The name Youghal is derived from the Irish Eochaill, meaning “yew wood.”
St. Mary’s Collegiate Church is one of the few medieval churches in Ireland to have remained in continuous use as a place of worship.
Youghal was the home of Sir Walter Raleigh for short periods during the seventeen years in which he held land in Ireland. Raleigh was Mayor of Youghal in 1588 and 1589. His house, Myrtle Grove, still stands.
Raleigh is said to have planted the first potatoes in Ireland at Youghal, thus introducing a food which was to have a major impact on the country’s future.
From December 1649 to January 1650 Oliver Cromwell wintered in Youghal during his campaign to crush the Irish Confederate rebellion. In May 1650 he left Ireland from Youghal port, passing through the medieval Water Gate (which thereafter was known locally as Cromwell’s Arch).
Walter Raleigh’s estates in Ireland were purchased by Richard Boyle, one of the most successful men of his period. He was made the first Earl of Cork. One of his sons was Robert Boyle, the Father of Modern Chemistry.
For a few months in 1954 the town of Youghal was transformed into ‘New Bedford’ for the making of the film Moby Dick. Cinematic megastars like John Huston, Gregory Peck and Orson Wells could be seen on the streets by the thousands of people who came to watch the film being made.
All five Martello towers in the Cork Harbour Area were built with Youghal brick and covered with stone on the outside.
Writer of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, stayed in Youghal from time to time. Youghal was the place where his lifelong friend William Congreve grew up. It was William Congreve who wrote the lines “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.
Beginning in the 19th century lace making became a craft which was hugely important to the town. One of the finest pieces produced was a train for Queen Mary, worn on her visit to India in 1911. The train, which contained over five million stitches, was created in just over six months. Sixty lace makers worked on it day and night.