Skibbereen (/ˌskɪ.bəˈrn/; 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 kilometers 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.[2]


Prior to 1600 most of the land in the area belonged to the native McCarthy tribe - 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 it 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 was again plagued with a significant famine in the years 1845-52, a time referred to as 'an Gorta Mór' (The Great Hunger). 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.[3] While there is some 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.[4]

Skibbereen is also 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. The father relates to his son how the famine ruined his farm in Skibbereen, killed his wife, and how the landlord evicted them. In the final verse the son swears he will return to Skibbereen to take vengeance on the government that he holds accountable. A version is found on the soundtrack to the PBS mini-series, "The Long Journey Home," performed by Sinéad O'Connor. In the film Michael Collins, Michael Collins, played by Liam Neeson, sings the song. There are also versions by The Dubliners and the Wolfe Tones.

A permanent exhibition to commemorate the memory of the victims of the Great Famine is sited at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre.[5] Skibbereen was also 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, as evidenced by the mass graves at Abbeystrewery.[6] The National Famine Commemoration Committee agreed that the centerpiece of the memorial day would rotate between the Four Provinces on an annual basis. [7]


The Skibbereen Eagle, a newspaper founded in 1857 was noted for its 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."[8] This newspaper was superseded by the Southern Star,[2] which was founded in 1889. Its first editor was D.D. Sheehan and Michael Collins was among its shareholders.


O'Donovan Rossa (Skibbereen) is the local Gaelic Athletic Association club. The local secondary school St. Fachtna's was a finalist in 1982 and a winner in 1991 of the Hogan Cup (Gaelic football).

A.F.C.Skibbereen is the local Football Association Club, with other sports clubs including Skibbereen Golf Club,[2] Skibbereen Rugby Club, Skibbereen Rowing Club, and Skibbereen Athletics Club[2]


There are three secondary schools located in the town:

  • Rossa College - Mixed school
  • St Fachtna's de la Salle - Boys school
  • Mercy Heights - Girls school

There are four primary schools:

  • Abbeystrewry National School - Mixed School
  • Gael Scoil Dr O'Suilleabhain - Mixed Irish-Speaking School
  • St. Patrick's Primary School - Boys school
  • Scoil Naomh Seosamh - Girls School


Culture and leisure

Arts Festival

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 in town hosting various musical acts. Baby Hannah's is a popular place for locals to see bands from as far as Poland come play.

Skibbereen is home to the annual Cork X Southwest Music & Arts Festival.[2] In 2011, Cork X SW was held at Liss Ard Estate and featured Patti Smith, Echo & the Bunnymen, Balkan Beat Box, Fred and Yuck among its two-day lineup. The festival had a camp ground where attendees were able to either pitch a tent or park a camper for both Saturday and Sunday night. Beyond food and merchandise vendors, there was also a section of the festival called Vibrations where there were drum circles and free expression platforms. Besides being home to the festival, the Liss Ard Estate offers walking, swimming, exploring, and the "sky garden crater".


Skibbereen's location near the coast of Ireland means that sea fishing, scuba diving, sailing, and kayaking are possible. Also, just outside town is Tragumna Beach.

Sewerage scheme

A new sewerage scheme costing €13,100,000.[2] was completed in 2008. The new system stops raw sewage discharging to the river Ilen and greatly improves water quality and appearance. The stream and river has made a full recovery.