History of Ballincollig
The first settlement in the Ballincollig area was built by the Cole family in the 13th century. The Coles, after whom the town is named, were an English family originally from Devon, who arrived in Ireland after the Norman invasion of the late 1100s. They owned a large amount of land in the Ballincollig area, and also near Crookstown and Coachford.
The ruined castle in Ballincollig, located to the south of the present-day village, was built by Roger Cole in the late 1300s. Originally constructed as a defensive structure, it was sold by the Coles to the Barretts in 1468.
The Barretts lost the castle in the early 1600s. in 1618 they were forced to take out a mortgage on the castle and lands to pay for court fines and dowries. They borrowed money from the Coppingers, who were moneylenders. In 1630 Walter Coppinger took possession of the estate.
It was left unused after 1690 and fell into disrepair. Some of the outer walls and the keep remain.
Royal Gunpowder Mills
The Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills were established by Charles Leslie, a Corkman, in 1794. At their peak, 500 workers were employed at the site, which would grow to become the second-largest gunpowder manufacturing centre in the British Isles.
Gunpowder production in Ireland had traditionally been located in the Dublin area. However, the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars created a new market for the product. Leslie developed the Mills into a lucrative business, before selling it to the British Government in 1805, for the sum of €30,000.
The British expanded the size of the Mills to over 400 acres, and extended the system of canals to facilitate transport. The Mills were sold to Thomas Tobin, of Liverpool, in 1834. Tobin developed the Mills further before selling the business to John Briscoe in 1888.
By this time gunpowder had been replaced to a large extent by nitroglycerine and dynamite. The market for gunpowder declined greatly and the mills were closed in 1903.
The army barracks in Ballincollig was built in 1810 to defend the neighbouring gunpowder mills. It was used as a cavalry barracks by the British Army until 1922. It lay idle for a number of years before being occupied by the Irish Army during the Emergency (1939-1945). It was closed in 1998, and in the first years of the 21st century the lands on which it stood were sold to O’Flynn Construction for redevelopment.
The Great War
Ballincollig Barracks was home to the third battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers during the First World War. Reasons for enlisting varied from economic necessity to the spirit of adventure which was omnipresent at the beginning of the war. Many joined because they believed it would secure Home Rule for Ireland. Many were labourers who enlisted as privates, but members of the professional classes also joined up.
Over 230 young people from Ballincollig and surrounding parishes fought in World War I. About one-third of these were killed in action or died from their wounds. While many are buried near the battlefields of France and Belgium, a number were interred at Ballincollig Military Cemetery.
Sport in Ballincollig
Ballincollig had a successful senior hurling team in the 1940s. They appeared in three consecutive county finals (1941, 1942, 1943) but were defeated in each one. A number of their players played for the Cork team, including Willie “Long Puck” Murphy and Paddy “Hitler” Healy. The Healy family still run a public house in Ballincollig village.
In 2009, Ballincollig won their first Under 21 County Football Championship. Two years later, the club won the Minor County Football Championship, and in 2014 Ballincollig were crowned Senior County Football Champions. A number of Ballincollig players have lined out for the Cork County senior football team, including Podsie O'Mahony, Paddy Kelly and John Miskella.
Ballincollig developed as a satellite town of Cork city from the 1970s onwards. Many residential schemes were constructed around the old village area, housing people who worked in the city and their families. The town rapidly expanded and by the early 21st century more than 18,000 people lived in the area. It became part of Cork city after the extension of the city boundary in May 2019.
Journal of the Ballincollig Community School Local History Society
Ballincollig GAA club website
Times Past: Journal of Muskerry Local Historical Society