore and many prominent gaelic players left their native Passage shores to secure a better standard of living.

The club is ever mindful of its role in the community and work is ongoing to promote the club far and wide in its catchment areas.

The arrival of new families in recent years has been warmly welcomed and signs are already surfacing that the great influx of new talent to all the local clubs will enhance prospects to attain silverware.

 

A visit to Passage West can be a historic journey to bygone eras and very little has changed on the quayside where the ships from far off ports landed their cargoes in the 19th century.

 

It is a peaceful town and the town centre is still adorned by buildings that go back several hundred years. The friendly natives of Passage West will always spot a stranger in town and to experience life in an old traditional harbour town in Cork, make Passage West your immediate choice of destination.

We wish you a safe journey on your travels to Passage West, Co. Cork.

Editor