Skibbereen (//; Irish: An Sciobairín), is a town in County Cork, Ireland. It is located on the N71 national secondary road. The name "Skibbereen" (sometimes shortened to "Skibb") means "little boat harbour." The River Ilen runs through the town; it reaches the sea about 12 km away, at the seaside village of Baltimore. As of the Census of Ireland 2011, the population of the town (not including the rural hinterland) was 2,568.
Prior to 1600 most of the land in the area belonged to the native MacCarthy Reagh dynasty - today McCarthy remains the town's most common surname. The town charter dates back to 1657 and a copy can be seen in the town council chambers. In 1631 Skibbereen received an influx of refugees fleeing from the Sack of Baltimore. The "Phoenix Society" was founded in Skibbereen in 1856 and was a precursor to the Fenian movement.
500 years after the Black Death, the region again experienced a significant famine in the years 1845-52, a time referred to as The Great Hunger or Great Famine (Irish: an Gorta Mór). The Skibbereen Heritage Centre estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 victims of 'The Great Famine' are buried in the famine burial pits of Abbeystrewery cemetery close to the town. While there's a few question on the accuracy of census data from the famine era, records indicate a drop of population from 58,335 in 1841 to 32,412 in 1861.
Skibbereen is additionally the name of a song about the Famine, and the impact it and the British Government had on the people of Ireland. The song, known as Dear Old Skibbereen, takes the form of a conversation between a father and a son, in which the son asks his father why he fled the land he loved so well.
A permanent exhibition to commemorate the memory of the victims of the Great Famine is sited at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre. Skibbereen was additionally the focal point of Ireland's first National Famine Memorial Day on 17 May 2009. The town was selected as it was in one of the areas worst affected by the Great Famine. The National Famine Commemoration Committee agreed that the centrepiece of the memorial day would rotate between the Four Provinces on an annual basis.
The Skibbereen Eagle, a newspaper founded in 1857 was unusual in having an international perspective. For example, it published an editorial that "told Lord Palmerston that it had 'got its eye both upon him and on the Emperor of Russia'." And a 1914 article said "We give this solemn warning to Kaiser Wilhelm: The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on you." This newspaper was superseded by the Southern Star, which was founded in 1889. Its first editor was D.D. Sheehan and Michael Collins was among its shareholders.
Skibereen Rowing Club is situated on the outskirts of the town, and is one of the most successful clubs in Ireland. Club members Paul and Gary O'Donovan won silver at the 2016 summer Olympics in the men's lightweight double sculls, the first Olympic medal won by Irish rowers.
A.F.C.Skibbereen is the local association football (soccer) club, with additional sports clubs including Skibbereen Golf Club, Skibbereen Rugby Club, and Skibbereen Athletics Club.
There are four primary schools located in the town, including Abbeystrewry National School (a mixed school), Gaelscoil Dr O'Suilleabhain (a mixed Irish-speaking school), St. Patrick's Primary School (boys), and Scoil Naomh Seosamh (girls)
As of 2016, there are three secondary schools, including Rossa College (mixed), St Fachtna's de la Salle (boys), and Mercy Heights (girls). As of September 2016, the three secondary schools are due to merge into one school called Skibbereen Community School
- Agnes Mary Clerke, astronomer and writer was born in Skibbereen
- Seamus Davis, physicist and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences was born at Skibbereen
- Tony Davis, former gaelic footballer and analyst for RTÉ's The Sunday Game
- William Joseph Donovan, soldier, lawyer, and diplomat whose grandfather came from Skibbereen
- Jeremy Irons, the English actor, has long maintained a fishing cottage in Skibbereen
- Percy Ludgate, designer of an analytical engine was born in Skibbereen
- Kieron Moore, actor
- Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, worked in Skibbereen and established O'Donovan Rossa GAA club
- Jasper Wolfe, politician, Teachta Dála and solicitor
- Don Wycherley, actor
- Gary O'Donovan, Olympic silver medallist (rowing – lightweight double sculls, 2016)
- Paul O'Donovan, Olympic silver medallist (rowing – lightweight double sculls, 2016)
Culture and leisure
The Skibbereen Arts Festival occurs annually, taking place at the end of July and including community based projects as well as a mix of national and international films, theatre, visual art and music acts.
A number of different music events are held each year, with several bars and venues in town (including "Baby Hannah's") hosting musical acts. Skibbereen has additionally hosted the Cork X Southwest Music & Arts Festival over several years. The 2011 festival was held at Liss Ard Estate and featured Patti Smith, Echo & the Bunnymen, Balkan Beat Box, Fred and others across a two-day lineup.
Just outside Skibbereen is Tragumna beach, and the town's location near the coast means that sea fishing, scuba diving, sailing, and kayaking are possible locally.