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 West Cork > Features > Baltimore


Baltimore is a beautiful harbour village, with a long tradition of both boatbuilding and fishing. It is surrounded by some of Ireland's most spectacular scenery and serves as the ferryport for the daily sailings to Cape Clear and Sherkin Island.
For centuries, this was the territory of the O'Driscoll Clan - a clan noted for its seafaring tradition. In the latter half of the sixteenth century, the clan produced a rather notorious rogue, Fineen O'Driscoll, nicknamed, "Fineen the Rover". To augment his income, Fineen indulged in a very lucrative hobby, namely, piracy. Sallying forth from Roaring Water Bay, he waylaid merchant ships as they sailed along our southern coast, confiscating his favourite items from their cargo and levying his own excise duty on the rest. Shipments of wine from France, Spain and Portugal were his favourite booty. The wine-merchants of Waterford were among his more aggrieved victims, to such an extent that in 1573 they mounted a retaliatory raid on the O'Driscolls and ravaged Sherkin Island.



O'Driscoll's downfall came when he gave support to the Spaniards in the Battle of Kinsale and in the aftermath of that debacle, his lands were declared forfeit to the Crown. Fineen and his extended family went into exile in Spain and the O'Driscoll lands were given to settlers from England ("planters", as they were known).
Fineen's departure, however, was not the end of Baltimore's link with piracy. On the night of June 30th 1631, two Algerian pirate ships entered Baltimore Harbour, having been guided in by a Waterford fisherman, named Hackett, whom they had earlier taken from a fishing boat at sea. The village was sacked and some one hundred and twenty men, women and children were taken captive to be sold into slavery. Intriguingly, all those who were abducted were English planters, which has caused historians to wonder if the exiled O'Driscolls were somewhat involved in planning the raid. It is less likely that the part played in the raid by the Waterofrd fisherman, Hackett was in any way linked to the old Waterford/O'Driscoll feud. Only two of these abducted, a man and a woman, were eventually ransomed and that only happened fifteen years later.
As for Hackett, he declined an invitation to continue sailing with the Algerians. He stayed in Ireland, but within two years he was captured and hanged - the only tourist guide in history who was hanged for guiding people to Baltimore! I imagine that, as he was being frog-marched to the gallows, he must have had some regret that he had no opted for the Algerian Cruise.

In recent post-pirate times, Baltimore has become a very popular tourist centre, due to its idyllic setting and to magnificent scenery of the surrounding area. The availability of daily ferry services to Cape Clear and Sherkin Island is an added attraction. Yachting, dinghy sailing and deep-sea fishing are among the popular activities of holiday-makers here. The area also boasts of some spectular cliff walks.
Sometimes visitors from U.S.A. ask what connection there is between Baltimore village in West Cork and the august city of Baltimore in Maryland, U.S.A. There appears to be none. John Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, after whom the American city is named, took his title from another Baltimore, located in County Longford, some two hundred miles to the north-west of our village.



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