A Letter from Ireland:
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Come Down to the Irish Pub

Here is a Family History revolving around an Irish Pub. There is a lot of literature on the plight of the people who had to leave Ireland for various reasons, and not as much on the peoples who migrated to Ireland. In this letter, we will focus on one town in Cork, and look at the names and histories of the different groups that settled there.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to your Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things in your part of the world today? We’re settling nicely into an early summer here in County Cork. There are some lovely sunny mornings following a massive dawn chorus about 5.00am! I’m having a nice cup of Lyon’s Tea as I write – and I do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.

Most of our  readers have ancestors and relatives who left Ireland. However, let’s not forget that there were many migrants who came into Ireland – usually seeking a fortune or living of some sort. Often to the displeasure and annoyance of the local natives! They were soldiers, adventurers, farmers and so on. Then, there were those who migrated around Ireland from early times. People such as shoemakers, soldiers, policemen, hedge-school teachers and so on.

Today’s story looks at a story concerning some of these people. We  have the descendants of a Norman Knight who came to Ireland in the 1100s, an English family who arrived sometime in the 1600s and a policeman who “migrated” from Tipperary to Cork. And we’ll tie them all together in one special Irish pub.

You see, in a few weeks time, we’re having our inaugural Green Room Hooley here in Skibbereen. Our musical HQ for the event will be William O’Brien’s Corner Bar – a lovely old Irish pub with a reputation for the best in Irish music and hospitality. As you already know, behind every Irish pub is a good story or two – so here is the story behind the Corner Bar in Skibbereen.

The Corner Bar, Bridge Street, Skibbereen

The Norman Knights of Wales.

So many Irish surnames we know today came out of the Norman lands of south Wales in 1100s – names such as Barry, Fitzgerald, Walsh, Prendergast, Joyce and so on. These were the name and surnames of the Norman lords that accompanied Richard de Clare, or “Strongbow”, on the first Norman incursion into Ireland. One of these Lords was called Miles de Cogan. De Cogan did so well on those initial forays into Ireland, he was granted half of the “Kingdom of Cork” alongside another Norman knight, Robert Fitzstephen in the 1170s.

Over the following centuries, the success of the Cogan family waned in the Cork region – especially when compared to other Norman families such as the Barrys or the Fitzgeralds. As time went on, like many Irish surnames – it started to appear in different English spellings. There was Cogan, of course – mostly found around Cork City. Then there was the less-numerous Gogan. Finally, the version of the name that seemed to survive the best was Goggin – which you can see here sprinkled all over the south-west. Do you have one of those Irish surnames that seems to have so many variations?

There is a tradition in Ireland for many places to be named after a particular local family. Goggin is one such example – we have “Goggins Hill” just up the road nearby. Also, when one John Goggin opened a public house on Bridge Street in Skibbereen in 1880, the location quickly became known as “Goggin’s Corner”. Despite his early death, his widow Katherine and sons took over the Pub which remains in business to this day. This descendant of Miles de Cogan located his bar right beside Hosford’s Grocers and Newsagent.

About the Time of Cromwell.

The surname Hosford appeared in Ireland for the first time about the mid 1600s. At this time, Cromwell had finished his “excursion” into Ireland, and granted lands by way of payment to many of his soldiers. Of course, many of these soldiers had no intention of settling in Ireland and sold the land on to English settlers. One of these families were the Hosfords who came into County Cork about that time – and over the centuries they spread across much of West Cork.

The family of Archibald Hosford had been in Skibbereen for some time when he opened a Grocery shop in the late 1800s on Bridge Street in the town. Now, Hosfords Grocery Shop had one other particular distinction – they were the main ticket agent for the Cunard Line at the time (phrase used twice). If your ancestor left this area of West Cork for new life in the USA, UK or Australia, the chances are they bought their ticket in this very same shop.

The Tipperary Policeman.

In the late 1950s, a policeman from Tipperary with the surname O’Brien was assigned to the town of Skibbereen. He quickly found reason to stay as he married into the pub-owning Goggin family located on Goggins Corner. In 1970, he saw a chance to enlarge the pub when Hosford’s Grocery located next door went up for sale. They knocked the two buildings together to create what we know as the Corner Bar today. I was speaking recently with William, the owner – and he told me how they wanted to honour the older Goggin name, and the newer O’Brien one – so they compromised and called the new venue “The Corner Bar”.

You can also have a quiet pint in that part of the pub which used to be Hosford’s emigration agents – and think back on the thousands of Irish migrants who bought their way to a “better life” while standing on these same floorboards. So, if you are joining us for the Hooley – you have lots to look forward to – including the great music and hospitality of the Corner Bar.  Either way, if you are travelling to Skibbereen in the near future, do drop in and say hello. You might even have the good fortune to hear a tune or two.

I want to leave you with the recording of just one session from that same Corner Bar: Click here to hear a session from The Corner Bar.

That’s it for this week – as always do feel free to share your stories, comments and Irish surnames in your family.

Slán for now,

Mike & Carina.

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