Transport to and from Beara a century ago

This week, in "Down Memory Lane" we take a look at transport in and out of Beara peninsula over a hundred years ago, and up to the 1920s.

Back in 1987, a report on tourism was compiled by the Development Syndicate (Ireland) Ltd., which was in relation to a proposed working agreement for a new coach service for the "Prince of Wales" route. At the time, a coach service on this route was being operated by a Mr George Vickery of Bantry, who later handed it over to the syndicate, who were asked to extend the service to Castletown at their own expense and build a hotel there.

Following the setting up of the Bantry Bay Steamship Company in 1883, at first, a thrice-weekly service commenced between Bantry and Castletown by the 'SS Countess of Bantry."

This vessel was followed by the 'Princess Beara' in 1901. Other vessels operated by Bantry Bay Steamship Co. were the 'SS Lady Elise' and the 'Lady Betty Belfour,' which operated a passenger service between Bantry and Glengarriff.

The other vessels carried passengers on to Castletownbere. These sailings operated to provide connections with the trains in and out of Bantry. Passenger sailings on the Bantry Bay route ceased in the late 1930s.

In those years of the late 1920s, County Cork, the largest county in Ireland, had just two "little bus" operators and these were on the Beara Peninsula. One was at Glengarriff and the other was at Castletownbere.

First, we had John Falvey in Glengarriff, who was proprietor of what was possibly quite an old service, holding license number 482 from Bantry to Castletownbere, via Glengarriff and Adrigole. From what information is available, the original service was started by Henry Green of Bantry and, at a later date, Michael Joyce took over the service and in 1955 John Falvey purchased it.

He employed one driver, a local man, Luke Flannagan, using an 11-seater mini-bus for private hire. He also had a contract with the newspaper offices to deliver the morning papers to Castletownbere and villages on the route.

Apart from the bus service, John had a general shop and took an interest in such sports as shooting and fishing and was also a member of the local development association.

The second bus service operating in West Cork at the time was O'Donoghue's at Castletownbere. This service was started by Pat O'Donoghue in the late 1920s and he was also a C&G member of CorK County Council. Following his death, at a young age, the business was carried on by his wife, Mrs Katie O'Donoghue, who was a native of Bere Island.

The first driver employed by the O'Donoghue family was Timmie O'Sullivan, who was still driving up to a late age. This service was, and still is, known as "The Berehaven" and the first bus was a 14-seater Dodge, built by O'Gorman's of Clonmel, which ran for six years.

In 1937, Cornelius Dennehy, who is still alive and well, started driving for O'Donoghue's and, some time later, Connie Batt O'Sullivan joined the service as a mechanic and Dan Sheehan, another driver, joined the service in the 1950s.

Later, O'Donoghue's had two blue and cream buses, one a 26-seater Commer and the other a 33-seater Bedford.

In those years, on Mondays and Saturdays, the bus left Castletownbere for Bantry twice a day, starting at 6.55 a.m. and on Tuesday and Fridays, once a day, leaving at 11 a.m. Another service operated to Kenmare on Wednesday and Fridays, and a service to Cork on Thursday’s, via Adrigole, Glengarriff and Bantry leaving Castletownbere at 7 a.m.

Those early days saw the arrival in Cork at 11.15 a.m. of the "Berehaven," a journey of 93 miles, which took three and a half hours. It then terminated at the West Cork Bar in Parnell Place.

O'Donoghue's Bus Service in Castletownbere is still serving the people of the Beara Peninsula to-day, and this is the sole survivor of the many independent bus services which ran to Cork from the 1920s onwards. The blue and cream Bedford coach dated from 1954 and was originally operated by James Culloty of Killarney on tours of the Ring of Kerry. It was bought by the Berehaven Bus Service in 1957.
The bus departed again at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday evenings, O'Donoghue's is a very busy company at present, as apart from the bus service, they have a garage and repair service.

Courtesy of The Southern Star
22 October 2005