Early Mallow

 The Plain of the Cliff

 Lovers Leep Mallow

Mallow and its surrounds are the ancient lands of the Celtic tribes of the MacCarthy’s, O’Callaghan’s, O’Donegan’s, O’Duggan’s, MacAuliffe's and O’Keeffe’s.

Within the neighbourhood of the surrounding parishes we can discover many historical sites which provide evidence of habitation going back 5,000 years. An ideal place for those who are interested in the heritage, archaeology and history. Also, from many of these sites you can see the beauty of our landscapes.


What is the meaning of the name of our town? Mallow is the anglicized form of the “Gaelic” (Celtic language) for Magh nAla, pronounced Ma-na-ala. Come on now! and say it: Ma, na, ala. Your first words in the Irish Language! It simply means “THE PLAIN OF THE ROCK FACE” or “THE PLAIN OF THE CLIFF”. This rock face is alongside the River Blackwater, approximately 1km downstream of the road bridge in the town centre. The topography of this landmark is in the territory of two townlands named Carrigoon Beg and Carrigoon More. This translates as “land of the cave of the small rock” and “the cave of the big rock”.

Carrig = Rock, oon = Cave, Beg = Small, More = Big.

By tradition, this territory is the first settlement of the Celtic people at Magh nAla.

When the Celtic people arrived in Ireland, the land was covered in forest. The easiest way to travel was by land along the river banks or by small boats. Arriving at this land mark, they had land above the flood plain and shelter by the use of the caves. Also they could identify their place by this rock face standing high over the river on the north side bank. This area is locally known as “Lovers Leap”. Folklore has it that a young couple who were not allowed to marry jumped off this cliff and their bodies were swept down the river. This event is said to have taken place in the late 1700’s. A good riverside walk is in the process of being laid to this place.

The fording of the River Blackwater had taken place by the 6th century and was the only crossing point for people and their transport to move from the south to the north and vice versa, for the next 1200 years. This brought about the repositioning of the habitation of the area and set the scene for the future growth of commerce.

The ford was located about 30 Meters down river from where the Mallow Bridge currently stands. The townland of Ballydahin, lies on the south side of the river at this point. By tradition, this name derives from a Monastic settlement which existed in the 6th century. It was known as Ath na gCeall,(meaning the Cells of the Ford). The founder’s name was David which indicates that he was of Welsh origin. Ballydahin; Bally = Town, dahi = David, in = Little. The Town of little David. It is from the name of the settlement, Cells of the Ford, that we know that the river was forded by the 6th century.

Through time, Mallow became known as the “Cross Roads of Munster” - Cork to Limerick on the north/south axis and the sea at Youghal into Kerry on the east/west axis. It became a focus for the collection of charges (taxes, tolls) for the movement of people and goods. This, in turn, created requirements for a resting place and security out-post, and later for a Military Garrison. This unique location at the “Cross Roads of Munster” has been both a strength and cause of conflict for the town down through time.

The principal thoroughfare of the town is laid out along an east-west axis then at the lower (eastern) end turns to follow a north-south axis. The plan of this street is said to have been laid out by the Anglo Normans in the late 12th century. This street was first named Main Street until the new Mallow Urban District Council of 1906 renamed it Thomas Davis Street. The layout of the lanes, at right angles to the main street, are typical of medieval towns. Many of the lanes were neglected over the past years but are now recognized as areas of historic interest and are receiving due recognition by town and county planners.

In medieval times in order to achieve the status of a town, the area had to have a Manor House or a Castle, a Church and a Mill. Mallow achieved this status by the year 1185. By 1286 the town had expanded as far west as Short Castle Street. Here was built a small castle to protect the west of the town from attacks by the O’Callaghan’s, a powerful and aggressive tribe who remained undefeated by the Anglo Normans.