According to legend, one of the first colonists of Ireland was Neimheidh, who landed in Cork Harbour over 1,000 years BC. He and his followers were said to have been wiped out in a plague, but the Great Island was known in Irish as Oilean Ard Neimheadh because of its association with him. Later it became known as Crich Liathain because of the powerful Uí Liatháin kingdom, who ruled in the area from Late Antiquity into the early 13th century. The island subsequently became known as Oilean Mor An Barra (the Great Island of Barry & Barrymore), after the Barry family who inherited it.
St Colman’s Cathedral
The village on the island was known in English as Ballyvoloon, overlooking “The Cove”. In 1743 the British built a fort, later to become known as Cove Fort, to the east of the village. The settlement was first referred to as Cove village in 1750 by Smith the historian who said: “it was inhabited by seamen and revenue officials”. The Cork directory of 1787 shows about thirty businesses in the town, including one butcher and one draper.
The Water Club established at Haulbowline in 1720 was the progenitor of the present Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC, now based in Crosshaven) and is the oldest yacht club in the world. The RCYC was based for many years in Cobh and the present Sirius Arts Centre used to be a clubhouse of the RCYC organisation. In 1966, the RCYC merged with the Royal Munster Yacht Club, retaining the name of the RCYC but moving its headquarters to those of the RMYC at Crosshaven at the other side of the harbour.