Model Village

Hard times for the farm labourers turned Dripsey into a model village

Though the first of the O’Shaughnessy milling family, Andrew had come to Dripsey as a part owner of the woollen mills in 1903, and later acquired ownership, his interest was not in housing the employees outside the capacity of the firm’s employee houses, named the ‘tarry houses’ and situated close to the mill, but in the parish of Aghabullogue.
However, as trade in the mill proliferated, it is logical to assume he may have had an interest in any of the new dwellings appearing close to the factory. When Cork County Council came into existence in 1896, one of its immediate social problems was housing the large number of applicants, mainly farmer labourers who were to a large extent shafted by their employers in the quest for cottages.
During the hottest periods of the land league struggle, farm labourers, in the hope of acquiring a stable footing for themselves, fully backed action by the farmers, in parades, boycotts, etc to ensure farmers’ control of their holdings.
But once holdings were secured, especially in the so-called Three Fs (fixity of tenure, fair rent, and free sale) the newly-secured farm tenants forgot the support they received from the farm labourers. Thus, very few cottages for farm workers were built by the powers in existence. Farm tenants who did consent to house their workers only agreed to provide ground for a cottage or two on the land on wet or waste corners.
Evidence of that attitude can be seen to this day in the number of old type cottages standing in nothing better than swamps. Thus, the newly-established Cork County Council had a pressing problem on its hands.
During the first decade of its existence, the idea of changing the system of building a single cottage on land acquired from a farmer with the biggest acreage in any given townland to erecting cottages in groups, each cottage on a quarter of an acre, did much to solve the housing shortage. In 1906, Cork County Council agreed a motion to erect four such house groups, named ‘model villages’: Bishopstown, Clogheen, Dripsey and Tower.
Land-wise, Tower was the luckiest area for applicants because the landowner, Dr Barter of St Ann’s Hydro, altruistically intimated he was prepared to give an acre for each house to be built. The three others in accordance with the acquisition terms were restricted to a quarter of an acre.
The scheme for Dripsey came into operation in 1910. It provided for 16 cottages to be built in an arable corner of land owned by Maurice Ring, whose farm at that time embraced the whole townland of Lismahane. Maurice Ring did not seek to appeal the acquisition of his land by Cork County Council.
Work began on the allotment for the 16 cottages on August 1, 1910. Preparing the site meant destroying a grain crop turning ripe, and knocking an old farm labourer cabin on the perimeter of the ground. The contractor was a Mr O’Connell, who also built Turner’s Cross Church.
Though there were sand pits within easy distance of the site, lime and sand for the building was conveyed by the Muskerry Light Railway to North Kilmurray Statiion, and carted by horse-drawn vehicles over the hill to the site. The stone masonry was excellent and to this day, almost 80 years on, the dwellings are damp free.
These model village cottages in Dripsey, having been intended for farm labourers, were objectively successful – in that on being allotted in 1911 only 14 farm labourers accepted the housing, and the remaining two were allotted to non-farm labourer applicants. Those 14 successful applicants previously resided in and around Dripsey Cross, the majority of them in a line of workmens’ houses or cabins which then, along with a lodging house locally dubbed a ‘doss house’ existed on Goat Hill, above Dripsey Cross. Others lived closer to the Mill.
Thus, the 16 new cottages, officially named Dripsey Model Village, plus an inhabited single older type cottage dating from an earlier period when cottages were built in isolation, completed the housing needs of the area.
Dripsey Woollen Mills, which folded up five years ago, is now more or less an obscure old mill by the stream. During its heyday it absorbed all the available labour in the district, and was well managed, particularly by the late John A O’Shaughnessy.
In the cultural sense, the village produced the famed Dripsey Pipe Band, which folded up almost a quarter of a century ago. In the sporting sense, the village has supplied a continuous line of players to Inniscarra GAA Club. And some of the top cyclists to Blarney Athletic and Cycling Club.
The village lost a golden opportunity for a church at very low cost in the late 1950s when a French firm, one of three engaged in the construction of Inniscarra Hydro Electric Scheme were leaving Inniscarra on completion of their contract. The French, having had a spacious comfortable Mass hut on site for their workers, sold it for £200. Dripsey Muintir na Tíre had the money and willingness to purchase the hut, as well as having been granted space for it in the village by an adjoining landowner, but came up against parochial indecision, and lost the opportunity.
However, the committee held on to the generous offer from the landowner and erected a splendid grotto on the site in the centre of the village. Annual devotions have been held there every August 15 since the official opening and blessing in 1960.
It is conjectural if the council planners responsible for the original 16 cottages for farm labourers ever visualised the expansion of the village to its current size.