Southern Star Ltd. logo
Premium Exclusives

Ahoy, matey! I found a family link to the pirate raids on Baltimore

August 14th, 2023 11:00 AM

Ahoy, matey! I found a family link to the pirate raids on Baltimore Image

Share this article


I’M still in West Cork this week and I’ve been tuning in and turning on to a more relaxed wavelength and dropping out of the washing machine of my normal busy life back in Dublin. 

Regular trips to Red Strand and Long Strand with the kids and on the bike certainly help. And I love nothing more than a bit of night kayaking to really reset the soul. It’s our third year in a row taking part in the brilliant night kayaking tour put on by Atlantic Sea Kayaking. Without overselling the thing, it’s essentially a semi-spiritual experience, a chance to spend some time communing with nature on one of Ireland’s most beautiful nature reserves. I highly recommend it. 

We’ve had wonderful experiences kayaking in Castlehaven Bay over past summers but this year we opted for the Lough Hyne tour instead, and took a lovely, mindful paddle around the lake with a group which gathered together tourists from around Ireland and the world, and a few oddball locals like myself. 

You get a real sense of how special the lake is from an ecological perspective, being one of the most thoroughly researched bodies of water in the world. And it’s a privilege to see the sparkling blue lights of the bioluminescence that light up the water as the twilight fades. We should treasure it. 

Apart from getting to know some wonderful facts about ecology, one of my favourite things about these tours is the way the guides weave in anecdotes about the history of West Cork. Our tour guide this year, Declan, was no different and had fascinating tales to tell of locals dancing on the piers during penal times and the exile of local chieftain Sir Fineen O’Driscoll to Cloghan Island in the middle of the lake, where some ruins of his castle still remain. The rest of the castle is said to have been knocked by the barking of a ghostly black dog. 

It got me wondering, with the O’Driscoll name in my own family, how I might be connected to this local history.

Stories of Fineen led to the Sack of Baltimore and the kidnapping of over 100 souls by pirates from the Barbary Coast. It was O’Driscoll who had sold the town to the English Puritan settlers on June 20th 1610, and these were the victims of the infamous raid on the town by Dutch pirate Murad Reis the Younger in June 1631. Later that evening, I had The Stolen Village by Des Ekin downloaded onto the Kindle and I was deep in West Cork history again, Wild Atlantic Wally back again for a second year. 

But that’s when something very strange happened. The following day, after our kayaking trip, I was presented with a partially complete family tree from my mother’s side of the family and right at the top of the tree linking down to my great-grandmother was the name John Davis – the same John Davis who I had just read about in Stolen Village and who was part of that same community of settlers in Baltimore way back in the 1600s. In fact, Davis was himself killed during the raid. 

I had half expected to find a connection with the O’Driscoll clan, which I’m sure is there too, but the last thing I expected was to find a direct line to the community of Anglican Puritans who were attacked and taken to North Africa by pirates in suspicious circumstances.

And people say local history is only for old bores ...!

‘Pass’ around the bucket

EYEBROWS were raised this week with the news that Kerry’s majestic Conor Pass was up for sale for €10m. Whatever next? David Clifford’s calf muscles?

The Conor Pass is currently owned by an American called Michael Noonan who has mainly used the land to graze sheep. As we all know, this is an ecologically catastrophic way to manage uplands and there have been loud calls all week for the state to step in and buy the 1,400 acres of land and forestry as a public amenity.

Of course, there are some who take a different view. 

Michael Healy Rae, a man from whom opinions are known to escape at great speed and volume, believes such public money would be better spent on the housing crisis and getting families into homes. No doubt, he’d be glad for one of his many businesses to take part in such a patriotic effort. But he has a point – the government would probably get a raw deal on the land in the short term, even if the long-term value of rewilding it is priceless. 

I think I might act myself if nobody else does. I plan to do a GoFundMe campaign to buy the Conor Pass and extend West Cork into the Dingle peninsula. I will be asking patrons to give me €2 each to buy the land and we’ll commission Eoghan Daltun of An Irish Atlantic Rainforest fame to lead the rewilding of the whole area. 

Native Irish forests will return. You won’t be able to move for the pine martens that will bound through the restored woodlands. 

And to top it off – I will festoon the territory with Cork flags every summer, forming a scenic pathway of red and white confirming the brilliance of Cork as you wind your way down towards Dingle. 

Keep bright side up

IT’S official – we’re obsessed with the weather, and the release of the top Irish Google searches in the last 20 years confirmed this. 

This summer is no different and we are all doing our best to maximise the rare sunny days. Whoever I meet in West Cork these days brings it up fairly quickly – basically, we are going to get a long, bright spell of beautiful weather soon. It was supposed to happen this week, in the middle of our holidays, but now everyone is saying it’ll be the end of August. But it’s coming. It HAS to.

If we don’t get a break from the rain soon, you get a sense the whole island might just sink quietly into the Atlantic and give up ...!

Mark my words, on the first day of school in September, the clouds will part and we’ll get a heatwave that’ll last for two months!

Share this article

Related content