For many people, and particularly those who are not County Cork-born, The Southern Star is invariably confused with its one-time great rival The Skibbereen Eagle, about which so much has been written concerning the legendary ‘Eye on the Czar of Russia’ editorials.
One cannot write a history of The Southern Star without first considering The Eagle; that would be to miss one half of the story. While the two weeklies were clearly distinct titles and were bitter and most often very acrimonious rivals, their stories are also inextricably linked, and the history of these two Skibbereen newspapers represents in microcosm the story of Ireland in the past century and a half. The existence in one small town of two papers with diametrically opposed political leanings and religious affiliations was bound to produce a head-on collision that mirrored the wider national political scene.
The Southern Star offices, c1910-1917, when based in Townshend St., Skibbereen before the
move in 1932 to Ilen Street, where the company's headquarters are still based today.
The first copy of The Skibbereen Eagle was issued on May 6th 1857, by the Welsh-born Frederick Peel Eldon Potter and his two sons, so Skibbereen has a tradition of newspaper publishing dating back 154 years.
The Southern Star was founded in 1889 by two Skibbereen brothers, John and Florence O’Sullivan. One of the main reasons for establishing The Southern Star was to combat The Skibbereen Eagle as an organ of British imperialism and also as a paper very inimical to the Catholic Church.
The two newspapers co-existed for 33 years. Then, in 1922, having been in decline for some time, the Eagle ceased publication. It was launched again in 1926 by a local consortium but lasted less than two years and appeared only irregularly. In 1929 the Eagle was finally bought out by The Southern Star company. So, having helped to make history for well over half a century, the once proud Eagle was incorporated in melancholy subordination into its great rival, The Southern Star.
From its earliest days, The Southern Star has had a turbulent history. The need of the vast majority of the population for some organ to represent them was obvious and it was perhaps not surprising that the local Catholic clergy played a prominent role in the early years of the company.
After the turn of the century, influence of the Catholic clergy on The Southern Star gradually waned and the newspaper became more and more political in its outlook. After 1910, the company was completely reorganised and very shortly after the 1916 Rising a more positive national policy was being adopted, though often under harassment from the British authorities. On November 13th 1916, the paper was suppressed by an order of General Sir John Maxwell and did not appear again until December 16th.
From 1919 onwards, the paper was under continued pressure from the authorities and it was suppressed on four more separate occasions. At one period, it was closed from September 1918 for a lengthy six months session, and another considerable period of suppression occurred in 1920.
A major milestone for the newspaper was in 1932 with the changeover to a brand new Cossar printing press, constituting a tremendous step forward from the sheet-fed machines that printed the paper up to that point.
That press was in use up to 1975 when The Southern Star became one of the first newspapers in Ireland to move from the old letterpress printing methods and, with a completely new press, change over to web offset printing.
The Southern Star is one of the few remaining independently owned provincial newspapers in Ireland. The late Mr Liam O’Regan, one of the best known newspaper men in the country, was for many years controlling director and his tenure of 50 years as editor, up to the time of his death in January 2009, was, without doubt, the most important single contribution in The Southern Star’s history. The O’Regan family retain ownership of the newspaper, maintaining that link back to 1919 when the late Mr Joe O’Regan first became a director of the company. Read Liam O'Regan's obituary here.
For an area like West Cork, on the absolute periphery of Europe, it is vitally important that it maintains and promotes its own identity. The Southern Star plays a unique and leading role in this. Through its leader columns, this newspaper constantly highlights and promotes the issues which affect West, Mid and South Cork and it gives an outlet to a range of voices which speak from the platform it provides.
The Southern Star is now available in digital format, making the ‘local’ very much a ‘global’. Traditionally, the paper has been posted out to expatriates in many parts of the world. They can now keep up with news and happenings in West, Mid and South Cork by taking out a weekly, monthly or yearly subscription either of the traditional newspaper or in digital format.
With emigration, unfortunately, again so widespread in West Cork, The Southern Star provides that valuable link for those abroad and keeps them in touch with all that is happening.
To purchase The Southern Star in a digital format please click here. You can also read a sample edition in a digital format.
The Southern Star has a very rich vein running through it. It has wonderful tradition and loyalty among its readers. It began in the 1880s at a time when this country was in a very precarious state, politically and socially. It survived that period; it survived the 1916 period right through the War of Independence and Civil War; it survived two World Wars; it survived a few periods of mass emigration from this most peripheral of areas. It has survived and prospered.
At this time of great change in the industry, The Southern Star is strong and well positioned to meet the challenges for the next generation. While retaining all its old traditional values, the company will be a media hub providing an important range of services to the public and business community of West Cork, embracing all the new and exciting advances and developments in news, sporting and social media.
You can search through all our archive newspaper editions on Irish News Archive here.