Day Out in Kinsale
visit to the site of the battle of 1601
the summer of 2000 I found myself holidaying in the Republic
based in the city of Cork.
I was with a German friend who has no interest at all in military history,
but does like walking by the sea.
was to this end, that we took a bus trip to the picturesque harbour town of Kinsale.
The guidebooks said that it has a reputation for good places to eat, so we
found ourselves walking into a pub called oddly, or so I thought, 1601, to
partake of some superb sandwiches, and a glass of that liquid where the
white part separates slowly out of the black! Those of you, whose
knowledge of Irish history is greater than mine, will now be beside yourself
wondering when I was going to wake up to the significance of the pub’s
name. It came as we got up to leave and I noticed paintings of a
battle and biographies of soldiers on the walls, all related to the Battle
of Kinsale in, of course, 1601. A
rapid visit to the Tourist Office saw the purchase of John Thullier’s History
of Kinsale – A field study approach, and the military background of
this town became apparent.
battle of 1601 took place between English armies and those of an
Irish-Spanish alliance. The battle lasted three hours and, on paper,
should have been won by the larger Irish-Spanish force. However it was
not, and the effect on Irish history was emphatic as it brought to an end
the old Irish society, paving the way for racial and religious
prejudice. Up to the end of the 18th century no Catholics
or Irish were permitted to live within the walls of Kinsale.
King of Spain sent nearly 4,000 troops to aid O’Neill who was fighting for
the Catholic cause in Ireland.
They should have landed in Ulster,
but made landfall at Kinsale on October 2nd, forcing the Irish to march
south to meet them. For one
hundred days the Spanish controlled Kinsale and areas round about. The
English, under Mountjoy, arrived in November and started to retake the
strategically important positions outside the town, with the fleet retaking
the harbour. The English now laid siege to Kinsale.
the north O’Neill, with other Irish chiefs, set off to help the Spanish,
arriving in late December, to find 4,000 English between himself and
Kinsale. He set off to break
through the English lines but was spotted by Mountjoy who out manoeuvred and
destroyed his force. It was several days later that the Spaniards in
Kinsale realised that O’Neill was not going to relieve them.
They parleyed with Mountjoy who offered them an honourable surrender
and safe conduct back to Spain
the Battle of Kinsale it was decided that the town must be fortified to
prevent a further attack. Between
1602 and 1604, James Fort was constructed opposite the town on the far shore
of the Bandon River.
the fort is a brisk walk, via a bridge over the river, of about half an
hour. Don’t worry, there is a good pub waiting for you when you get
there! The ramparts and bastions are clearly visible, so you can see
the classic star fort design. Inside there are good remains of an
inner fort, comprising of an inner square with garrison lodgings on three
sides. A sixteen feet high wall surrounds the inner fort, that would
have provided a strong defence at the centre of the fort.
the river from James Fort is the impressive Charles Fort.
Sadly, on the day, we had insufficient time to visit it. Built
in the 1680s by William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital
at Kilmainham, Dublin,
the fort was intended to defend Kinsale from potential attacks by Louis XIV
It is one of the best surviving examples of a five-pointed bastion
fort. The seaward bastions were hollow (casemated), allowing a second
row of canon to defend the fort. However,
impregnable from the sea, the fort was vulnerable from the land. This
was demonstrated in 1690, courtesy of the Duke of Marlborough.
St Multose Church
interest can also be found in this attractive Church
church. In 1649 Prince Rupert, blockaded in the port with a squadron
of sixteen frigates, proclaimed Charles II King in the church when news
arrived of the execution of Charles
1, eleven years before the Restoration actually took place.
the church one can find a relief carving of the arms of King William
II. These were placed there by the Duke of
Marlborough in 1690, replacing the arms of
James II who had been defeated by William.
Out of our period,
interest is maintained by the presence of the regimental flags of the
Highland Light Infantry carried at the Battle of Waterloo and laid up in the
church in 1850.
is more to Kinsale that time prevented us from seeing.
It is has a good bus service from Cork and is definitely worth a
visit, indeed I want to go back to see what we missed on the day.
All that remains is for me to encourage you to go, and also to say
thank you to Johanna, who got her walk by the sea, but not quite the one she
J., History of Kinsale – A field
study approach (Kinsale, 1987)
Failte/Irish Tourist Board,
Ireland Guide (Dublin,
Union of Parishes, A Guide to the
Parish Church of St Multose, Kinsale (Kinsale, 1992)
thanks go to the Pike and Shot Society for their kind permission to
reproduce the above article, which first appeared in their in-house journal