The Urban Dictionary defines Dunmanway as ‘a little halting site in the south west of Ireland.’
Firstly it made me feel indignant but when I began to research the history of our little town I realised that the definition is quite true if not a little misguided.
The rest of the definition is very derogatory but I think looking at the evidence the original essence rings true.
Dunmanway was founded in the late 17th century, when the English crown settled a colony here to provide a resting place for troops marching between Bandon and Bantry.
Set up as a temporary resting place, the original halting site. However by 1700, about thirty families lived permanently in the town.
Sir Richard Cox, Lord Chancellor of Ireland from 1703 to 1707, was the town’s most important early patron. He obtained a grant from King William III to hold market days and fairs in the town and strongly encouraged the development of the local flax industry.
In 1735, the town consisted of forty houses and two to three hundred people. By 1747, the linen industry was well established, and Cox’s personal census recorded 557 people. Two years later, it rose to 807.
In the early 1850s, following the migrations and evictions of the Famine’s upheaval, more than seventy percent of Dunmanway residents did not own any land. This would give way to a transient lifestyle.
Immigration to the town in recent years has caused a massive growth in population. The population grew 52% in the period from 2002 to 2006. The 2002 census reported that there were 1,532 people living in Dunmanway and the 2006 census reported that the town has a population of 2,328.
By small town standards Dunmanway has a very cosmopolitan population. Immigration to the town and surrounding areas began in the 1970s in particular from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.
Immigration from these countries is still going on, mainly in the form of people who are attracted to the relaxed pace of life which is the norm in West Cork.
Today in Dunmanway there are very considerable percentages of Polish, Latvians and British. In addition to these there are small groups of Czechs, Hungarians, Estonians, Germans, Austrian, Dutch and Chinese, along with individuals from many other countries.
Today a halting site is a facility constructed for the accommodation of Irish Travellers and other nomadic groups.
With this is mind, Dunmanway is originally a halting site that has evolved into a settled town. This rich and varied history has given rise to the town that we know and love.
So while the ‘urban’ definition may be thought of in a negative way it can definitely been seen in a positive light.
(Text originally published in The Southern Star online 22 April 2013 http://www.southernstar.ie/Community/Dunmanway/Dunmanway-a-town-with-a-rich-and-varied-history-22042013.htm)