The Clock Gate
Youghal is a bustling and picturesque town in the East Riding of County Cork, standing on the estuary of the River Blackwater. Being built on the edge of a steep riverbank, the town has a distinctive long and narrow layout. It is a touruist destination, and also served as a commuter town for Cork and Waterford.
In former days, Youghal was militarily and economically important. Today Youghal is regarded as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland. It is a walled seaport town and within its walls are many historic buildings and monuments. It has been designated as an Irish Heritage Port by the Irish Tourist Board.
The name of the town derives from the yew woods (Eochaill) which were once plentiful in the area.
Fishing in the River Blackwater (noted for salmon, trout and coarse fishing), golf, sailing, angling, pitch and putt and yachting are just some of the facilities that are located either nearby or in the town.
The economic downturn hit Youghal tourism hard; the town saw a marked decrease in 2008.
History and architecture
Youghal received its charter of incorporation in 1209, but the history of settlement on the site is much longer, with a Norse settlement being present in the 9th century. 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 still bears the etched outline of a longship. The Church of Coran in the town's western suburbs dates from the 5th century, and evidence of neolithic habitation has been found at nearby Newport.
Notable buildings in the town include Myrtle Grove and St Mary's Collegiate Church, thought to have been founded by St Declan around 450. The church was rebuilt in Irish Romanesque style around 750, and a great Norman nave was erected in about 1220. It is one of the few remaining mediæval churches in Ireland to have remained in continuous use as a place of worship. Since the 16th Century it has been the place of worship of the Church of Ireland congregation of Youghal and its surrounding areas.
The town was badly damaged on November 13, 1579, during the Second Desmond Rebellion, when it was sacked by the forces of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond. Desmond had the town's garrison massacred, the English officials were hanged and his soldiers looted the townspeople. The down town area of Youghal is among the best preserved in Ireland. The first record of the walls is a charter of 1275, granted by King Edward I, for their repair and extension.
In 1777, the town's Clock Gate was built on the site of Trinity Castle, part of the town's fortifications. The Clock Gate served the town as gaol and public gallows until 1837; prisoners were executed by being hanged from the windows. Tynte's Castle is a late 15th-century urban tower house. There are also 17th-century almshouses, constructed by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. St Mary's Collegiate Church in the town still contains many monuments, including the tomb of Richard Boyle himself. The Mall House and its promenade were built in 1779, and are now used as Youghal's Town Hall.
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.
During the 17th century Youghal was one of Ireland's main ports, far more important than Cork which was described as 'a port near Youghal.' However, from the 18th century onwards, Youghal suffered much the same fate as nearby Ardmore: as ships became larger, they were unable to get into Youghal Harbour because of a shallow sandbar at its mouth.
In 1840 a large hoard of coins were dug up in a field near Youghal weighing between 'three hundred and four hundred ounces' Coin Hoard Article
An interesting aside in Youghal's history is that it was the first town in Ireland or Great Britain to have a Jewish Mayor, when a Mr William Annyas was elected to that position in 1555.
- The Countess of Desmond (1464–1604), who lived in nearby Finisk Castle is reputed to have fallen to her death at the age of 140 attempting to pick cherries from a tree.
- Sir Walter Raleigh was Mayor of Youghal in 1588 and 1599 and lived at Myrtle Grove, the Warden's Residence of the Collegiate Church. "As part of a group of entrepreneurial soldiers and administrators to form the new English government in Munster. These men were arriving in Ireland at a time when English Royal administration was reasserting its power in Munster following the Desmond Rebellion. The first potatoes in Europe were planted in the gardens of Myrtle Grove in 1585. Myrtle Grove's South Gable is where Edmund Spencer is reputed to have written part of his poem The Faerie Queen. The house is not open to the public, except during the summer months when tours are organised for the public.
- Sir Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, 1st Viscount Dungarvan, 1st Baron Boyle of Youghal, Lord High Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland (although simply known as The Great Earl of Cork). "Boyle is closely associated with the history of Youghal, purchasing the town as part of his acquisition of the Munster estate of Sir Walter Raleigh.", had a substantial residence at Youghal, known today as "The College", close to St. Mary's Collegiate Church.
- Sir Robert Tynte (d 1663) b Kilcredan graveyard, near Ladysbridge, Co Cork of Ballycrenane and Tynte's Castle Youghal. "Tynte's castle became [his] property when it was indefinitely leased to him by the Corporation and thereby acquired its present name. Tynte occupied the office of Sheriff of Cork from 1625 to 1626.
- William Cooke Taylor (16 April 1800 - 12 September 1849), Writer, Journalist, Historian and Corn Laws|anti-Corn Law propagandist. Born in Youghal, died at 20 Herbert Street, Dublin.
- Abraham Dowdney (1841-1886), a United States Representative from New York, as well as an officer in the Union army during the American Civil War was born in Youghal.
- William Spotswood Green (1847–1919), naturalist.
- Communist journalist Claud Cockburn and his wife Patricia, artist, conchologist and traveller, lived in the town for many years. He described it, memorably, as "standing at a slight angle to the universe".
- Novelist William Trevor spent some of his early years in Youghal, and featured the town in his short story "Memories of Youghal".
- In 1954, John Huston filmed part of Moby-Dick there, with the town standing in for New Bedford, Massachusetts|New Bedford. A licensed premises in the town still bears the name of the movie.
- Eddie O'Sullivan was appointed Ireland rugby coach in December 2001, replacing Warren Gatland. He had earlier coached Connacht, and was involved in the US Eagles coaching set up with George Hook in the early 1990s.
- Christy Cooney was appointed chairperson of the GAA in 2009.
Youghal adjoins a number of fine beaches including the famous 3 mile beach to the east of the town. In 2010 two of Youghal's beaches have been awarded blue flags for water cleanliness and availability of other amenities.
In the 1950s and 1960s Youghal was a popular seaside resort, with thousands taking the train to the beach. Many tourists to the town are attracted by its historic buildings and natural surroundings. The town is steeped in history and was once one of the busiest ports in the country, even more important than Cork and Dublin at one time. With the closing of the railway line in the 1970s, the town went into a period of decline, reinforced by the difficulties encountered by the town's textile industry. Since the 1990s, aided by favourable property tax concessions, there has been considerable reinvestment and construction to restore Youghal's facilities and popularity.
According to "An A to Z of Youghal: The history and people of Eochaill," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent a holiday in Youghal with his wife and created the character of Inspector Youghal of the C.I.D. for The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone.