Sea Echoes: The maritime pride of Ballycotton

Sea Echoes: The maritime pride of Ballycotton
The east Cork coastal town of Ballycotton. Picture: Daniel Callen.

As a junior reporter I was told the story of the Ballycotton Cross, part of the history of this East Cork coastal village.

A Celtic cross with a centre glass jewel and an inscription in Arabic, it was said to have been found in a boggy area near the village. In 1875, it was recorded that a local antiquarian, named Philip Gardner, donated it to the British Museum. It has been referred to in academic papers dealing with historical and maritime links between Northern Europe and Islam.

How it got there is not known, but Ballycotton has a strong maritime heritage. A fishing, lifeboat and lighthouse village it was once swamped by the sea so that the present village had to be repositioned from a previous site.

My first job there was to report the Sunday evening angling weigh-ins on the pier.

I described Ballycotton as a village sitting on a rocky ledge overlooking a spectacular bay. Amongst its historical links is that on January 16, 1847 the famous, Sirius, struck Smith’s Rock, south/west of Ballycotton, in dense fog and became a total wreck. In 1838 Sirius, sailing from Cork Harbour had been the first ship to cross the Atlantic under steam.

The people of the village are a maritime community. They have pride in a history which includes the Mary Stanford lifeboat that carried out the Daunt Rock Lightvessel rescue, still regarded as the most famous in the RNLI’s history in Ireland. They battled for and won the return of that lifeboat to their village, where it is now an onshore tribute to the men who carried out that rescue and a part of Ireland’s national maritime history.

This week the community began a campaign to raise the public profile of their village.

They have produced their ‘Guide to Ballycotton,’ a reference and historical publication.

Sales and advertising revenue will be used for village development.

“Our aim is to elevate the village’s economic sustainability, to do things ourselves, for our community,” they said. ‘Seafood & Shanty Ballycotton’ is to be held on Sunday, June 4, the Bank Holiday Weekend, “celebrating village life by the sea, fishing, local food, from the sea and field and the songs of the sea. Lifeboat and Coast Guard demonstrations will take place. On the pier, local chefs will demonstrate sushi, how to fillet fish and cook fish dishes. The first ‘Crab Derby’ will be held. Visitors can follow shanty groups on a ‘singing trail,’ from hostelry-to- hostelry.

“This new initiative and others planned will ensure Ballycotton’s future is bright,” said Helen Cuddigan of the organising committee.


The Northwest Atlantic is one of the world’s largest sinks of carbon dioxide, but there is a huge lack of data about the impact of climate change. Ireland is leading a team of researchers from six nations who are taking the temperature of the Atlantic. 

They are aboard the research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer, on a trans-Atlantic scientific voyage which started from St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and is due in Galway on May 23.


The ‘Oceans Beyond Piracy’ project has reported that the total economic cost of maritime crime in West Africa stands at $794 million. Armed attacks on ships there doubled last year, with pirates increasingly kidnapping the crews for ransom off Nigeria.


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